Geren flailing

By Weston Hicks | 2 hours ago

Charlie Geren gave a good illustration of how flimsy is his assault against conservatives, particularly Michael Quinn Sullivan, in empty threats made recently about what he plans to do if Straus is elected Speaker. In doing so he offered more insight into the corrupt nature of his ruling class GOP than the conservatives he was targeting.

First, some background.

Scott Turner, challenging Joe Straus for speaker has committed himself to a record speaker vote on the floor, something that can severely hamstring the ruling class’s ability to control the theater in Austin during the legislature.

The ruling class GOP has since taken a strategy to avoiding the floor vote – pretend they want it. That this fake position cuts against reason and recent history matters not to them. It’s their Hail Mary pass. Their excuse for wanting a record floor vote? Because they are all frothing at the mouth to punish the people who support Turner, something only a floor vote can tell them.

Their ultimate wish, of the rub-a-lantern variety, is that they can spook conservatives into asking Turner to change his mind about a floor vote.

This strategy is desperate, makes no sense, and reveals how badly they need to avoid a floor vote in order to keep from getting beaten up again next primary season.

It’s desperate because it hinges on convincing the world they want something they definitely do not want, and have every reason not to want. We know they don’t want a vote without them arguing for a secret vote. After all, their local Republican clubs and Tea Parties – the opinion-makers in their district – are loudly telling them to vote against Straus. And, make no mistake, very few things are more important to politicians than the opinion-makers in their district.

Still, they’ve let on that, far from frothing at the mouth to get a floor vote, they don’t want one. Craig Goldman wrote an article in the Texas Tribune arguing for a hidden GOP caucus vote for speaker, followed by a unanimous floor vote for whomever wins the secret vote. Priceless.

This article undercuts absolutely anything scary Geren can say no matter how much of a Vito Corleone impression he uses while saying it.

Drew Springer mentioned the same hidden-caucus-vote-GOP-platform-plank argument in a 12/16/2014 town hall meeting in his district that is now on Youtube. Golly, we thought you guys just couldn’t wait for a record vote? If Straus really wanted a record vote these guys wouldn’t be campaigning against one.

The idea that the crony GOP wants a floor vote never made sense. Historically, even when Straus wins the speaker vote a floor vote creates a truth telling caucus made up of the Republicans that did not vote for Straus. For the rest of the session that group has more to gain by showing their constituents how brave and honest they are than they do by pleasing the speaker.

This is because the speaker has to impose on them the legislative equivalent of the NCAA football program “death penalty” for voting against him for speaker. After all, if you can impress the grassroots with a vote against Straus and not be kicked out of the Austin inside everyone would do it.

Straus has to impose the death penalty, which means they have to bank grassroots points as fast as they can to ward off or build momentum against the coming primary challenge. The fastest way to bank grassroots points is by telling the truth about what’s going on in Austin. People intuitively know the value of such an act, and recognize the courage it requires.

And besides being the right thing for any honest legislator to do, this activity makes the conservative nearly unbeatable in the next primary, even against the much-better-funded ruling class primary challenge they are likely to get – a certainty if they don’t fortify themselves with grassroots power during the session.

That the crony GOP would run such a goofy play – pretending they want what they manifestly fear – shows how desperate they are to avoid a floor vote. Hey, sometimes lipstick and a pig is all you got.

But enough background. Geren recently turned his tough guy routine on Michael Quinn Sullivan to see if he could get Sullivan to ask Turner to call off the dogs. He huffed and puffed and blew his hardest at Sullivan, saying he couldn’t wait to use a Straus win to show how Sullivan embezzles money from Tim Dunn, an Empower Texas donor. This claim was so unfounded that the Texas tribune reporter he said it to didn’t even use it in the article he wrote.

Still, let us count the ways Geren’s threat is the best kind of political theater for conservatives.

First, these speaker challenges are getting Straus people beat, conservatives elected, and conservatives promoted. Geren knows this well. He’s willfully ignoring the long term power of speaker races the conservative loses by pretending winning the speaker vote is the only way it can hurt them. How bad is it for Geren to be going with such weak stuff?

Or is Geren suggesting with the “embezzlement” claim that Sullivan is actually running Turner’s speaker challenge? It’s goofy conspiracy, but maybe. Only consultants make more money for running more races. Sullivan has no such pay model.

But it is quite revealing for Geren to lob such an accusation Sullivan’s way since it has long been rumored that establishment consultants run impossible campaigns just to milk donors out of money.

Unlike with conservative runs, fueled by grassroots elbow grease, crony runs truly do not matter unless they win. There’s no such thing as a moral victory for an immoral cause.

Geren and his boys are backed into a corner. Their traditional play of ignoring opposition and bullying people away from them is not preventing them from losing primaries. They’ve been forced to fight head-on. In doing so, we get to see why they hate doing it so much. Their causes are not defensible outside the context of people who are impressed by their power and a cleared playing field.

Texas is full of just such people, and with them as the audience these guys sound bad.