Republican Party

As the anti-vaccine controversy dominated the news cycles, many politicians weighed in, including potential Republican candidates for president. Sen. Rand Paul, heir apparent to his father’s movement, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, considered by many to be a moderate Northeast Republican, both stated that vaccines should be voluntary.  

 

Christie stated his belief in the importance of vaccines, and that his children are vaccinated. However, he also stated, “Parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well.”  

 

Christie, usually blunt, appeared to be walking a tightrope between the opposing sides. Paul stated in an interview with CNBC: “The state doesn’t own your children. Parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom.”  

 

However, there is a contradiction in conservative philosophy and the Republican Party platform. If we take conservative arguments against mandatory vaccines and replace the word “parents” with “women,” and “children” with “uterus,” conservatives believe the opposite when it comes to abortion: The state doesn’t own your uterus. Women own their uterus, and it is an issue of freedom.   

 

UT's chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas professed the same conflicting statements regarding the two issues: "YCT is 100% pro-life," and "YCT is not against vaccinations but we do believe that individuals should have the right to opt-out." 

 

Conservative philosophy argues that the government does not have the right to legislate parents’ decisions for their children, but argues that the government has the right to legislate women’s decisions concerning their own bodies. It’s more than simply an “issue of freedom.” 

 

For the sake of argument, let’s consider the conservative belief that abortion is morally wrong.  In this case, a woman’s decision affects the fetus in her womb and herself. Abortion is a private decision. Not vaccinating your children contributes to the resurgence of deadly diseases that present a serious danger to the entire population. Plus, the scientific community has debunked the claim that these vaccines have such negative effects. A parent’s decision not to vaccinate their children affects many beyond their own children. It’s a public decision. It becomes a public health concern.  

 

You can’t falsely shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater, you can’t drive a car as fast as you would like and you can’t drive drunk. You aren't allowed to do these things because doing so puts many other people at risk of injury or death.  

 

Not vaccinating our children puts many other people at risk of serious illness and death. You need to vaccinate your children, and the government should make us. We all hate speeding tickets, but without speed limits the roads would be much more dangerous. We should not sacrifice health and safety for the sake of blind freedom. Freedom for the sake of freedom is not good policy. 

 

While the GOP probably views it as a necessary compromise, the hypocrisy undermines their platform. The first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, famously said, “A house divided itself cannot stand.” 

 

The Republican Party will not fare well in 2016 if the candidates have to split their allegiance between the social conservatives and the libertarians still in the closet. Republicans either need to embrace personal freedom across the board or cut the tea party loose.  
 
What if the anti-establishment conservatives had to fend for themselves? What if all the pot-smoking gun enthusiasts had a party to call their own? What if there was a new legitimate third party? A new libertarian party could pull a substantial amount of Republicans out west (Colorado and Washington), socially-liberal-fiscal-conservatives and many young people disillusioned by Democrats’ and Republicans’ similarities. A Libertarian party free from the Republican establishment has real potential. If the right candidate went viral on the Internet, he or she could poll at 15 percent and participate in the presidential debates.  

 

We cannot have a real debate or productive dialogue with such ideological contradiction. All I’m asking for is consistency. Be true to yourselves. And please, for society’s sake, vaccinate your kids.

 

Burchard is a Plan II senior from Houston. Follow Burchard on Twitter @nathburch.

With the 2016 campaign for president already underway, you’re likely to hear people say, “ I do not want a third Bush presidency.” In fact, I have heard this argument made many times now, but it is naive to judge a person by his or her last name. Each individual is his or her own person, with a past and ideas that are uniquely his or her own. It would be ignorant to refuse to even consider the idea of supporting Jeb Bush based on the actions of his brother and father. 

Many of the same people who criticize the Bushes do not know a thing about Jeb Bush besides the fact that he’s the son and brother of former U.S. presidents. Many UT students may not know that Jeb Bush actually graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UT with a B.A. in Latin American Studies in just two-and-a-half years. If elected president, he would be the first UT alumnus to become president.

Even though Jeb Bush served as governor of Florida, he has substantial ties to Texas, from being born in Midland to growing up in Houston and attending UT. While some may argue that he cannot win the Republican primary, I would argue he is actually the front-runner.

Generally, at least in recent years, the establishment Republican candidate has won the primary (i.e. Romney in 2012, McCain in 2008 and George W. Bush in 2000). I believe there are two main reasons for this.

First, there are simply more mainstream (establishment-supporting) Republicans than tea party or tea party-type Republicans. Polls have shown that the tea party is the minority in the Republican Party — only two in 10 Republicans self-identify as very conservative, according to Gallup.

Second, the establishment candidate will be able to raise the necessary sum to win in the primary and general election. A Republican candidate will likely need at least $150 million to win the primary, Ed Rollins, a former Mike Huckabee adviser,  told the Washington Post, and then the general election can cost upward of $1 billion.

Bush can and would likely defeat Hillary Clinton, as long as we realize that Clinton is not invincible, as evidenced by her 2008 primary loss to Barack Obama. Not to mention in the last six open-seat presidential races, where a sitting president was not running, the party that held the presidency has only won once.

Interestingly enough, that one lucky man was George H. W. Bush when he succeeded Ronald Reagan. American voters get tired of a single party holding the presidency for a long time, and eight years is a long time for most people.

What may add the younger Bush to that list is that he can appeal to Hispanic voters since he is fluent in Spanish, and his wife Columba is a first-generation immigrant from Mexico.

George W. Bush won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004, while Romney won just 27 percent in 2012. Republicans will need to do a lot better with Hispanic voters to win in 2016, and Jeb Bush is in a very good position to do just that.

What also helps Jeb Bush is that he has a message, and you will know exactly what he stands for. He will likely run as a “reform conservative” focusing on making sure everyone has the right to succeed.

Clinton supporters, on the other hand, can’t say quite as much. To win the general election, there has to be a compelling message, such as Obama’s hope and change or George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism. Clinton does not have anything like that.

Plus, while Clinton may be sitting pretty out of office, as soon as she comes into the spotlight, the Republican Party’s full attention will be on her. Once the Republicans begin to attack, her favorability ratings will decrease as will her chance of winning the presidency (a repeat of 2008).

All these factors will make it exceedingly difficult for Clinton to win 2016 and will give Jeb Bush the upper hand.

Hung is a first-year law student from Brownsville.

Governor-elect Greg Abbott waves to supporters at his Election Night night party Nov. 4. 

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

A few weeks ago, I wrote that looking back at past midterm elections could provide clues as to possible outcomes in the 2014 contests, in both Texas and the United States. Historically, a president’s party loses seats in Congress during the sixth year of an administration, and this proved to be the case this year, as Republicans rode a national wave of voter discontent to capture control of the Senate and increase their majority in the House. In Texas, I suggested that President Barack Obama’s low approval rating and the state’s strong Republican bent would be very challenging for Democrats, and indeed, Republicans swept the Lone Star State. Why did this happen, and what does this mean for the next couple of years?

Republicans experienced an election night of triumph. In addition to reclaiming the Senate, the GOP won its largest majority in the House of Representatives since the 1930s, and gained several governorships in typically Democratic states. Voters nationwide were in a pessimistic mood and took their frustrations out on the president’s party, as is common in midterm elections, despite low job performance ratings for Republican congressional leaders. Democrats faced the added disadvantage that midterm voters tend to be older, whiter, and more conservative, which occurred again in 2014. The Democratic coalition of younger voters, minorities and women that propelled and re-elected Obama to the presidency did not turn out to the polls in full force this year. Additionally, the political map favored Republicans this cycle, as Democrats had to defend Senate seats in “red” states. The electorate, voicing anti-incumbency, punished Democratic officeholders in both “purple” and “blue” states, again illustrating the difficulties presidents historically have in off-year elections. Republicans this year also managed to avoid mistakes from past elections and nominated gifted politicians instead of bizarre candidates prone to verbal gaffes.

In Texas, the Republican Party won all statewide offices, again illustrating its dominance of the Lone Star State. Although the Democratic Party ran potentially its strongest ticket in years, led by Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, the conservative electorate and Obama’s deep unpopularity in Texas made Democrats’ chances for victory almost impossible. Greg Abbott defeated Davis for the governorship 59 to 39 percent, while Dan Patrick won the lieutenant governor’s race over Van de Putte by only a slightly smaller margin. Battleground Texas’ efforts to turn out more Democratic voters to the polls proved unsuccessful. The fact is, at least for the time being, that Texas voters remain staunchly Republican and hostile to Obama and his Democratic supporters’ political agenda.

What do these election results mean for the final two years of the Obama presidency and for the state of Texas? Interestingly, national exit polls showed that voters’ primary concern is the economy. Ironically, this should have benefited the president and his party, as the country’s economy has shown steady, if slow, improvement in recent months. Yet voters clearly are weary of partisan gridlock in Washington, and since Democrats control the presidency, the citizenry decided to reward Republicans, in yet another example of midterm elections historically benefiting the party outside of the White House. Republicans, now in full control of Congress, must show that they can govern. Make no mistake, voters do not find either party particularly appealing right now. While Republicans had a great election night nationally, the GOP would be mistaken to take it as a mandate for right-wing policies. The past few election cycles have shown that voters want leaders from both parties to compromise and find common ground to strengthen the economy and provide good governance. And while the majority of Texans unmistakably favor Republican initiatives, Abbott, Patrick and the Texas GOP similarly should resist the temptation to govern in a hyperpartisan manner. Although Democrats suffered through a depressing election night in Texas this year, one of the party’s few bright spots is that it won the majority of Hispanic, African-American and younger voters. For their long-term electoral prospects, Texas Republicans should not ignore this fact.

The 2014 midterms had not even finished when news outlets began speculating about 2016, which will be a presidential year and therefore bring even more voter attention and turnout. In today’s media and technologically-driven political world, the next election is never very far away. Republicans, Democrats, independents and all voters should stay tuned.

Briscoe is a history graduate student from Carrizo Springs. 

The idea is pushed and pushed and pushed. If you have not succumbed to the message, you are thought of as ignorant, and if you have not heard it yet, you must have just been born or currently reside under a rock. The idea is this: The Republican Party is filled with selfish Americans who despise progress. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, is the party for those who are “progressive” and wish to selflessly help others in need. In this week’s column I will destroy the former notion and question the latter.

This is a popular view, but common sense and reality will give it the lie. First, consider our country’s debt of approximately $18 trillion. Last year we went over the “fiscal cliff” because Republicans would not agree to raise the debt ceiling. When Republicans run for office or propose budgets, some people ask why they will not expand government programs or why they insist on making cuts to these programs. Democrats run and champion their plans to spend more and more on these programs. Why are Republicans so mean and selfish?

The United States currently holds unfunded liabilities of over $115 trillion. Unfunded liabilities are the difference between future government spending and future tax revenue. Most of these unfunded liabilities are a result of Medicare and Social Security. These programs are unsustainable, and whenever Paul Ryan or any other Republican proposes reform, critics say the Republicans don’t care about the poor and elderly. One television ad even shows a Paul Ryan-looking man rolling an elderly lady in a wheelchair off a cliff. Regardless of the reform’s effects, the trimming of these programs is said to be selfish.

Will the debt ever have to be repaid? If not, then we essentially have access to blank checks and should increase our annual deficits. However, if we eventually have to pay back the money we spend on these programs, I can think of no act more selfish than to continue unsustainable spending and push the burden onto the next generation and to those who have not even been born yet. College students, you are getting screwed. You are told that Republicans are immoral, while the politicians telling you these lies are confident that they will have lived a great life of power and luxury and will be dead by the time you get around to figuring out that you must be held responsible for their actions.

Democrats mistakenly believe that the act of spending money that is not theirs is charity. In this sense, they refuse to reflect on how their actions affect future generations, whereas Republicans are forward-looking and conscious of the future. Yet Democrats are said to be “progressive”? There is no creativity or innovation in the Democratic Party. Their game plan is to recognize problems, blame “the rich” and throw money at these problems.

This is what Democrats have done with poverty. Former President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the war on poverty 50 years ago. $22 trillion has been spent on this crusade, but little has changed. This crusade has failed because politicians thought by simply creating centralized, federal programs and increasing spending, the problem would just disappear. Among other things, we need to increase the control the state has over the money spent on welfare. We can also create incentives, through grants, for states that are able to actually lift people out of poverty and generate self-sustainability rather than government dependence.

I am tired of Democrats claiming to be more generous than Republicans simply because they are willing to spend more money. We cannot accept that the only solution to problems that arise is to increase spending. We are smarter than that. It is time for progressives to actually support progress.

Olsen is a finance senior from Argyle. Follow Olsen on Twitter @olsen_clay.

 

Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) is interviewed at the LBJ School of Public Affairs in January 2012. Cornyn is currently running for his third term in the U.S. Senate.

Photo Credit: Jorge Corona | Daily Texan Staff

UT made student political organization history last Wednesday as College Republicans, Young Conservatives of Texas, and Young Americans for Liberty gathered together for the first time since the respective groups were created. Featuring guest speaker Don Devine, director of personnel management during the Reagan administration, the night was considered by many to be a raving success. 

“We had a great turnout for Mr. Devine,” said Alexander Parker, communications director of UT’s College Republicans. “It was great to see everyone in one room for such an important event.”

Comprehensively, the organizations boast a membership that is not just staggering in scope, but also in ideology. And though the groups are certainly not without their differences, each shares the hope that efforts to collaborate on this front will translate positively for the Republican Party, especially in the upcoming election. 

“There are many issues that Republicans — regardless of specific creed — rely on,” Parker said. “It’s a matter of small government and issues that follow. These are the things really integral to this party.”

Even at the campus level, the effort toward uniting the party on polarizing party issues is inspiring — and perhaps indicative of a more large scale, comprehensive party convergence.

And if a potential realignment is possible, now is certainly the time to do it. The number of social issues that have been presented for party ownership within the past administration alone is significant — and the Republican Party would certainly benefit from standing united on these issues. Tacking toward the center is common during such periods of realignment, and likely how the Republican Party will approach its efforts to mitigate polarization. The shift will likely happen by de-politicizing issues that many agree have transcended simple party ownership, such as gay marriage, which has become more an issue of the courts. Regardless of how Republicans choose to move forward, however, the Achilles’ heel of any party is its inability to align uniformly, and vacillating too much on these issues may beget low voter engagement in the process. Republicans will have to tread carefully toward the middle.

Despite grievances surrounding gridlock and last year’s temporary government shutdown, the Republican Party is poised to do rather well in November’s election. And according to pollster Nate Silver, there’s a 60-40 likelihood that Republicans will control the Senate once again. This sweeping upheaval of representatives isn’t uncommon on the heels of an ineffective second term, and following Obama’s underperformance, even Democrats have been eager to distance themselves from the incumbent. 

“It’s like Obama has Ebola,” joked Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’S “Hardball.”

With Obama a political “hot potato” that no Democrat wants to grab, the party is as eager to disassociate itself from the president as, well ... his now-teenage daughters.

All that to say: The Republican Party has a window, and it is wide open. But it must be climbed through with thought and consideration. In order to maintain a cohesive, effective party, a system of large-scale convergence on both policy and ideology is very likely necessary.

Deppisch is a government senior from League City.

Another election season is upon us. On Nov. 4, Americans will go to the polls to cast ballots for U.S. senators and representatives. Early voting in the Lone Star State begins Oct. 20, and Texans will also elect a new governor, lieutenant governor and host of other state officials. What can we expect in these upcoming elections? Looking back at similar elections in the past can provide us with clues as to what the country and state might decide on Election Day.

First, let us examine the national political scene. These contests are called “midterm” or “off-year” elections because they are taking place during the middle of a presidential term. This year is the sixth year of President Barack Obama’s administration. Historically, the party that controls the White House usually suffers losses in midterm elections. Voters often like to have a check on the party in power and can also use midterm elections to voice displeasure with the president’s policies. This happened most recently in 2010, when Republicans captured a majority of seats in the House of Representatives and won a multitude of contests down the ballot as voters expressed concern with President Obama’s handling of the economy and signing of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

Recent elections in the sixth year of a presidency typically benefit the party out of power. In 1986, Democrats won control of the Senate and retained a strong majority in the House during the second term of Republican President Ronald Reagan. In 2006, Democrats secured both houses of Congress for the first time in more than a decade as voters expressed displeasure with President George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq War and response to Hurricane Katrina. The 1998 midterms proved an exception, however, as Democrats actually gained seats in the House of Representatives, largely because of voter opposition to Republicans’ impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

This year looks more likely to be a repeat of 1986 and 2006, rather than 1998. President Obama holds an approval rating percentage in the low forties, which poses difficulties for Democratic candidates this year. Americans are concerned about the administration’s handling of a plethora of issues. A slow economic recovery and the inability to pass immigration reform pose problems on the domestic front, while abroad the crisis in Iraq with ISIS threatens another war for the U.S. in the Middle East. One positive for Democrats is that the Republican Party possesses even lower approval numbers than the president. While both parties hold blame for the political gridlock traumatizing Washington, Republicans in the House of Representatives have been especially intransigent, from sparking a government shutdown last fall to refusing to pass any type of immigration reform proposal. What the Republican Party has in its favor this year, though, is voter turnout and political maps. Historically, fewer people vote in midterm than presidential elections, and these voters tend to be older and more conservative. The Republican Party benefits from gerrymandered districts drawn after its impressive victories in 2010 that make it virtually impossible for Democrats to take the House of Representatives until the next census. The real political battle will be for control of the U.S. Senate, currently held by Democrats with a 55 to 45 majority. Democrats this year have the disadvantage of defending seats held by their members in so-called “red” or more Republican-leaning states, such as Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana, because these seats last came up for election in 2008, a heavily Democratic election year. Most pundits predict that the odds are in favor of the GOP gaining at least six seats, and thereby the Senate majority.

On the Texas political scene, Republicans remain favored to retain control of state government, although Democrats have launched their strongest ticket in recent years. In the governor’s race, Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee, polls ahead of Democrat Wendy Davis. In the campaign for lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick similarly is favored against Leticia Van de Putte. The nominations of Abbott and Patrick represent one of the most conservative tickets in recent Texas political history, which may cause some more moderate voters to look toward Davis and Van de Putte. However, most Texas voters are conservative and President Obama holds high disapproval ratings in the Lone Star State. The combination of statewide Republican strength and it being the sixth year in office for an unpopular president make Democratic prospects for victory in Texas very challenging in 2014.

Indeed, if historic trends continue, Nov. 4 will be a Republican election night, in both Texas and the United States. However, surprises and political upsets do occur each cycle. This is one of the many things that make politics so fascinating. On a final note, regardless of political persuasion, I urge all Longhorns to exercise their right to vote in 2014.

Briscoe is a history graduate student from Carrizo Springs.

Subtle immigration rhetoric can be offensive

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz addresses delegates at the Texas GOP Convention in Fort Worth on Friday. Cruz finished first in the party's biennial presidential straw poll. (AP Photo/Rex C. Curry)
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz addresses delegates at the Texas GOP Convention in Fort Worth on Friday. Cruz finished first in the party's biennial presidential straw poll. (AP Photo/Rex C. Curry)

This weekend, at the Texas Tribune Festival, the subject of immigration was unavoidable. Panelists and speakers addressed the issue directly, sideways and backward, and of the multitude of immigration subtopics, the question of rhetoric often took center stage. Interestingly, a matter that has no bearing on policy worked its way into most immigration discussions. Viewers saw state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, criticize her gubernatorial opponent for his denigration of the people of the Rio Grande Valley. State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, was also quick to point out her opponent’s use of the word “illegal” to describe undocumented immigrants. But when it comes to rhetoric, the worst offenders at the festival were Latino members of the GOP.

George Rodriguez, San Antonio Tea Party president, is the most obvious example, as the incendiary political figure is enamored with the word “illegal.” But less evident forms of what could be considered dangerous rhetoric were also prevalent. During the panel entitled “Latinos and the GOP,” Latino Republicans examined many reasons as to why the values important to the Latino community align with conservative values, and when the issue of immigration arose, many members of the panel expressed support for “The Texas Solution” — a GOP-supported measure that would create a guest worker program for citizens of other nations to come to Texas and work without being a United States citizen.

The problem with “The Texas Solution” is the rhetoric, which reduces human beings to a problem that needs solving. Also, unlike the in-state tuition bill, which would facilitate undocumented students’ receiving a college degree, the Texas Solution relegates undocumented immigrants to low-wage jobs often stereotypically associated with the Latino community. This facet, which  admittedly has no effect on policy, should be included in the discussion on rhetoric.

Latino members of the GOP, just as black members, are often perceived as Uncle Tom characters exploited by the Republican Party to attract minority votes. Though often erroneous, this preconceived notion places Latino Republicans in a precarious situation when it comes to rhetoric. If the problem is significant, Latino Republicans should take the initiative and pay attention to their rhetoric not only when it’s outright defamatory but also when the effects of rhetoric are subtle.

Davis is an associate editor.

 

Proposal to drug test welfare recipients targets minorities

Of the many planks in the Texas GOP platform that outrage people, the proposal to require recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to submit to drug tests is actually pretty reasonable. If such a law were implemented in Texas as it has been in other states, it would be the only way the government would be assured that tax dollars are not being spent to buy illegal substances. But why stop at welfare recipients? Why not require all recipients of government aid to submit to drug tests? The list would include students receiving financial aid, the elderly who receive Social Security and even veterans! But no one expects Grandma or a decorated war hero to engage in illegal activity. Requiring welfare recipients to submit to drug tests is just another method of stigmatization and criminalization of minorities.

Because most welfare recipients are low-income (obviously) minorities, the plank assumes that the demographic is more likely to engage in drug use. However, when such a law was implemented in other states, it did not yield any substantial results. When welfare recipients were tested in Arizona, the government saved just under $600 as a result of discontinuing aid from one person. In other states, such as Florida, expenditures on drug testing surpassed the amount the state hoped to save from cutting off aid to drug users tremendously.

Any argument that suggests a drug test requirement would save the state a significant amount of money is flawed, because the facts just don’t support it. Clearly, the GOP plank works directly to further oppress and marginalize people of color. Applying this requirement to only welfare recipients is just another not-so-sneaky way of institutionalizing racism without explicitly targeting specific groups.

Davis is an associate editor.

A student registers to vote at a booth set up by the Asian-American Panhellenic Council at the West Mall April 17. Their aim was to encourage more political participation by not only Asian-Americans but also the student population in general.

Photo Credit: Zen Ren | Daily Texan Staff

This November voters will have the opportunity to make their voices heard regarding the direction of both Texas and the United States, as all major offices in the state’s government will be on the ballot. Texans will elect a new governor and lieutenant governor for the first time in 12 years. Nationally, citizens will be able to express their view on the state of affairs across the country in the general election. All members of the U.S. House of Representatives and one-third of U.S. Senators, including one of Texas’ two seats, will be up for election. The best way for Longhorns to take advantage of their right to vote this November is to familiarize themselves with the issues and the candidates on the ballot.

This year has illustrated the power of the tea party in Texas. While the Republican gubernatorial nominee, Greg Abbott, has stressed his conservatism and frequent pushback against the Obama administration as Texas attorney general, the most contentious race in the Republican primary this year was for lieutenant governor. State Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston defeated incumbent David Dewhurst; the upset is one of several Tea Party victories that have shocked the political world. Patrick ran hard to the right of his opponents, frequently lambasting undocumented immigrants and highlighting his pro-life credentials. Tea party-backed candidates also won important nominations for state senate seats, suggesting that the Legislature will have even more of a conservative bent in the next session.

Texas Democrats, who have not carried a statewide election since 1994, hope to reverse their party’s fortunes with Wendy Davis of Fort Worth and Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio at the top of the ticket, running for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively. Davis garnered national attention last summer for her 11-hour filibuster of a controversial senate bill that severely restricted abortion rights in the state. (Dewhurst’s inability to break Davis’ filibuster was a critical factor in his defeat in May and led to another special session that ultimately passed the measure.) Van de Putte is a longtime, well-respected member of the Texas Senate. Since the 2012 elections, Battleground Texas, a political organization established by Obama campaign veteran Jeremy Bird, has labored to make Democratic inroads in Texas through registering voters and fundraising. Democrats hope that the state’s fast-growing Latino population and a more progressive younger generation can bring their party victory in the Lone Star State. Building a campaign infrastructure, raising money and turning out new voters will be a huge task, and 2014 will mark an early measuring point for such efforts.

However, the Texas GOP’s strong lurch rightward may provide Democrats with a political opening. Recently many Republicans in the state have used harsh rhetoric when discussing sensitive issues such as immigration reform and gay rights. Dan Patrick has described an “illegal invasion from Mexico” and has pledged to end sanctuary cities and in-state tuition for undocumented students often termed “dreamers.” The recent Texas Republican convention in Fort Worth witnessed the triumph of strident conservatism in the party. The GOP endorsed Patrick’s reactionary immigration proposals and renounced its past support for a guest-worker program, which would have provided legal employment opportunities for immigrants. Furthermore, activists prevented the Log Cabin Republicans (a gay rights group) from participating in the convention, and the party even endorsed “reparative therapy,” a practice widely discredited in the scientific community, for LGBTQ people. While such insensitive comments and draconian policies may win the votes of aging whites in the short-term, they will prevent the GOP from earning the voting allegiances of Texas’ booming Hispanic population and younger generation in the long-term.

More than likely, however, the Texas Republican Party will tone down its rhetoric as the general election approaches, to avoid division among its members and alienating undecided voters. Clay Olsen, finance director for College Republicans at UT, explained: “It is common for the parties to push farther to the right or farther to the left during primaries. I don't think it will be problematic in the fall since the base is fired up, and Texas Republicans as a whole understand that now is the time for unity.”

In another interesting development at the Texas GOP convention, Sen. Ted Cruz won the presidential straw poll. Governor Rick Perry, also widely viewed as a potential candidate for the White House in 2016, came in fourth. Cruz’s popularity has skyrocketed among conservatives in Texas and across the country since his election to the U.S. Senate in 2012, surprisingly passing that of Perry, the longest serving governor in Texas history. Referencing Perry’s ill-fated 2012 presidential campaign, Olsen discussed this development: “Texas Republicans like to get behind someone who is smart, strong on principles, good at effectively communicating our message and doesn't put their foot in their mouth.” The political futures of Perry and Cruz will be fascinating to watch in the coming years.

But now voters must focus on 2014. Texas faces many complicated issues — education, infrastructure, water supply, just to name a few — that need to be addressed as its population continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Longhorns should study candidates and their policy proposals and make sure to exercise their right to vote this fall.

Briscoe is a history graduate student.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn speaks at the State College Republican Convention on Saturday afternoon. Cornyn was among several speakers at the event, who appealed for votes and emphasized the need for the Republican party to attract voters from demographics that historically vote Democrat.

 

Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

In an effort to win over younger voters, several Republican candidates vying for statewide offices spoke at the State College Republican Convention on Saturday.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, George P. Bush, state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and U.S. Senator John Cornyn were among the guest speakers at the convention, which was held at the Student Activity Center. While many candidates appealed to convention attendees for their votes, they also stressed the need for the Republican Party to modernize.

“There’s no doubt that we can win, but, in order to do that, we have to let go of the stale tactics of the past,” said Skot Covert, College Republican National Committee co-chairman. “How could a party that uses out-of-date, behind-the-times technology expect to be competitive with millennials, the very generation that is the most technology-savvy generation to live?”

According to Covert, the Texas GOP is making significant changes to become more competitive with young voters, including incorporating social media into Republican campaigns.

Covert said many young voters agree with the Republican Party on a lot of issues, such as limiting the scope of government and decreasing federal debt, but the party seeks to correct misconceptions that some young voters have about the party.

“There is a huge void — a conservative void — on campus,” Covert said. “Because of that, our generation thinks very, very poorly of the Republican Party.”

Bush, a candidate for Texas land commissioner, said he met students on both conservative and liberal campuses while traveling for his campaign.

“[Students] had told me that I’m the first aspirant for political office to come on campus, so this has got to change,” Bush said.

Sen. Cornyn said his re-election campaign staff is working to combat the efforts of the Democrat-supporting group Battleground Texas to make Texas a blue state.

“If we don’t meet that with equal force and equal organization, then it could well happen, not in 2014, maybe not even in 2016, but in 2020 and beyond,” Cornyn said. “If Texas delivers all of its electoral votes [to the Democratic Party], let’s say in 2020, we’ll never deliver another a Republican president again in my lifetime.”

Bush said Republican politicians need to be more visible and stressed the importance of using social media, such as Twitter, to increase local community participation, especially among demographics who historically tend to vote Democrat.

“In my campaign I created some controversy, as a Hispanic Republican, that we don’t have to sell out our conservative principles to win the Hispanic vote,” Bush said. “They are often — as the saying goes — Republican. They just don’t know it yet.”

John McCord, Texas GOP political director, said the party will rely less on phone banking and increase focus on voter registration and outreach efforts in ethnically diverse communities.

“We’re trying to build a much more ground-up approach and talking with folks about what matters to them instead of driving a statewide narrative,” McCord said. “Our goal is for these field offices to not go away after November but to keep the field offices, keep the staff and to have a fully operational ground game to keep these offices around long before 2016 rolls around.”

According to Bush, to win votes, the party needs to take a more active role in the community.

“We can’t just show up right before elections,” Bush said. “We have to show up after elections to have a meaningful conversation with the community.”