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Repubicans, continued from page 9 He gloried that he had been “a storm trooper in the Reagan revolution.” Then he turned his attack on the Democrats, accusing them of dividing Texans based on race for having a Hispanic and a black at the top of the ticket. “That’s their dream and that is their vision,” he snarled, in what could be a preview of race baiting tactics in the months to come. Exulting in the slogan “we are the onramp to power,” the antiRINO group managed to get a modified Rule 43 out of the rules committee and onto the convention floor. But debate about it had been raging even before the convention began.Those who opposed it, although apparently outnumbered, fought vigorously. As Houston delegate Bill Borden said, “Rule 43 is the best way for Republicans to shoot ourselves in the one foot we have.” Weddington and vice-chairman David Barton, another Christian conservative, distributed flyers attacking the rule change. Many opponents pointed out that as Republicans struggle to reach out to Texas’ growing minority population, rigid adherence to the platform could be counterproductive. When Rule 43 at last came before all the delegates, a spirited debate ensued. Under the version presented on the floor, any candidate who failed to declare whether they approved, disapproved, or were undecided about each plank in the platform would be denied state party fimds. Several amendments were offered to strike the rule or defang it, and each time, they were beaten back. Finally the chairman on stage called for a vote. Although the volume of shouts of yeas and nays were remarkably close, it appeared the yeas had carried the day. It was at this point that rules chairman Tina Benkiser declared “the nays have it,” and gaveled the convention to a close before anybody could dispute the ruling. In the end, the anti-RINOs were remarkably sanguine in light of their previous stridency and the duplicitous way they lost the vote. “They railroaded it, but that’s okay,” said Robert Johnson. “We persuaded a lot of people and exposed the leadership’s dirty tricks.” Perhaps the activists’ sudden bout of acceptance can be traced to the fact Republicans are at the moment so clearly in the ascendancy. Currently they control both U.S. Senate seats and all 29 statewide offices as well as holding a majority in the state senate. In what could be a preview of Republican race baiting, Gramm, the self-styled “storm trooper in the Reagan revolution,” attacked the Dems for dividing Texans with their focus on minorities at the top of the ticket. Above, Phil Gramm According to Republican consultant Royal Masset, the victories are the fruit of a coalition of Rs and conservative Democrats that was 20 years in the making, and is currently at its peak.This November it’s likely that Republicans will capture the last remaining prize of state politics, a majority in the state house, and possibly, the speakership. The Christian right enthusiastically endorsed a resolution in the platform calling on Republican representatives to choose a new Speaker in a secret caucus of their own membership, instead of through a bipartisan vote. Tom Craddick from Midland, the longest serving Republican in the state house, desperately wants the job. He is also a favorite of the Christian Right, scoring a 79-percent rating in FreePAC’s ranking of top conservatives in the 2001 Texas Legislature. “Are you ready for a Republican Speaker supported by Republicans?” Weddington yelled from the stage at one point. “Then on to victory!” Not so fast. Before the convention, a group of 23 Republican legislators released a letter criticizing the plan to pick a Speaker amongst themselves, who then would be imposed on the Democrats. The legislators tried to distinguish themselves from the “shrill partisanship” of the political parties. They also appealed to their fellow Republicans on the grounds of forward-looking pragmatism. Once the legislature was infected by polarization based on party, it would never be the same, they argued. It also might come back to haUnt them. “If the Democrats were to return to the majority at some point in the near future, as many experts predict, we Republicans would find ourselves shut out of the process,” they wrote. “The choice we make now will shape the future and tenor of our state’s government for generations.” It remains to be seen whether the same instincts for self-preservation that defeated Rule 43 will win the day in the much more important fight for continued on page 29 715102 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19