Dog Canyon: Springtime Democrats in December

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Ed. note: The following is from Glenn Smith's excellent blog, Dog Canyon — which everyone should read or have in their RSS, if they haven't already.

Springtime Democrats in December

by Glenn W. Smith

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has played her Charlie Brown’s Lucy-and-the-football trick one more time. Nope, she’s not resigning from the Senate. “AAARGH!” shout Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Attorney General Greg Abbott, and various other would-be GOP placekickers who are now forced to cool their heels.

Health care reform is up in the U.S. Senate. The economy continues its slow recovery. A jobs bill is on the way. Misled by Fox News, I guess, some doomsayers have, until now, thought 2010 wasn’t gonna be great for Democrats. But suddenly they remember: Gov.  Rick Perry was elected with 39 percent of the vote in 2006.

Texas, meanwhile, is an incumbents’ nightmare, and all the incumbents are Republican. Why is it a nightmare? Because Hutchison is playing a practical joke,  Perry is a practical joke, Dewhurst is a bad joke, Comptroller Susan Combs writes dirty jokes (bodice rippers, anyway), Abbott doesn’t get the joke, and House Speaker Joe Straus and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson would rather be at the track or the gun range, respectively, no joke.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that while teabaggers do their best to redraw a Mason-Dixon line along the Red River, most moderate Texans are alarmed that they can’t afford their kids’ college, they can’t afford health insurance, they’re losing their jobs, their mortgage company is knocking on the door, they pay tolls to a Spanish company for the privilege of waiting in traffic and breathing poisonous air. They can’t even get a glass of water when they stop at the diner because there’s a drought and nobody’s planned for the state’s water woes.

Watch out, because December is almost here, the deadline for filing for office just six weeks away, and there’s about to be a scramble among Democrats to see who is running for which statewide office.

Before very long, there will be either surprising new energy or a major shake-up of some sort in the governor’s race. That shake-up, and a general sense that somebody’s gonna get there first if they don’t move now, will energize potential down-ballot statewide candidates, in fact, it will energize more candidates than there are statewide offices. So behind the scenes there is going to be some serious arm-twisting, posturing, positioning, and all-around fun.

There’s also this often overlooked fact:  Texas Democrats have a statewide organization that far surpasses what was in place before their legendary sweep of 1982, or Ann Richards’ victory of 1990, or certainly before the nationwide losses of 2002. It’s not even close. There’s more organization, more discipline, more capable leadership  — almost all of it behind the scenes. All of it critical to potential 2010 successes.

There is an army of activists waiting to be mobilized. I have to admit, they are as nervous and impatient as Texas patriot/citizens were at Sam Houston’s dithering (to coin a word) before attacking (and beating) Santa Anna.

A couple of things have made Hungry Young Democrats wait for the whites of GOP eyes before deciding what to do. First, of course, is their youth.  The storied 1982 ticket had seasoned incumbents Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Hobby at the top, and a bunch of them — Mark White, Ann Richards, Jim Mattox, Garry Mauro — wanted to get near the front of the line ahead of would-be competitors. They didn’t want to wait. Today’s young Democrats have, until now, figured they had years to go before they found themselves out to pasture.

But waiting is always a bad risk in politics. Just ask Hutchison. Or Henry Cisneros. This isn’t lost on the young bunch (I am leaving out names ’cause I’ll sure enough forget someone and I can’t afford the minutes on my cell phone for the angry calls from the overlooked).

There’s also:  1)  All the downspinning of Democratic chances in 2010 was based on air. This is not to say the Eeyore gloominess couldn’t be self-fulfilling if it prevailed; 2) What exactly is supposed to happen between 2010 and 2014 that will make the latter a better year for Democrats? Uh…no one can answer that. There is no swinging pendulum. Democrats have to build their future.

With apologies to the Beatles, in politics the votes you take are equal to the votes you make.

I’m very aware that some so-called sophisticates remain skeptical about 2010. Some do so for self-interested reasons. Others are glass-half-empty types. As I’ve said before, sophistication is often the enemy of courage. So call me unsophisticated.


About Author

Phillip Martin

Currently the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas and the Texas Research Institute, Phillip Martin writes occasional long-form pieces for BOR that promote focused analysis and insight into Texas politics. Born and raised in Austin, Phillip started working in politics in 2003 and started writing on BOR in the summer of 2005. Phillip has worked for the Texas Democratic Trust, the Texas Legislative Study Group, and now the Progress Texas family. He is a lifelong Houston Astros fan, a loyal Longhorn, and loves swimming at Barton Springs Pool.


  1. Watch out for the Tea Baggers…
    The Tea Bag Party, which now includes some Democrats who joined after they managed to read all 1,900 + pages of the “health care reform” bill the madam of the bordello we call Congress managed to get passed, will most likely take care of quite a few of the Republicans and give some of the Democrats a chance. And then go after them if need be. Although some Democrats are already on the “hit list” so to speak.

    People are tired of the Republicrat Party which is really the party that controls Congress and the White House.

    The only Democrats and Republicans in this country are the fools who believe there are Democrats and Republicans on the ballots.

    The first American Revolution began with the people tossing the tea into Boston Harbor. The second American Revolution will begin with the people tossing the Republicrats out of office at the polls.  

  2. rickthefireguy on

    The Lady from Dallas is worth a cup of….
    Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson has once again made a fool of herself and has made Texas look like a fool for ever sending her to Washington in the first place, all of this on this morning national program “Meet the Press”, where she placed here stupidity front and center for all to see – by bad mouthing the healthcare bill! Then she had the “balls” to run her “I'll save Texas from Socialized Medicine” bull by airing an election add at the end of the program!

    This woman does not desire her seat in the US Senate let alone the governorship of Texas! Its time the little people of Texas retire this crazed woman and every other right wing Republican nut case that is running. Texas has got to grow up and start caring for the little people and stop care for big business!

    Between the current governor and her their isn't two cents difference between then and the republicans in general – its time for a complete head to toe house cleaning in Austin and Washington!

    Its time to return the state to the little people who are best represented by the Democrats!

    I tired of Texas coming in dead last in every concealable category save connectional facilities and lethal injections!

    Its time for a Texas size house cleaning!

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