Monday, August 26, 2013

More Notes from a Small Town Republican Meeting in Texas – Aug 2013

This is the third installment in a series of posts describing my experiences at a small town Republican meeting in Texas. Previous posts are available here and here. I try to present a neutral view while just reporting what was said, but I don’t always succeed.

This meeting occurred in August during the congressional break, and our local representative from the US House was the guest speaker. Like all such meetings, it started with pledges to the American and Texas flags. The opening prayer started with “We thank you Lord for this great country and its current leaders…” which was a phrase I didn’t expect. Various Republican candidates for local offices then introducing themselves and gave a 2 minute stump speech. I was actually impressed that they all discussed their experience and qualifications and avoided partisan ideology.

Our US congressman started his speech with a joke -“Redistricting is a sport in Texas”, which has some truth to it. That was followed by feeding red meat to a hungry audience. The basic outline of his talk was “obamacare, socialism, obamacare, impeachment, obamacare”. His priority on obamacare was to completely defund it, and then don’t replace it with anything else. In his view, our health care system was doing just fine until Obama tried to introduce socialized medicine. We need to get government completely out of health care and let the free market do its job.

An interesting moment occurred later during audience questions when a woman described herself as a moderate and asked him to consider something between all and nothing. Her husband is a cancer survivor and couldn’t get private insurance before obamacare because of that pre-existing condition. The congressman’s response was that government still needed to get out of health care and maybe we just needed to tweak the private market a little to handle such cases. I thanked the women afterwards for speaking up since I’m also a cancer survivor.

He was in favor of not raising the debt ceiling this fall unless obamacare was defunded, even if that meant the government would be shut down or default on its obligations. There audience cheered when he said that. He described their plan as having Congress pass a bill that gave Obama everything he wanted except funding for obamacare. Then if Obama vetoes it, the public will put all the blame on him for shutting down the government.

In terms of getting the economy moving again, his answer was to cut all tax rates including corporate taxes and the capital gains tax. Obama has already tried socialist solutions to help the economy and they didn’t work, and now he’s busy pitting people against each other as his next plan. He was mad at Obama for taking money from our military and instead sending it to those people on welfare. He stated that without a dominant US military the world would implode. On energy, he was for “all the above” (i.e. pursue all sources of energy). The government should get completely out of the energy business though. The government only has 3 legitimate functions: collect taxes, defend our borders, and manage our infrastructure. The topic of climate change didn’t come up.

The congressman described his platform priorities as: lower taxes, smaller government, defend our borders, the 10th amendment, and always stand with Israel. (The 10th amendment is a “states rights” thing). He was for independence instead of dependence. He was guided by the Constitution, his conscious, and the Bible. He also said that as grownups we will need to plant some trees that we will never stand under.

He defended his vote in support of the Ryan budget after an audience member complained that it didn’t cut spending enough. He also stated “I’m willing to negotiate on the budget, but I won’t compromise my core values, which are no tax increases and a strong military”. “Obama has broken every rule, why not impeach him?” an audience member asked. His response: impeachment papers have already been drawn up and we’re waiting for the right time to introduce them. They may take too long to go through the system to be effective though. When someone expressed concern over NSA spying, he said we need to reign in the NSA and go back to the Patriot Act.

A restaurant owner spoke up and said we desperately need a guest worker program, but not amnesty. Response from the Congressman: border security is a more important first priority. One audience member stated that the reason for the lower Republican vote in 2012 wasn’t bad policies, it was because (1) we didn’t run a true conservative candidate, and (2) we ran a Mormon and many Christians stayed home and refused to vote for him. The congressman responded that if we’re still upset about the 2012 elections we need to get over it. Focus on the 2014 elections; they may be the most important ones of our lives.

Fort Hood is in the congressman’s district, and he was upset that Obama labeled the shootings there as “workplace violence” instead of terrorism. There is a bill in Congress to label these as a terrorist act, which would mean those who were injured could receive additional financial aid and possibly a Purple Heart medal.

One audience member expressed concern about Obama signing “that UN gun thing”. The congressman’s response was that we don’t need to sign ANY UN treaty, and he will make sure that never happens.

As a final statement intended to inspire the crowd, he quoted Will Rogers - “Don't look back 'cause we ain't headed that way.” He apparently did not think there was any irony involved here.

More Notes from a Small Town Republican Meeting in Texas - June 2013

This is part of a continuing series. The agenda topic for this meeting in June 2013 was the 2nd Amendment, but you know they couldn't leave the IRS out of the discussion. We had a talk from a representative from the NRA, which he referred to as "the nation's largest civil rights organization" (!). Although the recently concluded Texas legislative session passed 15 "pro-gun" bills, his organization only gave the legislature a rating of a 'C' because of the bills they failed to pass. Allowing students to carry concealed handguns on school campuses was one example of a failed bill that the NRA strongly wanted.

The NRA representative made no attempt to represent the NRA as non-partisan. Democrats in general, Obama in particular, were described as "the enemy". For the most part though, he came across as more moderate than I expected. Many of the "pro gun" bills passed were actually rather reasonable, and some I might have even supported.

It is also noteworthy that two "pro-gun" bills submitted by members of the Tea Party caucus were not supported by the NRA because they went a little too far even for the NRA. One example included a modification to the concealed handgun law, which currently restricts places where people cannot carry concealed weapons even with a permit. Bars are one example of such restricted places. One bill included a provision that would specifically allow members of the Texas state legislature to carry their concealed weapons into most of those restricted places, including bars. That was a little too much even for the NRA, and the bill failed when the NRA withdrew its support.

The night ended with a possible preview of things to come when one of the audience members felt compelled to suggest that this is the time to completely abolish the IRS. If the national Republican party made this a key policy issue, they would win complete control of Congress in the next elections he predicted. The comment was met with enthusiastic approval from the audience. I wonder if the Tea Party wing will take up this cause, forcing the Republican party to continue playing to an increasingly vocal and increasingly narrow base?