Kronberg: “A Hispanic with charisma (and money) will transform Texas politics”

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Last week I attended a town hall forum with the editor of Quorum Report, Harvey Kronberg, sponsored by my previous state representative and my current one.  Truth to tell, I went mostly to see and hear them.  I respect what Kronberg does, I just think there are a few of us New Media types — such as Charles and Vince — who do what he does better and without the annoying $300 subscription.

Let me first say that I left with a tremendously increased respect for Kronberg, who after 18 years of following the Lege is probably better connected than anyone.  Better than Burka, better than Selby, better than Radcliffe.  What I never really got from him before is the insights from all of that history.  Most of you know I'm a history buff; “lessons/doomed to repeat” and all that.

In an evening filled with one cogent analysis after another — at one point I saw even Rep. Cohen taking notes — the one that kept my ears ringing a week later is the one in the headline.  But I'll come back to it in a moment.Kronberg doesn't get back to Houston all that often apparently, and speaks to the public even less frequently, but the Kaplan Theatre at the Jewish Community Center in Meyerland holds a special place for him.  He grew up in Houston, went to Bellaire High School, and his first summer job was as a projectionist “up there”, as he pointed to the booth over our heads.  He also noted that he was perhaps the only journalist who is also a “practicing capitalist” — as the owner of two flag and flagpole businesses,  in Austin (where he lives) and Houston — so he knows about the challenges of making payroll, meeting the onerous small business regulations, and so on. This appears to give him, in his media role, the philosophical ability to cross seamlessly from one side of the aisle to the other, keeping amiable acquaintance with both D's and R's while at the same time buffing his non-partisan credentials.

The first observation I noted was that redistricting marginalizes the general election voter.  Every two years the voters get to choose their representative, and every ten years (or less) the representatives choose their voters.  With the inherently polarizing nature of the redistricting/gerrymandering sausage-making, the end result is that a successful politician is compelled to accede to the wishes of his district's most active voters, i.e. his or her “base”, also known as the Democratic and Republican primary voters.  Primary voters in both parties are not known to be moderate or centrist.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Because the districts have been specifically populated to elect and re-elect a Democrat or a Republican, then the real electoral challenge comes — you guessed it — in the primary.  Thus, in November many contests between the parties are viewed as no contest.

What kind of politician does this produce?  The kind viewed as “extreme” — by both ends of the political spectrum.

The second observation Kronberg made was of the Republican Party at large, not just in Texas — the social, libertarian, and economic wings of the GOP are splintering, and thus their dominance of government is coming to an end.

He's dead solid perfect in this analysis.  Just look at how the xenophobic crackers, the base of the party for too long now, are abandoning Bush and the rest of the Republicans who are pushing for the compromise Senate legislation on immigration.

One of this coffin's final nails will be driven in 2008 by a neoconservative third-party presidential challenge from the likes of Tom Tancrazy or another of that ilk.  And the popularity of Ron Paul's quixotic bid among a Kucinich-sized segment of Republicans points out how, *ahem*, “diverse” the GOP is suddenly becoming.

The announcement yesterday of Michael Bloomberg's resignation from the Republican Party — meant to fuel his own political ambition — is an example of the moderate conservatives getting out from under the GOP's tent.  (I predict we will very shortly see a similar announcement from Joe Lieberman.  The only difference is that he stopped being a Democrat years before Bloomberg did.)

Abortion, taxes, property taxes at the state level — all issues that the social or libertarian or economic zealots feel strongly about, but their respective counterparts grimace in distaste over.  That spells doom for the legislative coalition that Jerry Falwell and Ralph Reed and Newt Gingrich cobbled together almost twenty years ago.

(Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say.)

The remaining observations I scribbled down were more Texas-centric but no less accurate: that members in both chambers pushed back successfully against their leadership.  Lt. Gov. Dewhurst stepped into a big pile of his own dookie when his office released the letter that was hyper-critical of the Senate's efforts to throttle the voter ID bill.  Kronberg noted something that he found to be one of the most profound developments in his tenure of covering the Lege, and that was the Senate's virtual unseating of its leader for a two-week period following the dustup.

Senators, Kronberg noted, operate almost as chief executives of their regions.  They have, for example, a near-gubernatorial power to veto the governor's appointments of people — judges, state commissions, etc. — who happen to reside within their district's boundaries.  Dewhurst, after all those years presiding over the Senate, simply forgot or perhaps ignored the fact that he serves as their leader at their pleasure.  And they pointedly reminded him of that fact.

Speaker Craddick's self-inflicted troubles are already well-documented, of course.

One other politically astute thing Kronberg pointed out was the percentage of voters within a statehouse district who opposed Proposition 2 — the one banning gay marriage, in 2005, which passed with 76% of the statewide vote — might indicate a district that could be ready to flip from red to blue … if that percentage was somewhat closer to 50%.

And finally, to the Q&A:

– Kronberg anticipates a special legislative session over property taxes.  And after that, perhaps one on Voter ID.

– Harvey does not agree with me that Hillary Clinton is bad for Texas Democrats down the ballot in 2008.  He says, and I quote as nearly verbatim as possible, that “there are already too many districts voting R at the top and D down-ballot” for this to be a problem.

– And to the headline, as well as to both the voter ID and the immigration brouhaha, Kronberg noted that he was puzzled by the conservative hysteria over both issues.  “Texas Latinos who are legal now and don't vote make up more than 50% of the state's population.  The numbers are huge in west Texas.”  With that comment I suddenly flashed on my experience in Plainview — hardly “west” Texas, between Lubbock and Amarillo — as a Junior Achievement counselor at the high school there, and a remark made by one of the school's administrators: that over 50% of the children in grades K-12 were Hispanic.  This was in 1988.

Texas, you may recall,  became a majority-minority state in 2004.

The Hispanic vote, statewide and nationwide, appears to be waiting to be motivated by the right candidate, I believe probably irrespective of party affiliation.  They will be an electoral tsunami, completely altering the political landscape — once the tide finally reaches the shore.  Who will be the candidate that does this?  Will it be Bill Richardson?

Or Rick Noriega, perhaps?

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    • SouthTexasDemocrat on

      Gallego is awesome! Rafael Anchia is great! Chuy Hinojosa did us proud
      in his handling the TYC mess! Juan Garcia has been excellent with his work on open government! Abel Herrero has done a superb job!

  1. Grace Stevens on

    Potential inTexas
    There are so many great people who can fill Republican seats. I do like Noriega, I hope he can get the support he needs to win, no matter the race.

    Also, I thoroughly enjoyed the insight the article brought to Texas politics by someone so informed, but most of all I liked:

    “Lt. Gov. Dewhurst stepped into a big pile of his own dookie…” 

    Eloquent?…I think so!

    • SouthTexasDemocrat on

      Good Lord, please give us a top-notch candidate to beat Dewhurst!
      If Bill White is running for Governor in 2010, and if either Barbara Radnofsky and David Van Os (or both) run for AG, we still have a HUGE hole at the critical spot for Lt. Governor. 

      We NEED a great candidate with statewide appeal for that critical Lt. Governor office!

      • Just kicking the old peanut around
        I know it isn't the race everyone's excited about, but what about Noriega for LG? Or even Garcia? I think you combine either one of them with White and you could end up with something really special.

  2. A lot of dynamic Hispanic candidates…
    The way we win stateside is when we recruit LOTS of young Hispanic, African American and progressive candidates to be running for local offices all over the state.

    West Texas is ripe for Hispanics to win countywide races and commissioner, JP and Constable races.  Every Court of Appeals seat and district judge seat needs a Democrat running.

    When that happens (and I see and here of very little activity in this regard), then we'll be winning everything at the top of the ticket.

    It always trickles upward, not from the top down.

    That being said, I'm for us taking on everybody… no race left unchallenged!

    • You left something out
      I generally agree with your statement, but I think that you are ignoring one key factor … in fact I can't seem to find anyone mentioning it anywhere in this post.

      For one, I grew up in California, and I don't remember one Hispanic with charisma and money turning the entire state.  I suppose that you could consider Cesar Chavez such a person, but he died before Prop 187, which was what really turned California politics.  So, while I think a Hispanic with charisma could change the Texas landscape, I don't think it is absolutely necessary.  In the long run though, we should be thinking about how to make inroads with the Latino community in multiple ways.

      However, I've looked at a lot of Tarrant County data, and Tarrant County has similar politics as the entire state, though it is less Latino.  Candidates that are women from both parties have done really well here.  I suspect that it is because of two things (1) Women candidates in Tarrant have been really well-qualified, and (2) I suspect women voters have a bit of a you-go-girl! mentality.  My wife also suggested that it might be that women politicians have historically been less corrupt than their male counterparts.  I'm not sure if women do so well in the rest of Texas, but they certainly do well in Tarrant, and it's probably something someone should look at a little more closely. 

      So, I hope that when we're recruiting minorties for these elections, we particularly concentrate on female ones.

      • I completely agree
        A Latina with charisma and cash probably — regrettably — still needs someone to blaze the trail.

        I'll even acknowledge that person could be Hillary (as much as I dislike her).

        The Annie's List folks are doing good work, and we need more women of all colors in Washington even worse than we need them in Austin.  Something just tells me we would, for one example, be involved in fewer wars if we had people without penises making those decisions (recalling the old George Carlin/penis envy bit, here — scroll down about halfway).

        • latinas with enough charisma and cash
          would not need anyone to blaze the way. A latina with charisma,
          cash and brains could burn anyone

          • and i mean
            that in a positive way. Take the senate race. If a latina
            had the cash, charisma,political connections,smarts that the other candidates have plus her unique position of having a uterus
            this whole pro-life,pro-choice debate could become moot.

          • and i mean
            that in a positive way. Take the senate race. If a latina
            had the cash, charisma,political connections,smarts that the other candidates have plus her unique position of having a uterus
            this whole pro-life,pro-choice debate could become moot.

          • Name some
            that could do it in 2008 or 2010 — that is, make a run for statewide office (and just for comparisons' sake, do better than Maria Luisa Alavarado's 41% in 2006).

            My list would begin with Jessica Farrar, for state comptroller.

  3. An absolutely outstanding wrap-up of this event, PD
    Thanks for this well written summary of the town hall meeting. I so wanted to go to that and now I feel like I was there. I had heard about some of what Kronberg said and it's good to get it confirmed.

  4. Jeff.Radford on

    His last name is Bush…
    George P. Bush could be that charismatic Hispanic that unites this large new demographic.  He is a lawyer out of Dallas and I'm sure he is just waiting to make a move.  We should be keeping tabs on this guy. 

    • You might be on the wrong blog
      George Prescott Bush is only Mexican during election season, and only in photo – ops with his retarded family, sans the crackhead sister. He has never been involved in the community, never showed any interest in Latino issues while he was a student at Rice, and certainly doesn't do that now. He could stand up and say, stop the immigrant bashing, stop the xenophobia, my mother is Mexican and so am I. Nope. Why should he? His name is George Prescott Bush.

  5. Noriega/Bush
    talk about Noriega, Juan Garcia,Anchia, as a young Hispanic
    leader and people will take you seriously.  But George Prescott Bush. Pleeeeease no.

  6. Jeff.Radford on

    Wait just a min…
    The last thing I'm doing is trying to defend George P.  I know all about his record and his lack of interest in anything worthy and good.  But I have to say if his uncle is any indication, with the name and raw power that family commands, it doesn't matter what he is doing or has done.  All he has to do is say the word and he has unlimited resources and armies of idiots ready to do the family dirty work. 

    I don't think I'm on the wrong blog because you mistake my words as an endorsement of this fool.  My point is that we must work to build the young Hispanic leaders in our party so that the George P's of the world are not an issue. 

  7. it just hit me
    Maybe Kron was taking about Manu Ginobli or Fabrizio Oberto.Problably not. The point is they are Hispanic and they are charismatic but George P is not.

  8. Oh, it looks like yours
    with a few dashes of reality mixed in.

    Rather than quarrel with you, I'll ask the same question I asked nuts below: name a few that would make a successful run for a statewide office, defined by exceeding MAL's percentage tallied in the '06 Lt. Gov. contest.

  9. 10!
    Sorry, I couldn't help the double entendre.

    I would have put Zaffirini ahead of Yanez, but I honestly don't know much about Yanez except for her failed statewide race.  Zarrifini though has the type of resume that would play really well in Tarrant County.  Any chance she might take on Cuellar?  Also, I'm a little surprised Van de Putte falls to fifth on your list.  She was the first to come to my mind in when thinking about Texas Latinas.

    PDiddie–All of these people would run ahead of MLA in a statewide race.  One of the keys to any Democrat doing well is that the Democrat needs to pick up newspaper endorsements (see Kuff's post here).  Unfortunately, major newspapers will only endorse candidates that have significant political experience.  That's unfortunate and not the way I believe the founders intended, but it's the reality.  MLA's resume was nice enough for me–USAF among other things, but without any political experience, it was never likely to pick up an endorsement over Dewhurst.  Someone like Zaffirini would easily pick up major newspaper endorsements in Central and South Texas.  She may even pick up a few in Harris and North Texas depending upon her opponent.

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