Joe Straus ran for reelection to his House seat against me in 2016 as a pro-life, fiscal conservative who supposedly worked well with all sides, and was part of the Republican team working with the Governor and Lt. Governor. He sent out mailers in his reelection effort directly connecting himself with Governor Abbott, almost suggesting an endorsement by Abbott (which was never given).
But all of that has changed.
It is now publicly obvious that the Speaker has no working relationship whatsoever with the Governor or Lt. Governor or Attorney General – the three leading Republican officials elected statewide — and that the Speaker killed over half the bills the Governor placed on the Special Session call. These include core Republican-values bills addressing property taxes, school choice, pro-life measures, and property rights, most of which are asked for in the Party platform.
What has changed the most since last year is that the Governor and Lt. Governor speak quite openly about their conflict with Joe Straus, as does Joe himself. They don’t even pretend to like each other. Also, there is a new State Republican Party Chairman, James Dickey, who, unlike his predecessor, has insisted that our elected leaders pass legislation reflecting the adopted platform of the Party. Every time he does this, it further demonstrates the gap between the entire state party apparatus and the Speaker of the House.
This is clearly unsustainable for the State of Texas, and it mirrors what is happening in Washington, DC where Republicans have comfortable majorities yet cannot pass mainstream legislation that was promised during the campaign.
Voters have never been madder and never been more motivated to replace incumbents, as is becoming more and more apparent as county Republican Parties pass resolutions all across the state seeking the ouster of Joe Straus as Speaker. And this is not just some sliver of the party “grassroots” who the elitists imagine are uninformed, misguided low income, low education people. This is the rank and file and the leadership. These are mainstream Republican folks who strongly support Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Patrick and now understand what is wrong with the Texas Legislature and its lack of productivity.
Many Democrats and liberal Republicans who carry water for lobby interests are desperate for Joe Straus to remain in office. It is their bread and butter, and without him, their spending measures will fare badly. But the key to change at this point will be if these members begin to recognize that Joe Straus is a sinking ship, an albatross around their neck. That he is not their hope, but their political demise. It may be the time for them to retire and become lobbyists as many other retiring members do, or to hitch their wagon to a more conservative speaker in the next session. Either way, life will be increasingly difficult for any member who thinks they can continue to pretend to be conservative but allow all the conservative bills to die in the House. Millions of Texans are reading new media outlets and have a sophisticated understanding of House and Senate rules of procedure, so there is no more fooling the people.
The veil has been pulled back and the people’s eyes are open. This political era is nearing an end, one way or another.
Jeff Judson is a Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute. The views expressed are his own and not that of the Heartland Institute.