Should We Care About the 2018 RPT Convention?
Last week 7961 delegates and 1964 alternates* from around the state attended the 2018 Republican Party of Texas (RPT) State Convention in San Antonio. Was it worth the time and treasure spent by those 9925 individuals? Priorities were set for the legislature, but there is no guarantee they will listen. No actual bills were passed. Was this just an exercise in futility, or was it a chance to establish a new brand, a new marketing campaign for the RPT?
For some the convention is a chance to network, socialize, connect with elected officials from around the state, and enjoy the party part of the Party. Others come to try their hand at legislating and navigating Roberts Rules of Order. Many come to just watch and learn.
The RPT Brand
Some delegates recognize that what is truly happening in the convention center is a battle over the RPT Brand. The platform is the document that should represent the general beliefs of the RPT as a whole. It is the “About Us” page, the definition of what it means to be a Republican in Texas. From the Precinct Conventions to the Senate District Conventions and all the way to the floor of the State Convention, each plank is scrutinized down to individual words and punctuation. Resolutions pass through committee after committee, voted in or out each time. Testimony is heard, compromises are made, but in the end, majority rules. Not everyone will agree on every plank, but all delegates get a vote.
The platform is what we present as the policies that best represent the beliefs of the Republicans of Texas. It should be the guide for Republican elected officials in Texas telling them the policies and priorities of the people of the party they choose to represent. When someone puts their name in the hat to run as a Republican in Texas, they should know exactly what that means. That is the purpose of the platform.
The RPT Chairman is essentially the CEO and face of the RPT Brand. It is his job to lead on and sell the platform, the established brand. That extends to fundraising, outreach, and recruiting. At times he will testify in front of the legislature in favor of the planks of the platform.
The RPT Chairman must also be a skilled leader. Reagan said it best when he called the Republican Party the “big tent.” Republicans do not walk in lock step with each other, there are many varying degrees of conservatism that coexist. It is the RPT Chairman’s job to ensure a peaceful coexistence. That does not mean silencing voices for the sake of unity. It means keeping order while all voices are heard.
Whether or not the Convention matters comes down to accountability, the relevancy of the platform. Are Republican elected officials held accountable to the RPT Platform?
One of the first attempts at accountability is Rule 44. The rule allows for censure of elected officials whose actions defy 3 or more of the RPT Platform’s principles. Censure under this rule would allow the Party to drop its neutral stance and withhold financial support. The use of Rule 44 is one of the most heated debates in the Republican Party right now. One side says it should be abolished. It is not the Party’s place to judge candidates in the Primary. All decisions should be left to the voters. The other side sees it as a way to reign in out of control Republicans whose voting records don’t differ much from their Democrat counterparts. Many of that group are of the opinion that Rule 44 doesn’t go far enough. The 2018 RPT Convention delegates did pass a Rule 44 censure, but it was moot. It censured State Representative Byron Cook who had already given up his seat by not running for re-election.
Another chance for accountability comes in the Texas Legislature. The RPT Convention established 5 legislative priorities. The Chairman can testify in legislative hearings to remind Republican elected officials of the priorities of Republicans in Texas. He can speak out on the principles that may be championed or ignored by specific bills. His presence can be a constant reminder of the will of the RPT. Current Chairman James Dickey, shortly after he entered office, testified on several occasions on behalf of the RPT. It can be done, and it should be done.
*As reported by the SREC on June 13, 2018