In Which We Join The Blame Game and Criticize Democrats Who Tried In Texas

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There’s been a lot of Democratic finger-pointing in Texas over the past week. I open my newspaper or my newsfeed and I see a pretty aggressive effort to assign blame to a bunch of people that worked really hard over the last six months to two years to a lifetime to try and change this state.

Well, I think it’s time BOR got in on it.

Without further adieu, here’s a detailed list of individuals and organizations who are to blame for this election cycle.

To the Dallas County Democratic Party:

YOU are at fault for leading an excellent DCDP coordinated campaign that won all but one countywide race (in which the incumbent candidate did you zero favors). You re-elected judges and countywide officeholders despite a miserable electoral climate and held on to your meaningful victories from 2010. You helped County Judge Clay Jenkins win despite his work to actually bring migrant children from the border to Dallas and his willingness to physically touch people who lived with people who died of Ebola. Thank you Darlene, Taylor, Kathleen, and Jess and everyone who worked so hard. You won. You are awesome.


To the Travis County Democratic Party:

YOU are guilty of increasing turnout in Travis County, growing the Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s win margin over 2010, and picking up a JP seat for Randall Slagle, who ousted an incumbent who was elected in the 2010 wave who did not even have a law degree. Plus, you helped elect Celia Israel — a Hispanic lesbian in a swing district — to her first full term in the Legislature, and ran a voter registration campaign that made unprecedented gains in a midterm cycle. Thank you Jan, JD, Joe, Stella, Kristian, Brian, Cindy, and everyone else who kept going and moved the needle. You are awesome.


To Progress Texas:

YOU committed the unforgivable offense of beating the drum on progressive issues, continuing momentum from last year’s filibuster, keeping attention on Rick Perry’s ongoing criminal indictment, and providing tremendous messaging support to progressive organizations. You are helping to establish, grow, and make visible the progressive base in Texas. Keep it up.


To the legions of Democratic and progressive campaign staffers on winning and losing down-ballot races across the state:

YOU are guilty of trying to make people give a damn, working really hard, sleeping only a little, and caring about our state and trying to make sure we elect people that give that same damn as well.

For those of you on statewide races, you provided meaningful professional services to candidates that helped them gain endorsements, hold events, present a Democratic alternative, and generally provide our candidates with the campaigns they deserve. Despite having far too little money to actually explain things to voters, you sent press releases, held (or tried to hold) debates with your Republican opponents, and tried your hardest to prevail. The overwhelming number of newspaper endorsements earned by statewide Democratic candidates is proof positive that your professionalism mattered in helping our slate gain the respect they deserved by Texas media outlets.

For those of you working on local campaigns or with progressive organizations to educate and turn out voters, you tried really hard to make people care about your community. Many of you had to face down active efforts by Republicans to lie about your record (and theirs) with impunity. Thank you to those who won in an ugly environment, and kudos to those who lost after running vigorous campaigns in which voters were at least given a clear opportunity to make a better choice.


To the Wendy Davis Campaign:

YOU have committed the unpardonable offense of trying to win in a state that so many national and local pundits want to write off as a foregone conclusion. You forced the Republican Party to actually campaign in Texas and spend Texan money in Texas. Meanwhile, you raised progressive money nationwide and spent it in here, and actually made voters believe that things could be better for so many people in Texas. You inspired many first-time activists and gave voice to the stories of women that were unable or too afraid to speak up.

You are also guilty of taking the fight to the Republicans in a hostile media environment, winning round after round about Greg Abbott’s admonition that people just drive around looking for hazmats and refusal to admit his actual positions on issues that he will address in office. You worked really hard in the face of a political and media landscape that never once, not for one day, let you forget that no one thought you could win.


To the Texas Democratic Party:

YOU are guilty of reinventing a formerly stolid organization in very short time into one that provides tremendous client services, candidate recruitment, political assistance, and community outreach. Your vote by mail program is a huge leap forward for base mobilization in Texas, and your digital efforts are on point and on message, while demonstrating a generosity of spirit towards the broader progressive movement. Your communications shop was always there to offer a statement on the Republican outrage of the day and broke free of the Stockholm Syndrome that appeared to plague the organization in past years. Most importantly, you have demonstrated every day in your work ethic that you do believe we can win and need to keep working towards that. Thanks for providing Texas with a strong Democratic Party.


To Battleground Texas:

YOU are guilty of engaging 34,000 volunteers in Texas, making 7.5 million voter contact attempts, keeping Texas money in Texas to fund progressive organizing, and helping not only statewide candidates but local ones too. You got over 8,000 people deputized to register voters in the face of hostile laws and recalcitrant tax assessors across much of the state. You have given Texans an opportunity to engage and volunteer in their own backyards, and that will pay dividends for cycles to come.

You built what people have been clamoring to see for decades. It didn’t produce the desired result in less than two years, and those who want to condemn it all are too eager to overlook the hard work of so many. Specifically to the field organizers and volunteers who gave so much time and energy to support this program: just because it didn’t work this time doesn’t mean it won’t work ever. Your willingness to give your time is a credit to the desire of Texans to change our state for the better, and don’t let any lazy national news outlet or armchair quarterback who was always too busy to come to a blockwalk tell you it didn’t matter. It did and it will.

I realize everyone wants to shit on you right now but they’re overlooking the fact that in an environment in which Maryland elects a Republican to head their state and the governor of friggin’ Vermont can’t clear 50% you still surpassed amazing voter contact goals and made clear that the capacity is here to work and win. Those efforts will pay dividends in future, better electoral climates, so keep calling and asking people to get engaged.


To those of you that think you know better:

Far too many people appear excessively eager to condemn the hard, sweaty work of others who left it all out on the field. It never fails to amuse me to see who magically appears for the circle-jerking firing squad pointed at people that busted their asses to do meaningful work.

Sure, there are some serious questions about the outcome of this cycle that need to be addressed — so that we can all learn and do better next time. But I fail to see the value in personal attacks on people who have probably not slept more than 5 consecutive hours since Labor Day.

Was there no way for individuals who are so critical now to contribute meaningfully to anything on the ballot anywhere in Texas or nationally? If the existing organizations fail to suit one’s fancy, there’s nothing stopping anyone from starting their own effort and making a difference at the precinct, district, or county level, before moving on from there.

So many people are screaming and crying because everything they cared about failed at the ballot box on Tuesday after they worked so hard over so many months. Those who chose not to bother with the effort until now might look at their own internal abnegation of the duty to do what they could have done to make a difference.

Believing in a better world in which every Texan is given a chance to succeed is hard. We haven’t seen much of that from our state government in the last two decades. Doing the work to change that is hard. Tearing down those who do it is easy.

So thanks to everyone who left it out there on the field for progressives and Democrats. All of us at Burnt Orange Report respect and admire your courage and commitment to our candidates. You and your energy are what will keep this movement moving forward, and why we will — eventually — prevail.


About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Central Texas. She is also a fan of UCONN women's basketball and breakfast tacos.


  1. I love you! Yes, we had audacity. We have a lot more work to do and it starts in January holding these bastards accountable. I’ve said repeatedly over the last week – we have to be progressives and Democrats 24/7/365. Not just during election cycles. We’ve started something. Time to soldier on. Thank you for reminding us all what we accomplished.

  2. Katherine, you are the best. This post was so needed. So many people worked so hard this year, and they deserve all the praise in the world, especially in the face of so much criticism. Thank you.

  3. Kath25 – Thank you for the well thought out post. It is true we have so much we can all be proud of. Our success in Travis County is largely due to the institutional strength of the Party, built and maintained by so many people, as well as the strong tradition of inclusive coordinated campaigns. Thank you for your contribution building that strength and all of your advice this cycle!

  4. As a former Texan, never much interested in politics, who finally had an epiphany in 2012, I’m so proud of what I saw day-after-day happening in Texas. I’m now in a very red/non-voting part of Eastern Washington and worked this last election. We lost on the ballot as well, but we created a small but powerful movement in our community and I’m more determined to work smarter, stronger and harder to benefit my community. Thank you Katherine for bringing us back to reality and for reminding us exactly what all those months of exhaustion and hard work really did take from those of us out there and what we accomplished, in spite of all against those of us working with so much passion! Thank you to all, everywhere, who braved whatever challenge you had to, to get it done!

  5. Next time focus less on Beltway-insider advice and speak to the issues Texans care about. Ending the statute of limitations on rape is a laudable goal but hardly figures into the day to day lives of average Texas liberals. While BT did a yoeman’s job of campaigning they did not GOTV when the rubber hit the road. Give em a hand by all means, but don’t ignore the actual outcome – the lowest voting rate in 70 years.

  6. Mary Bell Lockhart on

    Yes! And thank you, BOR, for keeping us so well informed while keeping your cool. You hit the nail on the head in referring to a hostile media environment. That’s an understatement! Also consider active voter suppression, economic suppression of our base, and the taint of dark money in ads and online attacks. We can do better but we have to first focus on the real problems.

  7. You are the exact reason we “tried” in texas you ignorant piece of shit! So you want us to live in the stone age for eternity!?! If America doesn’t change, than it might as well not exist at all! The world is progressing, whether we Americans keep up with it or not is up to us, not those bible thumping, republican shits that call themselves “politicians,” the people ultimately decide the fate of our nation.

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