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Within the pale

I’ve been chewing over these two posts from Kevin Drum about the Texas Republican Party platform. First off, I agree with him: the platform as a whole is pretty damned radical. I would certainly be interested in hearing President Bush, who presumably has signed a similar document, talk about whether or not he supports all those positions. And much of the platform is way the hell out of the mainstream.

However, it’s wrong to say that the platform has no place in American politics. For example, there is absolutely no reason to recoil from the sight of a politician who wants to return to the gold standard. It might not be a bright thing to do, but it hardly signifies the destruction of the republic. Most if not all of the economic planks fall into that bucket. Dumb ideas? Maybe. Radical? Sure. Shouldn’t be discussed in polite company? Uh…

Now, when you get to creationism being taught in public schools and eliminating separation of church and state, there I’m more or less in agreement. But even the anti-abortion plank isn’t something you can just sweep away with a magisterial comment or two. Democrats should realize that whether or not they like that position, it’s a position which is fully in the mainstream. Sure, it’s disturbing that the Texas wing of the Republican Party has so much influence, because their platform as a whole really is scary. However, when you point at it and say “look, radical ideas!” you just alienate a pretty big section of America.

And it’s healthy to be able to discuss ideas. Just about any idea. You can’t gain consensus by squashing dissent, even wacky radical right wing dissent. The country’s better off for having dissenting voices, even those we really don’t like.


  1. It’s the combination of all the stuff in the platform that makes it beyond the pale, not any one thing.

    And even the abortion plank is pretty far outside the mainstream. Remember, a lot of people don’t like abortion, but very few people agree that it should be 100% outlawed. So even that’s a pretty marginal position.

    And I don’t actually have any problem with these guys spouting off with their ideas. I just have a problem with one of our two mainstream parties giving them a platform for it.

  2. Yeah, but when you attack the platform as a whole, you alienate people who agree with some of the planks — witness Tacitus. (Well, not you so much, but some of your commenters.)

    I suspect we’d agree that the best world is the world in which a mainstream party holding those positions would become non-mainstream fairly quickly.

  3. What I wonder is how many of my acquaintances who vote Republican here in Texas would actually agree with significant parts of the platform. Some would–one of my college friends really strongly believes in repealing the 16th Amendment–but the nutbar libertarians probably wouldn’t like the nutbar social conservative planks and vice versa.

    And even as a long-time anti-Bush voter (thrice so far, and I didn’t vote for his daddy, either), I think it’s not fair to say he (or other Texas Republicans) runs on this platform. For all that his party supports it, and he nominally agrees to it, the real-world effect is that it’s not binding. If the details of the platform were publicized, I suspect more of them would be running from it than on it. I don’t think Republican voters, even those who vote for that odious religious-nutbar toad, Tom DeLay, really mean to vote for the Texas party platform, even though that’s the effect of their vote.

    But maybe I’m an optimist.

  4. Kevin Drum wrote:The Texas GOP represents a radical movement that has no place in American politics. Their goal, if they are allowed to reach it, is to completely dismantle the social safety net and impose a harsh and unrelenting theocratic…

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