DALLAS — The Texas Republican Convention received national attention over the weekend after revealing a party platform that experts say embraces the most conservative opinions in the state.
The Texas GOP’s convention in Houston ended by finalizing 275 planks in its party platform which aren’t laws but serve are directions or instruction for elected republican officials in the state ranging from flood protection to putting the possibility of Texas seceding from the United States on the ballot.
“The positions taken at this party convention are far more conservative than Donald Trump would take on many of these issues,” Jim Riddlesperger, a TCU political science professor said. “The point is that the people who are at the convention are true believing conservatives and they are people who believe the nation has gone severely off course and that it needs to readjust its course.”
The Texas GOP website went offline Monday morning and was still not working by 5 p.m. A Texas GOP spokesperson said too much media attention and increased traffic forced the site offline.
One plank in the platform that generated an immense response was stating, “Homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice” and saying there should be no civil or criminal penalty for people who oppose homosexuality.
“It sounds like the greatest hits of the 1980s but there’s no Michael Jackson or Rick Astley,” said Rafael McDonnell, the senior advocacy, policy and communications director at Dallas-based Resource Center.
Resource Center provides services and programs for LGBTQ+ communities across the area. McDonnell says the party should be focusing time and energy on pressing state issues instead of playing to its base.
“They are saying out loud what they were saying quietly back when we had the marriage rulings, when we had the striking down of the sodomy statutes. They’ve never really changed who they are,” he said. “It is embarrassing that a major political party is wasting its time with this sort of stuff but it’s a base election.”
The party platform also notably includes the disproven claim that the 2020 election had “substantial fraud” and says President Joe Biden “was not legitimately elected”.
Last week, congressional hearings on the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot showed officials for former President Donald Trump stating claims of voter fraud were false.
Riddlesperger and SMU political science professor Cal Jillson both say the platform is a way to try to energize the base with the hope independents either forget or aren’t paying attention.
“They can make these dramatic statements for their base and depend on the fact that relatively few Texans will know about it or remember it come election day,” Jillson said. “Most voters, a week from now or two weeks from now will not be able to tell you a single plank in the republican platform.”
“Every candidate will take a look at this platform and see what parts of this they can use to their advantage and what parts they will ignore or even disavow in some cases,” Riddlesperger said.
The platform also both supported banning the teaching the sex education while at the same time endorsing teaching that life begins at fertilization.
It also stated support for repealing both gun laws and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that outlaws discrimination in voting. Sen. John Cornyn was booed while speaking at the convention and rebuked in the party platform. Rep. Dan Crenshaw was also booed, and Gov. Greg Abbott didn’t attend.
“It’s radical but it’s also a crystal-clear expression of the republican activist’s base’s view of the world,” Jillson said. “Until democrats can defeat them, they’re going to continue to feed their activist base.”
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa released a statement condemning the GOP platform.
“The platform adopted by the Texas GOP this weekend is among the most extreme political doctrines this country has seen in decades," Hinojosa said in a statement. "Texas Republicans showed us that they live in a parallel universe full of conspiracy-fueled hate -- and that they have a truly twisted view of our democracy and Constitution."
In a month, Texas Democrats will host a convention in Dallas. Jillson says while the Republican planks may not be popular with independents, they’re gaining traction partly because they’re digestible.
“Voters listen to that and they understand it. When democrats try to take an alternative view that takes paragraphs to explain, they’re in big trouble,” he said. “Republican advantage of simplicity. Democrat detriment of complexity.”