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Relax to the Beat of a Different Drummer An East Texas Family Farm Lakeside Log Cabins Berry Farm Cooking Classes and More… The Greer Farm Daingerfield, TX 903-645-3232 anti-corridor sentiment among the grassroots, condemned the project in his convention speech on Thursday. “You can’t build toll roads in rural Texas,” said Dewhurst, who in 2003 pushed Trans-Texas Corridor-enabling legislation through the Texas Senate and has done little since to change course. “And, for heaven’s sake, don’t mess with Texas’ private property rights!” \(Dewhurst was booed lustily later in the speech when he proposed putting Texans’ fingerprints on drivers’ licenses. It was the first time in at least eight years that an elected Republican Few delegates sported McCain shirts or signs. Several delegates were seen taking out their frustrations by shadowboxing a cardboard cutout of the Arizona senator. Many delegates are still angry over Perry’s effort to mandate the HPV vaccine last year and over the expanded business tax that Perry pushed through the Legislature in 2006. The party platform passed at the convention calls for repeal of what one delegate termed “Perry’s unconstitutional business tax.” Many believe the business tax is a de facto income tax and thus violates the Texas Constitution. “Gov. Perry and the Legislature broke their promise on taxes,” said another delegate. “It’s the largest tax increase in the history of the state.” Many find it particularly galling that said tax was proposed by their own Republican governor and passed by a Republican Legislature. Even Roger Williams, the former secretary of state who’s heading Texas Victory 2008the Republican get-out-the-vote operationtold delegates in his speech, “We need to elect Republicans who will do in office what they say they’re going to do when they’re running for office.” Wayne Barker from Houston said of the Republican leadership, “They’re so far from us grassroots people on the issues.” And not just on a state level. “I actually like McCain,” Barker said, “but you’ll find a lot of people herehardcore Republicanswho look at him and feel nothing.” In fact, few delegates sported McCain shirts or signs. Several delegates took out their frustrations by shadowboxing a cardboard cutout of the Arizona senator. The McCain campaign decided the Republican nominee would skip the convention and asked Huckabee and Mitt Romney to appear instead. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, gave the keynote the dining delegates, “I have the honor of speaking for someone I respect tremendouslySen. John McCain!” Only about half the delegates even bothered to applaud. The assembled die-hards weren’t too perturbed about Barack Obama’s candidacy either. \(However, a button on sale at the convention wondered, “If Obama’s president, will we still call it the White House?” After an Internet backlash, the tion, the junior senator from Illinois hasn’t yet reached infidel status among grassroots Texas Republicans. Not that Perry, Dewhurst, and others didn’t try. “If Barack Obama gets the chance to change America, we’ll only be left with change in our pockets:’ Dewhurst said to polite applause. Perry trotted out a similar line. Benkiser called Obama’s agenda “socialist,” and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson referred to the Democratic nominee as Barack HUSSEIN! Obama. None of it elicited much enthusiasm. The most successful Obama applause line came from Huckabee, who said he admired Obama’s journey, and that he was glad the “racism of the past” is gone. The convention at times seemed so low-key you had to remind yourself that Republicans are still in the midst of their golden age in Texas. They hold every statewide office and both chambers of the Legislature. Of course, some true believers are as excited about their party as ever. But given the level of disharmony and apathy at the convention, you have to wonder how much longer the GOP can maintain its current level of dominance in Texas. Democrats have a chance to retake the Texas House this year, particularly if Republican turnout is low Some GOP activists wonder whether it’s worth working to elect Republicans if they won’t govern “like conservatives.” The irony is that the orthodoxy some activists desire would likely be politically disastrous. Texas Republicans haven’t exactly espoused moderate rhetoric and policies in recent years. On immigration, especially, the GOP has designated itself the party for white folks in a state that soon will be majority Latino. A shift even further rightward might immolate the party in future elections. How many delegates are willing to sacrifice election victories on the altar of ideological purity remains to be seen. With complete control of Texas, Republican activists have the luxury of dreaming of an ever-purer GOP. They can fantasize about Hucktown. But the quest for that dream may ultimately prove self-destructive. JUNE 27, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19