Texas is the Future

From Alexander Cockburn:

The prospect of life under an administration populated with avaricious plutocrats, xenophobes, and religious fanatics may chill the blood of countless Americans, but Texans have been living in such conditions for decades. Pertinent examples abound, not least the unremitting legislative assaults on Texan women, the latest being a proposed rule requiring that fetal tissue from abortions or miscarriages be expensively interred or cremated. Add to that cash-starved public schools, cuts in services for disabled children, record-breaking numbers of uninsured, lack of compensation for injured workers, the wholesale gutting of environmental regulations, soaring inequality, hostility to immigrants, and multiple restrictions on voting rights. Texas may therefore serve as an example of what could be in store for the rest of us…

Once upon a time, of course, Texas was a one-party Democratic state. It produced and consistently reelected such political giants as Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn, not to mention Wright Patman, the twenty-four-term populist congressman who once enquired of Federal Reserve chairman Arthur Burns at a hearing: “Can you give me any reason why you should not be in the penitentiary?” But those days are long gone, along with the rural and working-class white Democrats who could be relied on to pull the lever for the ruling party. The last governor the Democrats managed to elect, in 1990, was Ann Richards, given to such feisty pronouncements as her reference to the elder George Bush being born “with a silver foot in his mouth.” Richards eked out a slim victory among a coalition that included white suburban voters — but lost her reelection bid to the younger George Bush in 1994, ushering in an age of darkness for Texas Democrats…

Ever since the era of Ann Richards, Democrats had been focusing their efforts (without success) on winning back white swing voters outside the big cities. But Zermeno realized that there was no reason “to beat our heads against the wall for that group of people anymore, not when we’ve got a million-voter gap and as many as four million non-voting people of color in the big cities, who are likely Democrats.”..

Potential voters were talked to “pretty much nonstop for about eight to ten weeks leading to the election,” according to Goldman. “They got their doors knocked three to five times. They got called five to seven times. They signed a postcard saying, ‘I pledge to vote.’ They circled which day they were going to vote on a little calendar on the postcard, and we mailed those postcards back to them. We offered them free rides to the polls. We answered all of their questions, gave them all the information they needed, until they cast a ballot. And what we saw was that the Latino vote grew by five percentage points in Harris County in 2012.”..

Harris County is by no means the only arena in which TOP and its allies scored convincingly in 2016. East Dallas County, a band of suburbs to the east and south of Dallas, comprises House District 107 in the state legislature. Despite a Latino and African-American majority, Republicans have been carrying the district for years, albeit with narrow margins. This time, however, thanks to an intense registration and organizing drive by TOP and other groups, including labor unions, Victoria Neave, the Democratic candidate, ousted her Republican opponent by 836 votes.

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