Texas Democrats are criticizing a controversial policy platform adopted by the state Republican Party and released in full Thursday, calling it "shameful and disgusting."
The platform calls for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act, endorses sham "conversion therapy" that seeks to change the sexual orientation of gays and lesbians, and puts forth a harsh anti-immigrant policy plank that calls for the repeal of a law signed by Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
"The GOP platform isn’t worthy of Texas. It is shameful and disgusting," the state’s Democratic Party Executive Director Will Hailer said in a statement Wednesday. "If Republican candidates have even a shred of integrity they will turn their backs on this disgraceful platform and join Texas Democrats in support of true Texas values."
Despite Democratic prophesies, the Lone Star state has remained in Republican hands, voting Republican in every presidential election since 1976. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis is trailing in the polls against Republican candidate Greg Abbott. Texas Democrats are seizing on the platform in an effort to paint their Republican counterparts as intolerant and out of touch, and as part of a larger, thus far futile effort to turn the state blue.
The platform, in addition to the usual conservative policy prescriptions that you would expect in a Republican platform, also contains other strange declarations. There's support for privatizing social security, a demand to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and demands to outlaw abortion. But there's also planks expressing opposition to mandatory vaccination, support for creating religious exceptions to discrimination rules, and a demand that "the Texas Legislature ignore, oppose, refuse, and nullify any federal mandated legislation which infringes upon the states’ 10th Amendment Right."
Some of that may sound weird -- or as Texas Democrats put it, "disgusting." But Texas Republican Party Chair Steve Munisteri says that the Texas Republican Party platform does not necessarily represent the views of the Republican Party of Texas.
"It's false to represent that each one of those platform planks necessarily represents the view of the majority view of either the majority of the delegates let alone a majority of Republicans," Munisteri said. "It's not the Texas Republican Party, it's the delegates on the platform committee. The Texas Republican Party has millions of people who vote for it and every individual Republican has their own views on issues."
Munisteri said that most of the plans in the platform aren't voted on by a majority of the delegates. Instead, a platform committee is elected from delegates from each of the 31 state senatorial districts, and the committee drafts the platform. The platform has to be adopted in whole or not at all, so according to Munisteri, delegates often end up voting for it even if they have reservations. Here are some of the stranger planks -- some of them, Munisteri declined to comment on, saying he hadn't read the entire platform yet or discussed it with the authors.
Anti-vaccination: The Texas GOP platform states that "All adult citizens should have the legal right to conscientiously choose which vaccines are administered to themselves, or their minor children, without penalty for refusing a vaccine. We oppose any effort by any authority to mandate such vaccines or any medical database that would contain personal records of citizens without their consent." Texas currently requires that children entering public or private school be vaccinated. Choosing not to vaccinate can have terrible consequences for others, because it diminishes "herd immunity," or the ability of a community to resist outbreaks of disease. The U.S. has seen an increase in the spread of preventable diseases because of anti-vaccination campaigns. "We had an issue here several years ago where [human papillomavirus] vaccines were going to be forced on the schoolchildren here," Munisteri said. "That may be what that's mainly in reference to."
The National Defense Authorization Act: The Texas GOP platform calls to "urge our government to terminate any practice of detention without due process, including, but not limited to, any enforcement of federal law by the military within the State of Texas, under Sections 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)." The plank appears to refer to the controversial 2012 NDAA, the platform drafters seem unaware of the fact that defense authorization acts are passed every year and the sections change. Sections 1021 and 1022 of the 2014 NDAA, for example, deal with "Clarification of sole ownership resulting from ship donations at no cost to the navy," and "Availability of funds for retirement or inactivation of Ticonderoga class cruisers or dock landing ships."
Reparations: The platform states "We oppose any form of reparations," though it does not say for what. "Does that just say reparations?" Munisteri asked. "Then I just take it as it says, the United States is not going to pay any reparations for any other country."
Climate change: It's not happening, according to the Republican Party of Texas, whose platform states that "'climate change' is a political agenda which attempts to control every aspect of our lives. “We urge government at all levels to ignore any plea for money to fund global climate change or 'climate justice' initiatives," the platform reads. It also states that "we strongly oppose all efforts of the extreme environmental groups that stymie legitimate business interests and private property use. We believe the Environmental Protection Agency should be abolished."
Benghazi! The platform calls for "Congress to act on the Benghazi cover-up and the failure to protect American citizens including United States military personnel by the Obama Administration; and we call for Congressional investigations into other federal agencies." They don't state which federal agencies should be investigated, or for what reason. Later, the platform demands "the United States House of Representatives to appoint a select committee and a special prosecutor." There is already a select committee on Benghazi, just the latest of several committees to examine the 2012 attack.
Religion and discrimination: In keeping with "religious freedom" laws championed by conservative lawmakers across the country, the 2014 Texas GOP platform states that "The Republican Party of Texas will protect the rights of commercial establishments to refuse to provide any service or product that would infringe upon their freedom of conscience of religious expression as stated in the 1st Amendment." Taken at face value, this would mean a blanket religious exception for business of public accommodation to refuse service to anyone for religious reasons, including sexual orientation, race, and religion.
LGBT rights: There has been a lot of coverage of the Texas Republican Party platform endorsing "reparative therapy," a form of sham therapy that purports to be able to change a person's sexual orientation and that medical professionals have dismissed as both ineffective and harmful. Munisteri said that he thinks most Republicans actually oppose it. "My mail from Republicans, my email my calls is running in favor of not having that language in there," said Munisteri. "I think it's fair to say in the least the party is divided on that and that it's certainly a possibility that would not have been included in the platform had the overall convention had a chance to vote on it."
The platform also states that "Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that have been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nation’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples." State recognition of same-sex marriage is also opposed. Even if "reparative therapy" weren't in there, that hardly lays out the welcome mat for gay and lesbian conservatives.
Immigration: Widely noted changes to the party platform take a harsher line on immigration in Texas, opposing any legal status for undocumented immigrants and demanding the repeal of in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Munisteri said the plank was in part a reaction to recent news of undocumented children seeking entry into the U.S. "The fear is that an incentive is being provided for people to come to Texas thinking if they are just able to get across the border and get here they'll be provided with some benefits," Munisteri said.
United Nations: The Texas Republican Party platform calls for "the withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations and the removal of United Nations headquarters from United States soil."
Confederate symbols: In 2000, liberal socialist Texas Governor George W. Bush had two Confederate plaques removed from the state courthouse, over the loud protests of groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Fourteen years later, the Texas Republican Party Platform demands the "restoration of plaques honoring the Confederate Widow’s Pension Fund contribution that were illegally removed from the Texas Supreme Court building."
Nullification: The Texas GOP platform's plank on nullification, declaring the state should "nullify any federal mandated legislation which infringes upon the states’ 10th Amendment Right" is fairly typical of Republican rhetoric since Obama was elected, but it's worth pointing out that not even the Heritage Foundation believes nullification is constitutional.
How concerned should Texans be about the Republican party's platform? It states that "Every Republican is responsible for implementing this platform." Munisteri insisted that wasn't binding.
"That's the view of the activist base, but that's not necessarily the views of all Republicans," Munisteri said. "It's important for elected officials to know what's on the mind of the activist base, but that doesn't necessarily mean any of those or all of those will or will not be enacted by elected officials." Not just elected officials.