The Texas Scorecard – My Enemy

By Ashley Bean Thornton

I don’t use words like “enemy” frequently or lightly.   I feel bad about using it here.  Maybe it’s too extreme.  I go back and forth.  But while I go back and forth, organizations like the one that runs the Texas Scorecard are marching forward and, I believe, doing harm to the way we live together and govern ourselves.  I feel like they have made me their enemy whether I want to be or not.

Here is how I think our system of government works…

We don’t want to be run by a king or a dictator, so we take responsibility for governing ourselves.

We understand that we are all different kinds of people with all kinds of different ideas about how things should be done.  This leads to disagreement and frustration when we try to govern ourselves, but it is worth it to us to sort through all this aggravating disagreement in a civil way — as opposed to violent way – because we believe the freedom to govern ourselves is deeply important.

Few of us have the time, energy, interest, or expertise to actually do the work of figuring out and deciding how we are going to govern ourselves, so we choose people to do this work for us. We have elections to choose people who we believe align with our values and interests to represent us in the work of governing.

These elected representatives duke out the issues for us. If enough of us don’t like the way they are doing that, we elect different people.

It would have been simpler in some ways to allow whatever group has a 51% majority to get all the power, even though 49% of the people might disagree.  But… that didn’t seem wise or fair, so we decided not to do that. We understood that “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” so we set up all kinds of systems and structures in an attempt to require our elected representatives to listen to each other and ultimately bargain with each other. Even when it’s a pain in the butt.  Even when they would rather not.

This, to me, is the great strength and wisdom of our system – that we require negotiating and listening to different ideas.  It is THE central idea, we baked it in from the beginning. We made it almost impossible to get anything done without considering the aggravating people who have different ideas.  We created a system that, at its best, incentivizes coalition building, making compromises, and figuring out ways to work together despite our disagreements.

It’s the worst, most frustrating system in the world… except for all the others.

I believe this aggravating tussle of disagreement, horse-trading, compromise and figuring out ways to work together is the very wisdom and heart of democracy.  That’s why the Texas Scorecard is my enemy.  I believe they are trying to stop this beating heart.

What is the Texas Scorecard?

The Texas Scorecard is a website.  This is what they do according to their “About Us” page: “Through news reporting and investigative journalism, Texas Scorecard provides citizens the knowledge they need to effectively dominate government and culture.”

I would hesitate to call what they do “journalism” since the word “journalism” still carries some connotation of objectivity for me, but they are being 100% honest when they say they are trying to help their constituency “dominate government and culture.”

I believe their misguided strategy is to “dominate” by working to stamp out the consideration, compromise and coalition building that are the core strengths of our democratic-republic structure of government.  I believe their strategy for domination is to replace working together and listening to each other with absolute majority rule. Ironically perhaps, our system of government gives them the right to try to do this. I feel like it is my responsibility to do whatever I can to stop them.  I hope you will help me.

Not about the issues

This is not about the issues to me.  I am liberal to moderate.  I have voted Democrat since my 20’s.  I disagree with moderate to conservative Republicans about many, many issues.  Yay!  That’s the way it is supposed to work!  We disagree – we haggle it out – we come up with a compromise.  That’s how we save our country from the excesses of being either too liberal or too conservative.

The Texas Scorecard represents themselves as “Republican.” I think they are a terrible example of what it means to be “Republican.”   Sure, they say they support a slew of “Republican-ish” ideas: lower taxes, school choice, etc. etc.  The real Republicans I know believe in being honest, tough-minded and practical.  They believe in thinking for yourself.  I disagree with them plenty, but I respect them.   What the Texas Scorecard is pushing is not that.

My problem with the Texas Scorecard is not the issues they support.  My problem is that they propagate a philosophy of total commitment to the “Party Line” (as they define it), or else!  Anyone who dares to disagree, or to listen to what other people have to say, or to build a coalition to get something done … is a traitor.   That doesn’t have anything to do with any issue or with being a Republican.

The Texas Heist

The most obvious example of my problem with the Texas Scorecard is a new video they have posted.  It’s called The Texas Heist.  I’m hoping that many of my Democrat/Real Republican friends will watch it so you can see what I mean. (Take your blood pressure medicine first…) It takes about 40 minutes. I have watched it twice.

To me there are several things worth noting about this shiny piece of what I would call pure propaganda thinly disguised as journalism…

(1) It is a slick, high quality, professional production. You can see how it could be very convincing and reinforcing if you lean right and you don’t have time to think critically about it.

(2) The arguments are weirdly whiny – especially for people who supposedly represent the Republican Party, a party usually known for their lack of patience with whining.   Here are some examples of the kind of “whines” I am talking about: We don’t win every time, they must be cheating! Our guy didn’t get elected Speaker of the House – it was a coup! They don’t agree with us, so they must not be doing what the people who elected them want!  Everybody knows Texas is supposed to be super conservative, but they are ruining it! We refuse to listen to them or talk to them, but they should’ve consulted us before they impeached Ken Paxton!

(3) They make masterful use of what I think of as the “I’m rubber, you’re glue” strategy of complaining about the people they don’t like.   If you are not familiar, that’s when you accuse the other side of doing exactly what you are doing.  For example, in The Texas Heist they describe the Republican legislators they don’t like as a “club” who just wants them to shut up and do what they are told. In fact, the whole main message of The Texas Heist is to convince viewers that these 12 “dirty” Republicans ought to just shut up and do what they are told or be kicked out of the club.

(4) The basic message of The Texas Heist is that Republicans should never cooperate with Democrats, period, no how, no way.  Any Republicans who do so are traitors who need to be expelled. Domination is the stated goal.  There is no consideration given to the idea that reasonable people of the same party might disagree with each other, or that we might be stronger together,  or even that, once elected, representatives have a duty to serve all their constituents, not just the ones who voted for them.  The Texas Heist specifically, and the Texas Scorecard in general, does not even bother to give lip service to these basic ideas that I consider foundational to a functional democracy. It makes me reminisce about how very, very far we have come from Lincoln and the wisdom of his “Team of Rivals.”

I am sharing this video — certainly not because I support it or agree with it — but because productions like this are driving me to pay more attention and get more involved in politics. I hope it will have the same effect on you.  If you, like me, have been basically on the sidelines, wringing your hands, and hoping “we will all come to our senses,” I hope the sheer audacity of this video will inspire you to take some steps toward getting more involved.

I have decided to get much more involved with the Democratic Party.  I don’t think the Democratic Party is perfect.  I don’t think the two-party system is perfect. But the Democratic Party has some organization in place.  I think the heft of that existing organization offers the best hope of holding off well-funded, well-organized groups such as the Texas Scorecard.

If you are a Republican, I hope that you will work to rescue your party from this, to me, un-American strategy of demanding “loyalty no matter what” and steer it back toward arguing for and working for the issues important to you on their merits.

Like I said, my enmity toward the Texas Scorecard is not about the issues.  I disagree with the Texas Scorecard on many of the issues they talk about, for sure. To me, the whole purpose of politics should be to work out what we are going to do even though we disagree. I disagree with Republicans all the time, but I have never felt the compulsion to put serious time and energy into politics until now.

It is not our disagreements on the issues that drive my enmity with the Texas Scorecard — it is my profound disagreement with the philosophy that “domination” is the name of the game.  If you know of a liberal organization that is taking this tack, please let me know. They are my enemy too.

I am profoundly concerned that organizations like the Texas Scorecard with a “domination” agenda of shutting down discourse and demanding our elected representatives “tow the line” are out-organizing those of us with a more moderate and I believe far, far healthier philosophy. I am getting more involved to see if I can help with that in some small way at least.

Thank God for Joe Strauss and the other “normal” Republicans who stood up, and are standing up, against this philosophy. We need to work hard with whoever will work with us to roll this kind of thing back and confine it to the far corners of political participation where it belongs.

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  1. Carroll Fadal on August 19, 2023 at 12:55 pm

    Great words, Ashley. Thank you for shining disinfecting light on this dangerous organization.

  2. Margo Yeager on August 19, 2023 at 3:51 pm

    100% Correct, Ashley. I can’t wait until you’re running for a state-wide position so I can vote for you.

  3. Carmen on August 20, 2023 at 3:09 am

    “We have elections to choose people who we believe align with our values and interests to represent us in the work of governing.”
    Therein lies a huge part of the problem. Voter turnout is ridiculously low, especially in municipal and midterm elections.
    I was in a meeting discussing the problem of finding qualified and caring staff for facilities (usually nonprofits) that care for our most vulnerable (children, elderly, and people with disabilities) and asked the question, “How many voted in the last midterm or municipal election?”
    Many were not registered, many said they are “apolitical”, many thought their vote didn’t count, very few voted.
    I tried to explain that the people who make the budgets for city, county, state, and national agencies such as HHS, Medicare, Medicaid, SSI, SSD, are elected by voters. Childcare subsidies, nursing home reimbursement, supports and services for adults and children with developmental disabilities, and so many other resources are directed by elected officials.
    Until people care enough to vote, little will change.
    Those who vote get a seat and a voice at the table.

  4. Rob Swanton on August 20, 2023 at 11:09 am


    Here is where I am going to have to trust your good sense and opinion. I simply can’t handle watching 40 minutes of this drivel…

  5. […] wrote a blog post a little while back about my “enemy” and now I have started noticing that word/idea come up in all kinds of […]

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