Politics Magazine

Is There A Glimmer Of Hope For Texas Democrats ?

Posted on the 12 September 2015 by Jobsanger
Is There A Glimmer Of Hope For Texas Democrats ? (I found this graphic on Texas politics at the excellent Texas blog Eye On Williamson.)
It would be an understatement to say that the Texas Democratic Party is in pitiful shape. They haven't won a single statewide elected office since the election of Governor Ann Richards -- well over 20 years ago. And they lost the last gubernatorial election by more than 20 points.
Erica Grieder, at Burkablog in The Texas Monthly, believes that too many Democrats in the state are just embracing victimhood -- and no longer believe they have a chance to win statewide. I think she is right. I met too many of my fellow Democrats who have already given up on the 2016 election, and are ceding it to whoever the GOP nominee happens to be.
And it will be that way as long as we are comfortable with being victims (of GOP malfeasance) rather than people who have a vision for the state that is different from the failed policies of the Republicans (running as a milder version of the GOP instead of embracing and running on true progressive principles). A demographic change is happening in the state (with Hispanics becoming an ever larger percentage of the population), and some Democrats see that as the only hope for changing the political landscape of Texas.
While the demographics are changing, we cannot afford to wait for that to fix the problem -- or we will be a red state for another few decades.  That is unacceptable. We need to step forward and offer a real choice to Texas voters.
Grinder sees a glimmer of hope for Texas Democrats in the near future, and I agree with her (even though I think too much emphasis is put on the problems the GOP is bringing among itself). Here is a part of her post about this hope for Democrats:
I can point to at least three developments this year that are potentially advantageous, at least for those among them (Democrats) who do, in fact, want to compete. The first is that, in my subjective assessment, Texas Democrats as a group are less helpless than they were a year ago. I’m going a little bit out on a limb with this, because they seemed pretty punchy last year, with a high-profile gubernatorial candidate in Wendy Davis and support from national Democrats in the form of Battleground Texas, plus the ongoing demographic trends that are widely considered auspicious for the left. Then, as mentioned, they proceeded to lose the general elections by a huge margin. The sheer ignominy of that defeat, however, may have had a salutary silver lining, precisely because Democrats couldn’t disavow all responsibility this time. The subsequent finger-pointing has risks of its own, but at least Democrats are talking about what they might do differently next time, as opposed to sighing over what will be done to them by the Republican hegemon. The second and third developments are related to the Texas GOP, which continues to be divided between those who want to destroy their party and those who are powerless to stop the destruction. One result of the infighting is that, on the issues, Democrats increasingly seem like the more mainstream party. The Texas electorate, writ large, hasn’t lurched to the right along with the Republican Party; I continue to think that Joe Straus is the best barometer we have for the median Texan voter, and as Speaker of the House, he’s the only major official elected in a purple district, so to speak. Texas Democrats, meanwhile, are still Democrats: more conservative than their national counterparts, but nonetheless left of center in this particular state. Still, when it comes to questions such as whether Texas should fund public education, or have any regulations on handguns, or make itself a national laughingstock with fruitless efforts to preempt imminent Supreme Court rulings about gay marriage, a reasonable adult conservative may well agree with Texas’s center-left Democrats than with the extreme right-wing fringe. Nonetheless, the cuckoo-bananas crowd continues to champion its version of events, and to devote its energies to marginal issues and purity tests. As a result, Texas Democrats have an opportunity to commandeer all the priorities—jobs, economic development, roads, public education, higher education—that Republicans have successfully campaigned on in the past and are currently, more often than not, ignoring. The third auspicious development is that plenty of Texas Republicans are painfully aware of the need for damage control. Earlier today, while out for lunch, I was introduced to a conservative political operative, who took me aside and quietly confided that he’s worried about the party, and doesn’t understand why so few Republicans are acting reasonable in public. I’ve lost track of how many times conservatives have taken me aside to quietly confide that in the past year. During this year’s session, it was clear that Republican legislators took a similar view of things, and saw Democrats as necessary partners in a coalition contra the forces of nonsense, as embodied by the tea party scorecard voters. Regardless of what happens in the 2016 elections, Democrats can safely bet that Republicans will have reason to revive that coalition in the 2017 session. That should give them some leverage to make progress on their own policy priorities—assuming, of course, that Texas Democrats can conceive of themselves as people who occasionally win.

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