It is even more important to listen to Wendy Davis now. The Texas State Senator's brilliant, dogged, intrepid, exhausting filibuster temporarily blocked right-wing Republican's efforts to cut women's health care, particularly their right to abortion in Texas. And now it will be important not just to listen, but to support the journey she takes in her trademark pink running shoes.
Sure the Texas Republicans eventually rode rough shod over Davis' attempts to preserve health care rights for women. The virulent nature of Texas politics was again paraded across the national stage. But now that Governor Rick Perry has announced that he will not run again, Davis and the issues she publicized have emerged as a galvanizing force rising through state politics.
Davis can certainly speak both eloquently and effectively. In 2011, she conducted a filibuster of a bill that would cut $4 billion from Texas public education. She brings a clear analysis and thoughtful energy to seemingly intractable political quagmires.
Listen to her words: "Leadership in Texas is failing. The capacity is there and the ability to deal with the issues before us is there. But we need leadership that is strong, independent and can listen. We need leadership that will reach across the aisle in a meaningful way -- that will listen and act. Not the current leadership which listens too much to the powerful ... not leadership which is in the hands of the powerful.
Davis pauses and considers. What would this leadership do that would be different she is asked.
"It would find common ground. Look at health care. We can increase health care and decrease abortions, but we must offer choice and opportunity. We can solve our big problems such as immigration. But there is a failure in the capital of our state. For too long, the current leadership has had too cozy a relationship with powerful folks and forgotten the problems of local folks."
"Look, I got here by listening to people, as well as by talking. I was the daughter of a single mom and am a single mom myself. I was the first in my family to go to college. I've worked hard but, listened to people along the way. When you come up through City Council (Fort Worth) like I did, you learn that you must listen to people to solve real problems. I served on City Council nine years, where you vote with people on real issues that effect their lives directly. It gives you a sense of what you believe in."
"What's going on now is so important. To me it's inspiring to see people returning to the Capitol. They believe in what government can do and what it shouldn't do. Citizens are demanding that their voices be heard. This is real civic engagement."
Davis' optimistic populism strikes a chord in Texas. She and the Democratic legislators visibly moved crowds on last week's Bus Tour through the state's heartland, taking their message to appreciative supporters. Her supporters flocked to the state capitol to fight for women's rights. They laughed and cried, chanted and hung on every word.
At the end of the day, their numbers and creativity made little impact on the same old representative network. But the sentiment of rising populist tide in Texas was clear. The struggle was just beginning. Davis was more interested in talking about this popular resurgence and the issues which fueled it, than her role. But as Governor Rick Perry announced he would not run again, efforts on her behalf were already propelling her forward and upward.
Clearly there would be more need her eloquent, persuasive words and also for those pink running shoes which became a trademark during her epic filibusters!