THE BLOG
10/23/2007 06:41 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Texas Democrats "Off the Mat and Fighting Back"

Texas politics is as rowdy as the state is big. It's down-and-dirty, mud-wrestling, in-your-face and--even with female politicians--as macho as Lyndon Johnson manhandling steers to the ground on his Hill Country ranch, or Gov. Ann Richards being featured on the cover of Texas Monthly magazine sitting boldly astride a Harley Davidson.

Politicking in Texas ain't for the faint of heart. Not for nothin' did the Democratic congressmen and women in the State House literally leave Texas and hunker down in nearby states in a vain attempt to prevent Tom DeLay's outrageous redistricting scheme from being voted on--the diabolical plan that wound up netting the Republicans six more seats in the U.S. congress the following election.

(Thanks to that neocon power-grab, in my district, we lost our beloved conservative Democratic congressman of 25 years, Charlie Stenholm, and consequently, when the Democrats took back over the House--we lost out on having a ranking Texas Democrat chair the powerful Agriculture committee.)

Since before "Shrub"--as Molly Ivins called George W. Bush--became the miserable governor he was, the Republicans had made a powerful red boot-print on the state of Texas. And after he was given the presidency by Republican Supreme Court justices put in office by his daddy, the Republican strong-arm hold on Texas seemed so solid, so muscular, and so immovable that neither of the major presidential candidates in 2004 even bothered to campaign here.

Back then, I spent one hopeless afternoon trying to find any sort of Democratic party headquarters anywhere in the state. (Usually, if you voted a straight-ticket Democratic party ballot, there weren't even very many names listed.) When my moderate Republican husband helpfully suggested I start up my own Democratic party in my county, I pointed out that the meetings would have to be held no later than four p.m., because I didn't know any Democrats here under the age of 80.

Oh, it's been sad. Just pitiful, really, for all us closet Blues stranded in a crimson state.

But the times, as Bob Dylan pointed out, they are a-changin'.

Apparently, they've been changing, in very subtle ways, since just before the 2006 elections. I was just too steeped in my own despair to realize it.

But, OffTheBus came callin', and I was shamed into action by the sheer talent and audacity of the citizen journalists who submitted ideas and knock-em-dead posts, so I started by visiting the newspaper archives of two very conservative west Texas cities, Abilene and Lubbock.

When I typed in "Texas Democrats" to the search engines of the Abilene Reporter-News and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, the term did not compute. It did not recognize such a sci-fi creature. Texas Democrats simply did not exist in their newspaper archives.

So, just for fun, I searched the term, "disgruntled Texas Republicans."

BINGO.

Oh, man, are there many many MANY disgruntled reds in the red state of Texas. It seems that all that time, while I was sobbing in my beer about being a Lonely West Texas Democrat, the Wall Street Journal was writing about those disgruntled Texas Republicans, as was the Washington Post, Salon.com, the Abilene Reporter-News--and would you believe it? FOXnews.com.

People weren't just writing about it, either. Here in Texas, Democrats were hauling their butts off the mat, shoving up their sleeves, and getting back into the fight, baby--and winning more than a few rounds in the process. (More about that in a moment.)

Here are some of the exciting things I've learned, with links:


*Texas Democrats picked up five seats in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006

*In 2006, Democrats swept every contested race in Dallas county (2nd largest county in the state)--including all 42 contested judicial positions, and all five contested county offices including the county judge, district attorney, county clerk, and county treasurer

*Democrat Nick Lampson took back Tom DeLay's seat

(source: "Lone Star Project Behind Dem Wins in Texas," by Martin Frost, FOXnews.com, December 11, 2006.)

*In 2006, the number of Texas Hispanics who voted Republican fell to between 30% and 35%. (Due, at least in part, to right-wing immigration-issue hysteria.)

*Democrats could achieve a majority in the Texas House by 2010.

*Younger voters are turning away from the GOP. A poll taken by CBS News, the New York Times, and MTV, found that 54% of 17-29 year olds would vote Democratic, as opposed to 32% who would vote Republican--and in Texas, the number of younger voters is growing

(source: "The Troubled Texas GOP," by Jonathan Gurwitz, Wall Street Journal, July 8, 2007.)

*At least 47% of all Texas donations to presidential candidates in the first six months of the year went to Democrats; including $2.1 million to Senator Hillary Clinton

*If the trend continues, the party's nominee will win the White House, and in Texas the Democrats will regain control of the House of Representatives

(source: "Texans Surprisingly Generous to Democrats in Campaign Funding," Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, October 10, 2007.)

*Half of Texas Republicans believe the country is on the wrong track

(source: Paul Burka, senior executive editor of Texas Monthly magazine, quoted in the Abilene Reporter-News, "Abilene No Presidential Stumping Frontier," by Sidney Levesque, September 13, 2007).

And this one, boys and girls, is a biggie for me, having sent my son into two bloody combat deployments to Iraq with the Marines, my nephew into three combat deployments with the Marines, and another nephew there right now with the army--I hate this war and want it to end and so, frankly, do they, so I was surprised and gratified to read the following headline:

"Texans Turn Against Bush's War"

This article by Bill Sasser writing for Salon.com, points out that more Texans than from any other state have served in Iraq and Afghanistan--accounting for a whopping 14% of all active-duty total forces deployed to those countries at any given time. Texas has also sent more National Guard troops to Iraq than any other state. And with the exception, God bless 'em, of California, more Texas men and women have died in those terrible wars than any other state in the nation.

Fort Hood, located in the Texas Hill Country, is the army's largest base, with more than 44,000 personnel. Their 1st Cavalry Division and 4th Infantry Division have been in CONSTANT rotation to Iraq since the 2003 invasion.
Meanwhile, at nearby San Antonio, the Brooke Army Medical Center is the largest burn center servicing war veterans in the country, and thousands of local boys and girls have cycled through, burnt-up and blown-up and otherwise horribly injured.

So this war strikes home, here in Texas, and more and more--those in the military and their families who have been most intimately affected by it--are growing sick to death of this war, this president, and his party--who started it all in the first place. Consequently, Iraq is the Number One issue on the minds of Texans, and Bush's approval rating has been cut in half in his home state.

This means that Texans--the biggest flag-wavers and yellow-ribboners in the country--are starting to listen to what Democrats have to say about ending this war and steering the country in a new direction.

(Source: "Texans Turn Against Bush's War," Bill Sasser, Salon.com, September 20, 2007.)

Finally, I'm going to provide a link to a relatively new bunch of activists in Texas who've gone after the liars and hypocrites of Texas politics with the most powerful weapon known to man: FACTS.

I will write more about the Lone Star Project in future posts, but for now I will explain that the organization was started in 2005 by Matt Angle, who worked for Democratic congressman Martin Frost--who was summarily bounced from office after the Tom DeLay redistricting scheme.

One of their stated goals is to "help respond to Republican policy failures and political attacks aggressively and factually, providing allies and other Democrats with cited facts to rebut false rhetoric and bad policy."

For example, currently, they are going after blowhard Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn, who has used the Moveon.org "General Betray-Us" ad in fundraising letters, professing insult and injury--but the Lone Star Project has juxtaposed his claims with the facts of his voting record, which has been dismal in matters of war veteran care and benefits.

The Lone Star Project operates much like MediaMatters.com, by sending out e-mails and press notifications of fact-vs-Republican rhetoric, and has been given at least some credit--even in such places as the Washington Post--for the recent Democratic turnarounds in Texas elections.

As I said, I'll be writing more about that in future posts.

(sources: Lone Star Project.)

("The Fix," Chris Cillizza, Washingtonpost.com's Politics Blog.)

("Lone Star Project Fighting Back With Facts" Matt Angle, "Texas Blue," September 10,2007.)

("Lone Star Project Behind Dem Wins in Texas," Martin Frost, FOXnews.com, December 11, 2006.)

This is, of course, a partial list, but I will be following these and related stories with great interest, and will also do some reporting "on the ground"--by simply asking some Texas Republicans if they see the Republicans losing this fight, and whether they might be willing to root for the Blue team.

Because, as Matt Angle of the Lone Star Project said, "Democrats in Texas are off the mat and fighting back."