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Forget Stereotypes About Rich Texan Oil Barons: Many Texas GOP Delegates Want Tesla To Have Free-Market Sales Rights

We’ve all chortled at the animated exploits of fictitious yet entertaining Senator “Shady Bird” Johnson (aka the “Rich Texan”) on The Simpsons, made jokes about ten-gallon hats, and probably at least once or twice, helped perpetuate the myth that Texas — outside of Austin at least — is full of ultra conservative types who made their fortune from oil, love their guns, hate liberals, and think global warming is bullpucky.

Those type of people — at least those fictional stereotypical Lone Star State Republicans — hate anything that takes money away from oil industry, including electric cars.

Is the Texas GOP Tesla's friend after all?

Is the Texas GOP Tesla’s friend after all?

Consequently, it’s easy for us who don’t know Texas very well to believe that Texas Republicans would be the last allies in Tesla Motors’ [NASDAQ:TSLA] fight to be allowed to sell direct to customers. After all, Texas and its overwhelming majority Republican legislature have, to date, put draconian measures in place designed to make it as difficult as possible for Texans to test-drive, buy, or maintain a Tesla electric car. As the second-largest U.S. car market (second only to California), that’s something of a problem for the young automaker, a problem which some argue is designed to keep the oil flowing and the climate change talk to a minimum.

Tesla had 90 percent support from the Texas GOP delegates

Yet as Autobloggreen reports, not all card-carrying Republicans at the recent Texas GOP Convention hate Tesla. Instead, thousands of attendees to this year’s state convention — which took place back May 12-14 in Dallas — have come out in support of Tesla’s fight to sell direct to customers. Indeed, of the 8,000 attendees at this year’s state convention, a massive 90 percent rejected proposals by Rep. Roger Williams and former Republican national committeeman Bill Crocker to change the Texas GOP party platform to eliminate language which actually supports direct-to-customer sales.

Sadly, party platform language is not the same as statute, but it’s a major score for the California automaker, which has been banned from selling direct to customers in Texas for the past three years.

Talking to Tesla’s lobbyists, many of whom were in attendance at the convention in question,  Autobloggreen reports that Tesla received overwhelming support from attendees, many of whom were unaware that their state legislature was currently preventing Tesla from selling direct to customers within state. You see, while Tesla does have a presence in the state of Texas (in the form of a few ‘Tesla Galleries” where customers can find out about electric cars in general, but not discuss ordering or buying a Tesla, and a few closed-door service centers) it can’t sell cars within the state. Instead, customers must order their car as if they lived in California, registering it first there before re-registering it in Texas as a previously-owned or already-owned state import.

“We spoke to thousands of delegates who were surprised that the Texas Legislature is standing in the way of free markets and open competition in our state,” said Tesla spokesman David White, in a statement to AutoblogGreen. “However, people across Texas are starting to weigh in on the issue of direct sales in a big way, and their support has been overwhelming.”

The law remains the same, but Tesla may be able to change that.

The law remains the same, but Tesla may be able to change that.

Of course, free market and open competition principles have been at the heart of the traditional (or fiscally Conservative) Republican movement for many years. Tesla’s aim — to challenge the market status quo with an innovative and unique product delivered in a fresh new way — is one that follows those ideas rather than fights against them.

But just as other political parties have shifted their policies and attitudes over the years, so too has the traditional fiscal conservatism of the GOP of decades ago been replaced (in many, but not all) places with social conservatism. The sort of social conservatism in which electric cars are not to be trusted, man made climate change is denounced as a myth, America is seen to be at war with anyone or anything which contradicts the status quo, those with money are those with power, and political agenda can be swayed for just the right amount of money.

Before we go any further we should point out that we’re not trying to get political. And we should point out in reference to our previous paragraph that certain Democrats, Independents and Republicans have all been bought in the past by those with an open checkbook. But with regards to the new wave of social conservatism at the heart of the GOP — as opposed to the fiscally conservative, socially liberal policies of long ago — it is, in a nutshell, the reason why legislators in many traditionally Republican states like Texas are so eager to prevent Tesla from selling direct to customers.

Does the support shown at the Texas GOP convention indicate a change of policy will be forthcoming? It’s unlikely for now — but it does show that attitudes toward Tesla are changing — and that the GOP is far more diverse than some would have you realize. Some even own Teslas. If you’re not one yourself, remember that before you make any sweeping generalizations.

And if you are? Well, the same is true for the other parties, too. Electric cars aren’t a partisan issue.


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  • Martin Lacey

    Perhaps the change has to start within the party political system!

  • William

    I think the division of ideologies suggested here is a little off, but it’s complicated, and I’m having trouble writing what I want to say on that point… perhaps I’ll come back to that.

    From a less ideological angle, Elon Musk is just the kind of flamboyant entrepreneur that draws admiration from a lot of Republicans, even though he’s an environmentalist, etc. — they felt similarly about Steve Jobs, for example. That could outweigh any sympathies the Republicans might otherwise tend to feel for the traditional rent-seeking car dealerships.

  • Dennis Pascual

    Bravo to the Texas GOP for supporting values that allow the Free Market to remain just that. Now, it’s time to carry that platform into Austin where the Texas Legislature can enact it into law.

  • Chris O

    The discrepancy between what conservative lawmakers do and what their convention stands for definitely indicates that the forced use of franchise dealers is about lobbying and corruption rather than representation.

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