Republican David Simpson, from Longview, made headlines when he filed a bill during the 2015 legislative session to decriminalize marijuana by having it regulated like a plant instead of a drug:
“God did not make a mistake when he made marijuana that the government needs to fix. Let’s allow the plant to be utilized for good — helping people with seizures, treating warriors with PTSD, producing fiber and other products — or simply for beauty and enjoyment. Government prohibition should be for violent actions that harm your neighbor — not of the possession, cultivation and responsible use of plants.”
On tax day this year, the Longview News-Journal published Rep. Simpson’s intercession on behalf of the many harmed while Ken Paxton, Sid Miller, and other Republicans behave unethically, and possibly illegally, yet stay in office while their fellow Republicans pretend not to see:
Where is the outcry from conservatives and grassroots organizations? Why is there no call for accountability from these leaders and organizations? Have we claimed for so long that any legal action against a conservative Republican is “politically motivated” that we are unable to see the truth?
I’d like to point out two things:
One, I don’t agree with many of his positions, but Rep. Simpson is kind of a badass.*
Two, Republicans are not the only ones who ignore bad actors in their own party.
If you’re a Democrat in Texas, you’ve experienced this.
We’ve all been part of the conversations about elected officials who do nothing, or do the wrong things, and bring down the side. We grumble and complain, then do nothing.
Frustrated by an incumbent’s ineptitude, we nevertheless decline the option of launching a primary challenge lest we lose someone with seniority or a massive bank account.
Confronted with investigations, indictments, or even convictions, we hesitate to champion a challenger lest we be accused of racism, or sexism, or undermining a party loyalist.
We harm only ourselves when we tolerate mediocrity, malfeasance, and mendacity.
Today, I read that his attorney general’s office continues to pay a staffer while he works on a presidential campaign. The staffer is being paid his full salary of $16,220.62 with the explanation he is on “emergency leave” until June 10. Emergency leave is a state policy where an employee can take time off for a death in the family or “good cause” without loss of pay. It was never intended as a source of income to work on a political campaign.
That’s Rep. Simpson, calling out a colleague from his own party.
Plenty of Democrats have said about the same, about Paxton, about Sid Miller, about Tom Delay, and so on, and so forth.
But where are those Democrats when the bad apple is one of their own?
When non-voters justify opting out by pointing out how corrupt elected officials are, having Ken Paxton in office as the top law enforcement officer in the state makes it hard to persuade them that they’re wrong.
But what alternatives do we offer on our side of the ticket? From the Democratic corner, fighting for his seat after being convicted on five counts of misdemeanor barratry, Representative Ron Reynolds:
Though his opponents contended the conviction would deprive constituents of the representation they deserved, Reynolds has remained popular and maintained the backing of Democratic officeholders. The first African-American elected to the state House from Fort Bend County, he has called the conviction “frivolous” and politically motivated.
People are disillusioned, both those who don’t vote and those who vote every time but get tired of having the same lackluster options on the ballot and no seat at the table.
We can make fun of the Republicans—and oh my goodness have they made that easy of late—but if we want to win back this state, we need to make sure we don’t replace their sitting ducks with our own.
Democrats are fortunate to have many great leaders at all levels, but what we’ve been doing isn’t getting us where we need to go as quickly as we need to get there. Some of that is gerrymandered districts and voter suppression, but some of that is the dead weight we can’t seem to jettison.
It is time to counsel out the deadbeats and the nonstarters and to build a ballot and a party we can carry proudly into the future.
* Simpson’s badass status is strictly limited to the 2015 bill and his tax day editorial. I’m not afraid to give a Republican his due when he gets it right, but he is a Republican, so …