I received a phone call late Sunday night and it seems that my phone has turned into the Texas Constitution help line.
“Daniel, is there any other way to amend the Texas Constitution other than going through the Legislature?”
The answer to that question isn’t really the point. Instead, we need to have a serious discussion about the motivations behind it. The prime motivation behind this particular question at this particular time is one man – Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus.
Too much time has been spent complaining about Straus. Therefore, you won’t see me doing it here. Instead, this late night call came at the tail end of many weeks of personal discussions on seemingly unrelated topics and it apparently came at the right time to crystallize all of them into one single moment of clarity.
That moment of clarity can be summed up in one single statement.
“Too many people want to fight the battle after it’s long over.”
Texans, we’ve got a problem. That problem is keeping us from winning battles and it’s, ultimately, prolonging the war. In terms fitting for San Jacinto Day, our side keeps showing up to the battle unarmed with anything but opinions and criticism, a month after the battle is over.
While this has a tremendous bearing on our fight for a vote on Texas independence, I think that it’s best examined in light of the question about Straus.
Work it backwards. Joe Straus is selected as Speaker of the House by a majority vote of the members of the Texas House. Members of the Texas House are selected by a majority vote of the people who vote in the General Election. But since the overwhelming majority of the electoral districts in Texas are drawn to give an advantage to one of the two major political parties, many of the seats are uncontested in the General Election. For nearly all of these seats, the winner is determined by who wins the Primary Election for the party who is dominant in that district. This is typically a fraction of the eligible voters in the district. Candidates for the primaries began filing to run in November of the year prior to the Primary Election. Those same candidates began announcing and raising money to run a campaign months before that.
The battle over the Texas Speaker is not fought in his district. It’s not fought on Facebook. It’s not fought on opening day of the legislative session. And it’s sure as hell not fought half-way through the session.
The battle was started in your district long before the primary election was ever held and, in most cases, ended when the results of the Primary Election were tallied.
It’s not enough, though, to know when the battle is if you aren’t equipped to fight it. Far too many well-meaning Texans are completely unprepared to fight these battles. Again, in the spirit of San Jacinto Day, think about the Texian Army prior to the battle of San Jacinto.
Those who showed up and volunteered to fight needed their own rifle, their own provisions, and their own equipment. And during the Runaway Scrape, their regimen was simple.
Drill. Train. March. Repeat.
While members of the Texian Army did plenty of complaining about pretty much everything, the army that fought and won the battle spent their time preparing for battle and then, when the battle started, they began to put that preparation into practice.
I wonder how many of the people complaining about Joe Straus’s actions as Speaker of the Texas House fought in the real battle. Here’s the thing. I know people who did. They prepared by learning all that they could about how the political system works. They ran for office or volunteered for someone who did. They gave money. They block walked. They made phone calls. They brought people to the polls. They threw everything that they had into the candidate of their choice. They put their time and money where their mouths were. They talked the talk and then they walked the walk.
These heroes have to suffer the fist-shaking indignation of those who were completely absent when battle scars were being earned. The guy who donated every extra penny to the cause has to endure the complaining from the person whose sum total contribution to the effort was stuffing his face at Applebee’s while claiming a “financial crunch” as the reason he can’t pitch in. The person who knocked hundreds of doors to champion their candidate has to scroll through the hundreds of posts from the people who are angry because “no one is doing anything.”
And, yes, I’m pointing directly at the guy on Facebook who was complaining about Straus but thought a picture of Straus was actually Governor Greg Abbott.
For me, though, it’s not enough to point out the challenge. Challenges are meant to be overcome. This is no different. Whether it’s Straus or a referendum on Texas independence, our side needs to do some very simple things to start winning these battles.
First and foremost, show up. If you don’t know when and where the battle is being fought, you need to find out. That means plugging in and staying plugged in.
Next, you need to show up ready for the fight. If you’re new to the fight, then you need to learn all that you can. More importantly, you need to be ready to learn. Like my High School English teacher used to tell us, “You don’t learn with your mouth.”
Finally, you need to get your priorities straight. The men who won the Battle of San Jacinto put aside everything and left their families, farms, and businesses behind to do what needed to be done. This might be a tough pill to swallow in the day and age of short-term thinking and a society that worships at the altar of self, but if the Texians of 1836 succumbed to that kind of thinking, you’d be paying your taxes to Mexico City right now. To win these battles you are going to have to sacrifice things. You are going to have to do things that make you uncomfortable. You are going to have to grow.
This is extremely important right now because the next battle for Speaker of the Texas House and the battle for a referendum on Texas independence is starting right now. The old battle is long over. It’s time to stop complaining about Straus and how none of the the members of the Lege filed the Texas Independence Referendum Act. Instead, it’s time to saddle up. The next battle is starting.