State Republican and Democratic party leaders convene for their biannual conventions this month, and Texan members of the GOP have already descended upon San Antonio for the Texas Republican Party Convention to debate their platform and energize activists.
The attendees at these conventions tend to be the most dedicated grassroots activists, says Ben Philpott, a senior editor for KUT.
“These are the strongest of the strong within the Republican Party,” he says. “These are the people who are most likely to work on all of these campaigns in the fall, so that is, of course, job one of a convention is to make sure these people, who are going to put in the most work leading into 2018 election, that they are excited and enthusiastic and energized about putting in the work that needs to get done.”
That means reminding them that, though Republicans regularly win in Texas and have been in control for decades, Democrats could still come out ahead if local campaigns don’t do their part. Governor Greg Abbott brought that message to Dallas earlier this week in a speech he gave at the Southern Baptist Convention Center.
“He talked about the need to stay ever-vigilant and make sure that religious liberties are not being trampled on here in Texas,” Philpott says. “And yet of course, the Republicans in Texas control every branch of government here, and have been making sure that, in their eyes, religious liberties are not being trampled on. So it’s putting forward that dystopian view in their minds about what would happen if a Democrat did win, and that’s the stick to get you out the door.”
The national convention tends to focus on big-picture goals, but the state convention sets the priorities for the 2019 Texas legislative session with a 26-page party platform document that is updated every two years.
Much of the state platform remains the same – focusing on issues like lower taxes and gun rights – but there isn’t consensus on everything.
“They can sometimes be a little contentious amongst the delegates here,” Philpott says. “The committees there had spent several hours talking about how they were updating kind of the party’s view on homosexuality, which has been something that has been controversial over the last couple of party platform arguments.”
The convention will also reveal how the party has changed since the election of President Donald Trump.
“Two years ago, of course these delegates – a lot of them, most of them really – were big Ted Cruz fans when he was running for president. So that convention was a little more somber,” Philpott says. “They were disappointed that Ted Cruz did not get the nomination, and that it was going to be then-candidate Trump. But now of course he is president, and he has a lot of power over how different primaries have kind of played out across the country. And so it will be really interesting to see if they’ve kind of flipped all of a sudden two years [on] and are much more supportive.”
Written by Rachel Taube.