Sometimes a good speaker can restore your hopes for humanity. Or at least your hopes for the future of your county. Tuesday night was a night when one such speaker delivered an honest speech to an audience of 100 or so Republicans at the SOSA Center in the Spring Branch area of Houston, as the guest of United Republicans of Harris County. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett was a voice for sore ears.
Judge Emmett spoke as a real person. He was refreshingly candid when called upon to answer questions and also in his speech. A recurring theme is his belief that the 50% vacancy of Republican precinct chairs is unacceptable. He spoke to the fact that the purpose of politics is to win elections. How does a party win elections? Elections are won precinct by precinct, by identifying Republican voters and then getting out the vote.
The Harris County Republican Party is woefully lacking in identifying Republican voters. This fact makes it harder to win elections. For instance, Harris County has about 4 million residents. 500,000 live inside The Loop. 1.5 million live in areas between The Loop and Beltway 8. Two million live west of Beltway 8. The population shifts have produced conservative leaning voters living inside The Loop and Democrat voters living in the suburbs. If precincts are without chairs in any area of the county, voters go unrecognized. Precinct chairs should be welcoming new residents and registering them to vote.
The Harris County Republican Party has been exposed for its inability to operate a functioning Vacancy Committee. Judge Emmett was asked about this problem and he spoke to his own dealings with the party leadership. When he first ran for Judge, even though he had been a State Representative, he was asked to fill out a candidate application. Upon seeing the questions on the form - most of which had absolutely nothing to do with the job for which he was seeking, he said no. He refused to fill it out. The Candidate Committee responded that he had to in order to seek the office. No, he explained to them, all he had to do was file and pay the fee and campaign.
This attitude is now needed from all candidates. Especially in precinct chair decisions, the questions are unacceptable. What church the person belongs to and how frequently that person attends church and questions about unrelated subjects (U.N. membership, for example) should not be used. In the case of purity tests, Emmett spoke firmly against them. He said what most reasonable people think - anyone who calls himself/herself a Republican and works for the party in elections is a Republican and qualified to be a precinct chairman.
And, this business of asking if a candidate agrees with the party platform? What nonsense. Emmett said no one believes in all of the platform planks. If a person agrees with 80%, then that person is an ally. The Reagan standard is still appropriate today.
It is imperative to seek out swing voters. Voters who vote for Democrats but possess conservative leanings should be convinced to vote Republican. Emmett said young voters must be recruited though reasonable talk, not preached to, and with respect.
The current controversy over a young gay man - co-founder of the Log Cabin Republicans in Houston - who was rejected as a precinct chair by the Vacancy Committee was addressed. Asked by a member of the audience what he thought about this, Emmett said some of the most conservative people he has ever known have been gay. He said no one has to sacrifice personal beliefs in order to support fellow conservatives, even those with whom another Republican disagrees on lifestyle.
Judge Emmett addressed the problem of talk radio listeners taking the opinions of radio show hosts as factual. The radio hosts are offering opinion. Why is one person's opinion superior to another's? It isn't.
Judge Emmett encouraged other public officials to make public their calendars so that voters see where they go and encouraged them to go all over the county. Avoid the rut of being comfortable. New members of the party are recruited through personal contact and the persuasive conversations. The principles of the Republican party appeal to a wide range of voters. He also discouraged the use of the term 'conservative' over Republican. The conservative party is the Republican party.
What are you afraid of, you who cast away those who do not pass a silly purity test? If our nation was under a theocracy system, then maybe religious purity tests would be relevant. We don't, however, and in some factions of the Republican party Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater would not be pure enough.
Emmett pointed out that at one time, the Republican party was the thinking person's party. Republicans encouraged political debates on philosophy and yet those debates didn't fracture the party. Emmett sounded much like my own husband with his stories of being a teenager and volunteering for Barry Goldwater's presidential bid. I'm younger so I don't have such a story but Goldwater was on the forefront of the modern conservative movement and those who now mock intellectual achievement or higher education do so to the detriment of the party.
He noted that Hispanics may well vote Republican if they are respectfully spoken to and given the chance to learn about Republican principles and philosophy yet soon it will be difficult to identify "a Hispanic" as the population blends together more in our country. A good community to court is the Asian American community. Traditionally, Asian Americans should be Republican voters.
Judge Emmett is working on finding a way to rid the corrupt process of the pay for play slates in Harris County. One member of the Vacancy Committee is a pay for play slate endorser who has gotten quite wealthy on this local corruption. It has to stop.
Judge Emmett expressed recognition of United Republicans of Harris County and its membership who work hard promoting Republican principles and solid candidates in elections. Full disclosure - I am a member of the Board of Directors of United Republicans of Harris County. We are the only group that gives all candidates the opportunity for an interview before releasing endorsements in elections. No money is exchanged or accepted for endorsements.