Easing convention policy would be politically prudent for GOP

05/29/2014 5:57 PM

05/30/2014 1:45 PM

It’s been but a few days since the statewide runoffs confirmed that the far-right elements of the Texas Republican party remain robust.

But “big-tenters” need not despair, as the primary results certainly haven’t deterred more moderate party elements from making their voices heard.

As if on cue, the Log Cabin Republicans and Metroplex Republicans, both gay-friendly conservative organizations, have challenged the state party’s decision to deny them booth space at next week’s state convention in Fort Worth.

According to the state party, that decision is neither arbitrary nor discriminatory. It’s based on a long-standing policy prohibiting booths set up by people who advocate positions that starkly contradict the platform. The 2012 GOP platform is pro traditional marriage.

The platform also opposes legalizing marijuana and expanding gambling, and groups that advocate for those causes are also prohibited from setting up booths. However, all constituencies holding dissenting viewpoints are welcome to attend the convention. And several gay Republicans regularly serve as delegates.

The Metroplex Republicans didn’t pursue booth space in 2012, but perhaps empowered by a rash of court decisions favoring gay marriage, this year they have taken a stand.

Speaking outside the Fort Worth Convention Center doors on Thursday, the group’s vice president, Rudy Oeftering, said, “We are here today because we want to keep Texas red.”

That’s a goal arguably shared by every constituency within the GOP.

But for Oeftering and his fellow Metroplex Republicans, keeping Texas red requires a dynamic party, and that means keeping the convention booths available to conservatives of alternative sexual orientation. It also means removing language from the platform that alienates this segment of the party.

These days, party platforms are an anachronism, seldom followed by candidates and rarely read, even by the party faithful.

Still, it’s unlikely during a cycle where everyone has run to the right that the state party will soften its platform rhetoric. That may be a battle for another year.

But easing convention policy to allow a broader diversity of opinion would further respectful debate among party members who agree more than they disagree. It would not only be a positive step, but a politically prudent one and perhaps a winning strategy.

And isn’t politics all about winning, anyway?

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