September 21, 2003
Blogburst index

Today a group of progressive Texas bloggers are all posting on the subject "What Texas Democrats Should Do Next". The following is a link to everyone's post for today's blogburst, which will be updated through the day as they come in. Please take the time to visit these links and see what a diverse group of people think needs to be done to make the Democrats more effective in Texas.

Stephen Bates says to tend to the base and stay on top of the media.

David Remer says that rural Texans hold the key to a return to power.

Jack Cluth says "The best time to recognize that you've been dealt a bad hand is before you've lost your shirt."

Ginger Stampley says to quit worrying so much about rearguard actions.

Jeremy Hart says to focus on the practical stuff and get a better PR team.

Bill Howell says stand up for something positive, and get involved in the race for state party chair.

Byron LaMasters talks about redistricting, the state party chair, and a plan for the Legislature.

Mark Norris says to use the unity created by the redistricting mess to tap into younger voters.

Jaye Ramsey Sutter says stop whining and fight back.

Greg Wythe says we've got bigger problems than redistricting.

Kerry Lutz says to get mad and get busy.

Hope Morrison says to figure out why it is that so many people don't vote.

Mike Thomas says to keep alive the "spark of life" that the party has shown this year.

Jim D. says to join "The Battle for the Soul of the Suburbs".

Adam Pressler takes a more national look and addresses health care.

Liz suggests that now is the time for a moderate Democrat to win the Presidency.

My own four-point plan.

(Note: I'm going to keep this post at the top of the main page for the time being.)

UPDATE: Response so far has been fantastic. I've got a long list of bloggers who've linked to this post to thank for the publicity they've given, and I especially want to thank everyone who contributed a post towards this effort. Please take the time to read what they've written.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 21, 2003 to Show Business for Ugly People | TrackBack

Heck, there's always Molly Ivins, our National Treasure.

It's also wise to note Karl Rove couldn't do it all. He needed the grand help of Texas incompetencies. Including Anne Richards, one drink too many, and her fall from grace.

When you lose in politics, by definition, it means the other horses can race ahead to find positions.

Now, if Texas does have a history to note, it is one where they lived and breathed the Southerner's propensity for Romance, but new to the United States, they didn't waiver. They didn't throw in their towel with the "seceders" ... And, with luck, Texans, and their oversized oil egoes, may join the human race, again. Or, maybe not.

The worst is that in a large State like Texas where bad men and country clubs coexist, reality may only enjoy a small nook in the corner?

Well, the dust never settled well around LBJ.

What happens if the dust doesn't settle so well around the Yale hound from Crawford, in the future, here abouts?

DeLay knows how to operate machinery built for NOW. Like LBJ. The record's not all that pretty when you come back an analyze what gets hoisted when you throw your pedard, and no walls actually come tumbling down?

Besides, in Texas politics, don't the rich buy the fools on both sides of the fence? You expected anything different from the Texas Legislature? How come? Don't you read Ivins?

No one can predict the future. This stuff happens and gets recorded. Leave it to the kids, later, to laugh.

Posted by: Carol in California on September 21, 2003 7:21 PM

Maybe, I should add that Karl Rove had a roll out planned for 50 States. Well? What happens to those people who bet early only to find their favorites scratched even before the race starts? Is that a waste of money, or what?

Posted by: Carol in California on September 21, 2003 7:23 PM

We need to get out and work in the campaign offices at the local level and take to the residential streets and get our democratic friends to vote.

Posted by: MIke on September 21, 2003 8:15 PM

I hope you fellow Democrats won't mind a comment from a non-Texan (well, wait: half my family is from Texas, so I'm not entirely alien). Out here on the west coast we've followed the situation in the Lone Star State with a mixture of astonishment and fear. It worries us all: Is this the sort of vicious thuggery the G.O.P. has in mind to inflict on ALL of the nation?

And how best to respond? I'm not a blogger, so I wasn't invited to the Blogburst -- nevermind the non-Texan part of it -- but I have a story that might be illuminating. In 1992, I worked in the Clinton Campaign in San Francisco, where I was a fairly useless flunky. Anyhow, one day they hauled all of us over to Oakland, to a big union hall, to listen to some guys from the National Democratic Party who'd been sent in to help reverse the pro-Republican trend that had seized California in the 1970s and '80s.

The first thing they mentioned was that the demographics were in our favor, and they were certainly counting on those.

The second thing they did was outline the history. They looked at how many counties in the state had voted Democratic in the presidential election years of 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984 and 1988. The trend was pretty ugly. The nadir came in 1984, if I recall correctly, when only Santa Cruz and Yolo Counties (small and dominated by liberal UC campuses) went Democratic. After the '84 election, the Democratic Party got serious about the matter: they broke the whole state down, and figured out EXACTLY how many people they had to register in each and every precinct in every county to reverse what was happening.

It worked like a charm. In '88, we took quite a few more counties, and in many of them the focused voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts clearly made the difference. And, of course, it worked in 1992 for Clinton.

At the time, I thought, "If I were a George Soros, I'd finance teams like this for every major state in the nation." This is TRULY what soft-money contributions were meant for. And I specifically thought of Texas. I later wrote some direct mail for the Anne Richards Campaign, and was profoundly disappointed by her defeat in '94. But I saw even then that Texas seemed to lack the kind of focused effort that had gone into California.

This is kind of nuts-and-bolts stuff, you know. It's nice when you have strong unions, since they often shoulder such work. (I know, for example, some folks who grew up in Chicago, and they've told me how when they were kids EVERY block had a Democratic Block Captain -- organized by the unions -- and those folks took their volunteer work quite seriously. Nevermind voting the bodies in cemetaries, they could turn out real, live voters like nobody's business!)

Well, you don't have strong unions much anymore, and surely not in Texas. But fundamentals are fundamentals. If the demographics are going your way, you COULD just sit and wait for it. But the benefits will accrue a lot faster if Democrats get serious about going out and doing the hard, tough slog door-to-door and person-to-person. Starting by doing what they did in California: figuring out EXACTLY how many voters they need to register in every major county, then setting goals and working like hell to reach them.

I'd add one other thing, a theme I've been repeating elsewhere a lot. For three decades, conservatives (and the GOP) have been SELLING and TEACHING conservatism. Not just immediate promises, though they do a lot of that (and lie about a lot of that) all the time also. But, they actually proselytize their worldview.

Liberals and Democrats, insofar as I can tell, do not ... and haven't for years and years. We just sort of expect people to join us based on the "obvious reasonableness" of our views or something. The osmosis theory of political education, I guess.

Sure, we argue with conservatives, and we preach to ourselves, but we almost NEVER try to explain to anyone beyond our own small circles just what it is we believe at the most fundamental of levels.

Texas Democrats might do well to consider this. Why should we have to depend on "changing demographics" to save our asses? Why should we have to "shift to the right" in order to stay even vaguely competitive? Why the devil are we conceding white males and older couples to the GOP? Maybe they ARE gone beyond reclaiming, but we should sure the hell be doing our best to educate the next generation about WHY liberalism is actually BETTER than conservatism!

This, too, is a fundamental ... no less important than registering voters and getting them to the polls on election day.

-- Roger

Posted by: Marsman on September 21, 2003 8:22 PM

Texas Dems should appeal (again) to Bush and let him demonstrate his bipartisanship he was so proud of during his 2000 campaign.

Texans didn't vote for Rick Perry and John Cornyn, they voted for who George Bush told them to vote for. I don't know a Republican who can compare John Cornyn and Ron Kirk, Kirk was by far the better moderate candidate representing Texas values, clearly swing voters went along with their former chief exec and his endorsements.

As the 2004 election gets closer and the Clark and Dean effect is raising the temperature at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., perhaps the President is the right person to have Tom Delay call off his "Recall of Congressional Districting."

While it hasn't effectively stuck yet in the minds of voters, the Republican trend of Clinton Impeachment, Florida Recount and California Recall will not help GWB's image as a bipartisan leader above the fray of party politics.

He is the leader of his party, the American public should hold him accountable for his party's actions.

Posted by: Mike on September 21, 2003 10:52 PM

Why don't any of the news articles about this issue ever mention that during the 1st special session, the Democrats stayed around and the redistricting still didn't pass?

They make it sound like the Democrats have always hightailed it out of town to stop the redistricting, but that's simply not true. In the 1st special session the redistricting lost fair-and-square, but the news never tells that part of it.

I think if the general public knew that the GOP already lost this one but are just going to hammer away and change the voting rules until they win, then they'd feel less like the Democrats are just running away.

Posted by: Anon on September 22, 2003 1:01 AM

Personally, I think that this episode may give the Dems a chance to be much more strongly associated with the Latino community in Texas. After all, I believe 9 or 10 of the Texas 11 were Latino. This could open the door for a major move of the Latino vote to the Dems, as happened in California after the Republicans fought for the anti-immigrant measures in 1994. The Texas Dems should try to work the message that the Repubs want to keep power away from the Latino community.

Posted by: Kash on September 22, 2003 8:07 AM

Kash - The Texas 11 break down as follows:

Anglo: John Whitmire, Eliot Shapleigh

African-American: Royce West, Rodney Ellis

Hispanic: Leticia Van de Putte, Judith Zaffirini, Frank Madla, Mario Gallegos, Gonzalo Barrientos, Juan Hinojosa, Eddie Lucio.

It's my belief that recent actions, including the temporary denial of funds to the American GI Forum, will serve to make the GOP less attractive to Hispanic voters. Can't say right now how big an effect that will be, though.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on September 22, 2003 8:28 AM

Sorry I crapped out on adding to the discussion, Charles (Austin City Limits festival), but you've managed a great list of people. I hope to check it out later in the day.

My brief contribution: if Prop 12 is any indication, it's all about getting the voters out. As many as possible. And not with some pseudo-Republican (Tony Sanchez) candidate at the top of the bill.

Posted by: Norbizness on September 22, 2003 8:47 AM

I must've missed the memo, but I suppose that in all fairness now that I'm in DC I'm only a Texan in spirit (and by absentee ballot). Great work, and my suggestion would be that Democrats would do well to continue taking the high ground and let the Republicans rake the muck on themselves. We don't need more elections with the tone of the Perry/Sanchez race.

Posted by: Kriston Capps on September 22, 2003 11:37 AM

Kriston - I did only send an invitation to this to progressive bloggers who are currently living in Texas that I knew of at the beginning of this month. That did unfortunately exclude a couple of people whom I found out about more recently than that, by which time things were in full swing, and it did exlcude expats such as yourself.

That said, now that I know of your provenance, I've added you to the Expats section of my Texas Political Bloggers list. Thanks!

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on September 22, 2003 11:49 AM

charles, i crapped out as well due to illness. i'll be (most likely) the last poster when i update later tonight.

everyone did a great job - i've enjoyed reading every single post. and kudos to you for a great idea.

Posted by: anna on September 22, 2003 2:17 PM

I linked to this post, but for some reason it isn't showing up in your trackback.

Posted by: hope on September 22, 2003 2:29 PM

Anna - No problem. I look forward to receiving your entry hen it's ready. Hope you're feeling better.

Hope - Don't know why the trackback missed. Your linkback shows up in Technorati and the like, for what it's worth.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on September 22, 2003 3:43 PM

We just blogged about this on the Rocky Mountain Progressive Network's website, As relevant for Colorado as Texas.

Thanks for doing this.

Posted by: JB on September 22, 2003 6:49 PM

Just got informed of this blog. For what it is worth, the Democratic party will not take back a significant share of power in this state or country until we show the middle class that we care about some of the same things they do. The GOP has made us look like the only things we are interested in is higher taxes, weakening the social fabric, and turning our national defense over to the UN. That is killing us. We need to counter that by letting people know that we are interested in prosperity, stable families, and in supporting our troops in uniform.
We also need to concentrate on showing the public just how crooked the GOP actually is by digging out the blatant pandering to the moneyed interests and the cronyism that pervades Washington these days. Dick Cheney may dismiss accusations that he didn't steer the Iraq reconstruction contract to Halliburton, but I don't believe him and I don't think the average American will either, once they see the facts. We also need to keep the door open to those Republicans in the legislature who are honest and willing to work with us (yes, there are a few). Showing up the current House leadership as the partisan b*****ds that they are is working and we need to keep that up.

Posted by: Tom Nystel on September 23, 2003 11:27 AM

Whether it's through the apparent high road or getting down and dirty, Texas Democrats have to play hardball with the GOP. And, perhaps, with defectors like John Whitmire.
I don't get the guy. He's seen Rick Perry and Tom Craddick in action. For that matter, since he represents Houston, he's more than familiar with Tom DeLay. He had to know the GOP would play hardball when Dewhurst first vacated the 2/3 quorum requirement for the Texas Senate.
"In for a penny, in for a pound," the saying goes. Whitmire should never have left the state in the first place if he wasn't committed to stay the pace.

Posted by: Steve Snyder on September 23, 2003 12:02 PM

concentrate on drug reform for econimic value

Posted by: matthew Eppers on September 27, 2003 1:30 PM