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Publisher’s Note: How to Save the GOP

To protect my party, I intend to vote against it—in two races.
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I am a Republican who has a very large sign for a Democrat in my front yard. Sarah Saldaña is a friend of mine, but I have lots of friends who are Democrats, and that doesn’t mean I vote for them. I am voting for Sarah not out of friendship, but out of principle. I am voting for her because she is a well-qualified, well-respected attorney running for judge on the Democratic ticket. I am voting for her and for fellow Democrat Patrick Strauss with the hope that other Republicans like me will help break the Republican lock on our county courthouse.

“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lord Acton’s axiom is so well-known and so universally accepted because it’s true. And its truth speaks to a philosophy that promotes checks and balances, federalism, and competition. In other words, it perfectly encapsulates why I am a Republican.

For three decades, Dallas Republicans argued relentlessly and persuasively that the Democratic one-party dominance of the courthouse was not only an open invitation to corruption, but also a system guaranteed to be secretive and sluggish. Only the competition of two parties, they argued, would produce responsive government that was open and above-board.

In 1984, Republicans swept all of the judgeship races in Dallas County. Perhaps to their own surprise, by achieving this total dominance they became the people they had campaigned against for so long.

That’s when the trouble began.

Anyone with the slightest knowledge of history could have predicted it. With the courthouse firmly under control, the local GOP fell into the kind of stupor and laziness that characterized the Democrats when they were the unchallenged monopoly. A sleazy lawyer—from Brooklyn, no less—hired the befuddled and ineffectual GOP chairman to be his “partner.” The partner’s job was to sit in the front row of the courtroom while judges ruled on motions by the lawyer. The message was clear, and most judges got it. Some timely notice from this magazine (I wrote about this bit of ham-handed theater in an article called “Odor at the Courthouse” in our September 1997 issue) may have helped dispel the stink by the simple act of fumigating it in public. I hope so.

To their credit, local Republicans quietly disposed of their hapless chairman as soon as the rules would allow. Under new leadership the party is awakening from its period of sloth and re-energizing itself at the grassroots.

My problem is, I’m not sure a re-energized Republican Party in Dallas is such a good thing. A change in people doesn’t change a principle, and Lord Acton’s admonition is more than a principle. It is an operating axiom of human conduct. As such, it is more than admonitory; it is predictive. It is telling us what will happen.

One-party government isn’t and never can be a good thing. That’s why “monopoly” is not a Republican word. That’s why the words “one-party system” are used for places like Cuba or Zambia. Competition is progressive. Monopoly is regressive. It’s as simple as that.

So to protect my party, I intend to vote against it in two races. Patrick Strauss and Sarah Saldaña are running against appointees, not elected judges. They are both well-known civic figures, as straight arrow as straight arrow can get. They will serve Dallas with distinction.

Help your local GOP. Vote Democratic in November.