Saturday, May 26, 2007
Caesar Leaves the Forum Alive
When Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick ignored then chased away his parliamentarian and refused to recognize Fred Hill or other members for a motion to vacate the chair, he essentially declared himself autocratic ruler of Texas' lower chamber - a man above the rules.
I've tended to mind my own criminal justice business on this blog and leave the hot and heavy Speakers race antics to others. But I was horrified and angered by what took place on the House floor last night, and I think every Texan should be, regardless of party or creed.
Parliamentary rules are the bedrock of democracy - in fact the only way real democracy can function. Rules matter.
Modern parliamentary rules in every American legislative body (and also Robert's Rules, for that matter) are based broadly on the set of rules Thomas Jefferson wrote when he was the first US Vice President and thus President of the US Senate. Jefferson said his main goal in creating parliamentary rules was to ensure the chair’s authority could not be “irregularly exercised” or exert an unduly “powerful effect on proceedings and determinations.”
Mr. Craddick flouted those restraints last night. He entered the evening the chair of the Texas House - by the time he left, he was Caesar. If the members had all pulled out knives and stabbed him to death, IMO they would have been justified.
Kids are dying in Iraq and being told it's to preserve democracy, but when democracy was trampled last night in the Texas House of Representatives, not a drop of blood was shed.
UPDATE: Bigjolly at the Lone Star Times editorialized for keeping Craddick and thought this post was over the top; we've been discussing the relation between democracy, elections, and parliamentary rules in the comments at LST, for those interested. Also Kuff has comments from Burt Solomons that I think are on the mark: He authored the current House rules and says he's "stunned" at the Speaker's interpretation of his own power. Me too.