The United States of America is unique in human history for its founders’ experiment in self-government – the belief that educated people did not require rulers to order their lives but were capable of ruling themselves. The framers of the Texas Constitution announced this principle in our state’s Bill of Rights:

Texas is a free and independent State, subject only to the Constitution of the United States, and the maintenance of our free institutions and the perpetuity of the Union depend upon the preservation of the right of local self-government …. All political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit.

Americans and Texans are growing increasingly disconnected from government. Their ability to trust that political leaders will do what is right is at historic lows. The source of this problem is that many of our political leaders cynically subscribe to an ideology of elitism, in which they think they know better than the public what issues ought to be addressed and how.

Recently, State Rep. Jim Keffer, a close associate of House Speaker Joe Straus, revealed his adherence to the ideology of elitism. In attacking Speaker candidate Rep. Scott Turner and his grassroots supporters, Keffer told reporters that “[legislators] need to be looking at what’s good for [the] House and, therefore, what’s good for the Legislature and the state ….”

This echoes the sentiments of the candidate that Keffer supports for the Speaker position. Joe Straus has consistently argued that it is his job as Speaker to “protect the members” and the House as an institution, and has disregarded his obligation as a public servant of the people.

Straus disdains the issues the grassroots care about – such as border security, and ending the scourge of abortion. He prefers to focus on “infrastructure;” globby and amorphous issues that accommodate doom and gloom predictions and allow government funds to filter back to politicians and their backers. When criticized for failing to lead on issues related to protecting the unborn, for instance, Straus has called pro-life matters “campaign fodder” and “not a serious issue.”

Another Straus supporter, newly elected Rep. Ramon Romero of Fort Worth recently explained his support to the Fort Worth Star Telegram:

“The speaker has reached out to the Democratic Party and Democratic leadership. He has been very supportive of us in a tough environment and he is someone who can walk with both parties.”

Romero went on to explain that he believed that the theme of his freshman orientation— “get out of campaign mode and get into governing mode” — was dictated by Straus.

Straus and his lieutenants view campaign promises as an inconvenient requirement of running for office – lies they are required to tell to get elected but that can be disregarded at the first convenience. This is what they mean by “governing mode” and “campaigning mode”. They believe they know better what is good for the people. Rather than be representatives, and servants, they subscribe to their ideology of elitism.

However, with more and more Texans becoming engaged and informed, they are soon going to learn that there is not such a separation between campaign season and their five month vacation in Austin. Governing is campaigning by different means. They will not succeed precisely because they cannot match what they do in Austin with what they promised on the campaign trail.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.

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