On one hand, we have the Huckabee factor … Huckabee’s draw on hard right voters in tomorrows primary may lead anti-evolutionists to victory. On the other hand, we have the Obama factor … Obama’s draw on moderate republicans may lead to a cleansing of pernicious liberal elements from the Republican party.
Hilary Hylton has an interesting and informative piece in, of all places, Time, about tomorrow’s events in Texas. You need to know this.
Texas has a state-wide school board. This means that when it comes to textbook adoption, Texas is the largest single customer, and thus, traditionally, Texas has determined the fundamental nature of textbook production in the United States for years.
Fortunately, children nation wide are protected by the constitution even from Texans, and strong political efforts in Texas and elsewhere, including pressure on publishers, has meant that social studies and science textbooks available for adoption across the country for grade school and high school have not been as bad as they might have been had Texas conservatives succeeded in their plan to take over education nationally. For instance:
In 1995, the Texas Legislature stepped into the fray to diminish the influence the [board of education] had on textbook selection after social conservatives tried to impose their values and demands on publishers. Despite the legislature’s action, which limited the [the board] to making sure textbooks met curriculum standards and were factually accurate, [board] social conservatives have continued to press for more influence. In December, with one member of their opposition missing, the social conservatives pressed one textbook publisher to change the phrase “married partners” in a health textbook to “the lifelong union of a husband and wife.”
Socially and politically responsible forces have held the line in Texas, but only barely. But all that could change tomorrow.
Texas school districts tend to be divided by historical circumstances and politics pretty much into “Liberal” (Democratic or moderate Republican) and “Conservative” (usually Republican) flavors, with one or the other party more or less controlling outcomes in each district. (In other words, actual democracy has not yet replaced backroom bargaining politics in the Lone Star State as it has most other places in the U.S.) As a result of this, the outcome of many elections is determined in the primaries, not in the general election.
And that is tomorrow.
Moderate Republican Pat Hardy is a member of the Texas Department of Education Board, representing the 11th district. There is no Democrat running against her this year, but she is being challenged by urologist, ardent creationist, and very conservative anti-gay Republican Barney Maddox for the nomination to run for this seat. Candidate Maddox seems to be running for a single purpose only, to wipe evolution off the slate of topics in Texas schools, which would also affect textbook orientation and quality nation wide (to some degree). Maddox refuses to speak to the press or appear in public, and is not presenting any information on his views on any topic. Yet he is expected to win the primary. Holy crap. You Texans are so unbelievably stupid that it is hard to imagine.
(Texas is a place that truly, truly, sucks. The first person in the room to declare their patriotism, or their overall superiority, will usually be a Texan. But most everyone else in this country would give Texas back to Mexico in a New York minute, if asked. Do Texans know that everyone else dislikes them? Do they care? ….. but I digress…)
Down in south Texas, incumbent Democratic board member Mary Helen Berlanga faces serious opposition in the primaries from Lupe Gonzalez, creationist democrat (where else but Texas you would find many of those, I don’t know).
For over two decades, the 15-member elected board has been torn between two factions: in recent years a coalition of five Democrats and three moderate Republicans has managed to hold off efforts by the seven socially conservative Republicans to influence the board’s mission. The SBOE debate over creationism and other issues important to social conservatives on the board — sex education and religion in schools — is still contentious, but the arguments have become more sophisticated, with no outright call for the banning of evolutionary theory.
But tomorrow, this may all end, with the help of Mike Huckabee, as it turns out.
Next year the Texas State Board of Education will be writing the science curriculum standards for Texas public schoolchildren, and Huckabee may bring enough conservative fundamentalist voters to the polls on March 4 to swing the balance of power on the board to the supporters of creationism. “If Huckabee marshals the religious right in Texas, particularly in North Texas, it has profound implications for the state board,” says Kathy Miller, executive director of the Texas Freedom Network (TFN), an Austin-based advocacy group whose stated goal is to “counter the religious right” in public policy issues, particularly education.
And over the medium and long term, the Texas Republican Party could end up being even more conservative than it is now, according to some.
… Longtime Texas Republicans like Royal Masset, a former political director of the Texas Republican Party, [fears] that if moderate Republicans leave the party to support Barack Obama — and there is some local polling in major urban areas to suggest that may happen — it will reinforce the hold the social conservatives and the religious right has on the state party’s apparatus.