OPEN MONDAY-SATURDAY 10-6 AND OPEN SUNDAY 10-4 BWATOSON co & COMPANY be compensated for the cuts in services with additional money from the increased defense budget. Even if those two kinds of money flow to different people, Tower at least acknowledged bluntly that defense money has an economic constituency, too, one which votes in its self-interest. This yearning for a political system resembling that of the earliest United States in which the government attended to virtually nothing but the common defense and the collection of negligible taxes and left commerce to the merchants is, of course, best articulated by President Reagan. His popularity evidently led Knaggs to feel absolved of the necessity of stating a coherent program. Even the act of putting this memoir between hard covers is a way of saying that one era has ended and another has begun, that the Texas Republican Party has at last emerged from its seemingly eternal adolescence, that the time has come for the rightful heirs of Texas’ reflexive conservatism to begin their reign. BUT THE STORY is not that simple. From the end of the Depression until the election of Bill Clements, the major state offices were dominated by the business-conservative wing of the Democratic Party. In 1941, for example, Governor Pappy O’Daniel was sent to Washington as senator by the liquor interests, who feared his influence in Austin. And the process was reversed in the ’50s, when Senator Price Daniel came home from Washington to keep the governorship from Ralph Yarborough. Much has been written about the weakness of the Texas governor, but it was, it appears, more important than Washington to a certain kind of Texan. The result of the business-conservative alliance was a system almost entirely devoted to the needs of Texas business: low taxes, minimal state services, except in those areas, like highways, which were judged essential to the economy. As Molly Ivins has asked, who would have thought that anyone would bother to organize a party to the right of the Texas Democrats? Certainly liberals had much to complain about, but conservatives? The only argument that can be made is that of purity. Texas Republicans have always valued the image of ideological purity. It is a nimble trick, and the fact that the Republicans have manipulated it so successfully adds a little luster to that rough-hewn, common-sense image they try to project. In fact, the Republicans have had no problem in allying them selves with liberals when it serves their purposes, as in the Tower victories over Dollar Bill Blakely on 1961 and Carr in 1966, or in the guerrilla warfare of the “Dirty Thirty” during the Sharpstown era. And, for all their talk of ethical purity, Republicans have welcomed the business Democrats. Former Governor John Connally and former Speaker Billy Clayton are probably the best known of the state-oriented former Democrats \(as opposed to Phil Gramm and Kent Hance, who swam and sank, respectively, on the basis of their votes on Knaggs is particularly proud of the number of Democratic officeholders who have crossed party lines, and the numbers are impressive. But look at the cast of characters: Connally and Clements were both indicted, although acquitted; then, there are people like Hance and former Mayor Carole Rylander, who give up their former positions on labor and abortion rights because the Democratic funnel to the positions they coveted happens to be clogged. Many of the rest of the Democratsturned-Republican seem to have been recruited from Texas Monthly’s “Ten Worst” list: Rep. Charles Evans, for whom Knaggs is grateful \(TM wrote that he combined “in one person all the disadvantages of the democratic form of government. Arrogant, inept, bullying, Sen. Bill Meier, who was promoted to candidate for Attorney General for his switch \(“carried a legislative program so anti-consumer it did everything but make caveat emptor the eleventh comfavorites, former Rep. Clay Smothers nominated himself for Vice President at the 1972 Democratic convention as a follower of George Wallace. It is an appalling list. Not all the GOP is this retrograde or self-serving, and neither are all of the converts. But the lack of a vision for the future of the state of Texas, the intense focus on national events, the reliance on the magic amulet of the word “conservative,” the intense recruitment of anyone who will switch, have all combined to produce a party which is short on ideas \(except the reflexive “cut technique. Republican parties in the South, because they are such fledglings, have been used in other states to great advantage. Winthrop Rockefeller used the Republican Party of Arkansas to beat Orval Faubus and take apart his segrega tionist machine; Lamar Alexander of Tennessee has been working on education and economic development. The Republican Party of Texas can claim some prison reform and little more. The poverty of ideas may have made the Texas Republicans strong \(after all, it is tremendously convenient to rely on the simple “conservative” pose for all vulnerable. Texas Republicans are not strong incumbents outside their certified strongholds. Part of the reason is Texas’ residual Democratic heritage, but much of the difficulty has to do with their inability to propose real programs. And the Republican power brokers are now vulnerable within their own party. It remains to be seen how they will deal with the infusion of evangelical voters; if the national leadership continues to insist that the Reagan economic revolution take precedence over the social revolution, how long will it be before the evangelicals become the very visible Republican equivalent of the caucuses which have haunted the Democratic elite? From what we have seen of the fundamentalists, whose protests were accompanied by a dead cat on Attorney General Mattox’s door, the spectacle of a born-again wing of the Republican Party might create an interesting new image for the Republicans. KNAGGS MIGHT be pardoned for avoiding those issues, but the fact that his book appeared at the same time as David Stockman’s invites thought, if not comparison. Essentially, the conservatives have arrived at the Promised Land: two landslides for Ronald Reagan. Yet Knaggs offers no evaluation of the Republican Party’s future, aside from some cheering. Ray Bliss, the Republican Party national chairman who raised his party from the ashes of 1964, said, on his accession, that the rot had actually set in with the first election of Dwight Eisenhower, presumably because the General’s popularity disguised a party 20 JULY 11, 1986
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