Tuesday, October 15, 2013

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

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

This time the local Democrat and Republican meetings happen to fall on the same day, so I went to parts of both meetings. There were some interesting points of contrast. First, a quirky little thing I noticed is that the Democrats were much more willing to express their identity and views with bumper stickers, while the Republicans had very few bumper stickers. (Anyone want to offer an explanation of this phenomenon?) The Democrats were also more optimistic and lively. They talked quite a bit about the next Texas governor’s race and the leading Democratic candidate Wendy Davis, even though she is still a long shot to win the election. By contrast, the Republicans were much more subdued. This is consistent with a recent survey of Republican beliefs about the state of the country which listed the three most common words they used as “worried, concerned, and scared”. They didn’t mention the upcoming governor’s election even once during the meeting.

The only time national issues came up was during some pre-meeting discussion in the audience. One person felt compelled to share his belief that the country is getting close to the point where millions of people will march on Washington DC to throw Obama out of office. He was sure that Obama will declare martial law and try to use the military to protect himself when this happens, but “there are more of us than there are of them”.

Outside of such discussions there was little other talk of national politics, not even of Obamacare, which surprised me given the obsession with it at previous meetings. It was also surprising because this meeting occurred during the emotional height of the debt ceiling negotiations in the US Congress. The main speaker at the Republican meeting was a state legislator who seemed to make it a point to avoid discussing the situation in Washington DC. Most of the discussion centered on Texas and local issues. This included taxes, the state budget, and of course water issues. There will be a proposition on the ballot soon in Texas to authorize spending $2 billion on water infrastructure and conservation. This was supported by all the members who spoke up. (By contrast, the Texas Tea Party is strongly against this measure, and generally despises the establishment Republicans like those present at this meeting.)

Local water board elections where a big issue, and they discussed the need to keep liberals off the water board. Some background: in Texas the state regulates the taking of water from rivers and lakes. However there is a long standing part of Texas political culture that says any person can pump as much water from their well on their property as they want, and no government agency had better try to interfere with that right. You can pretty much guess what has been happening to the level of water in Texas’ aquifers in the last few decades.

According to the stories told at the meeting, the liberal members on the local water boards have been sitting on hundreds of applications to drill wells without processing them, and in the long term they plan to put meters on private wells in order to monitor the amount of water used and eventually charge the well owner per gallon. The response from an audience member was “when they trespass on my property to put a meter on my well, if they manage to get past my Rottweiler they’ll have to deal with by ‘45’ “. Obviously they were strongly against changing this part of the Texas political culture regarding water rights.

One of the other interesting topics discussed was increasing the support for vehicles being fueled by natural gas. There was also support for an interesting new proposal for underground aquifer storage and recovery of water instead of the above ground reservoirs which lose a lot of water to evaporation during Texas summers.

Finally, there was a familiar commentary on how it’s been proven that non-profit charities do a better job at providing food and health care to poor people than the government. It was recommended that people read the speech “Not Yours to Give” by Davy Crockett, in which he explains why it is not the government’s job to spend money on charity (Note: I looked this up, and it turns out the speech was almost certainly a fabrication by the author of a Davy Crocket biography).