On the heels of an active (and exhaustively long) primary season and approaching the 83rd legislative session, incoming legislators can expect to receive a great deal of “advice” from pundits and current lawmakers regarding the “political reality” they face as elected officials. Unfortunately, much of what passes for “advice” from these insiders is actually a patronizing lecture by the entitled establishment meant to perpetuate the status quo.
In the wake of heavy turnover in the Texas House , a member of the Austin chattering class took to penning this year’s pre-session establishment ‘shot-over-the-bow’ to help ensure reform-minded freshmen fall in line. By referring to the newly or soon to be elected legislators as outsiders becoming insiders, the political institution in Austin has outlined it’s desired course for new members: assimilation to the system.
Adding to this is the voice of the establishment channeled through Speaker Straus confidant and San Angelo Representative Drew Darby. In a recent interview with the Texas Tribune, Darby (who is rumored to have designs to succeed Sen. Robert Duncan when he relinquishes the traditionally Lubbock-centric seat) administered the Austin status quo’s dose of political “reality” to the whippersnappers.
First the establishment re-defines conservative newcomers on their own terms: ‘you were outsiders, now you’re insiders,’ now you’re ‘part of the government you complained about.’ Mr Darby told a reporter he puts it this way, “you’re no longer an outsider, you’re now a part of the structure.”
Next the protectors of government growth use the time tested caricature of conservatives as simplistic, naysaying obstructionists to belittle would-be reformers into more conciliatory actors. Darby and other fixtures of the Pink Dome do this by preemptively chastising would-be conservative reformers that, “‘No’ is not a solution.” (Despite the fact that Mr. Darby said “No” to added and important budget transparency reforms last session.)
Finally the new members are given the answer to their presumptive obstructionism: “In the end, they’re going to have to get some things done.”
Beneath this loosely veiled patronization, the Austin establishment sends a clear message to conservative reformers.
‘Congratulations on winning your elections with conservative principles – that won’t work here. Welcome to my machine, now get in line.’
Essentially the established powers would like nothing better than to convince young, effective conservative leaders that resistance is futile. Persuading them to instead believe that saying ‘no’ to an inefficient and burdensome government is not a tenable position in the Texas Legislature where “decision makers” concoct so called “solutions” like expanding revenue sources. Likewise, they need reformers to believe that in order to be re-elected they have to ‘get things done’ (their way) by toeing the establishment line and accepting whatever scraps of credit are allowed.
Interestingly, the assertions that “‘No’ is not a solution” and that conservative legislators are “going to have to get some things done” are true – just not in the way the insiders intend. Voters have sent these new members to Austin to reform the very system establishment insiders want them to join. It just so happens that most of the capitol automatons are tone deaf to anything but their own insulated version of reality. They fail to recognize that circumstances are changing outside of Austin.
The House leadership’s version of “political reality” is a fleeting one. With highly engaged conservative constituencies as its hallmark, this past primary cycle has changed current political reality. The norm has become that on the whole, those who associate with establishment cronies are falling, while those supporting conservative reforms are ascending.
Additionally, voices of conservative reform are no longer heard only on the campaign trail among the conservative grassroots, but are echoing louder in the state capitol. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor have strongly signaled that many major conservative reforms (such as spending limits) are a priority.
The new political reality is one where Texans are fed up with go-along-to-get-along politicians whose version of “get[ting] some things done” result in greater burden of government. Conservative reform is central to this new reality.
The leaders of Texas’ executive and upper legislative chamber seem get it. Where’s the House leadership? It appears they are busy giving defunct lectures to incoming conservatives on why they should ignore the advent of current conservative reform and assimilate to the establishment Borg.
Voters won’t let that happen.