Electing Democrats Is The Only Way To Moderate The Texas GOP

Several recent articles point out the power of the extreme right wing in Texas, while highlighting the futility of everyone else.  Patricia Kilday Hart at the HChron broke it down this way, GOP primary voters rule Texas simply by showing up.

With only 1.4 million voters participating in the GOP primary, that means as few as half the participants – some roughly 700,000 voters – have selected all statewide officials serving Texas’ 26 million residents in recent years.

“It is a tiny fraction of the population who sets the agenda,” says Steve Munisteri, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. “It is amazing how much influence you can have if you get involved in politics.”

While it’s extremely troubling for Texas that a measly 700K wing nuts decide our fate, there’s an even more troubling part for Democrats.

Democrats also have to show up on the ballot: This year, no Democrat has filed for election to a county government position in 86 of Texas’ 254 counties. In 168 Texas counties, no Democrat is running for the office of county judge.

Hence the importance of the Republican Primary voter. While 6 million to 8 million Texans vote in November elections, Republicans have dominated that contest for two decades. Put bluntly, the only real competition in Texas politics occurs in the Republican Primary.

“How many Texans really understand how many elections are determined in the primaries?” asked University of Texas professor Regina Lawrence, co-author of a study on civic participation in Texas. “When two-thirds of Texans are sitting on the sidelines, it raises the question of how representative our elections end up being.”

[…]

Democrats have fielded candidates in only 12 of 15 statewide offices this year, and things get worse down the ballot. For the 150-member Texas House, only 40 percent of the seats have Democratic candidates. Fifteen of the Texas Senate’s 31 seats are up for re-election this year, but only about 40 percent of those races have Democratic candidates.

Granted some of those counties are small and may not matter much, many are not. And having no Democratic presence (or choice) at all, means many Texans in these counties see little or no reason to vote.  Having candidates in these places would get voters used to seeing and hopefully voting for Democrats on a regular basis.  No easy task, but one that’s needed.

And that’s what the recent report shows is that in Texas “civic duty” is being bred out of citizens, Texas Ranks Among Lowest in Nation for Political Participation and Civic Involvement.

“This report should be a wake-up call for all Texans who care about the future of our state,” said Annette Strauss Institute Director and Journalism Professor Regina Lawrence. “By not being civically engaged, too many Texans are ceding control over the direction of our state to an active few. We hope the findings in the Texas Civic Health Index will spur conversation and debate, and inspire people to become more actively engaged.”

[…]

The report also includes suggestions for reshaping the state’s civic environment. Large-scale recommendations include improving civic literacy through schools, increasing access to higher education, increasing the supply of and demand for public affairs information and engaging citizens through digital and social media platforms. Ideas for individuals include creatively engaging legislators and reaching out to friends and neighbors to join in election-related activities.

So the next time politicians attack public and higher education, we know why. Those currently in power see them as a threat to their political survival.

Another article was by Mark Jones a political professor, who seems to be trying to goad all Texans to vote in the GOP primary this year. He sees that as the way to bring back some sanity to GOP politics in Texas, GOP primary deserves more attention from voters. He does frame the issue in much starker terms.

The direction and scope of public policy in Texas for the remainder of this decade will be profoundly affected by the outcome of this spring’s Republican primaries. In all 15 statewide contests and in three-fifths of the state legislative races, the November general election will, barring an egregious misstep by a Republican candidate, merely ratify the decision made by GOP primary voters in March and May.

And yet, if recent history is any guide, only between 5 percent and 7 percent of voting age Texans will turn out to vote in the March 4 Republican primary. Those who participate will, however, enjoy a privileged influence on the direction of state policy in the critical areas of education, health care, infrastructure, moral values issues and taxes. In contrast, many Texans who opt not to cast a ballot in the GOP primary may find themselves regretting their choice this time next year when the Republicans elected this spring are running the show in Austin.

If all goes as he’s predicting, 2021 is the earliest date things will start to change.  But the lack of participation led to this statement from Texas Democratic Party spokesman Manny Garcia, “Texas isn’t a red state. Texas is a nonvoting state”.  And that is what must change.  Jones goes on in his article to try and make the case that there are sane Republicans in Texas, “..trying to pull the party back to the center-right”.  But Kuff shreds that argument and many more that Jones is trying to make, Pay no attention to Mark Jones.

1. To say that “some Texas Republicans are now trying to pull the party back to the center-right” is a giant copout. Who are they, what are they doing, and what influence do they have? The fact that Jones doesn’t cite even a single name or organization is telling. Sure, there is some pushback going on in some local races – see, for example, the primary challenge to first term teabagger extraordinaire Rep. Jonathan Stickland in HD92, or the fight for Harris County GOP Chair – but if there’s something like this happening at the statewide level, it’s not apparent to me.

2. I’ll stipulate that there are candidates for Lite Guv and Attorney General – one in each race – that have a track record of mostly pragmatic, non-crazy governance. Both of them are running as fast as they can away from those records, since they correctly recognize that their records are obstacles to overcome in their current races. Note also that Jones did not name the candidates he had in mind. I’ll venture a guess that one reason he didn’t name names is because he knows what would happen if he did: Every other candidate in those races would pounce on his proclamation that so-and-so is secretly a moderate and would govern as one if elected, and the candidates themselves would then be forced to respond by making statements along the lines of “I am not a moderate! I eat moderates for breakfast and gnaw on their bones for a late night snack!” As for the Comptroller’s race, I have no idea who he thinks the undercover moderate is. The three main contenders are a Senator best known for sponsoring the draconian anti-abortion bill HB2, a member of the House that Jones’ own metrics identified as one of the more conservative members last session, and a gadfly whose main claim to fame is running to the right of Rick Perry in the 2010 GOP primary for Governor. Boy, I can just feel the center-right goodness emanating from these races.

He’s got five points so be sure and check out the rest of them.

What’s become clears to anyone with a brain, regarding November 2014 and the Democrats chances in Texas, is that if good things happen it won’t be because a bunch of regular GOP voters come to their senses. The only way Democrats win is if enough of the nonvoters in Texas finally get sick and tired of the crappy government the GOP is running in Texas.

Burka even wrote a decent post on this, Primary Experience.

The evolution of the Republican primary into a race to the far right is a sad moment in Texas politics. There is nothing left of the party of George W. Bush, or even the party of Rick Perry. The press has done little to hold up its side of the equation; they can’t get away from the Wendy Davis saga. We should be talking about how Republicans have allowed creationism to creep into the schools, about the myopia of the media when it comes to setting the agenda for a political race, about the failure of the business community to shoulder its share of responsibility for educating Texans about the things our citizens need: better schools, better roads, better health care.

The lieutenant governor debates ought to embarrass ordinary Texans, so far have they strayed from addressing the real problems facing the state. Each of the four candidates took the hardest of hard-right positions at every opportunity. They couldn’t risk even the slightest hint of moderation. What is missing is mainstream Republicans, local business and education leaders who care about their communities instead of ideological crusades. How did this happen? The simple answer is: Ted Cruz. He has remade the state GOP in the image of the tea party.

Texas politics has fallen into a situation where 1 million or so people completely control the politics of a state of 26 million folks, and I don’t see any escape. Until mainstream Republican voters figure out that the only way to return Texas politics to sanity is to find a middle ground, that they need to make their voices heard in the primaries because that is where major races are settled, nothing is going to change. Even if we had a few candidates who wanted to change the direction of the state, I don’t think it is possible. We have gone too far over the cliff to look back over our shoulders. It’s pretty obvious that the electorate is interested only in issues that are created to drum up a controversy with the federal government: immigration, guns, and anything involving Barack Obama. Until the antipathy for Obama loses some of its force, I don’t see any change in sight regarding Texas politics. I do think that the primary will, in due course, feature a war between the mainstream and establishment factions of the Republican party. [Emphasis added]

He’s right. And that’s why the electorate must change, before anything in Texas can change.  Texas has the feel of a state that’s run by our crazy right wing uncle for a reason, it’s not a coincidence.  The Texas GOP is so far off the cliff, the only way to bring them back is to elect Democrats.

Further Reading:
McBlogger has more media criticism, Wendy Davis… THE DISASTER!
PDiddie hits many different issues, Reconnoitering.
Jason Stanford on what’s changing, behind the scenes, in Texas politics, Yes, there is good news for the Democrats in 2014.

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