Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Republican Majority Should Elect Speaker Of Texas House

Tom Craddick, an autocratic far-right extremist, has been deposed as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. He does not have the votes within the House to win election for another term as Speaker.

The Texas House has 76 Republicans and 74 Democrats 

Two candidates, both Republicans, appear to remain as the options for election by the House as Speaker. One candidate is Joe Straus of San Antonio. The other is John Smithee of Amarillo.

( Update—Mr. Smithee has pulled out and the race appears to be over. While it’s a crazy process we have here in Texas, let’s hope that Mr. Straus is really change for the better.)

Mr. Straus appears the more moderate of the two choices. The overwhelming majority of the 74 House Democrats have pledged to support his bid. He also has the support of as many 16 Republicans. Mr. Smithee has the support of the clear majority of Republican members, but few, if any, Democrats. As it stands now, the numbers favor Mr. Straus.  

It’s quite possible the elevation of Mr. Straus would move the House away from the right and towards the center. Mr. Smithee appears to be a Craddick-lite option. 

Yet on Election Day last November, Texans elected a majority of Republicans to the House. That is what was decided at the ballot box. It is the majoroty Republican party that should decide who serves as Speaker.

I believe in political parties. They provide a shorthand for voters to sift through the great number of often complex issues any modern governing body faces. It’s nearly impossible for a person who has to work for a living, or who has a family to raise, to have a clear sense of all the issues up for debate at any given point.

On Election Day, ideally, we look at what party a candidate represents, as well as his or her stands on the issues most important to us and our fellow citizens. 

We know that a Democrat from a rural area may have different views on some questions than a Democrat from an urban area. We know that a Republican from Maine may have conflicting views in contrast to a Republican from Alabama. But we also know that in many cases there is a set of core values that informs members of the same political party regardless of other differences. 

We also know, or trust, that when it comes to organizing a legislative chamber, members of the same party will come together to elect a Speaker and other officers. 

Where party structure breaks down, what’s left is behind-the-scenes deal cutting that is often far less transparent than party ID.  When things go wrong, voters are left to guess where to place the blame as legislators hide under whatever label or excuse suits them at the moment.

It’s bad enough that our Texas legislature meets only once every two years. Or that members are not paid a living wage so only a well-connected few can serve. Or that a one-third minority can hold up action in the State Senate. The least we can ask is that the parties we vote for, and the men and women who represent these parties and the ideas behind the parties, act in a coherent and accountable way once seated in Austin.

Once a legislative session begins, members can easily work across the aisle on various bills and proposals. There’s nothing wrong with that. But a basic coherence must exist in the structure of a legislative chamber for voters to be able to make sense of the records of both political parties and individaul members.

Here’s hoping that between now  and the opening of the legislative session on January 13,  the majority party as elected by the people of Texas gets its’ act together.

This is the position I will hold on that better day, not so far in the future,when Democrats control the Texas House.

January 5, 2009 - Posted by | Politics, Texas | , , , , , , ,

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