“We are talking about Christianizing America. We are talking about simply spreading the gospel in a political context. And therefore you have to be willing to, if you will, put things in simplistic, polemical terms. Everything can be reduced to right and wrong. Everything.”
Paul Weyrich, First Baptist Church, Dallas, 1980
It isn’t easy to find a copy of the new Platform for the Texas Republican Party. You have to look pretty to hard to find the link, recently tucked at the very bottom of the GOP Principles page. You will, however find a link to it splashed right on the home page of the Harris County Democratic Party. In fact, that’s the first place I was able to find it posted.
A party platform is supposed to be a unifying statement of beliefs, a core that the organization can use to promote its agenda, focus its efforts, and attract new supporters. Any reasonably healthy organization, whether a business, political party, church, etc., wants people to see its mission statement. That document is not supposed to be a radioactive embarrassment.
For years, as the state platform has grown more and more strange, Republican politicians in Texas have learned to distance themselves from it in a beautiful, if tragic dance. No serious political figure with ambitions can afford to be photographed next to a copy of it, but in order to survive a primary they have create at least a vague impression among the faithful that they secretly share its beliefs. That dance is about to get a lot weirder.
When religious fundamentalists took over the state Party infrastructure in the ‘90’s, the platform committee was one of the first elements of the organization to stop working. Successive platform committees were “encouraged” to “moderate” certain positions, but in general, the platform was just ignored. That worked as long as there was some modicum of restraint. In the last one certain state senators actually succeeded in adding a clause requesting to strike a particularly ridiculous provision on education. Some minimal efforts continued to be made to create platforms that retained a vestige of credibility. Right up to the last decade platforms were being churned out that could be reasonably described as merely “extreme,” or “far-right,” that is to say, they could be located somewhere on the known political spectrum or at least be seen from there.
Well, the dogs are officially off the leash. I had planned when I got back from Texas to write a series of entries commenting on the new platform. There was a serious movement prior to the convention to add a little sanity to the process which I, being more optimistic than intelligent, thought might have an interesting outcome. It didn’t. Failing that, I thought I’d walk through some of the high and low points of the document. For weeks I couldn’t find a copy of the platform at all. Once I read it, I realized that this couldn’t be a thousand-word exercise.
The aluminum-hat section of the platform alone is mammoth, touching on everything from One-World Government (p.26), to Obama’s birth certificate (p.5), even going so far as to pander to the “Obamacare Will Forcibly Implant an RFID Chip in You” (which, in case you hadn’t guessed, is the Mark of the Beast) crowd (p.18). It is an anti-discrimination approach to conspiracy theorists – all are invited. The platform reads like something scrawled on the walls of an asylum.
In a particularly pathetic note, indicating that the creators of the platform understand on some level just how ludicrous the document really is, it includes a clause which presses the Party to force all potential Republican candidates to end the Great Dance and submit a statement of their adherence to said platform plank by plank (p.6) AND publish the responses on the Party website. They even go so far is to threaten to withhold financial support for the RNC itself if it supports any candidate who doesn’t meet this requirement.
You can’t make this stuff up. That’s one provision of the platform which I wholeheartedly support, if no other reason than that it would force potential candidates to read this platform.
Suffice for now to say this is the single craziest serious, American political document I have ever read, and I’ve seen things produced by the Green Party.
When the wires of religion and politics cross, the resulting fireball of blind certainty burns reason to a useless nub. Without some force of reason to curtail people’s darkest impulses representative government operates on a short clock. At some point in the coming weeks I will revisit the Texas GOP Platform, if only because I think it is a sort of citizenship obligation we all share, like watching the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan. But for now, it is shaking my confidence in the Republic and I need to think about something else for a while.
In the meantime, perhaps someone reading this was at the convention. If so, would you be willing to share with us some candid account of how this happened? Forget the blather about “liberals” or “socialists” or whatever. I doubt any dastardly “progressives” were responsible for this particular disaster. I’m looking for a clear-eyed account from someone who isn’t hearing the audible voice of God right now which can shed some light on how this process went so completely off the rails. How did we end up with a platform document that will frighten small children?
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