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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Establishment vs. Movement


I have struggled recently with how to label Republican primary candidates in Texas.  In the past, we would categorize them as moderate or conservative.  However, moderate is now a pejorative term in this hyper-polarized political environment, and I am aware of no Texas Republican candidate claiming to be a moderate.  Do you call them conservative and really, really conservative?
I like Dr. Mark Jones’ terminology of establishment conservative and movement conservative.  An establishment conservative is a fiscal conservative, but recognizes that there is an essential role for government in creating a civilization.  An establishment conservative acknowledges that we need an educated workforce, passable roads to drive, and water for daily living, to name just a few.  A movement conservative is generally more focused on shrinking or constraining the growth of government at all costs.  A movement conservative believes that government, by definition, is inherently wasteful and inefficient and that we can continuously cut government spending and still provide necessary services.
Texas has been enormously successful in creating jobs and attracting new residents over the last 10 or 15 years.  I do believe this is in large part due to our favorable business environment of low taxes, reasonable regulation, and a predictable civil justice system.  However, if our success is to continue, we are, at a minimum, going to have to figure out how (1) to educate our kids and make them productive members of a global economy; and (2) to build and rebuild our transportation and water infrastructure.  Let’s be clear:  We will have to spend money if we are to accomplish this. 
In the Republican primary, there are certain Texas House races where establishment conservatives are competing with movement conservatives.  Conventional wisdom holds that low voter turnout will afford movement conservatives an advantage on May 29 and a decided advantage in the runoff on July 31.  It remains to be seen whether this is true across the board.
Although it is a federal race, the marquee race in the establishment versus movement genre is Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst versus Ted Cruz.  I believe that it is 50/50 at this point whether Dewhurst can avoid a runoff.  If he is forced into a runoff with Cruz, I believe that it initially starts off as 50/50 as to who will win.  However, Dewhurst will certainly have the resources to win the race. 
Additionally, if Dewhurst is in a runoff, he will bring more establishment voters to the polls and give establishment candidates a fighting chance in their runoffs.