Republicans who pretend to embody conservative values on the campaign trail — while helping liberal Democrats defeat conservatives — are hurting the Republican Party.
There’s a big difference between Republicans having a “big tent” philosophy, and outright switching tents.
When’s the last time you saw a Democrat politician endorse a Republican in November against his or her own party’s nominee? You probably haven’t because it just doesn’t happen.
That’s because Democrats, when given the choice between their own nominee and a Republican, would rather elect Democrats. So while the Democrat minority strikes bi-partisan deals with a faction of liberal Republicans in the back halls of the Texas Capitol, Democrats remain loyal to their increasingly “progressive” party in elections.
Never would a moderate Democrat, after losing his primary to a more “progressive” candidate, endorse the Republican nominee in November. If they did, the Democrat base would rightly tar and feather such a sore loser.
But this is precisely what “squishy” Republicans do to conservatives.
Former “Republican” State Rep. Bennett Ratliff of Coppell has joined Barack Obama in endorsing the liberal Democrat running against the man who beat Ratliff in the 2014 and 2016 Republican primaries—State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R–Irving). Rinaldi’s stellar voting record has earned him recognition as one of the most conservative House members since 2014, according to our own Fiscal Responsibility Index and two Rice University studies.
One of Ratliff’s acolytes, Tracy Fisher, who successfully ran for Republican precinct chair in 2018 — and who currently serves on Coppell ISD’s school board — is also opposing Rinaldi, State Sen. Don Huffines, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
I wonder if Fisher told her right-leaning neighbors she would use her Republican precinct chair status to help Democrats?
When Ratliff served in the Texas House as a “Republican,” he often voted with Democrats, and against conservatives, on fiscal issues. He deflected criticism for doing so by claiming the GOP needed a “big tent.” Now that he’s out of office, he doesn’t think that “big tent” should include conservatives like Rinaldi, Patrick, or even Gov. Greg Abbott.
How convenient for Ratliff? At least he’s finally come out of the closet.
Another soon-to-be-former State Rep. Jason Villalba is yet another fake Republican who defended his liberal voting record in the Texas House under the guise of “big tent” dogma. But again, he only touts the big-tent mantra when it suits him. Yep, pretty selfish.
While serving in the Texas House, Villalba was one of the most liberal Republicans in the chamber. On the 2018 Fiscal Responsibility Index, his voting record earned him a failing 43 out of 100, a mere seven points better than the highest-scoring House Democrat who earned a 36. Yet on the campaign trail and in media interviews Villalba operates as though he’s the “Reganesque” voice of the conservative movement.
After Donald Trump won Texas’ presidential primary in March of 2016, Villalba called Trump a “buffoonish, ignorant ape” in a May 4 op-ed and opposed him even after Trump became the Republican nominee. On October 11, less than a month before the General Election, Villalba tweeted, “I shall remain a conservative. I stand against @realDonaldTrump [Donald Trump].”
Villalba claimed a Trump administration would “raise taxes,” usher in “abortion on demand,” and “appoint liberal justices” to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Following Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton in November of 2016, Villalba tried to cover his Trump-bashing tracks, tweeting on November 11, “I 100% support President Trump and will pray daily for his success. #AllIn #TxLege #LateToTheParty”.
After losing his Texas House seat to conservative Lisa Luby Ryan in the March 2018 Republican primary, Villalba told his constituents to vote for her Democrat opponent. Now a lame duck with no need to pretend to be “conservative” anymore, Villalba also flip-flopped back to opposing President Trump.
Since then he’s even written another op-ed calling for Trump’s impeachment.
Last, but not least, is “Republican” Harris County Judge Ed Emmett who is also shilling for Democrats, telling the Houston Chronicle he’s “voting for Mike Collier” for Lt. Governor against staunch conservative Dan Patrick. Much of Emmett’s animus toward Patrick is related to Patrick’s support of a property tax reform bill that would give citizens greater say.
In 2017, Emmett praised now-disgraced Texas House Speaker Joe Straus for killing a bill that would have given Texans a vote on city and county tax hikes. No hard cap, just voter approval. Emmett claimed the version passed by the Texas Senate was a “device for dictators,” even though it would have allowed a 25 percent county tax hike in five years without voter approval.
More than 95 percent of Republican primary voters in 2018 voted in support of a ballot proposition largely mirroring the plan passed by the Patrick-led Senate.
Republicans inside the party may never agree on every single issue, and that’s okay.
But for those of you swayed by “big tent” dogma, I ask: Why should right-leaning Texans tolerate “Republicans” — like Ratliff, Fisher, Villalba, Emmett, and Straus — when they’re helping liberal Democrats beat conservatives in the general election?
There’s a big difference between Republicans having a “big tent,” and switching tents.