By Billy Preston
Politico reports on a new Obama-led, top-down effort to build a “grassroots” effort to turn red Texas blue. The effort will be built around some of the usual suspects, including shadow party honcho Matt Angle, and some new ones astroturfed by Obama’s personal political force, Organizing for Action.
Republicans in the state should and will take the new effort seriously, for three reasons: It will be well-financed, and some of its top officers will have learned quite a bit from losing so many races, so consistently, for so long. No Democrat has won a statewide race here since 1990. The third reason is the most significant: As Texas grows, more blue-state refugees move here and the state’s demographics are changing rapidly. So far those demographics have not changed the state’s voting patterns. It’s redder today than it was 10 years ago, with more Republicans elected to local and higher offices overall than ever before. The Democrats failed to mount a serious challenge for the open Senate seat last year, a sign that if anything that party’s atrophy has not been remedied.
Democrats involved in the turn-Texas-blue effort have, at last, begun to admit that their racist strategies have not paid off for them.
Democratic Houston Mayor Annise Parker said her party couldn’t afford to wait passively for population change to turn Texas blue. Instead, they should dig in for a longer, harder campaign to make it a swing state.“We have been waiting in Texas for a very long time for the Latino vote to come into its own and turn the tide. But many of us have decided that we can’t wait for that. We have to do the old-fashioned work of going out and talking to Texans,” said Parker, who didn’t rule out a statewide campaign “when I am done [being] mayor.”
This has been the Democrats’ problem for a generation. They refuse to admit that the state’s conservative, small-government policies have helped Texas become the economic powerhouse that it is. They refuse to acknowledge that they lose because their values are wildly out of step with the majority of the state. They refuse to acknowledge that their policies would be as bad for Texas as they have been for California. They run on race and gender, not issues, and when they lose, they blame the majority of Texas who vote against them, not themselves.
And they refuse to learn. Take their approach to last year’s open Senate seat.
The party fielded a strong candidate for governor in 2010, former Houston Mayor Bill White, only to see him lose by 13 points to incumbent Gov. Rick Perry. Two years later, Democrats recruited retired Gen. Ricardo Sanchez into the open-seat Senate race, presenting him as a candidate who could appeal to conservative voters and energize Latinos. Sanchez withdrew several months later after raising a paltry sum for the race.
Sanchez flopped, and Texas Republicans nominated Ted Cruz, who went on to win and is already a massive star after just a few weeks in Washington. Sanchez would never have resonated with the state’s majority. It has nothing to do with his skin color or name (obviously, as Cruz won the seat) but because of his role in the Abu Ghraib scandal and because Democrats wanted to run him solely based on his skin color and his Hispanic name.
Some Democrats admit that race and gender are what they have tended to focus on, not qualifications or issues.
“We do need to have a good team, and we do need to have a good ticket. We’ve had too many go-it-alone candidacies that just weren’t able to do it on their own,” [Democrat consultant Ed Espinoza] said. “Coordination should focus on things like who can raise money, who can build structure and who can build votes. Too often we say, ‘Well, this person’s brown, so they can win brown votes, and this person’s a woman, so she can win women’s votes.’”