by Cynthia Hall Clements
Cannibalism, noun. “The ritualistic eating of human flesh by a human being.
When Texas Republicans meet for dinner these days in Austin, moderate Republicans are on the menu. Chomp, slurp, and burp. Republicans are eating their own. Political cannibalism—a free-for-all on middle-of-the-spectrum Republicans—is the main course du jour for the powers-that-be in Texas Republican politics.
Those who refuse to adhere to the party line- goose stepping with the strict ideology of the national party platform—must taste really good to their fellow Texas partners in crime (not literally, in most cases, of course).
This battle is one of party unity versus political independence, consensus-at-all-costs versus constituent representation, the latter be dammed. It is David versus Goliath, but both sides are supposedly wearing the same team jersey. The enemy is within; the enemy is their own for Texas Republicans.
Here is the scenario. The state Republican Party paid for calls last fall to ascertain the popularity of certain, more moderate House Republicans, including and according to those allegedly targeted—Reps. Carter Casteel of New Braunfels, Tommy Merritt of Longview, and Charlie Geren of Fort Worth.
With a wink and a nod, and maybe a snicker or two, Jeff Fisher, the party’s executive director, wants us to believe—but only after nine months of duress from public pressure and media scrutiny —that the party financed this effort, these “survey calls,” to identify voters sympathetic to the Republican cause. They sought supporters of Proposition 2—a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage statewide, which passed last fall. Fisher says the targeted moderate Republicans and their allegations are “paranoid.” Fisher’s quasi-admission of pseudo-guilt is long overdue—and entirely-too-convenient right before the November elections—but doesn’t stray far enough into the realm of reality, let alone truth.
What Fisher doesn’t want us to realize is that the calls were in fact, a litmus test of sorts about what it means to be a Republican. Some centrist Republicans refuse to fit the neo-fundamentalist mold of the Party—a bottom-line, anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion ideology. He doesn’t want us to believe that Republicans are now seeking to redraw the boundaries, figuratively, not literally, on what a Texas Republican is and should be. Conformity is the Republican mantra. What Fisher really doesn’t want us to know is that the state Republican Party is turning on itself in a moment of political cannibalism.
The facade of party unity, of Republicans against Democrats, us versus them, is showing the wear and tear of fissure cracks. After over a decade of waging war against the Democratic Party in Texas—quite successfully, one might suggest—Republicans are dividing and conquering amongst themselves. And therein lies the insidious nature of exclusionary tactics, that eventually no one will be left standing. This path of eliminating those who are different is one that the Republican Party—nationally and statewide—has been pursuing with a vengeance for the last two presidential elections.
The Republican circle grows tighter and tighter through exclusion. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered persons. Reproductive rights advocates and the women who would attempt to fill prescriptions for Plan B, the emergency contraceptive. People of no faith and spiritual progressives. Eventually only socially and fiscally conservative white men—with a few token women and minorities—are left.
The gene pool of Republicans is shrinking through inbreeding and execution. Texas Democrats should be gleeful at the prospect of exiled Republicans joining their ranks. It is only time that compels moderate Republicans to re-self-identify their political persuasion. A political realignment looms.
Political cannibalism is a dangerous game of Russian roulette. Eat today; be eaten tomorrow.
Cynthia Hall Clements has worked for the legislatures of both Tennessee and Louisiana and was most recently a columnist for the Lufkin Daily News in Texas. She is currently attending law school.