It seems King has finally divorced his first political wife and married his long-time political mistress.
A Dallas Morning News article this morning said, “Rep. Phil King, who opposed Straus last session, said that the speaker has widespread support, and that Simpson is too inexperienced to close the sale.”
With this line, together with a King quote questioning Simpson’s “strength” as a candidate, the public is introduced to Phil King, the power-chaser.
Notice King’s disqualification of Simpson has only to do with power, not quality, principle, or competency.
Sadly, his is the decision of an institutionalized Austin politician, not a stalwart conviction conservative.
Speaker Straus’ historical ties to Planned Parenthood and Austin rumors that he will not allow pro-life bills this session did not carry the decision. Straus’ opposition to Governor Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s support of the Budget Compact, Governor Perry’s path to responsible spending in the 83rd Legislature, did not carry the decision. Speaker Straus’ gerrymandering of stalwart conservatives out of their districts did not carry the decision. The fact that Straus’ speaker-vote base is the Democratic Party didn’t carry the decision.
What seems to have carried the decision for King was Straus’ perceived power and Simpson’s perceived lack of power.
This may clash with King’s public image, but it does not clash with his reputation in Austin.
For many years King has done a balancing act: vote very well and play a martyr-quality conservative in-district, while quietly being the establishment’s favorite conservative in Austin.
A reliable information source, King has long moved among the establishment with more ease than any other conservative. If a bold conservative move is hated by the establishment, Rep. King is probably spreading fear and anxiety over it among the conservatives.
In turn, the ruling class has pushed King to the front of the conservative line in Austin.
This is a standard establishment move. The GOP establishment can’t choose conservatives, but they can give their favorites special access to information and the “kid-gloves” treatment, effectively making them the go-to conservative front-bencher. The establishment will cultivate an image of this conservative as reasonable, professional, and competent. The main qualification for a conservative to receive the establishment’s golden treatment is reliable weakness.
(As an aside, the reverse is also true. To neutralize them, the establishment does everything they can to paint true threats as insane weirdoes. This is precisely the strategy employed for years against conservative warriors like Bill Zedler and Wayne Christian.)
With King’s sad decision, conservatives have shed an agent for weakness from within their ranks.
The other good news is that King’s support is some of the best evidence that Joe Straus is going to lose his bid for re-election.
This is said straightly; with no humor or invective. It is also said with respect for the position Rep. King has occupied during his legislative career – he has voted well and been one of the men who has kept a candle burning for conviction conservatism.
The reason Rep. King’s support is a bad omen for Straus is simple: he’s made for losing, and gravitates to it.
What does that mean?
Well, Rep. King served an important purpose during a time when the conservative movement needed legislators content to lose. His special talent for losing is why the establishment has promoted him through the years.
However, the Tea Party Awakening has created a path to victory for conviction conservatives, and many veteran conservatives have been able to change gears.
Rep. King has not. In fact, rumors have circulated in the grassroots that Rep. King is only given conservative bills that can’t win, which keeps him from being involved in conservative bills that can win.
Rep. King undoubtedly believes in conservatism. There are people who join the enemy because they want what the enemy wants, and then there are people who join the enemy because they have run out of the will to fight.
The conservative spirit was always willing in Rep. King, but the flesh was always weak. Now, it seems the flesh has overtaken the spirit completely, and the balancing act is over.
King has chosen power over conviction, the system over fixing the system.
This is ultimately good for the conservative movement in Texas.
On a human level, however, Texas conservatives today have good reason to be sad.