Daily Speaker's Race (Melo)Drama

Warren Chisum sent out a press release:

I am pleased that Representative Taylor has called a Republican Caucus meeting for January 10th. The Democrat members of the Texas House caucused before the last legislative session to elect Speaker Straus and 100% of the Democrats remain pledged to Speaker Straus today. Therefore, when we convene on January 10th, I call on Representative Taylor as the Republican Caucus chair, to call for a vote to determine the Republican preference for Speaker of the Texas House.

Harvey Kronberg called gotcha!

House Democrats never "caucused to elect Speaker Straus." That is a myth manufactured by the anti-Straus faction.

The only thing resembling unity in the Democratic Caucus was opposition to the incumbent. The only document ever signed was a letter confirming that 64 Democrats would not vote for Speaker Tom Craddick.

To which Chisum responded:
Now, it seems to me that when you see a letter with 64 signatures, released by the Democratic Caucus, all taking a unified party position on the Speaker's race, that it just might be fair to say that the Democrats "caucused" and took a position on the Speaker's race. We all know that every one of those 64 Democrats subsequently pledged to vote and did vote for Joe Straus for Speaker. Of course, it is possible that the 64 Democrats never had a meeting, never had a caucus, and somehow just all spontaneously agreed on a position and signed a letter released by the Democratic caucus.

Point Chisum. Unless you want to argue the semantics of caucus, Chisum's original statement isn't unreasonable. Maybe they never had a formal meeting with a formal vote, but they certainly agreed as a "caucus" (there's that word again!) to vote as a bloc.

By the way, I've been predicting for 8 or 9 years that the Texas Speaker (incuding on this blog) would eventually be elected by a caucus vote. Folks argue that the current method is an indication of how Austin works differently than Washington. To a point that is true, but correlation is not causation. The Texas House elects the speaker in a vote of the entire body because, once upon a time, partisan identification didn't mean hardly anything in the Texas House. The label didn't predict very much about how that member was going to vote. Thus it didn't make much sense to elect the speaker in a caucus vote. That has completely changed over the last two decades, but at an increasing pace this last decade.

We currently have a much more polarized membership. Partisan identification means more now than it did even in 2000, much less 1970 when Republicans were a mere fringe of the body politic.

So I don't know whether the Speakership will be decided by a caucus vote this year, in another 2 years, or even this decade. But the Speaker of the Texas House will be decided by a caucus vote in my lifetime. It's just an inevitable fact of life that reflects that the way Austin functions has already changed.

Note: I make no value judgment about that, but it was and is fairly obvious to any political scientist.

Posted by Evan @ 12/29/10 04:06 PM


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