Don McLeroy v. Thomas Ratliff: 04 Nov ’09

OUR last report on this Texas Board of Education election was three months ago: Don McLeroy v. Thomas Ratliff: Good News.

Don McLeroy is the creationist dentist whose appointment as chairman of the Texas State Board of Education (BOE) recently failed to win confirmation in the state senate. McLeroy is being challenged in the Republican primary next year by Thomas Ratliff, the son of former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff.

We’re recommending Ratliff. That’s partly because we think McLeroy is as batty as the Time Cube guy. But Ratliff’s campaign website gives us positive reasons to support him, especially the section on Creation vs. Evolution.

At the Texas Tribune website, which is an interesting experiment in political journalism (see: About Us), we read Trouble in the big tent. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

While political observers seem transfixed on the coming heavyweight brawl between Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the fight for the soul of the Texas GOP may be down the ballot in a race for State Board of Education. A battle between incumbent school board member Don McLeroy, a symbol of Christian conservatism, and challenger Thomas Ratliff, the scion of a moderate Republican family may show what’s to come.

What? A rinky-dink school board election is more important than a state-wide contest between two nationally-known heavyweights? Let’s read on:

“It’s a question: What direction does the Republican Party go in Texas and nationally for the future?” said Tom Pauken, who chaired the state GOP from 1994 to 1997, as it became the majority in Texas. “This little race is a reflection of the division within the party,” he said.

We agree completely. Continuing with the article:

Pauken agrees the Hutchison-Perry race won’t shed light on the debate. …

By contrast, in the state school board race the ideological lines and political alliances are bright red. McLeroy carries the flag for injecting moral values and reform into government affairs, while Ratliff seeks to depoliticize education and forge compromise with the generally more liberal education establishment.

Exactly! This brings to mind our Curmudgeonly concern about having our political choices limited to voting for either a socialist party or a theocratic party. Were that the future, your Curmudgeon would sail away, waving a sad farewell to the Statue of Liberty. That increasingly irrelevant monument would soon be re-named “The Food Stamp Lady,” or maybe she’d be melted down for scrap to make a creationist theme park — which would be built by the Chinese.

Okay, we’re getting carried away. Enough of that. Here’s more from the article:

“I’ve never had anybody announce in June,” McLeroy said. “There won’t ever be a campaign race like this for me.”

Yes, and when it’s over, we hope that dental drill of yours is jammed so far — No, Curmudgeon! Control yourself!

Okay, okay. Moving along:

While McLeroy has held his seat since 1998, it’s only been in the last three years that he has had the opportunity to push his conservative goals forward. In 2006, the board gained two new conservative members, and soon emerged as a clash site between social conservatives and moderates. Later in 2007, the governor appointed McLeroy chair.

We keep hoping that journalists will stop using “conservative” as a synonym for “creationist.” Dream on, Curmudgeon. Another excerpt:

When the board prepared to review the science curriculum, a bitter public battle began regarding how to teach evolution. McLeroy made headlines when he fought for the state science curriculum to describe the weaknesses of evolution. He succeeded in generating a curriculum that questions the fossil record on evolution and in the process became a symbolic leader for Christian conservatism.

On with the article:

McLeroy’s opponent, Thomas Ratliff, casts himself as a champion of professional educators and a guardian against politicians who seek to meddle in their classrooms. “I truly believe he (McLeroy) thinks he knows better” than educators what should be taught and how, Ratliff said. “I am one hundred and eighty degrees from that mentality.”

O Lordy, lordy. Let the creationist dentist return to what we assume is the exotic practice of treating tooth decay by faith healing. He has no business holding public office in a civilized nation. As for Ratliff, on the other hand:

Ideological fights over evolution and the like, he [Ratliff] said, are exactly what educators don’t need. He believes conservative board members pursue such debates for their own ideological satisfaction over the core task of educating children to think for themselves.

We’re going to take some excerpts out of their original sequence here:

The debate among Republicans — establishment and anti-establishment, social conservatives and social moderates — is playing out across the state board of education. Other members of McLeroy’s faction, Ken Mercer and Cynthia Dunbar, also face moderate primary challengers. According to Ratliff, the Republican challengers, while not formally coordinated, have all called him to discuss their races.

That isn’t surprising, as rational people can be expected to do things like that. On the other hand, let’s hear from the creationist dentist:

McLeroy makes no apologies for grafting a political agenda onto education. “The culture war over science education, the teaching of evolution, is going to be there, no matter what,” he said. “Education is too important not to politicize.”

[...]

McLeroy brushes off the controversy over science curriculum. The media, he said, seeks to pigeonhole him and his allies on the board as “religious fanatics.”

“I’m here on a social equity issue,” he said. “As a Christian with strong Christian beliefs … I know all these children are created in God’s image, and we need to help these kids. It’s a moral responsibility.

No fanaticism there, right? Here’s one final excerpt:

But Ratliff and McLeroy both know the stakes are high in their primary race. Should McLeroy lose, the conservative bloc would have a difficult time getting the votes to push their agenda. And more broadly, the loss will indicate what type of Republican the conservative district favors.

Ratliff puts it plainly: “The $64,000 is: Who controls the party? Is it the folks who are ideologically aligned with him or those who are ideologically aligned with me?”

It’s “only a school board election,” dear reader, but the implications are far more important than is generally realized.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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20 responses to “Don McLeroy v. Thomas Ratliff: 04 Nov ’09

  1. “This brings to mind our Curmudgeonly concern about having our political choices limited to voting for either a socialist party or a theocratic party.”

    A “socialist party”? Don’t think you guys have one in Murka. You don’t mean the Blue Corporation Party (as opposed to the Red Corporation Party), do you?

    Of course, you might be of the opinion that having your government sign the paychecks for the Marine Corp means that they’re all socialists. Makes sense, all right…

    PS: Otherwise a good article. Confusion and derision upon the creobots, even if it means a loss of a valuable source of entertainment.

  2. Gabriel Hanna

    A “socialist party”? Don’t think you guys have one in Murka. You don’t mean the Blue Corporation Party (as opposed to the Red Corporation Party), do you?

    The Democratic Party, as a whole, is “socialist” to the same degree that the Republican party is “theocratic”–which is to say not much.

    Anyone who says things like “Murka” and “Corporation party”, is, in my experience, someone who knows nothing whatever of America besides its caricature.

  3. From the article: “McLeroy carries the flag for injecting moral values…”

    I must have missed it. When did bearing false witness become a “moral value”?

  4. Forgive me, I was only trying to poke a bit of fun. Comments about cheese-eating Yurpeen defeatists will be meekly accepted. However, I do maintain (with the benefit of more than a little experience of the USA, which I greatly enjoyed) that your political and legal systems give WAY too much deference to corporate interests.

  5. Gabriel Hanna

    @Amadan
    that your political and legal systems give WAY too much deference to corporate interests.

    First off, the cheese-eating surrender monkeys are specifically FRENCH; or as Harry Truman put it, “our gallant allies who fought so poorly and surrendered so quickly in the Second World War”, and then gave them a trillion dollar bill. Or maybe that was the Simpsons.

    Anyway, through all the history of Western civilization the French have served as the butt end of the collective moral compass of the English-speaking world.

    Secondly, what are “corporate interests”? You seem to be thinking of a bunch of guys in top hats conniving in a hotel on Boardwalk. But that is a caricature. Corporations are diverse with a wide range of interests, many of which conflict.

    Right now the big power and oil interests are working to get govenment money to build windmills, and they are working for cap-and-trade regulations on carbon dioxide. They like the current Democratic government; because only huge corporations can afford to deal with onerous regulation. They are willing to spend the extra money dealing with the regulations, because it limits their sources of competition.

    Other companies, who would like to compete with them, oppose these regulations and subsidies. So who’s doing the bidding of “corporate interests”?

    As for the legal systems, why can you sue a corporation for bezillions and win, for example if slip on a wet floor in a Wal-mart–if judges are in the pockets of corporations?

    Corporate interests are HUMAN interests, just as diverse. To think otherwise is a caricature.

  6. I’d like to give an “upvote” to Frank J for being the only one to stay on topic.

  7. Gabriel Hanna says: “Corporate interests are HUMAN interests, just as diverse. To think otherwise is a caricature.”

    Correct. Corporations have property rights, as do we all. Unfortunately, corporations can also conspire with government to suppress their competition by price fixing or protectionism schemes, or (more commonly) by consenting to burdensome regulations that upstarts can’t afford to comply with.

    Individuals can behave the same way, and they often did so before corporations became common. They still do. The notion of “corporate interests” is a fiction — it’s just corruption, which is a human vice. The Soviet empire was built on corruption — like the Mafia with a flag of their own. All socialist states are corrupt.

    In the words (from memory) of the late Robert Nozick in “Anarchy, State, And Utopia” — The problem with socialism is that it forbids capitalist transactions between consenting adults.

  8. If corporations only represent individuals, why should corporations have the right to a political voice above and beyond their owners’? Corporate political donations are inherently corrupt.

    And as regards Nozick, it’s a nice quote, but it would only work in Ayn Rand’s universe.

    Enough derailment! Thank you for enlivening a very dull afternoon.

  9. Amadan says: “If corporations only represent individuals …”

    They are individuals, just like unions, churches, universities, and other groups. Any group can organize, appoint spokesmen, or do anything else that isn’t illegal. Even — gasp! — make products and sell them.

  10. scott marshall

    Hmmm… doing a search on “Truman”+”Gallant Allies” did not turn up anything close to the quotation above, and in fact found this several times (from his address announcing the defeat of Japan):
    “And our thoughts go out to our gallant Allies in this war: to those who resisted the invaders; to those who were not strong enough to hold out, but who, nevertheless, kept the fires of resistance alive within the souls of their people; to those who stood up against great odds and held the line, until the United Nations together were able to supply the arms and the men with which to overcome the forces of evil”

    Where can i find the actual quote?

  11. Gabriel Hanna

    @scott:

    At risk for for being chastized for being off-topic, my Truman “quote” is actually from the Simpson, “The Trouble with Trillions”, where Monty Burns, Homer, and Smithers escape to Cuba with the trillion dollar bill. Hence I said, in that post, “Or maybe that was the Simpsons”.

  12. Gabriel Hanna confesses to quote-mining the Simpsons.

  13. Curmy

    Amadan says: “If corporations only represent individuals …”

    They are individuals

    This is a gross oversimplification. Certainly, corporations are made up of individuals, and corporate actions do benefit individuals. The salient question, though, is what individuals benefit? As a proud MBA, I know the stock answer is those actions benefit the shareholders. As a long time corporate manager and shareholder, I will even grant that some corporations are run that way. However, anyone who thinks that is universally true hasn’t been awake the last year or so. A relative handful of executives in a handful of banks almost brought the entire financial system to its knees. Their actions benefited some individuals, mainly themselves, while laying carnage to alot of the rest of us.

    As far as the Democratic party being socialist, again an oversimplification. They are just as beholden to corporate interests as the Republicans, just different corporate interests. Ask yourself what the Obama administration has done to avoid a future structural collapse in the financial system. The answer is nothing. They threw hundreds of billions of dollars out there for consumption to prop the system up and what have we gotten in return? A smaller number of large banks, run by the same executives that mismanaged them the first time, controlling an increasing concentration of the money supply, still engaging in highly speculative investing and sweeping the risk of those investments under the carpet by writing even more credit default swaps. Tim Geithner has done nothing except throw a huge party for the big banks.

  14. Gabriel Hanna

    @SC: That was no quote-mine. That quote fit the context it came from perfectly.

    @carlsonjokAs a proud MBA, I know the stock answer is those actions benefit the shareholders. As a long time corporate manager and shareholder, I will even grant that some corporations are run that way.

    You also benefit from lower prices on goods and services that corporations make possible. You benefit in hundreds of ways you don’t even realize. Corporations, unlike the government, have no power to confiscate money from your pocket and put it into someone else’s.

  15. Curmy,
    Eugenie Scott has now posted her reply to Ray Comfort here.
    Scooped ya! :)

  16. eric says: “Scooped ya!”

    No, you didn’t. Nya, nya, nyaaaaaaaaaa!

  17. scott marshall

    @GH: Corporations, unlike the government, have no power to confiscate money from your pocket and put it into someone else’s.

    If you can tell me whose pocket now contains the $975 (a month) Tufts Associated Health Plan, Inc. takes out of mine, i’ll go get it back then, as i get no benefit from it – due to the 1k deductible that appeared last year -

  18. scott marshall

    SC, i apologise – so off-topic i’m embarrassed.
    skm

  19. scott marshall says: “SC, i apologise …”

    That’s okay. You’ve experienced what amounts to a price increase. But in exchange, you’re getting insurance. It’s not the insurance company’s fault that the cost of medical care is going up — but that’s a whole separate subject that we’re not geared up for.

  20. retiredsciguy

    Gabriel Hanna writes,
    “At risk for for being chastized for being off-topic, my Truman “quote” is actually from the Simpsons…”

    Gee, I thought it was Joe Biden quoting Mark Twain in Twain’s famous television address to the American people.