It’s official. The chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, Tom Mechler, has tendered his resignation. While there will be those who look at his tenure with rose-colored glasses, Texas Nationalists who are also members of the Republican Party will remember him for one thing – as the man who bet wrong on Texas independence.
Rewind the tape back to 2015. The Texas Nationalist Movement launched a very public campaign to force a referendum on the 2016 Republican Primary ballot using an obscure provision in the Texas Election Code. When asked about the campaign and the petition effort, the leadership of the Republican Party of Texas made a conscious decision to adopt an antagonistic posture.
Through the duration of the campaign, the leadership of the RPT, including Tom Mechler, referred to people who believed that Texans should have a vote on independence as “kooks”, “crazies”, and “delusional”. It was then reinforced with the assertion that “no one in the Republican Party thinks Texas should leave the union.”
Our response was straightforward. Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Texas Republicans think that Texas would be better off as an independent nation. An even higher percentage believe that, at a minimum, Texans should be able to debate the issue and vote on it. At the core, our argument could be summed up like this – if Mechler believes what he says, then let the membership of the party have their say and bring it to a fair vote.
Mechler’s actions didn’t match his words. He worked overtime to try to derail the effort. When the State Republican Executive Committee’s Platform Committee voted to put the issue on the primary ballot, it took a ton of backroom arm twisting with members of the SREC to vote it down.
Even at the State Convention in May of 2016, the battle raged on. A resolution to add a plank to the platform calling for a referendum on independence sailed through every subcommittee and committee. That is until it got to the Permanent Platform Committee where Mechler and cohorts worked to replace members of the committee that would vote to remove the plank. But even with this herculean and unprecedented effort, they were only able to remove it by a two vote margin.
Never ones to give up, we then orchestrated a floor vote on the issue. Mechler’s assertion that no one in the Republican Party believed that Texas should leave the union was utterly destroyed when over half of the convention stood in favor of adding it to the platform. But, as so often happens, the person holding the gavel makes the final call. His final call – “the nays have it.”
What was seen there could not be unseen, and the effects of that effort are still being felt to this day. Do I believe that the TNM was responsible for Mechler’s sudden decision to resign? Not solely. Do I believe that we were a factor? Absolutely.
There are some important lessons for the next chairman that should be heeded lest they suffer the same fate as Mechler.
If your mantra is party unity, your goal is ill-served if you go out of your way to exclude and insult a significant percentage of your party. If you head a party that touts its adherence to the Texas Constitution, yet you publicly demonstrate that you will disregard the will of a majority of your party, they will notice. And when you send out fundraising appeals to these same people, they will remember and your pleas will fall on deaf ears.
It’s not all negative though. The new chairman can rebuild the bridges, repair the relationships, and restore confidence in the party leadership by doing a few simple things.
The new chairman, regardless of their personal feelings on Texas independence, must acknowledge that it is a major issue for a significant majority of the party. The acknowledgement must be followed by action that offers an opportunity to express this sentiment. The action is simple – support placing the question on the next primary ballot in 2018 and letting the members of the party have their say. Finally, manage the process in a fair manner that respects the diversity of opinions on the issue but respects that the process must work the same for everyone. That means no more backroom deals, and end to heavy-handed threats, and dismantling the culture of retribution.
The Texas Nationalist Movement is not a Republican organization. We see our mission as above the partisan fray. But we acknowledge that there are members and supporters of the TNM in the Republican Party in significant numbers. Our members are Precinct Chairs and County Chairs. They hold positions throughout the party. They volunteer and, more importantly, they vote. They should be heard. Perhaps the new chairman will hear them.