by Ryan Thorson

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TNM LAW: Rep. Jonathan Stickland, the Speaker, and Achieving Change
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In one of the final sessions of TNM’s Legislative Action Workshop, Claver Kamau-Imani joins Texas State Representative for District 92 and Freedom Caucus member, Jonathan Stickland, for a discussion on “The Speaker of the House and Why It Matters.”

Representative Stickland has for some time been a proverbial thorn in the side of both left-wing politicians and those of the Republican establishment. He was a particular barb to now former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, using the rules of the house to force attention to how the Speaker was suppressing conservative legislation.

The Speaker of the Texas House controls a lot, either by design or mere deference, and the quality of that occupant is imperative to those wanting to work positive change in Texas. However, when it came to Joe Straus, he seemed more preoccupied with holding on to power than using power to codify the beliefs of his party. “Nothing was getting done,” said Stickland about the situation when he first was elected along with group of other conservatives, “but there were aspects that a number of us identified as effective that we thought we could tool-together and actually become a force that needed to be reckoned with.” This new resistance would become the bane of the establishment and all who had succumbed to the mental taint of Austin.

Stickland said that, before his “mentor” David Simpson lead the way and stepped outside the box, “the House was basically run off of tradition rather than adherence to the rules. That was one area that we identified as major potential for conservatives, [to] show the public how they were manipulating rules and not playing fair and using tradition to kill conservative legislation.” Simpson went on to knock-off the favored bill of a more senior representative while on “local and consent calendar,” demonstrating to the House and Stickland that “you can fight these guys and you don’t actually die!” Conservative law-makers striving with Strausian minions to deliver on their promises realized that “you can challenge this establishment, you can challenge these RINOs and live to fight another day!”

One thing a politician doesn’t like is to draw attention to themselves and the cognitive dissonance between their rhetoric and political actions. By standing up to GOP leadership in the House, the Freedom Caucus was doing just that. “We said, ‘The more we stand up, the more we force them to fight us, which will draw a contrast.’ And our hope was that we could arm the grass-roots (finally) with the knowledge of who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. And the definition of winning wasn’t always stopping or passing legislation, it was drawing that contrast. And our open prayer was that people would pick up on those differences and use that as a way to get rid of the bad-actors. I think that we were right!”

Indeed. After the actions of Stickland and other dedicated conservative law-makers, the Republican grass-roots took note and began to purge their ranks of these “bad-actors,” a list that included the GOP Speaker of the House, Joe Straus, who was censured by his own party and all but forced to step down. For the first time in a long time, they changed things, even were reputed to have been running the show, a hyperbolic assertion that wasn’t all too far from the truth.

Another topic discussed was how few people in Austin were controlling the levers of power, and how many important decisions were being made by the unelected. One may credit the perverse machinations of the establishment to Joe Straus, but much of that credit went to a virtual unknown, Straus consultant Gordan Johnson. “He was the guy who was tasked with setting up the committees and doing things like that and dealing with the calendars folks. And you realize really quickly that in playing a big game of high-stakes chess, if you will, it’s not a hundred and fifty players, it’s about ten to fifteen. It depressed me at first until I realized that this was a huge opportunity”

You can watch the entire session below.



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