JBS Distinguished Lecture: Election cycle, party principles take center stage
by Ruth Campbell
April 29, 2016
Source Odessa American Online
The current election cycle and party principles were just two of many topics tackled at “Election 2016: Are You Voting for a Party, Person or Principle,” a John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute Distinguished Lecture.
Held at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center, it was co-moderated by JBS Public Leadership Institute Executive Director Bob Brescia and Odessa American Publisher Pat Canty. It featured Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, Fox political analyst Juan Williams, former U.S. Rep. Allen West, now CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, and Texas Republican Party Chairman Tom Mechler.
At a news conference before the discussion, Hinojosa said he has been following politics for 40 years, since graduating from law school, and he’s never seen instances where the former speaker of the House and a presidential candidate of the same party call each other names. He was referring to comments made by former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Boehner called Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh.” In an Associated Press story, Boehner said he has Democratic and Republican friends and gets along with most people, but “I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”
Hinojosa said those would ordinarily be “fighting words.”
“But all of this happens when somebody like Ted Cruz goes into the Senate and thinks he’s going to change the world and treats people the way he treated them. The way he treated Boehner, who was the Speaker of the House, coming from the Senate trying to dictate to the House what to do. This is a product of what has happened for a long time in that party,” Hinojosa said.
Mechler said there is a long history between Cruz and Boehner. He added that it’s outrageous to him to look across the aisle and see the frontrunner being investigated by the FBI. He was referring to the bureau’s investigation of Hillary Clinton using a private email server while she was secretary of state. There also is some disagreement over whether some of those emails were classified.
Mechler said Clinton’s competition, Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, is an “avowed socialist” and he contends the party chairman has acknowledged that Democrats are a socialist party.
Unfortunately for Sanders supporters, Mechler said, the super delegates are stacked against him and party insiders are going to make her the nominee no matter how well he does.
West, who retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel, said this election has prompted more people to ask questions about the type of democracy they live in and how the delegate system works. But the downside is people gravitate toward a celebrity like Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.
West said people have to be able to talk about the issues facing the country. He added that Americans need to return to the principles of a Constitutional Republic. He also said he’s concerned about down ballot races with Trump at the top of the ticket.
Williams said he didn’t think there was any question that Trump would have a negative effect on other GOP races.
He added that he thinks the situation is exacerbated by the Republican Senate’s refusal hold hearings on Merrick Garland, chief judge on U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. President Barack Obama nominated Garland to replace the late Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Antonin Scalia.
“They’re already in bad shape,” Williams said. It opens to the door for Democrats to gain the majority in the Senate, but he said he doesn’t see the Democrats getting the majority in the House.
Discussing the differences between the parties, West quoted Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers and one of the main authors of the Declaration of Independence, in his view of government.
“Government that is big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take it away,” West said.
Williams said ideology can be a “crippler” if you can’t have a conversation that includes other points of view.
“The key is you have to be able to talk to the other side. Right now there’s a lot of deafness,” Williams said.
West said people seem to be going toward their own self interest rather than the good of the country. “I see a lot of people in the United States of America are going off and charging hills and they don’t know why.”
What we do know, Williams said, is that Trump says outrageous things, claims to be a very successful businessman and engages in mockery of not only Democrats but fellow Republicans.
“I don’t know what you’ve got here in Texas, but on the national level this is a party that, as you can tell, that is really fraying at the ends. It has no coherent center anymore and I think you can tell this not only in terms of the positions Trump is taking that contradict what the Republican Party stood for in the past,” he added.
Those attending were curious as to what the panel would have to say on the various issues.
Sheila Perry, the new director of the Ellen Noel Art Museum in Odessa, is Canadian.
“I’m taking the opportunity to learn more about this particular election because the news we’ve gotten in Canada has been quite polarized. I’d like to learn more so I can try to figure out what the actual story is. I thought tonight would be a great opportunity just to find out more,” Perry said.
Patti DeFrance said she came out because she is a fan of everyone in on the discussion.
“I’m a fan of Allen West and I’m also a fan of Tom Mechler, chairman of our Texas Republican Party. I want to hear what the Democratic chairman has to say and then I’m always interested in Juan Williams and what he has to say. I see him on The Five and on Fox News. I think it will be an interesting discussion,” DeFrance said.
Ted Tuminowski said he is a JBS leadership supporter.
“I think this is going to be particularly interesting tonight with all the controversy about our upcoming election and our candidates that we have,” Tuminowski said.