The worst job in the state must be head of the Texas Democratic Party. Some poor soul has that job, and it speaks volumes that almost no one knows who he or she is, where that person lives, works, votes and plays Lotto. But let us say that you got the slot. (Your politics aside, the position pays well and you need the money.)
Your first task is to determine whatever happened to the Texas Democratic Party, which controlled the Lone Star State longer than the PRI ran Mexico or the Communist Party governed the Soviet Union. How did the mighty, monopolistic Texas Democrats fall so low, with prospects akin to purveyors of Esperanto and the metric system? How did the party of Sam Rayburn, Lyndon B. Johnson, Lloyd Bentsen and an overwhelming number of Texas voters become the underdogs, fighting for a place at the table and dismally settling for scraps?
To change that situation, as head of the Texas Dems (we’ll shorten the Texas Democratic Party) you’ve got to figure out how to win votes while dealing with immigration, guns, abortion, UT refusing to play A&M and voter DNA. Are Latinos the key? How can you ever get them to vote? If Perry runs for President, can we afford his bodyguards? Who is Gilberto Hinojosa? I know we’re doing away with Saturday mail delivery, but why isn’t Travis’s letter from the Alamo on exhibit all the time? Can’t we open our beaches to everyone but members of the Texas Supreme Court?
Next, let’s look at the political battleground, strewn with the corpses of Dem candidates. The ballots are more like the Tomb of the Unknown Lambs to Slaughter. Name one. How Republican is Texas? In 1976, Jimmy Carter became the last Democratic presidential candidate to carry Texas. Mitt Romney won the state by 17 percentage points, a 2-point improvement from John McCain’s 2008 effort. The GOP now holds 3,192 elected posts across Texas, up from about 2,400 four years ago. Texas Republicans own both of our U.S. Senate seats and twice as many U.S. House seats as the Dems – 24 to 12. Republicans hold every single elected state-wide office, and it’s been that way since – get this – 1993. In the Legislature, the GOP holds 95 House seats, leaving the Dems with 55. Across the Rotunda in the Texas Senate, it’s 19 elephants and 12 donkeys.
The odd thing is the Texas Republican Party is quite vulnerable, currently controlled by nothing but a small, vocal and well-heeled extremist group that has hijacked the party from those Republicans who want a decent and thoughtful political organization to support. Look who they have in their ranks: Rick Perry, our governor for life. He opposes gub-ment interference in our lives, like a law against texting while driving through elementary school zones, pollution controls and rapid-fire guns designed for the military. But he supports the state controlling women’s reproductive systems and how gays can live their lives. Some would call that hypocritical. I call it smart politics.
Our newest U.S. senator, Republican Ted Cruz, has taken only a couple to weeks to alienate his 99 colleagues, and he will be there for six more years, making sure Texas is ignored. This is the party that labeled Kay Bailey Hutchison and David Dewhurst “too liberal.” It’s the party of U.S. Rep David Stockman who suggested that the Clinton Administration staged the 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco to convince Congress that it should ban assault weapons. All of this and more led the left-wing Daily Kos to observe, “At some point we’re going to have to consider Texas a failed state.”
Can’t the Dems beat them? No, because the Texas donkey is led by a bunch of incompetent nobodies. Will Rogers must have been thinking of Texas when he made his oft-quoted observation, “I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat.” Can you imagine LBJ letting a sleaze like Tom DeLay come down from Washington – he wasn’t even a state lawmaker – and gerrymander Texas like a pizza cut with a chainsaw? Everyone knows Sam Rayburn was speaker of the U.S. House but don’t know that first he was speaker of the Texas House. Mister Sam would have tolerated the current House members’ shenanigans about one nanosecond.
How often have we heard, from every Texas politician from John Connally to Phil Gramm to Rick Perry, “I didn’t leave the party, the party left me.”? The Lone Star State was once, shall we say, non-Republican. If money is the mother’s milk of politics, Texas is a wet nurse. Candidates from both parties and from all over America come here to raise money to be spent on campaigns in Oregon or Ohio. Texas is the ATM for the elephant and the donkey. But almost no funds are sent here from out of state because Texas is so red it has scarlet corpuscles.
The Dems hope all of this will change with yet another stab at winning, or at least gaining respectability. Battleground Texas is coming to a moribund precinct near you. It is the latest effort to turn Texas into a blue state. Apparently having given up on local talent, some of President Obama’s top former staffers are arriving “to focus on grassroots mobilization that will make Texas a state that counts in local, state and national elections.” Good luck.
Here is my final analysis, which you will find irrefutable: The Texas Republican Party didn’t skillfully hijack Texas with Karl Rove leading the way. Rather, the Texas Dems, totally clueless, became guided by total incompetents. As for the rest of us, take your pick: tone-deaf GOPers who spend more time on abortions than on education, with priorities far removed from those of most Texans, or Larry, Moe and Curly wondering why they keep losing. Oh, who is Gilberto Hinojosa? He’s head of the Texas Democratic Party. Party on, Gilbo.
Ashby writes in at email@example.com