As the presidential primary draws to an unspectacular and grudging end, the sideline chorus is already singing about lower primary turnout on May 29, and how that may affect some of the major races left on the ballot. Let me warn you against the temptation to prove them right. The primary in Texas is still important, and it is still crucial to get out the vote for conservatives. The presidential race looms large, but what happens down ballot is very much something conservatives need to get agitated about and fast.
There are of course races in every county that need attention, but today I’m most concerned about just one, and it’s statewide, so listen up. The U.S. Senate primary in Texas has been treated, like the Republican presidential primary, as a race of “inevitable candidate” (David Dewhurst) vs. “the not-inevitables” (namely Ted Cruz, but the others count as well). There is a definite push to paint the lackluster, traditionally moderate, crowd-pleasing frontrunner as this rock-star conservative who helped lead the Texas Legislature to unprecedented conservative victories, but mostly there’s a sense that they want us to support him because it is “his turn.” In truth, this is the most important race on the Texas primary ballot, and “inevitability” shouldn’t be an issue. This is an open seat and conservatives have a chance to make a lasting impact and help push the U.S. Senate to the right in the offing.
It isn’t just about who wins, however. Witness this latest attempt at a “scorecard” (have a napkin handy) – someone knows that the mantle of conservative is at stake as well. But this small sample of legislation doesn’t give a very good picture of what the legislature did, and believe me, the devil is there in the details. The Senate gets a glowing review unlike what they received from any other rating organization – no Democratic senator, for instance, received below a “60” on this group’s scorecard. It is also timed in a suspicious way. While there is a disclaimer saying this isn’t meant to be used in campaigning, why is it released just seven weeks before the primary?
There is a lot to be said for the “will of the body” in the Legislature. A speaker or a lieutenant governor can only do so much – though they have one key power in appointing committee chairmen. If the Legislature seemed conservative because of a few pieces of marquee legislation, I would challenge voters to dig down deeper, and see what was left pending or what never got a hearing. And ask another question – if things like voter i.d., which came before the Legislature, only passed recently, what is the real reason it took so long? Could it be that waiting for an opportune time to appear more conservative was needed before some would let it get the full vetting it deserved in the Legislature?
It does seem to be a year for candidates to try and pick up the mantle of conservative and wear it proudly, when in years past their moderate positions were their hallmark and point of pride. I would challenge conservatives to ask tough questions about those past years, and question just how conservative we can expect these candidates to be as elected officials. Inevitability is not a particularly appealing trait, and it certainly does not replace an actual belief system.