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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More on Democratic message strategy in Texas – the Overton Window

In a previous post we put forward Thoughts on a Democratic message in Texas. To expand on that the crucial part is to get a two-pronged message to Texans, many who don’t vote and those who vote for GOP candidates, many times against their own best interests.  One facet of the message is to move the Overton Window, or expand the issues that are part of the political discussion in Texas.

If you’re not familiar with the Overton Window Wikipedia describes it like this:

A political theory that describes as a narrow “window” the range of ideas the public will accept. On this theory, an idea’s political viability depends mainly on whether it falls within that window rather than on politicians’ individual preferences.

[…]

The Overton Window is an approach to identifying which ideas define the domain of acceptability within a democratic republic’s possible governmental policies. Proponents of policies outside the window seek to persuade or educate the public in order to move and/or expand the window. Proponents of current policies, or similar ones, within the window seek to convince people that policies outside it should be deemed unacceptable. [Emphasis added]

In other words it set’s the rules for what’s acceptable in the current political debate. In Texas there are many common sense ideas that are currently outside the window. Raising the minimum wage, a more fair tax system which would include a progressive income tax, and paying for roads and infrastructure as we go, just to name a few. Here’s a good article on how Elizabeth Warren and national Democrats have started to move the window on Social Security, Take that, Paul Ryan! Elizabeth Warren beats back Social Security plot.

It’s safe to say that, within the bipartisan oligarchy, the alleged need to cut Social Security remains the consensus. But the Overton Window has shifted just a little to the left, and the idea of expanding Social Security, hitherto invisible through the frame, is now in the public field of vision.

All the talk for the last many years regarding Social Security has revolved solely around cutting it.  Which the majority of the American people oppose, but the wealthy, Wall Street, and the politicians they bankroll support it.  Enter Elizabeth Warren and several other Democrats, along with some grassroots support, and now the conversation has changed.  From how much to cut, to not cutting, with whispers of expanding Social Security.

Yes, I am aware of how toxic and deadly talk of a progressive income tax is seen to be in Texas. And I’m not going to compare the popularity of Social Security to that of a state income tax in Texas.  But it, along with many other issues, must be discussed if the window is ever to move, even to the center in Texas. Even though an income tax in Texas is virtually impossible to get enacted, it can be used to highlight the unfairness of the tax system is in Texas, (more here).  And it can be used to change the discussion on taxes from no way no how, to how can they be used to pay for things we need.

Of course there are many more important issues then a state income tax. Other issues like the minimum wage, quality public schools, affordable higher education, wage theft, and expanding Medicaid for example. These are also issues the GOP does not want to talk about. Democrats must start talking to voters about how the government can once again be there to make their lives better. And key to that is Texans knowing there are people running that will fight for the issues they care about if elected. For too long our state government has been neglecting the people of Texas, and just looking out for those at the top.

There are certainly many elected Democrats in Texas that can certainly start pointing out the more progressive policy prescriptions that need to get into the political discussion in our state. Garnet Coleman and Eddie Rodriguez are two that come to mind, but there are many more, who have done this. Hopefully the Democrats will put together a two-pronged strategy where some candidates talk to the base, while other candidates talk to the Independents and moderate Republicans.

The point is that for Texas just to get back to a more sane and sensible discussion about the kind of policies we need, there must be serious and sustained push back from the left. We’ve come a long way in 20 years from the so-called “compassionate conservatism” frame of George W. Bush, to the secession talk and hatred of the federal government of today’s Texas GOP.  In Texas the GOP has ceded the middle, and there’s a lot of space for Democrats to put forth a message that contrasts with the cruelty of the GOP’s. It’s time for Texas Democrats to move the Overton Window and expand the policies that are possible.

Thoughts on Texas Democrats statewide candidates

The Texas Democrats have the best statewide ticket they’ve had in over 10 years.  They have candidates in almost every race, (missed a few court races).  And there will also be primary challenges in several of them.   The Texas Tribune has a list of many of the candidates here.  A big surprise for Democrats came when a GOP judge decided to switch parties and run as a Democrat, Fort Worth statewide judge switches parties from Republican to Democrat.

Longtime Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Lawrence “Larry” Meyers announced Monday that he is leaving the Republican Party to run as a Democrat for the Texas Supreme Court.

Meyers, of Fort Worth, filed Monday on the last day of filing to seek Place 6 on the Supreme Court, currently held by Jeff Brown.

“I am thrilled to welcome Judge Meyers to the Texas Democratic Party,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said. “I am even more excited to know that Judge Meyers doesn’t stand alone. Every day, I hear from real voters that our party represents the strongest path forward for our state.

“Texas is changing and voters will continue ot reject a Republican Party more focused on ideology than ideas.”

Meyers’ party switch makes him the first statewide Democratic officeholder since 1998.

More excitement came when a member of the Texas GOP, nuttier than Ted Cruz, decided to get into the US Senate race against incumbent John Cornyn.  He’s currently a member of Congress and his name is Steve Stockman.

It does not look like Congressman Stockman is going to hold back against Sen. Cornyn. Congressman Stockman has called for impeachment of President Obama for just promising gun reform and regulation and compared the President to Suddam Hussain. More recently, Congressman Stockman’s campaign offices were found to be a death trap for his campaign workers. In his first stint in congress, Congressman Stockman suggest the Clinton administration raided the Branch Davidian compound in Waco to justify an assault weapons ban and brought Ted Nugent as his guest to President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address.

Looks like an interesting dude. I’m not sure even the Texas right-wing is crazy enough to vote for this guy over Cornyn, but we’ll see.

Here in Congressional District 31 Democrat Louie Minor is running against incumbent tea party GOP’er John Carter.

The strength of the statewide ticket comes at the top for Democrats.  Having a two very well qualified candidates for Governor and Lt. Gov. like Wendy Davis and Leticia Van De Putte, is a great start.

Five Democrats have filed to run for US Senate.  The three top candidates are seen to be David Alameel, Michael Fjetland, and Maxey Scheer.

Sam Houston is running for Texas Attorney General.

Mike Collier is the Democratic candidate for Texas Comptroller.

John Cook is running for Texas Land Commissioner.

There are three Democrats on the ballot for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Hugh Fitzsimons, Kinky Friedman, and Jim Hogan.  Yes, that Kinky Friedman.

Steve Brown and Dale Henry will run against each other for the Railroad Commissioner.

Bill Moody is running for Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court.  The aforementioned Judge Myers in Place 6, and Gina Benavides for Place 7.

John Granberg is running for the Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 3.

And a little closer to home Diane Henson is running for Chief Justice, 3rd Court of Appeals.

That’s the rundown of the Democrats on the statewide ballot in Texas. The success or failure of these candidates will be similar to the fates of the candidates in Williamson County.  Much of it will rest of the efforts to organize, register and get out new voters to the polls.  Having Battleground Texas involved will help out.  There are many in Texas who have been reflexively voting for the GOP candidate.  Many of them may be open to voting for a Democrat for the first time in a while.

That’s why it’s key for Democrats to show voters that there are key differences between them and their GOP counterpart.  Especially when it comes to issues like health care, education, transportation and infrastructure, immigration reform, and the environment.

Voters know that while things are good in Texas, they’re not near where they should be.  Keeping over 1 million Texans without health insurance because of ideology is cruel and needs to stop.  Raising the minimum wage, fighting inequality, and wage theft are important issues for working Texans. And fully funding public schools in Texas and making college affordable again are extremely important for the future of Texas.

Find the candidates that inspire you. Give them money or support in any way you can.  And let’s elect some Democrats in Texas in 2014.

Fear and the Texas GOP

The problem for the GOP in Texas is that the wish list that they’ve been running on is pretty much implemented.  They’ve taken everything away and we were all supposed to be better off now that the “free market” has taken over.  There are many poor, working, and middle class Texans who trusted that their plan, aka trickle-down/lower taxes on the wealthy, would one day bring them prosperity too.

Instead it’s just been another GOP scheme to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.  But this time they tried to be a little less blatant about it.  They hid behind what too many accepted as a real economic theory for far too long.  Now Texans see public education in trouble, tuition for higher eduction skyrocketing since it was deregulated, a health care bargain being left on the table, and toll roads going bankrupt as traffic congestion continues to increase.  All the while inequality and poverty increase, as wages stagnate.  They have nothing to offer but more of the same, and fear of anything different.

Or as Brains and Eggs puts it:

“The problem is that they’re using the same old tried and true scare tactics to motivate the paranoid-enough-already base.”

In his post he points to two articles. The first, GOP rules Texas, but talking like they’re on ropes, the GOP’s plans is to act like they’re already losing elections.

In a sharp pivot from a decade of Republican swagger in Texas — a bravado that comes with controlling every statewide office — conservatives are muffling mocking tones about Democrats and now openly calling them formidable. The worries come through in political ads that urge donors to “Keep Texas Red” and rallies like one in Houston that vowed to “Take Back Harris County.”

[…]

The dread over a Democratic resurgence discomfits with an opponent that hasn’t won a statewide office since 1994. Conservatives’ grip on Texas has tightened every year since, and peaked only two years ago when Republicans won a rare supermajority in the Legislature and rammed through pet measures such as new voter ID laws.

But Republicans insist the fear is real despite their dominance…

And, as this excerpt points out, the future is ripe the picking.

A table outside the entrance hawked $20 T-shirts emblazoned with red-meat messages such as, “God, Guns and Guts Made America — Let’s Keep All Three!” On every chair inside the ballroom, a petition on yellow paper called on lawmakers to defend the Texas Constitution’s definition of marriage and rued the rise of domestic partner benefits in the workplace.

It wasn’t a packed house — and the rank-and-file who came weren’t the younger and Hispanic voters that Republicans acknowledge they need to stay in power. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, who said he thinks Davis’ filibuster riled up Democrats enough to cost Republicans seats as soon as next November, reminded the audience that the party’s average age of delegates is 58.

Lauren Martinez, 26, noticed with disappointment that there weren’t many others her age around. She said she’s been surprised to see friends lining up behind Davis.

“As a young person, I see a lot of my friends supporting her,” Martinez said. “People that I would have thought were more conservative.”

Of course it will take a awful lot of hard work to actually get the younger and more diverse voters to the polls to change election outcomes. And, of course another way to speed that along is with the second article. It again points out the cruel conservatism of the Texas GOP, As GOP states flip, where’s the Texas answer on Medicaid?

Last spring, Republicans in the Legislature trounced Medicaid expansion, despite support from hospitals and business. There’s also been no state effort to drum up enrollment in the exchange.

While other GOP-led states have reversed course, Gov. Rick Perry keeps slamming Medicaid.

“It’s like putting 1,000 more people on the Titanic,” Perry said at a recent meeting of Republican governors.

No other state stands to gain as much from the health care overhaul, because Texas has the highest share of uninsured and a large poor population.

More than 1 million residents fall into the state’s Medicaid gap; they earn too much for Medicaid and too little for federal subsidies on the exchange. Two million more are eligible for the subsidies, if they enroll and if HealthCare.gov can process the applications.

Texas leads all states in both categories, so it could expand coverage greatly starting next year. And the federal government pays nearly all the costs.

Funding for the health law comes from cuts in Medicare, hospital fees and prescriptions. There are also new taxes on high-earners, health plans, medical devices and more.

The bottom line is that Texans are paying for Obamacare whether 3 million residents sign up or a tiny fraction.

And now one of their biggest fear generators of all turns out to be an economic boon, Immigration helps boost the Texas economy.

Gone to Texas: Immigration and the Transformation of the Texas Economystates that immigrants make up 21 percent of Texas’ workforce, but account for a much greater share of its economic growth.

Hopefully Texans won’t turn out and vote for the GOP in 2014 our of fear. If Democrats in Texas need to give Texans an alternative to fear in 2014 they should do much better then they have in the recent past.

Further Reading:
Medicaid expansion becomes weapon against GOP governors.
Report: Child Poverty Increases in Texas.

There was a 47 percent increase in the rate of Texas children living in poverty from 2000 to 2011…

Texas Democrats must provide a contrast to the Texas GOP’s cruel conservatism

There’s no doubt that two women, one a Latina, at the top of the Democratic ticket will be a sharp contrast with the white male GOP to of the ticket. But it’s also more of a middle class, average Texan ticket which is a contrast tot he GOP side, Texas Democrats offering stark contrast.

Texas voters won’t have a hard time telling the difference between the Republican and Democratic candidates next year.

With the addition of San Antonio Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, attorney Sam Houston and party activist Steve Brown last week, the Democratic slate offers a vivid contrast to the Republican ticket, both in demographics and politics. And there are more announcements to come.

So far, Democrats are offering a diverse roster with most running unopposed on a strong progressive record, not unlike the so-called Dream Team in 2002. Republicans are more conservative than ever, with a ticket that is predominantly white and male.

By now most Texans should know Wendy Davis’ working class, worked her way up biography.

Both parties will draw stark contrasts next year, each side confident they reflect the views of the majority of Texans. Republicans argue, based on their winning streak, that Texas is a conservative state that will always elect Republicans.

Texas also has the lowest voter turnout in the nation, Democrats say, and the majority of eligible Texas voters are either minorities or liberals. They say getting more Texans to vote is the key to their victory, and Republican policies will help them accomplish that.

The result has been two very different tactics during primary season. The Davis campaign brags about making 100,000 phone calls to potential voters. Battleground Texas, the PAC hoping to turn Texas blue, is training thousands of field organizers and voter registrars.

While the Democrats, thus far, seem to be getting the organizing going well, they need to an issue or two to hang their hat on. Something that might get some of those folks out to vote that don’t usually vote. Via Burka.

One of the problems for Democrats is that in counties with large Hispanic populations, particularly in South Texas, the primary is where the action is, not the general election. In the Rio Grande Valley, the races that motivate are those for local positions — city councils, school boards, and courthouse jobs. The elections frequently come down to a battle of one prominent family against another. The winner gains power and something else that is very important in areas that suffer from poverty: good-paying jobs. Another issue for Democrats is that the Hispanic vote is by no means unilaterally Democratic. Republican candidates such as John Cornyn and Rick Perry have always been able to count on a third or so of the Hispanic vote. A lot of Hispanic voters are small business operators who are traditional conservatives.

And then there is the problem of history. Hispanics emigrated to America from a country whose government seldom did things FOR people, but rather did things TO people. In such circumstances, the degree of trust or belief in government and politicians was, and remains, negligible. All too easily, the culture of Mexican politics was transplanted to the Texas side of the border.

Van de Putte’s job, then, is to motivate Hispanics to vote. If she and Davis can do it, they have a chance to transform Texas politics. But Democrats have been waiting for the so-called “brown wave” to roll over Texas for generations, and no such event has appeared. At the very least, she will be a strong running mate for Davis and she can be a strong advocate for the Democratic ticket as well. It’s still going to be an uphill battle, at best.

If what Burka says is accurate, it might be good for Democrats – all over the state – to start talking again about how government can do things for people, to help them. One place they could start is by showing how cruel the Texas GOP’s decision not to expand Medicaid and withhold health insurance for more that 1 Million Texans is. It’s also a really good deal and would help Texas tremendously. The CPPP sums it up this way.

We have an opportunity to provide a regular source of health care for more than 1 million of our poorest adults—many of them raising children—while reducing local uncompensated health care that today forces providers to charge more to patients with insurance, increasing premiums for everyone, and increasing local property taxes to pay for indigent care. Expanding Medicaid will also make our mental health, criminal justice and child protection systems more effective as the adults they serve gain access to mental health care and substance abuse treatment. Criminal justice systems would also be relieved of significant medical costs. Expansion would be affordable, with the federal government covering 100 percent of the costs for the first three years, phasing down to 90 percent after that. Over the first four years, for $1.3 billion in state dollars, Texas would get $24 billion in federal dollars infused into our health care system, creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs. As other states have proposed, if the federal government reduced its financial commitment, Texas could reverse the expansion. In the meantime, the massive increase in federal money would build our health care workforce and strengthen our system. [Emphasis added]

Not only is it morally right, it’s a good deal too!  This is also a huge issue for rural Texas, Rural Hospitals Struggling In Texas.

In Texas, rural hospitals treat 15 percent of the population, but cover 85 percent of the state (see below for 10 facts on rural hospitals in Texas). In rural areas, patients are generally older, less healthy, and have less access to insurance.

The Affordable Care Act was supposed to benefit both rural hospitals and rural patients – by providing access to insurance for folks in small towns the idea was that hospitals would recoup costs they spend on indigent care. But some people aren’t so sure it’ll work out that way.

Dr. Howard Dickey is a family medicine doctor in west-central Texas at Comanche County Community Clinic – one of Texas’ so-called critical access hospitals.

“I would hope that [Obamacare] would be favorable,” he says, “but I may end up working somewhere else when it’s all said and done.”

One of the reasons Obamacare may not benefit rural hospitals in Texas is because Governor Rick Perry decided not to expand Medicaid in the state. That means poor people who end up using the emergency room still won’t have any type of insurance to help cover the cost of their care.

Critical access hospitals rely more heavily on Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements than their urban counterparts. Without the chance for additional Medicaid money, and decreasing Medicare reimbursements, Dickey says his clinic’s tight budget might snap.

It’s really hard to see an issue that would provide more contrast between the two parties. Because this truly is a life and death situation.

Beyond the economics and politics, lives are at stake. Lack of insurance will certainly mean more deaths. How many more? Approximately 9,000 a year, according to Dr. Howard Brody, director of the Institute for Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Brody calculated that figure by extrapolating from a recent Harvard University study published in The New England Journal of Medicine that found that states that expanded Medicaid saw a 6.1 percent reduction in the death rate among adults below 65 who qualified for the program. In a recent op-ed in the Galveston Daily News Brody wrote, “This means that we can predict, with reasonable confidence, if we fail to expand Medicaid . . . 9,000 Texans will die each year for the next several years as a result.” [Emphasis added]

This is not the only issue facing Texas, but this issue must be central to the every Democratic campaign in Texas in 2014.  Texas Democrats must provide a contrast to the Texas GOP’s cruel conservatism.

Further Reading:
Kuff has More on LVdP for Lite Guv.
The Cruelty of Republican States in One Chart.
Faith Communities, Hospital Groups, And Business Leaders All Urge Texas Governor To Expand Medicaid.
The Battle Over Expanding Medicaid In Texas.

Thoughts on a Democratic message in Texas

The great unanswered question for Democrats in Texas is what message can win a statewide race.  Especially as it pertains to the race between Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott for Texas Governor.  In the recent past it’s been thought that the best way for a Democrat to win was to run as a “bidness” friendly Democrat.  But Texas still hasn’t elected a Democrat statewide since the 1990’s, and most “serious” candidates have run with that kind of message.  Below are some thoughts on what kind of message might work to get Democrat(s) elected statewide in Texas.

Two polls released yesterday shed some light on the race between Davis and Abbott.  The Texas Tribune shows Davis down 5 to Abbott (40 – 35), while PPP shows Davis trailing by 15 (50 – 35).

Here are some snippets/advice from each.  First the Trib:

“What you’ve got is a race in which, for the first time in a long time, the Democrat is as well-known as the Republican at the outset of the race,” said poll co-director Daron Shaw, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin.

“These numbers are not evidence that the underlying fundamentals are changing in Texas,” said Jim Henson, who co-directs the poll and heads the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin. “We have not seen a big change in party identification, and we don’t see any large-scale shifts in the underlying attitudes that are forming.”

[…]

“We’re so used to see the Republican gubernatorial candidate running from a position of incumbency,” Henson said. “Greg Abbott, while well-known, is not a household name. At least the race starts that way. That was evident before the rise of Wendy Davis, and it’s a stark contrast now that she has become so well-known in the wake of the filibuster.

PPP:

For a Democrat to win in Texas they need to do 2 things: win independents by a decent sized margin, and get double digit crossover support from Republicans. Right now Davis is falling short on both of those fronts. With independents she’s managing only a tie at 44%. And she’s winning over only 6% of Republicans, far less than the share of Democrats who say right now that they lean toward Abbott. Of course she has a year to try to change that.

[…]

There is some good news for Davis within the poll. Voters narrowly oppose the abortion law that put her in the spotlight, 40/41, including 37/48 opposition among independent voters. Concern that she may have difficulty in the election because she’s seen as too liberal on that particular issue may not be warranted.

The polls offer a good news/bad news scenario.  Davis has better name ID then Abbott.  But she’s not doing good enough with Independents and Republicans.  But, we’re told, there’s still plenty of time to change all of this.  If this race stays anywhere near the status quo, which these polls are, then Abbott’s likely to prevail. Kuff has much more analysis of these polls.

This is not an earth shaking statement, but Davis must do something to make this race different then the typical D vs. R races we’ve had the past 20 years.  While Davis needs crossover and Independent support, I don’t thinks it’s possible for her to win without significantly expanding the electorate.  Which is why the Davis filibuster and the activism it spurred was so encouraging.  It brought many lapsed voters and new people into the political process, who will need to turnout to vote for her to win.

But the message question comes to how to craft a message that needs to appeal to two very different types of voters.  One that brings those who have been left out of the political process together with those that are disgusted with the current state of the Republican Party in Texas.  Not so disgusted that they want to leave it, or join the Democratic Party, but are open to voting for a candidate like Wendy Davis.

One place to start would be with emotional, moral, appeals showing the faces and lives of those who are being hurt by the GOP’s refusal to expand Medicaid in Texas.  It has the support of many in the business community and those likely to cross over from the Republican side to vote for her.  There are many who would benefit from expanding Medicaid , that don’t regularly vote.  This issue would motivate them to vote and work to get her elected.  Plus it fits very well with Davis’ campaign theme of giving a voice to the voiceless.

There are several other issues that could go along with this.  Raising the minimum wage, public and higher education, and women’s health issues just to name a few. Democrats should not be afraid to say that keeping people uninsured unnecessarily is cruel, and it will also cost us more in the long run. Not insuring our children have the opportunity to get a quality education is not just cruel, but wrong.

Democrats can’t run the same type of campaign they’ve been running for the past few decades and expect to win.  If Wendy Davis runs a similar campaign to Tony Sanchez, Chris Bell, and Bill White she’s likely to suffer the same fate.  She has to make enough people in Texas understand the only way Texas gets better is if we all do better.  Right now the inequality and unfairness for poor, working, and middle class Texans is getting worse, and that must change.

She will also have to find a way to hit the extreme and cruel tea party wing of the GOP without putting off the moderates.  It’s time once again to look at Rick Perlstein’s “Rules of Liberal Political Success”:

(Taken from his talk “Whatever Happened to Hope: Why Barack Obama Cannot Become a Transformational President”)

Got to make people feel good.

No liberal regime has ever succeeded in American History without successfully stigmatizing the conservatism that preceded it as a failure that ruined ordinary people’s lives.

A transformational Democratic president must be a credible defender of the economic interests of ordinary Americans, to a preponderance of those ordinary Americans sufficient to push through their distrust of cosmopolitan liberals as such. (Anti Big Business Populism).

No liberal regime has ever succeeded in American History without successfully stigmatizing it’s opposition as extreme, as alien, as strange, as frightening to ordinary Americans who want order in their lives.

Make them feel good by giving those without health care, health care. Make sure they know who is keeping, or kept, them uninsured unnecessarily. Show the wealthy and corporations in Texas as those keeping it that way.  Show that if they would pay their fair share of taxes, we could refund public education and make higher education affordable again. And show them that those who don’t want to change these things would like to secede from the United State of America, and stigmatize and blame immigrants, the poor, and those in need as the problem.

That may seem harsh, and not too inviting, to some Republicans in Texas.  But the ones it pertains to would never vote for Davis to begin with.  Hopefully it would open the eyes of some to see just how extreme the GOP in Texas has become.  It might be what they need to realize that something has to change.

But campaigning as a voice for the voiceless means that you’re likely to piss off those that currently have a voice.  There’s really no way around that.  The financial angst that many Texans feel, despite a “good” economy, is palpable.  We know that the benefits are all going to the top, as we see our tax bills grow, as corporations get tax breaks.  Too many working for low wages as corporate profits soar. We see state giveaways to corporations and cronies while college tuition rises and school funding is cut.  These are all connected to the rise of right wing extremism in our government, backed by the wealthy and corporate donors, at the expense of everyone else.

This is happening because too many of us have stood by and allowed it to happen.  Too many of us bought the idea that government was the problem, and if we just ran our government like a business it would all work out.  All that turned out to do was allow those at the top to reap all the rewards, and marginalize the rest of us.  The only way this will change is if the people, in our case the voiceless people, stand up and reassert ourselves into the political process.  We need a party and candidates that will put forth this kind of message in 2014.

Further Reading:
As if on cue in today’s Statesman, As big businesses pay less of the property tax tab, homeowners pay more ($$$).

Must See TV – Let the party switching begin

Judge Carlo Key. Be sure and check out his web site, www.judgecarlokey.com.

There’s probably many, many more Republicans that feel like Judge Key. BOR has more, Texas Judge Switches to Democratic Party: “The Republican Party Left Me”. Includgin these three statements.

“I’m not surprised. Republican state leaders in Texas have moved so far out of the mainstream. They have become so divisive that fair-minded Texans are turning away. Judge Key is a prominent and respected public official, so his actions appropriately draw attention, but every day I hear from people who formerly supported Republican candidates, but now won’t do it.”-Matt Angle, Lone Star Project

 

Look at the vote last week in Congress — where every single Texas Republican voted in favor of keeping the government closed and keeping Texans out of work without a paycheck. It was a vote of ideology over pragmatism and principle.
This is exactly the problem with Texas Republicans, who care more about doing what’s best for them instead of what’s best for us. That’s why we’re fighting so hard to take the partisans in power out of office in Texas and in D.C.-Gilberto Hinojosa, TDP Chair

 

We want to personally welcome Judge Key to the Democratic Party and recognize his courage in making this decision. Judge Key has proven to be a fair and principled judge and we know that this decision was made with much thought and deliberation.Today’s decision by Judge Key is more proof that the Texas GOP is a party in decline. It’s not surprising since the Republican Party has been taken over by radicals, driving more and more folks to believe that Texas Democrats have the right approach to governing.

Senator Ted Cruz put hundreds of thousands of folks and businesses out of work by forcing a government shutdown; Lt. Governor David Dewhurst made promises to take away educational benefits from Latinos; Governor Perry vetoed Texas’ law that would have ensured women receive equal pay for equal work in our state.
Texas Democrats work every day to put Texans first and create the opportunities that allow folks from every walk of life to pursue their American Dreams.

Congressman Joaquin Castro and State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer

The first, but hopefully not the last.