I thought you’d like to use the guest column below. Guest Column/Mark D. Harmon/Texas Platform Frightening/600 words
The ten years I spent in Lubbock, Texas, give me experience with something Wisconsin citizens may not have encountered, the odd and extreme beliefs of Texas Republicans. The numerous Crawford vacations serve as a reminder that George W. Bush is, heart and soul, a Texas Republican. His hand-picked successor is governor. Republicans control every major state elective office, and recently played fast and loose with the law to get more Texas Republicans into Congress. Bush appointed many Texas Republicans to Cabinet positions. Texas Republicans hold key leadership positions in the Congress. Vice President Dick Cheney lived and worked in Texas, presiding over Halliburton as it moved subsidiaries overseas to avoid U.S. taxes. So the Texas Republican Party Platform, ahead of other state platforms, gives us a clue about the extreme agenda of the radical right. It also poses serious public policy dilemmas for Bush, ones unlikely to be presented in his passes-only campaign events. Some reporter should have the courage to present these questions to Bush. Assuming none will, I have collected some. Q: Mr. President, Republicans in Texas passed a platform that calls for phasing out Social Security. Do you plan any steps toward that end? Q: Mr. President, Texas Republicans claim in their platform that Congress can and should withhold authority from the Supreme Court the power to rule on abortion, religion, family law, marriage, or Bill of Rights issues, and that the President should refuse to enforce judicial decisions if the Court does so. Can you envision a circumstance when you would choose to ignore a decision of the nation’s highest court? Do you believe in reversing the centuries-old precedent that the Supreme Court is final arbiter of a law’s constitutionality? If so, what mechanism for avoiding chaos do you recommend? Q: Mr. President, Texas Republicans through their platform want to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act to exclude people with learning disabilities? Should children with learning disabilities be left behind? Q: Mr. President, the Texas Republican Platform urges Congress to repeal government-sponsored child development programs. This broadly could mean popular programs like Head Start, Healthy Start, and school lunch support. Given the chance in a lame-duck term, would you like to get rid of any of these? Q: Mr. President, Texas Republicans for several successive platforms say they want to eliminate the minimum wage. Have you changed you mind about this now that the median income of U.S. families has declined three years in a row? Also, have you calculated how many working poor families would slip below the poverty level if your friends got their way? Q: Mr. President, the Texas Republican Platform calls for the end of corporate, inheritance, payroll, gift, capital gains, and personal income taxes. All would be replaced with a national sales tax. Under such a plan how much would the price of gasoline have to go up to pay for Halliburton’s no-bid contracts? How much would the price of a gallon of milk have to go up so you wealthiest contributors would get million-dollar tax breaks? Q: Mr. President, the Texas Republican Platform wants to eliminate the Departments of Commerce, Labor, Energy, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, Surgeon General, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, National Endowment for the Arts, and Public Broadcasting System. As chief executive, have you found any of these agencies useful in serving the public, and what have you got against Big Bird and Elmo?
Dr. Mark D. Harmon, 1998 Democratic nominee for Congress in the 13th district of Texas, now teaches journalism and broadcasting courses at the University of Tennessee.