Since Barack Obama won a second term, much has been said about how the GOP needs to reach out to a broader group and be more tolerant in order to win another national election. In Texas, all eyes are on Democrat Senator Wendy Davis to see whether she will formally throw her hat in the ring to run for Texas Governor later this month. She’s energized her party over her high-profile filibuster of a bill to restrict abortion that won her national attention and made her an instant household name. Politicos have been pondering whether Texas will turn blue ever since.
But few have zeroed-in on how the party lost Reagan Democrats and why one-party dominance usually tilts in the opposite direction in response. In a recent Washington Times column, Patrick Buchanan identified why the GOP shed Reagan Democrats: globalism and putting corporate interests over distinctly American interests. It’s instructive for the Texas GOP that’s had a lock on one-party rule for more than a decade.
On most major issues since Reagan, like NAFTA, China’s most favored nation status, and free trade, Buchanan argues the GOP establishment chose Wall Street over Main Street: “In the GOP the corporate conservatives ride up front; the social, cultural and patriotic conservatives in the back of the bus.”
Corporate America has arguably left ‘America’ for China. With 50,000 factories closing and one in three manufacturing jobs disappearing just since the year 2000, with real wages of U.S. workers stagnant for the last 40 years, and just since we bailed out General Motors, it’s cut 78,000 U.S. jobs while creating 6,000 new jobs in China, it’s no wonder American workers feel the GOP is out of touch and are seeking retribution.
Former Bush aide Robert Patterson wrote in the National Review, “In the good old days, Americans could at least count on business leaders being pro-American...No longer committed to a particular place, people, country, or culture, our largest public companies have turned globalist, while abdicating the responsibility they once assumed to America and its workers.”
Globalism hits Texas
Republican dominance in Texas since George W. Bush is threatened by the same phenomenon. Case in point, Governor Rick Perry’s push for a massive land-grabbing network of multi-modal NAFTA superhighways called the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC). It would have taken over 580,000 of private Texas farm and ranch land, some of it prime land that requires very little water to grow crops, and handed it over to a private, foreign toll operators in 50-year sweetheart deals known as public private partnerships (P3s).
Just the first TTC corridor would have displaced one million Texans. The TTC wasn't proposed to solve urban congestion, but to handle the influx of imports due to NAFTA and free trade in order to facilitate the free flow of people and goods across the Texas-Mexico border.
Perry’s P3s aren’t just limited to the TTC. For two road expansion projects in Dallas-Ft. Worth, both interstates, commuters will be paying homage to a Spanish company, Cintra, for the next 50 years. The toll rates will start at 75 cents a mile during peak hours, which is like adding $15.00 to every gallon of gas you buy. Republicans say they hate tax hikes, but they'll 'fee' you to death all day long, especially when they can hand that taxation over to private interests to do the dirty work for them.
The push for P3s continued. In 2011, Perry and the GOP leadership pushed through P3s for all other types of public infrastructure aside from roads, spreading the eminent domain for private gain and corporate welfare to ports, pipelines, convention centers, city halls, telecommunications, nursing homes, schools -- you name it, it’s for sale to multi-national corporations in Texas. Even the bill, SB 1048, was written by a foreign corporation. The lobby firm that railroaded the bill through the Texas legislature in just one try bragged about it to other states where it’s seeking to repeat its success.
During Perry’s presidential run, he was criticized for crony capitalism with the HPV vaccine mandate, making Texas a repository for nuclear waste for one of his major campaign contributors, Harold Simmons, and for one of his corporate welfare programs (there are several) known as the Texas Enterprise Fund -- a tax giveaway to corporations that costs Texans more than they make back in salaries for the jobs the companies supposedly bring.
It doesn’t end there.
The GOP-dominated Texas legislature has championed other corporate-friendly initiatives like loser-pays litigation protection, stripping landowners of their Constitutional protection to go to court to challenge eminent domain for private gain and common carrier ‘public use’ claims by private pipeline companies, pressure to limit consumer lawsuits when unfairly and sometimes deliberately denied coverage or settlement of claims from the quasi-governmental Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, and plenty of other special interest giveaways and industry protections for the well-connected.
In 2011 when the GOP enjoyed a supermajority in both chambers, Senator Craig Estes called an eminent domain bill a “carefully crafted” special interests bill and warned his colleagues he’d take no amendments saying, “I don’t care if your amendment turns lead to gold, it’s not going to happen if I can help it.”
In Texas, when the powerful broker a deal behind closed doors, the people and their representatives aren’t invited to offer input or changes. It’s a railroad job, plain and simple. Standard operating procedure for the GOP. While the bill’s proponents claimed SB 18 would shore-up the Constitutional protection from eminent domain for private gain, it actually expanded eminent domain authority to more non- governmental entities (ie - private corporations) and was so laden with loopholes the majority of protections were nullified in other parts of the bill. This from politicians who claim to be guardians of private property rights. Well, not so if special interests pay for the privilege of writing their own ticket.
Indeed, stomping on the little guy has taken on new heights in Texas. It’s more like crushing the little guy and eliminating any liability for big corporate interests on the backs of the taxpayers, the middle class, and the working poor. It’s this overreach that will swing Texas over to Democrats quicker than any demographics.
New leadership on the way?
The heir-apparent to replace Perry is Texas Attorney Greg Abbott. Like Perry, the vast majority of his $25 million campaign war chest comes from just a handful of donors, many of the same corporate interests that backed Perry and got their just reward courtesy of Texas taxpayers.
Republicans do have a choice for governor. Tom Pauken, former Chair of the Texas Workforce Commission and former agency head in the Reagan Administration for which he received a Reagan Medal of Honor, was the first to declare he was running for governor out of concern for the future of Texas.
Two of his priorities that ought to attract both the grassroots back to the GOP as well as Reagan Democrats are to rebuild the U.S. manufacturing base and to eliminate crony capitalism from state government. Pauken could no longer sit on the sidelines and watch the GOP fritter away its majority and hand Texas to special interests.
Pauken rightly calls the Republican primary next year a battle for the heart and soul of the GOP: “Texans feel they aren’t being heard by political insiders who wield power. There’s a style of governance that has developed even within our own Republican party’s leadership where primary allegiance goes to those who write the big checks, and powerful insiders pick and choose what issues get taken care of in Austin.”
In a letter to Texans, Pauken emphasizes leading with an incorruptible integrity, “We need more of those who are involved for the right reasons – and won't change, once they are in office.”
If the Republican Party is to regain those Reagan Democrats and retain the grassroots, middle class, patriotic base of the party, not only is new leadership and a new direction required, but also a deliberate rejection of crony capitalism and the chokehold of multi-national corporate interests. Without both, the GOP will skip purple and go blue.