James Carville: GOP moving to the center? Not in the South

The award-winning columnist David Brooks recently wrote about many celebrated conservative economists. Noting Yuval Levin, who is both a distinguished and forceful voice for “conservatism,” Brooks, along with the economists he discusses have established professional careers that have been influential for many. These men also have one more thing in common: Neither has ever received a single vote in a single Republican primary.

Contemporaneous with Brooks’s column, we have another way to understand the Republican Party and conservatism in Fort Worth, Texas. In terms of size and electoral strength the dominance that the Texas GOP has showed in recent years is overwhelming, holding Democrats out of statewide office since 1998.


As a political party does at conventions, the Texas Republican Party debated policy proposals and positions for its platform last week at its annual convention. And the Texas GOP just moved forward with its support of “reparative therapy” for gays. Yes, that means treatment that would support psychological methods that work to turn gay people straight, despite the staunch opposition of modern medical groups like the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association.

The Texas GOP moved forward with the following: “We recognize the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle. No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.” 

The winner of Texas GOP straw poll, Sen. Ted Cruz, between chants of “Run, Ted, Run!” declared, “What we’re doing is we’re building a grassroots army in Texas and all across this country, of men and women saying, ‘We will not go quietly into the night. We will not give up on the United States of America. We want our freedom.’ ”

Freedom for those who aren’t in same-sex relationships, I guess. 

There is no doubt immigration is a pressing issue for many Americans, and specifically for Texans and others along the southern border. Well, let’s see where the state’s nominee for lieutenant governor, state Sen. Dan Patrick, stands. 

On his filing legislation requiring local law enforcement to ask lawfully stopped individuals whether they are lawfully present in the state, a press release from his office said, “If the person is not legally present in Texas and is arrested, local law enforcement must report the person to federal immigration officials.” Patrick commented: “Giving local law enforcement officers the discretion to arrest and report individuals who are here illegally is a critical defense against the growing illegal immigration problem.”

Some call it the Tea Party, some call it the right of the right wing —whatever you call it, they are winning in Texas. 

Now, sitting here in Louisiana, I have the good fortune of being sandwiched between two pretty conservative states: Texas and Mississippi. This perspective might be a little different than David Brooks on Manhattan Island, sandwiched between New Jersey and Brooklyn. In Mississippi, the Republican candidates attend neo-Confederate events. I am not sure what the makeup of the Manhattan GOP looks like, but I know that it wouldn’t sell down here.

We have heard a lot early on in this primary cycle about the prevailing victories of the mainstream Republicans and how the party is now realigning to the center. I am not sure if they are shooting straight, but that doesn’t look like the center to me. 

Carville is a political contributor for Fox News. He also serves as a professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he lives with his wife, Republican strategist Mary Matalin. Their book Love and War is in stores now. His column will appear twice a month in The Hill.