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FEATURE The Power of Positive Thinkers BY MICHAEL KING AND LOUIS DUBOSE PHOTOGRAPHS BY JANA BIRCHUM 0 ne unofficial theme of the 2000 Texas State Republican Convention, June 14 through 17, was Think Positive, and the virus was contagious enough that one could catch it standing in the concession line. A genial, rotund delegate from Williamson County wearing an elefellows had arrived expecting “a good time, inspiration, and getting ready for the fall campaign.” He dismissed the absence of G.O.P. presidential standard bearer Governor Bush as “no big deal,” a notion echoed by the leadership throughout the convention. “Everybody here is for [Bush],” Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry told reporters. “What’s important is the other forty-nine states that are out there. We want them to see and know George Bush just like we do.” Indeed, the Party was Thinking so Positive at first that it was seeing double. Early speakers repeatedly told the delegates they were holding “the biggest political convention in the country,” bigger even than the national conventions, with some 16,000 registered delegates. By Saturday it became clear that closer to 7,000 real people \(roughly the the George R. Brown Convention Center, and the leadership was hemming and hawing. “I don’t know why the 16,000 eligible delegates and alternates didn’t come,” G.O.P. spokesman Robert Black told reporters. “Hopefully, they were back in their districts working hard for Republican candidates and couldn’t take the time.” It would have been unseemly to suggest that if the Republican Governor and Presidential Candidate couldn’t be bothered to attend, one could hardly expect loyal Party members Ira and Ann from Iraan to spend hard-earned money for a convention which in Bush’s absence promised neither glamour, drama, nor suspense. Bush did attend, after a fashion, in the dread form of the campaign video bio, and if that was utterly and commercially predictable, it was no more so than the rest of the proceedings. A few very minor floor, and reportedly a losing candidate for national delegate loudly accused her opponents of being “unbiblical,” but otherwise everything was scripted, right down to the “point of order” interruption of Party Chair Susan Weddington by Senator Jane Nelson. In faux dudgeon Nelson seized the podium, and then promptly pulled out green cheerleading pom-poms and directed that green buckets be passed among the delegates for cash contributions to “Grow the Party.” Maybe they needed the cash Rick Perry made much of his own $25,000 contribution to the state senatorial campaign of Todd Staples but to judge from the corporate signage all over the room and the printed program \(even some delegates reportedly complained about the relentless advertising of the Party’s true side the Bread is Buttered. \(See also “Permanent Values,” by This is not to say the occasion lacked all revelation. Despite the smothering atmosphere of celebration and optimism the phrase “all twenty-nine statewide offices are now held by Republicans” was apparently embossed onto the teleprompter there were moments when the smiling guard dropped ever so slightly, allowing a brief glimpse of the nasty edge of the Party knife. Reliable Jon Lindsay welcomed the delegates to Houston as “paradise,” by which he explained that in the Houston area districts, “good” voters would soon greatly outnumber “bad” voters. It seemed at first an unremarkable partisan distinction between Republicans and Democrats, until Lindsay elaborated that he was talking about “suburban” vs. “inner city” citizens: a code so transparent that it could not be lost on even the most wilfully colorblind Montgomery County delegate. A few minutes later Land Commissioner David Dewhurst was translating his own remarks about “conservative family values” dignity, loyalty, hard work into Spanish, a gesture that carried a double irony. In the first place, it was abundantly obvious that despite Dewhurst’s sunny forecast of the “coming Laura Bush 8 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 7, 2000