Let’s jump right in…
Beto O’Rourke’s political action committee has raised nearly half a million dollars to support Texas Democrats’ escape to Washington, D.C., he said Tuesday night.
O’Rourke, a former El Paso congressman and possible 2022 candidate for governor, has been soliciting donations for the Democrats on Twitter since they fled to the nation’s capital on Monday. It’s the second time House Democrats have broken quorum in about six weeks to kill a controversial elections bill championed by Texas’ GOP leaders.
The PAC, Powered By People, has raised more than $430,000 so far, O’Rourke said.
“Up to them to use it for whatever keeps them in the fight for as long as it takes,” he said.
The 60 or so fugitive Democrats have repeatedly said that no taxpayer dollars are funding the expenses for their stay in Washington, which could last as long as Aug. 7, the end of the special session in Austin. Legislators have been using campaign funds and personal funds, they said.
State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, said he paid for the first night of hotel rooms and meeting spaces for the group on Monday.
The effort has garnered national attention, and some celebrities have joined the fundraising push. Texas icon Willie Nelson and his wife, Annie, matched $5,000 in donations on Tuesday.
The Trib also covered this topic. Greg Abbott has been out there claiming the Dems are using taxpayer funds for this journey, which is nonsense. As I said up front, of course this is going to be a fundraising opportunity for the Dems, partly because firing up the base is a key component and partly because they’re going to need it. It’s pretty simple.
The dramatic exodus of Democratic Texas lawmakers to block a Republican voting bill has choked the political airways in a haze of confusion, posturing and finger-pointing.
But beneath the smoke, a fire rages.
Many Democrats, especially those who are people of color, are incensed, seeing the latest Republican voting bill as another moment of crisis in a state they believe has long marginalized people like them in the halls of power.
Many Republicans, passions stoked by unsubstantiated claims of widespread voting fraud, see their hold on political power slipping away, and are clamoring for a firewall.
The struggle over voting rights in Texas goes beyond the legislative theatrics of the moment. It is fundamentally a clash not just of elected officials, but of the two constituencies they represent. It is a fight over whose voices will be heard that began long before the Democrats shut down the Texas Legislature, and the stakes are not trivial.
The two days preceding the Democratic flight offered a microcosm of the standoff.
In the lead up to their quorum break, Democrats appeared frustrated at Republicans’ lack of consideration for the fallout voters of color could face from their proposals. Throughout the legislative debates, they’ve repeatedly pressed GOP bill authors on whether they’ve sought disparate impact studies to assess if their new voting rules would disproportionately harm voters of color. (Republicans have consistently responded they have not.)
But Democrats’ retort since fleeing the state — that their actions are an extreme but necessary effort at safeguarding their own communities from the Republicans in charge of the state — have underlined the reason behind their destination.
Conceding they don’t have the sufficient numbers to block the Texas legislation indefinitely, they have thrust their fight onto the national stage in hopes of helping increase pressure on Congress to pass federal legislation to restore sweeping protections for voters of color.
“Texas’ generations-long pattern of discrimination is not in the past; it is alive and present today in the anti-voter bills before the Texas State Legislature,” state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, said in a statement about the quorum break. “This is part of a calculated and deliberate Republican plan to chip away at the freedom to vote and to choose our leaders.”
Their remarks echoed the series of federal court rulings in recent years that found state lawmakers have repeatedly and intentionally discriminated against voters of color, often by diluting the power of their votes in selecting their representatives.
The high-stakes fight in Congress centers on a pair of federal bills, including one that could place Texas, and other states with a history of discrimination against voters of color, back under federal supervision of its election laws and redistricting.
For decades, that oversight — known as preclearance — proved to be a powerful mechanism for keeping Texas laws and political maps from going into effect until the Department of Justice or a federal court ensured they wouldn’t undermine the voting rights of people of color.
Before it was wiped out by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013, preclearance forestalled the adoption of the state’s 2011 redistricting maps before they were revised by the federal courts. It also kept Texas from immediately implementing its stringent voter ID law, which was eventually slightly rewritten as a result of the legal intervention over the way it targeted Hispanic and Black voters who were less likely to have the one of the IDs that were not required to cast a ballot.
Texas Democrats have been able to easily align their efforts with calls for the restoration of those protections because they would wholly benefit the voters of color that are in the majority in most of their districts. Republicans’ political base is more likely to be made up of older, white Texans, while Democrats rely on a more diverse electorate with huge vote counts coming in from the state’s urban metros.
A lot of this is going to be about attention and headlines and winning hearts and minds and news cycles, but at the core there’s a serious policy issue, and Dems are giving it the level of commitment they believe it deserves. I hope that’s one of the messages that gets through to lower-information voters.
In a press conference on Tuesday highlighting Texas Republicans latest push on voter suppression bills, Black faith leaders from across the state asked Gov. Greg Abbott for a meeting to discuss voting legislation.
In addition to the meeting, leaders also asked constituents to participate in the Push Democracy Forward and the Austin Justice Coalition Prayer and Justice March on Voter Suppression at the steps of the Austin Capitol on July 15.
According to Dixon, buses will be provided in cities across the state for constituents who want to participate in the march.
“Texas is headed toward a dangerous tipping point,” Bishop James Dixon, President of the Houston chapter of the NAACP said. “We are indeed a state and a nation in crisis.”
The Black clergy said they are hoping to provide spiritual and moral leadership in the community regarding voting rights.
“We intend to make it clear that this issue is more than political,” Dixon said. “People are being misunderstood and the truth is being misrepresented.”
Dixon also said the Black clergy will be sending an open letter to non-Black clergy colleagues to meet and stand in solidarity.
“We all read from the same Bible thus we should be able to stand together for justice,” Dixon said.
Furthermore, Rev. Frederick D. Haynes III said Austin is the new Selma.
“We’re coming to Austin to say Texas, America, you must be born again,” Haynes said. “Voter suppression and democratic subversion taking place in Texas is a result of an addiction to the big lie and it’s connectected to the terrorist sedition of Jan. 6.”
Not much you can say to that except “Amen”.
Texas Democrats made national news this week when they once again denied a quorum in the state legislature, preventing the Texas House from conducting business and thus preventing the passage of an egregious voter suppression bill.
So what happens next? Democrats have some options here.
1. LOBBYING TO PASS FEDERAL VOTING RIGHTS LEGISLATION
In flying to D.C. to break quorum, Democrats are continuing their work in a different forum. Their presence expresses urgency to President Biden, Senator Schumer, and Speaker Pelosi to use their majorities to pass federal voting rights legislation.
This is bigger than just Texas, because what we’re seeing in the Lone Star State is what we also saw in state legislative chambers around the country – Donald Trump’s claim that he lost the election due to unsubstantiated voter fraud, also known as “The Big Lie,” has become the basis for voter suppression laws around the country.
Things like limiting the number of polling places in cities but not in rural areas, limiting access to vote by mail, limiting voting hours, criminalizing clerical errors on voter registration cards, allowing judges to overturn elections simply based on claims and not evidence, and empowering partisan poll watchers to interfere with balloting are some of the more egregious efforts in these bills.
Democrats must use their national leverage to protect our free and fair elections, and neither Donald Trump nor state legislatures should be allowed to stifle those elections.
Door #2 is “Keep delaying the special session”, perhaps until the Supreme Court settles the legislative funding veto; Door #3 is “Republicans can negotiate”; and Door #4 is “Democrats return, nothing changes”. We don’t want to open Door #4.
That’s all for today. Tune in tomorrow when I may do another one of these.