The original post said Adriana Maestas wrote for National Latina Institute of Reproductive Health, she is a writer for Politics365. The post has been corrected.
Ronald Reagan said, "Hispanics are already Republican. They just don't know it yet.", and apparently they still haven't learned in Texas. For Republicans trying to connect with Hispanics there seems to be only bad news, and now a new poll suggests it's reflective of an actual disconnect Hispanics feel with the GOP. For the survey PAC+ interviewed 2,685 randomly selected registered Hispanic voters in Texas counties with the highest number of Latino eligible voters: Bexar, Dallas, Tarrant, El Paso and Harris. The findings give support to a major part of Democrats plan to take back Texas -- register and turnout Latino voters. According to pollster Dr. Julie Martinez Ortega, "Latino voters make up 43% of the 'Texas Blue' vote,".
Republicans most straightforward pitch to Hispanics has been to try and co-identify as "conservative" and play up shared family values. It appears that whatever assumptions about shared values Republicans made were incorrect. When asked, "When it comes to social issues -- such as religion, abortion and same-sex marriage -- which party do you generally think does the best job of representing your views? Democrats or Republicans?", 58% said Democrats and only 24% identified with Republicans. This backs up other recent polls that show Hispanics by large margins support a woman's right to end her pregnancy. Adriana Maestas, Latina writer for Politics365, gave an early warning to Republicans over their "conventional wisdom" on Hispanics and social issues prior to the 2012 election when she said, "...if the GOP continues to reach out to Latino voters based on the perceived social agenda. These kinds of messages may not be well received this election year." She was correct as 58% of those survey by PAC+ supported Obama and only 24% supported Romney.
On economic issues, "like jobs, the economy, and immigration", Hispanics still identified most with Democrats at 57%. One of the most successful tools Republicans have used is recruiting Hispanic candidates. A majority of respondents said they were more likely to vote for a candidate because they were "Hispanic", with 44% saying they would be much more likely. Senator Ted Cruz accordingly got 32% of the Hispanic vote, but 21% of those surveyed actually thought he was a Democrat. Recruits or not, Republicans' hardline positions on issues like immigration and voter ID laws are likely to blunt any gains from individual candidates. A whopping 71% believe that "discrimination against Latinos" is a problem in the United States, with 36% saying it was a "big" problem. When asked about "voter suppression", 59% said if they knew it was happening it would make them more likely to vote.
Deborah Peoples of Fort Worth, a former executive for AT&T, is the new interim Democratic Party Chair for Tarrant County after a special election this Saturday, April 20th.
Outgoing County Chair Steve Maxwell stepped down after five years of service to the party. The Precinct Chairs of the county gathered to elect the new chair from a slate of four candidates that consisted of Deborah Peoples, Dick Abrams, Randy Daniels, and Lee Henderson.
One surprise guest was Tarrant County Republican County Chair Jennifer Hall. Steve Maxwell welcomed her and let her know that the Democrats were "going to show you the right way it is done". (The Republicans had a contentious interim chair election a few months ago.)
In a surprise move, during the five minute speech phase, Lee Henderson withdrew his name from consideration without endorsing any other candidate. It took two rounds of voting with Peoples and Abrams going down to the wire with a very close vote.
The four hour meeting closed on an upbeat mood with congratulations and promises of cooperation to turn Tarrant County blue.
One of the newest and most conservative state legislators is Giovanni Capriglione who represents House District 98 in northeast Tarrant County. He has drawn the ire of local Democrats with his bills including HB 1175 promoting school vouchers and HB 706 which allows students to bring guns on to college campuses.
On Friday, April 12th, Capriglione had a town hall meeting at the Southlake Town Hall. A total of 25 Democratic Party and progressive activists showed up also.
Public school advocate Kim Burkett asked Capriglione: why didn't the legislature restore the funding to public schools that they cut in 2011 when the budget is so much better now? She was not happy with his explanation about spending caps and budget projections. "What he failed to mention was that each of these excuses were legislative-made and solvable for those with the political will to do so. And, frankly, these self-imposed impediments are not the problem of Texas children. They should be solved by the grown-ups that created them instead of punishing students."
Besides public school advocates, there were representatives from the Northeast Tarrant Democrats, the Mid-Cities Democrats, and Equality Texas.
Tari Bauer, member of the Northeast Tarrant County Democrats said, "I wanted to let my representative know that he has constituents on all sides of the political spectrum in the hopes of blunting any extremism. It was a positive experience and Mr. Capriglione thanked us afterwards."
It's pretty clear that some Democrats will stop at nothing to prevent further cuts to public education. Most House Democrats showed their support by attending the Save Texas Schools Rally, but San Antonio Representative Joe Farias instead did the Harlem Shake. Joined by some enthusiastic staffers he broke it down for his colleagues who are feeling the pressure to restore education funding from their own districts' parents and educators.
If you're not familiar with the copycat-inspiring viral video, Know Your Meme does an excellent breakdown. Urban Dictionary defines the dance itself as an 'An eccentric upper body dance move that involves the shaking of the upper torso and shoulders'. Sure in internet years it's past its prime, but when 1/3 of the #txlege isn't even on twitter, I'll shake to that.
After Tuesday's school finance ruling, many politicos reacted by predicting a special session next year to fix the unconstitutional school system. The conventional wisdom is that Republicans won't want to fix their unconstitutional policy unless they have to (that is, if the Texas Supreme Court affirms on appeal). That will take a little while.
But an idea popped up into the head of some state legislators: our children deserve better.
It was clear from Democrats' statements then that they didn't want to wait quite that long. They want to fix school finance this session, because even if the Supreme Court reverses Judge Dietz's adverse ruling -- we can't really be proud as Texas leaders if we fund our schools in a constitutionally questionable way.
As it turns out, Democrats are moving with every asset they have to immediately bring our schools back to par. Yesterday, six state representatives sent a letter to Governor Perry asking for school finance to be declared an emergency item. Bills can be passed addressing emergency items immediately, while most bills cannot be passed until after a large chunk of session. The key argument from the letter:
You have criticized the federal government for creating a "climate of uncertainty" for business. Texas leaders should be held to no less of a standard. After cuts of last session, the public schools responsible for over five million children deserve confidence that they will be adequately funded.
Unfortunately, Rick Perry is among the Republicans in Texas who have shown an anti-education tilt, so it would shock everyone to see him declare the emergency item.
So, Democrats have two other moves up their sleeves.
First, from Yvonne Davis, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, on the caucus's behalf:
the House Democratic Leader and Democratic members announce their intent to offer an amendment to the supplemental budget. This amendment will utilize the budget surplus and restore $5.4 billion in funding to public education that was cut last session as well as pursue ways to fund education this biennium.
What's the supplemental appropriations bill? It's a bill that helps pay for things that the Texas Legislature didn't agree to pay for last session. That is, the Texas Legislature didn't think it could pay for a full 2 years of Texas government, so it used an accounting trick. So we're going to pay for the rest of the current two year cycle before we write our next budget. The problem, of course, is that Republicans don't seem to consider billions of dollars in education cuts as money that should be paid on the last budget.
The supplemental appropriations bill is important. It has to pass. And it needs 100 votes in the House. Republicans have 95. They need Democrats to support, so Democrats have a little leverage to return some money to education there. (You'd think, of course, that Democrats wouldn't need leverage; that Republicans would want to give schools their money back, too.)
Meanwhile, Representative Trey Martinez Fischer has found that the Texas House can create their own emergency items.
From the Mexican American Legislative Caucus's press release:
Today, MALC Chairman Trey Martinez Fischer called to be recognized to dissolve the House into a Committee of the Whole, in order to consider school finance reform. Chairman Martinez Fischer is recognized as an authority on the Texas House Rules. Last legislative session, he successfully bought to light procedural defects in legislation by deploying 11 of 16 points of order. Under Rule 4, Sec. 51, the Texas House has the ability to create a Committee of the Whole to consider any matter. In addition, in order to pass legislation from the Committee of the Whole within the first 60 days of the legislative session, 120 members must suspend Art. III, Sec. 5(b) of the Texas Constitution.
In the past, the Texas State Legislature has acted on issues of the upmost importance while litigation is pending. In 2009, the legislature modified the top ten percent plan (S.B. 175) while litigation that would have affected admissions to institutions of higher education was pending. Further, in 2007, the legislature acted with all due diligence to enact Jessica's law (H.B. 8) despite pending litigation on the matter.
"While members of the Leadership have held that we must wait until the Texas Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of our state's school finance system, it is clear that we have the ability, within our rules, to act today," said Chairman Martinez Fischer. "We have the opportunity to prove that education is our number one priority. There is a clear path to begin the debate of restoring education funding cuts and fixing our broken school finance system."
The Dallas Morning News reported that Martinez Fischer's parliamentary inquiries to Speaker Straus won't be answered until Monday. But the jist is that Martinez Fischer wants to ask our state representatives if our children are worth helping immediately. It's not just on Perry: it's on everyone.
And it seems, through Martinez-Fischer's plan and the amendment coming to the supplemental appropriations bill, state representatives will have at least two opportunities to show their constituents if they think that children are worth it. Keep an eye out. With any luck, we may adequately fund our schools next week.
The Northeast Tarrant County Democrats gathered at the home of Mark & Tari Bauer in Colleyville to watch the inauguration of President Obama on Monday morning, Jan 21. The local Democrats celebrated with breakfast foods and mimosas and champagne.
Lee Williams, President of the Northeast Dems remarked, "What a great event to watch together. I know that our group and the nation are anticipating great things for the next four years."
Photos of the event are here:
The Northeast Tarrant County Democrats organized a welcome committee for the Snowball Express in Fort Worth on Sunday, Dec 2nd. The Snowball Express honors those military families who have lost a loved one in the service of their country with destination vacations for the children and spouses. They were on their way to Billy Bob's to hear Gary Sinise and his band "Lt. Dan Band". Other organizations that were represented include the Southwest Democrats, Organized Labor, Mid-Cities, and Tarrant County for Obama.
One of the greatest ironies of the 2012 election is that some who claimed to be the Constitution's greatest defenders were so unhappy with our Republic's choice for President they are now calling for dissolving the Union altogether. Instead of hearing the clear message from voters about their policy positions, Republicans are blaming the electorate as "takers", calling for secession and lamenting the end of America as they knew and loved it. Fox News and friends completely botched the election results but will likely be forgiven by those who just like having their stereotypes of Democratic constituencies validated. The Anger is palpable. Rev. Franklin Graham said by reelecting Obama, America is going further down the "path of destruction", Fox News blamed single women for being single issue voters, Ann Coulter blamed Hispanics for "Ethnic loyalty" and O'Reilly simply announced the end of the "white establishment".
Before going any further let's get this straight - America was first a land of many indigenous nations that was colonized by Europeans who spread from sea to sea with the help of massive immigration. Today's immigrants are no less entitled to the opportunities to make a living off this great land than prior generations, a point well made by The Daily Show's Jon Stewart. Still there is a bitter romanticism about days the "white establishment" ruled the land, particularly the 1950s. An article titled "War on Men" that was just published by Fox News even blamed the 1960s sexual revolution and gender equality saying,
...the so-called rise of women has not threatened men. It has pissed them off. It has also undermined their ability to become self-sufficient in the hopes of someday supporting a family. Men want to love women, not compete with them.
This completely misses the point that most Americans really do care about freedom, the freedom to make their own personal choices and having the economic opportunity to do so. What was so great about the '50s wasn't that Leave it to Beaver represented the typical American family, but that it was a time of reletively low income disparity in the US. Yes, the greatest generation lived during a time when the rich paid their fair share and the highest marginal income tax rate was 91%. People saw the value of organized labor and as recently as the 70s, CEOs only made an average of 26.5 times their employees. Now, CEOs make over 200 times their employee and the Right still vilifies those who fight for fairness for working people. More over, they want you to believe that they earned all that money through “hard work”, yet they nominated a CEO for President who made $20 million this year even though the only thing he has run lately is - a failed Presidential campaign.
Today's Conservative tantrums present a great opportunity for Democrats to reach out to white middle-class male voters, a demographic they continue to struggle with. A successful effort could put the final nail in the national Republican Party's coffin. Unfortunately for the foreseeable future, Texas will not be that final nail. Here, Democrats may be winning the future demographic race but right now their inability to win moderate rural voters is crippling. Democrats share of the vote was less in 2012 than it was in 2008 and far behind Gov. Ann Richards' 49.7% in 1990. The truth is, in Texas there's a messaging gap not a demographic one - Republicans have hurt mostly-White rural Texans with their economic policies just as they have set back minorities across the board with their social policies. Those with a stake in the longevity of the Republican Party know it must change its social and economic image to be a viable institution in the future. The party that had once drawn success from a lock-step approach to legislative victory is now in the throes of an inner party struggle between those who feel the party is purifying itself into nonexistence and those who believe a broader appeal sacrifices their conservative values. This is most evident in the Republican quest to recruit Hispanics into their ranks. Conservatives claim that Hispanics have a natural propensity to be conservative but their voting trends show something much different. Not only did Hispanics vote overwhelmingly for Obama, they are majority supporters of his more controversial policies including the Affordable Care Act and marriage equality. This suggests that even if Republicans managed to cool-down their anti-immigration rhetoric it won't be enough to sway most Latino voters. And, its likely for the same reason they lost the greater election - their economic policies just don't add up to success for the middle class.
There was a time when Republicans stood up for workers rights and fought for living wages and the end of exploitation of cheap labor. These are policies that lead to a rising standard of living and the strengthening of the middle class, but now those days are gone. During the campaign the focus was abstract; rich vs poor, 1% vs the 99% but since voters rejected Romney's top-down economic approach the conversation has gotten more specific (Google the debacles of Hostess, Papa John's or Denny's). Fiscal conservatives need to ask themselves - who picks up the tab when full-time employees can not afford basics like housing, food or insurance? Judging by the results of the last election, taxpayers have figured out they're left on the hook and don't much like subsidizing corporate America so they don’t have to pay their employees fair wages. I had a Twitter debate with a policy analyst for the Texas Public Policy Foundation (a right-wing "think tank") about the Walmart strikes. He said he had not heard a good argument for buying local over a mulitinational chain. When I told him, "local retailers return a total of 52% of their revenue to the local economy, compared to just 14% for the nation chain retailers”, he responded, “This is not an important economic indicator.”. That sentiment explains why Texas is so great for business but not so for children and it demonstrates that the loyalty is not to family, community or country but to upward redistribution. If Republicans want to build a coalition of voters big enough to win a national election maybe they should consider bringing some of their own gifts to the Party. In the meantime Texas Democratic leaders need to exploit the Republican's current identity crisis and remind Independents and moderates that the "good old days" were about economic prosperity brought on by policies that focused on growing wealth inside-out, not upside-down.
I'll Leave you with a speech President Eisenhower gave to the AFL-CIO in 1955 (emphasis is my own):
You of organized labor and those who have gone before you in the union movement have helped make a unique contribution to the general welfare of the Republic--the development of the American philosophy of labor. This philosophy, if adopted globally, could bring about a world, prosperous, at peace, sharing the fruits of the earth with justice to all men. It would raise to freedom and prosperity hundreds of millions of men and women--and their children--who toil in slavery behind the Curtain.
One principle of this philosophy is: the ultimate values of mankind are spiritual; these values include liberty, human dignity, opportunity and equal rights and justice. Workers want recognition as human beings and as individuals-before everything else. They want a job that gives them a feeling of satisfaction and self-expression. Good wages, respectable working conditions, reasonable hours, protection of status and security; these constitute the necessary foundations on which you build to reach your higher aims. Moreover, we cannot be satisfied with welfare in the aggregate; if any group or section of citizens is denied its fair place in the common prosperity, all others among us are thereby endangered.
The second principle of this American labor philosophy is this: the economic interest of employer and employee is a mutual prosperity. Their economic future is inseparable. Together they must advance in mutual respect, in mutual understanding, toward mutual prosperity. Of course, there will be contest over the sharing of the benefits of production; and so we have the right to strike and to argue all night, when necessary, in collective bargaining sessions. But in a deeper sense, this surface struggle is subordinate to the overwhelming common interest in greater production and a better life for all to share. The American worker strives for betterment not by destroying his employer and his employer's business, but by understanding his employer's problems of competition, prices, markets. And the American employer can never forget that, since mass production assumes a mass market, good wages and progressive employment practices for his employee are good business.
The Class Struggle Doctrine of Marx was the invention of a lonely refugee scribbling in a dark recess of the British Museum. He abhorred and detested the middle class. He did not foresee that, in America, labor, respected and prosperous, would constitute--with the farmer and businessman--his hated middle class. But our second principle--that mutual interest of employer and employee--is the natural outgrowth of teamwork for progress, characteristic of the American economy where the barriers of class do not exist. The third principle is this: labor relations will be managed best when worked out in honest negotiation between employers and unions, without Government's unwarranted interference. This principle requires maturity in the private handling of labor matters within a framework of law, for the protection of the public interest and the rights of both labor and management.
The splendid record of labor peace and unparalleled prosperity during the last 3 years demonstrates our industrial maturity. Some of the most difficult and unprecedented negotiations in the history of collective bargaining took place during this period, against the backdrop of non-interference by Government except only to protect the public interest, in the rare cases of genuine national emergency. This third principle, relying as it does on collective bargaining, assumes that labor organizations and management will both observe the highest standards of integrity, responsibility, and concern for the national welfare. You are more than union members bound together by a common goal of better wages, better working conditions, and protection of your security. You are American citizens. The roads you travel, the schools your children attend, the taxes you pay, the standards of integrity in Government, the conduct of the public business is your business as Americans. And while all of you, as to the public business, have a common goal--a stronger and better America--your views as to the best means of reaching that goal vary widely, just as they do in any other group of American citizens.
So in your new national organization, as well as in your many constituent organizations, you have a great opportunity of making your meetings the world's most effective exhibit of democratic processes. In those meetings the rights of minorities holding differing social, economic, and political views must be scrupulously protected and their views accurately reflected. In this way, as American citizens you will help the Republic correct the faulty, fortify the good, build stoutly for the future, and reinforce the most cherished freedoms of each individual citizen. This country has long understood that by helping other peoples to a better understanding and practice of representative government, we strengthen both them and ourselves. The same truth applies to the economic field. We strengthen other peoples and ourselves when we help them to understand the workings of a free economy, to improve their own standards of living, and to join with us in world trade that serves to unite us all.
In the world struggle, some of the finest weapons for all Americans are these simple tenets of free labor. They are again: mart is created in the Divine image and has spiritual aspirations that transcend the material; second, the real interests of employers and employees are mutual; third, unions and employers can and should work out their own destinies. As we preach and practice that message without cease, we will wage a triumphant crusade for prosperity, freedom, and peace among men. To close, it is fitting that we let our hearts be filled with the earnest prayer that, with the help of a kind Providence, the world may be led out of bitterness and materialism and force into a new era of harmony and spiritual growth and self-realization for all men. Thank you very much.
Last Tuesday's results show that Republicans have a lot of soul-searching to do about the future viability of their party, but the same could be said about Texas Democrats. After conceding there was much work left to be done, Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said by 2018 Texas would become battleground state, "by itself." I strongly disagree, I expect national pundits and observers to casually assume demographics alone will make our state competitive but our past says something much different. Almost 50 years ago Lyndon Johnson said he signed away the South (to the Republicans) for a generation with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and still more than a generation later identity politics dominate the conversation. As the Party colors change from Red and Blue to White and Brown the demographic scapegoating of Hispanics could also potentially alienate middle-class white voters. The subtle nods to white voters that the Democratic Party was some how hostile towards them started immediately after President Obama's election was announced. Pat Buchannan wrote on his blog, "We face demographic disaster, they are wailing...These are people who depend upon government. Why would they vote for a party that is going to cut taxes they do not pay, but take away government benefits they do receive?." Bill O'Reilly said on Fox News, It's not a traditional America anymore, and there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff...The white establishment is now the minority." I have a feeling these type of messages aren't falling on deaf ears in the reddest parts of the state, and Democrats have to make a compelling economic case or risk losing further ground. Over 60,000 online signatures have been collected to grant Texas secession, to which Gov. Perry, a prospective 2016 Presidential candidate, refused to lend support too. Texas is very much still a red state, Romney beat Obama by 1.2 million votes in Texas, while Obama won nationally by less than 3 million.
There are few other hitches to the changing demographic scenario. Besides the lack of party structure to get eligible voters out, Hispanics voters face deliberate barriers to their growing electoral impact like restrictive Voter ID and redistricting. Another is that the rate Hispanics turnout is lower in Texas than other states where they are a decisive voting bloc like Colorado and Nevada. Republicans know they have issues with demographics and despite an inner struggle they won't just sit around and watch Texas become a blue state. Texas' first Hispanic Senator-elect Ted Cruz acknowledged his party needed to do better in their appeal and recognized the stakes when he said, "If that happens, no Republican will ever again win the White House,...If Texas turns bright blue, the Electoral College math is simple...The Republican Party would cease to exist. We would become like the Whig Party." For his part Cruz garnered 35% of the Hispanic vote compared to Romney's 29%. There are also future Latino candidates like George P. Bush, the son of Jeb Bush who has been instrumental in the Hispanic Republicans of Texas. Democrats must make their move while Republicans, in identity crisis, are forced to reconcile voter suppression and harsh immigration policies with reaching out to Hispanics.
Every Democrat in Texas fondly remembers Ann Richards for her tenacity and wit but also as our last Democratic Governor. But let's not forget, she lost her reelection bid and she wasn't "supposed" to win in the first place. Similar to the unlikely Senate pickups in Missouri and Indiana, Richards was helped by an outrageous rape comment by her opponent. In March of 1990 Republican Gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams compared inclimate weather to rape saying, "'If it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.'' The Same man also said Hispanics should vote for him because he met his wife in a Mexican restaurant. So yes, maybe Texas Democrats can actually win on issues, even the same issues Republican's struggle with nationally, but turning Texas blue will be a process not an event.
Having an attractive candidate or two at the top of the ticket won't be enough to make up the infrastructure gap. Though his name is regularly thrown out there as a possible statewide candidate for 2014, Mayor Julian Castro said himself he didn't believe Texas would be competitive before 2016. We must focus, as Republican's did decades ago, on winning local races and redefining the party. Support Castro now as Mayor, the same for up and coming legislators, council members and County Commissioners around the state, raise their profile and then we will have started the process. Our Democratic state legislators, who are the greatest intermediary between the state and local party, gained 7 seats in House and broke the Republicans 2/3s margin and thats a good start. Even though we barely represent ⅓ of state we have members present in 5 of it's 6 largest media markets. Democrats must use their time in Austin wisely to make the case that state leaders have failed and that there is an actual alternative. Texas may be filled with progressives, minorities and those whose economic interest align with Democrats but thats not enough to get them to the polls for us. We must look at Texas the way we look at our nation, the same message or candidate will not work everywhere. Its time we ask every community this simple question, "Does the Texas budget reflect Texas values." Now, can we propose one that does?
Austin Young Democrats, formerly Capital City Young Democrats, is officially relaunching on Tuesday, August 28th 6p at Club Deville (900 Red River). "Work Hard // Play Hard" thats our motto - and we'll be spending the rest of this election season living up to it. We're actively registering voters and organizing phone banks to elect good progressive Democrats and re-elect President Obama.
Our membership generally consists of young professionals and politicos who enjoy a good happy hour and live music as much as any bunch of Austinites. When it comes down to it, if you fit into 2 of the 3 categories you should join this club - we're open to any combination of progressive young Austinites who can see the choice is clear for moving our county forward.
Obama said, "We are the one's we've been waiting for.", and we still believe that.
Thanks to Club Deville for hosting and La Snacks for rocking!
Special thanks to Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt and Austin State Reps Elliott Naishtat, Eddie Rodriguez and Mark Strama for sponsoring!