Tuesday, October 21, 2014

That's right, you're not from Texas....

If you were from here, you'd understand....

So a guest on the Diane Rehm show tells me Wendy Davis has been a "disastrous" candidate because she's so "out of step" with the Texas electorate.  Her failure means not one Democrat will win statewide office this November, he says.


If there are any Democrats left in state wide offices in Texas, it's a fluke.  And that isn't because Democrats haven't fielded a better gubernatorial candidate than Wendy Davis.  In fact, Wendy Davis may be the best gubernatorial candidate the Democrats have fielded since Ann Richards, and Richards only won because she was fortunate in her opponent.  I remember the gubernatorial candidates before Texas became a "red" state; they were nondescript to the point of non-existent.

If Wendy Davis hasn't shown the ability to win the race, it's because, as the guest put it, she's ideologically out of step with the majority of voters; it isn't because she can't campaign.  And her loss will not lead to the loss of other Democrats.  No Democratic candidate in this state has any coattails, not even the POTUS.  Republican candidates don't even have coattails; they only have the right party designation.

Texas is still deeply conservative politically, a persistence with perplexes me if only because the population of Texas has exploded in my lifetime, and most of that growth comes from newcomers, non-natives, if you will.  And by "non-native" I mean non-native Texan.  I have a coffee mug from the 80's, when the first big influx of "immigrants" came to the state from elsewhere in the country.  It reads "Native Texan," and more than one person who saw me with it when it was new said "Yeah, not too many of those around."  But that huge shift in population didn't mark any kind of shift in politics; and it still hasn't.  Voter turnout is still low, and adherence to the "right" party is still so strong a Democrat in a state-wide race doesn't get a fair hearing and is called "out of step" with the voters simply because of party label.

Which is the way it was when I was a kid, and Texas was a solidly Democratic state.

Is Texas going to turn blue anytime soon?  Nah.  The proles are not going to rise up and shake Big Brother off their back, and poor whites and Hispanics, who should both vote and know better when they bother to vote, aren't going to re-light the fires of Texas populism (whose enduring legacy is the wreck of a state Constitution we are burdened with) anytime soon.

But we can't blame our failures on our candidates:  we can't simultaneously expect them to be Tweedledum to the GOP's Tweedledee, and at the same time be different enough to inspire younger votes and minority voters to actually vote for a government that responds to them.*

If Davis wins, it will be because she motivated people to vote on a personal level, through an effective GOTV effort.  If she doesn't, she's still mounted a more effective effort to reach voters personally than I've ever seen in Texas Democratic party politics.  If that effort doesn't force a sea change in Texas in one election, that's not reason enough to abandon it now and forever.  After all, Democrats aren't going to win races in Texas by being more conservative than the GOP.  Gotta give all those non-voters a better reason to vote than that.

*and if the current Texas voter ID law, which prevents hundreds of thousands of Texans from voting, but allows voting by mail, a GOP preference, to occur with no ID check at all, is "in-step" with the majority of Texas voters, I'd prefer a candidate who stays out of step, thank you.  It's not like the Governor can repeal that law, after all.


  1. a persistence with perplexes me if only because the population of Texas has exploded in my lifetime, and most of that growth comes from newcomers, non-natives, if you will

    FWIW, I imagine that people generally move to a new place (assuming they have a choice of where to set up their residence and all other things involved in making that choice are equal) if they figure they will fit in there. I would imagine that the average politics of someone who is politically aware and moving to Texas from say NJ are more conservative than the average person who stays in NJ.

    And for economic migrants who may very well be more likely to vote for a Democrat, how many of them are going to be able to take the time out from their struggle to earn their daily bread on election day to actually vote? And, as you point out, certainly a choice between Tweedledee and Tweedledum is not gonna motivate them.

  2. Texas made it easier to vote (voting started yesterday, available about 12 hours a day for almost 2 weeks, at a location close to you, not your "polling place," which may not be convenient on voting day), and then harder.

    What we haven't done is motivate people to vote.

    The culture thing is a mystery to me. Sure, people come here by choice; but so many came (and still do) for jobs, not for the comforts. You want attractions, you go to Colorado, or Silicon Valley. Then again, most of the work here is blue-collar. We have the highest (or one of 'em) percentage of minimum wage jobs in the country. Those people don't tend to vote for limousine liberals, but they could at least be populists.

    In another age, I guess.

    Most of it is a complete lack of political awareness, which leads to a complete disinterest in who is running, which leads to the complacency of "If he/she is in the right party, I'm for 'em!", which is how Texas has voted pretty much since Reconstruction.

    What fascinates me is that, especially with the dramatic change in population/place of origin, that "tradition" persists. And I don't see it changing anytime soon.