Four years ago, Democrats, independents, and many Republicans came together as Americans to move our country forward. We were in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the previous administration had put two wars on our nation’s credit card, and the American Dream had slipped out of reach for too many.
Today, our economy is growing again, al-Qaeda is weaker than at any point since 9/11, and our manufacturing sector is growing for the first time in more than a decade.
The 2012 Republican National Platform is a scorched Earth polemic full of unpopular positions, and draws a clear contrast between the visions of the two parties on the future direction of the country.
After a gaff-filled week in Tampa, Florida, Republicans appear to be experiencing a middling bounce. Unforced errors are certainly at the center of any forensic study of the RNC failure; however, to blame it all on style is to overlook the bitter substance of the Republican agenda.
Running on a platform of austerity, tax cuts for millionaires, Groupon for Grandma voucher-based Medicare, and further culture warfare that targets women’s equality and liberty, the Republicans are hemmed into politically unpopular positions. No wonder their Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees delivered policy-free acceptance speeches.
In place of substance, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney used fact-free filler. Although Romney’s acceptance speech, according to New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow, “avoided the flat-out falseness of Ryan’s,” one in ten of the Romney campaign’s statements evaluated by fact-checking site PolitiFact have been branded “Pants on Fire” lies. In comparison, only one in fifty of the Obama campaign’s statements earned that distinction.
The reaction from the right to having their lies exposed? Blame the fact-checkers! The crime that the Weekly Standard hopes will taint all the fact-checking analysis? A New York Times goof, misplacing interior quote marks. The original White House release did not indicate exactly which of the President’s words were directly quoting a Republican source, and the Times mistakenly included ten extra words in the interior quote. Scandalous! That’s evidence of “incompetent partisans masquerading as ‘independent’ media fact checking organizations.”
En route from the Charlotte Douglas Airport to the Great Wolf Lodge in Concord, North Carolina, today, I rode with a busload of arriving delegates to the Democratic National Convention. North Carolina voted for Obama in 2008, and is currently leaning toward Romney. Along the route was one of those weakly-identified political billboards screaming, “Don’t believe the liberal media.”
In 2012, the election hinges on the Republicans being able to prevaricate on a level previously unknown in modern American politics, while imploring their flock to ignore any facts that deviate from their dystopian world view as a plot by liberal media elites. With all their cash, Fox News and the rest of the RWNM, there is a chance they could pull it off.
The stakes for the Democrats this week are high. Will we effectively make the case that Pres. Barack Obama has performed admirably under incredibly adverse conditions, and deserves four more years to try to right the disastrous state that Republicans and Wall Street leveraged buy-out con artists have left us in? Will we be able to effectively articulate what it means to be a Democrat in memorable sound-bite form? Will we be able to rekindle the hope that flickered to life four years ago, only to be extinguished by grinding reality.
We cannot move forward to the promised land as long as the few who have it all are willing to settle for “a lot”, and leave the rest of us a little bit larger slice of the pie. The 2012 campaign pits hope against greed. This is our week to make the case to the American public.
I am deeply honored to have a front-row seat this week. I’ll be reporting on what I experience here. Please allow yourself to hope we succeed.
The members of the Texas Democratic Party Executive Committee held an emergency meeting this evening and approved their Delegate Selection Plan for 2012. The famous “Texas Two-Step” hybrid primary/caucus process for selecting our delegates to the Democratic National Convention will be set aside this year, and temporarily replaced with a two-tiered convention (caucus).
The first series of conventions will be held April 21, 2012, at a location and time to be announced by each county political party. All voters who affiliate with a political party, generally by signing an Oath, are eligible to attend the county conventions. The convention delegates will debate and adopt a slate of delegates who will represent the county at the State Democratic Convention, to be held June 8-9, in Houston. According to the Delegate Selection Plan, Williamson County will be able to send 124 delegates and 124 alternates to the state convention. (Two ex-officio delegates will join the delegation, making the total voting strength of Williamson County at the State Convention 126.)
Up to 7,021 delegates will be credentialed at the State Democratic Convention. They will adopt a slate of 288 delegates and 22 alternates who will attend the Democratic National Convention, to be held September 3-6, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Senatorial District 5, which includes Williamson County, will meet in a separate caucus at the state convention to select six national delegates. These six delegates will be apportioned according to the aggregation of the poll of Presidential preference taken at the district’s 10 county conventions. The Delegate Selection Plan calls for a Presidential candidate to meet a 15% minimum in order to receive delegates.
The move today by the state Democratic party is a response to a San Antonio federal court order issued yesterday. In that order, a three-judge panel provided for state political parties to make adjustments to their rules so that state conventions can be held in June, independent of results of primaries whose results won’t be available in time.
The court yesterday also issued maps to be used for the 2012 elections in State Representative, State Senatorial and United States Congressional districts. Those maps hew closely to the lines drawn by the 82nd Legislature, and which have thus far been unable to earn pre-clearance from the United States Department of Justice, as required under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Rather than submit the maps to the Department of Justice, the State of Texas asked a D. C. circuit court for pre-clearance. A trial was held in January and February, but the court has not issued a ruling. A ruling has become increasingly unlikely in time to allow the state parties to hold their conventions in June, necessitating tonight’s action.
The size of venue required for state conventions limits the locations where they can be held, and makes the cost of moving unrealistic. Therefore, the San Antonio court has allowed the state parties to draw up plans that will allow them to select their national delegations without the results of a Presidential Primary to determine the Presidential preferences of their delegates. Instead, state parties will use a poll of convention attendees to determine the apportionment.
Credentials for attendance to the Democratic state convention will be issued to delegates elected at county and senatorial district conventions to be held April 21, 2012. Counties entirely contained within a single Senatorial District will convene a single County Convention. Counties containing parts of more than one Senatorial district (i.e., Atascosa, Bexar, Brazoria, Collin, Dallas, Denton, Fort Bend, Galveston, Guadalupe, Harris, Hays, Hidalgo, Montgomery, Tarrant, Taylor, and Travis) will have a a Senatorial Convention for each portion of a Senatorial District within the county. Sometimes all the Senatorial District conventions within a county are held at one location, or they may be held separately.
Voters who want to attend a party’s County or Senatorial District conventions must be registered to vote in the County and reside in the District. They must affiliate with one political party, either by signing a candidate petition for a place on that party’s primary ballot, or providing an Oath of Affiliation to the County Chair.
The time and location of the County and Senatorial District conventions will be announced by each county party’s executive committee in the coming weeks. Notices will be posted in public spaces and in local media. Committees will be appointed to prepare for the convention, processing Credentials, accepting proposed Resolutions and Rules changes, and handling other logistical details. Funding for the county/SD conventions is provided entirely by the County political parties and their donors.
On April 21, when voters arrive at their convention, they will prove that they are registered to vote and reside within the county/district. They will sign an Oath of Affiliation that declares their party preference for 2012. A record of those oaths is provided to the county’s chief elections officer, where it will be recorded in the voter roll for any subsequent primary or primary runoff elections. A person who attempts to affiliate with more than one party, or who votes in a party’s primary or runoff election to which they are unaffiliated, will have violated Texas Election Code, and could be subject to prosecution under state law.
Once signed in, the county/SD convention attendee becomes a full voting delegate, and joins other delegates from their voting precinct. Last summer, Williamson County approved a new precinct map whose lines will correspond with the court-ordered maps. This plan divides Williamson into 88 voting precincts. Because this map has not been pre-cleared by Justice, it may be necessary for another court order to make it (or some other map) temporarily effective; however, in lieu of that, the county parties may have to revert to the 2010 map which divided Williamson into 102 precincts. Some of those lines may not match up with State House districts; however, that won’t impact the county convention. The precinct map will be used to divide the county convention attendees into groups. Those groups will have an opportunity to select one of their own to join the state delegation.
Voters would have received their voter registration cards in January, had an enacted map obtained pre-clearance in time. The cards sent to voters in January 2010 have expired, but the county retains your active voter registration. Those who were legally registered last year, remain registered so long as their residence or other legal information has not changed. Citizens 18 years or older who are eligible to vote may newly register or update their existing registration information until March 22, 2012.
In addition to other court actions, the fate of the newly enacted SB14 (VoterID Law) remains uncertain. Rather than take the new law to Justice for VRA pre-clearance, the State of Texas asked a circuit court in New Orleans to grant pre-clearance. When judges requested it, the State provided a list of 650,000 registered voters who would become ineligible to vote under SB14 because they lack the specific photo identification cards prescribed by the new law. The Circuit Court then asked the State to break down the list by race to determine whether the law has the effect of discriminating against a racial minority, providing a January deadline for response. When the State of Texas failed to respond before the deadline, the circuit court extended the deadline an additional 60 days.
If the State responds to the court’s request, pre-clearance would be granted if the data show that the effect of SB14 is not discriminatory. Because SB14 remains in legal limbo, existing Texas Election Code will determine how voters will identify themselves at the county and senatorial district conventions.
But because voters will presumably lack a valid voter registration card, they will be required to present some other form of identification to prove their voter registration status and residency. Those forms of identification include Texas Drivers License, utility bills, student IDs, Veterans Benefits cards, etc.
Williamson County Judge Dan A. Gattis, Sr., has issued a Declaration of Disaster for Williamson County on September 5, 2011, as the county is under imminent threat of widespread or severe damage, injury, or loss of life or property resulting from extraordinary drought conditions, critical weather and wildfire conditions, and the imminent threat of wildfire. This declaration includes no outdoor fires of any kind including barbecues and smoking. A copy of the declaration can be found here.
Williamson county as of this moment is not experiencing wildfires (except for one late-breaking report of a new fire west of Cedar Park toward Volente), but conditions remain favorable throughout the day and continuing tomorrow for wildfires to develop.
UPDATE: HD33 in Corpus Christi elected a Republican? This blog previously reported that Rep. Raul Torres (R-Corpus Christi) is a popular Democrat. Apparently he is neither. I regret the error and corrected the post accordingly.
House redistricting committee chair Burt Solomons’ proposed state House district map was published this evening (PLANH133), and the dread certainly was justified. Williamson County, after record growth in the last decade, was entitled to two full state House districts and about half of a third. The one-third that Republican map-makers carved is a serpentine strip running along the Travis-Williamson county line from one end to the other, at some points dwindling to a strip of land just large enough for the Dell headquarters — one quarter mile.
To either end of this meandering strip of real estate, Solomons attached Milam and Burnet counties, bringing the total population of the brand new 110-mile wide House District 149 to 167,059 residents. Although the strip from Williamson County is narrow, it cuts through some of our most densely populated and minority communities. About 30 percent of the nearly 100 thousand Williamson County residents in the proposed HD149 are Hispanic or African-American.
Solomons’ map, should it eventually pass, would result in denying those 100 thousand Williamson County residents a voice, because whichever Republican moves into the district to run for it will be able to count on the rural portions of the bulging ends of this dumbbell-shaped monstrosity to deliver an easy 10-point victory, if they vote in 2012 as they did in 2010.
Williamson County, or at least the sliver of it that has been slashed away and paired with two rural counties, was one of the biggest losers in Solomons’ disgraceful map, but the atrocities do not stop there. In Houston, Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-137) and Rep. Hubert Vo (D-149) were drawn into a single elongated district in southwest Harris County. And in Corpus Christi, Rep. Raul Torres (R-33) was squeezed into the same district with Rep. Connie Scott (R-34), the map lines reaching out carefully to carve out Torres’ neighborhood.
Those who justify this take-no-prisoners, extremely partisan redistricting process by declaring it one of the spoils of victory are oblivious to the damage their power grabbing is doing to our democracy. The Great Recession has disproportionately hit working families, Latino and African-American communities harder than the rest of the population. If you were barely making ends meet in 2007, you’re now either out of work, or facing cut-backs and benefit reductions, longer hours and more stress. The base of the Democratic party is too beleaguered by economic terror to exercise its political might at the ballot box, as evidenced by the anemic voter turnout in Nov. 2010 among these constituencies.
source: U. S. Census, 2010; and Texas Legislative Council
This map further disenfranchises the majority of hard working Americans, who depend upon an education system that is being dismantled and sold for scrap by a crew of millionaires whose kids go to private school, and their pathological fundamentalist homeschooling minions. Republicans made up about 15 percent of the voting age population in 2010, but through their endless maze of disenfranchisement: making it harder to register, harder to vote, and slicing them into districts that lean Republican; then flooding the right-wing candidate with political contributions from Bob Perry and James Leininger, it is no wonder that our voices continue to be drowned out at the ballot box.
Williamson County population by precinct and voter participation, 2010
(Click the image for a larger version.)
By correlating recently published census data with the results from the Nov. 2010 election, a very interesting picture of Williamson County emerges. Although Republican voters showed up in larger numbers at most precincts, there was a huge pool of registered voters who did not turn out for either party. Furthermore, the areas in the county growing most rapidly are also home to large numbers of people not registered to vote.
In 2012, the hopes of the Democratic Party in Williamson County rest with those who sat out on the 2010 election. Furthermore, a massive voter registration effort, targeting those precincts with large numbers of unregistered voters, is essential to widen the voter pool and make it more representative of the county’s entire diverse population.
MAP LEGEND: The height of each bar is proportionate to the total population. The blue region represents voters supporting Bill White (D), the red region Rick Perry (R), the magenta region are registered voters who did not cast a ballot, and the green region represents people of voting age that are not registered (source: U. S. Census Bureau Public Law file for Texas, Feb. 2011)
An extremely large crowd from all over the state gathered at the south steps of the State Capitol in Austin to ask the state government to Save Our Schools.
Perrin-Whitt CISD Superintendent John Kuhn makes a rousing appeal on behalf of teachers rated “unacceptable”. He then reads his Alamo-inspired email that he sent to Sen. Craig Estes, Rep. Rick Hardcastle, Rep. Jim Keffer and Rep. Phil King. Unfortunately I missed the first few sentences of this inspirational speech, and my vantage point in a 11,000-plus crowd was such that I could only capture Kuhn’s image on the big-screen that Save Texas Schools organizers set up.
UPDATE: I found another video that captures most of the portion of the speech that Kuhn gave before I began recording. Below is a transcript of that portion.
UPDATE2: via Half Empty, Hal shares his video, providing the final missing words to the transcript below of the beginning part of Kuhn’s speech:
I just got a text from Rick Perry. He wanted me to tell you that it’s not his fault. (crowd boos) I’ll tell him you said that.
Public school teachers, can you hear me? The school reformers say you are bad at what you do. But the secret to their success is simple: Keep the bad kids out. Exclude the children who are hardest to teach and let them go to public school. But we say “Send them to us. We will take them.” We say, “Send us your poor, send us your homeless, the children of your afflicted and your addicted. Send us your kids who don’t speak Englin en es otros le hablamos en Espanol. Send us your special needs children, we will not turn them away.” And I tell you today, public school teacher, you will fail to take the shattered children of poverty and turn them into the polished products of the private schools. No. The most damaged public school children will not turn out as shiny and nice and new as the children whose applications are vetted and approved. Whose parents buy them books. Nor will you scrub them as clean as those whose parents keep them bundled in the snug blanket of home schooling….
I was near the tail end of an 8-block-long procession that flooded the south lawn of the Capitol with some 15,000 people. Here’s about one minute of video I took as we approached the Capitol from the North.
That rush of voters we documented as the election day was winding down appeared to have no impact on the early vote deficit of Democratic candidates. The 20-point lead Republicans took from early voting was sustained on election day.
The Republicans were victorious this election. Working families will have to wait another two years for any possibility of a government that cares for them. Expect more corruption, less access to the courts, more imprisonment, less civil liberty, more poverty and homelessness.
The crew of crooked Republican officials for this blog to cover increased by one TLR-funded stooge, a man completely devoid of charisma whose first instinct is to lie and second is to attack, Larry Gonzales. Add to that list Charles “Dr. Creepy” Schwertner, a man whose single motivation for running for office was to fight health care reform at the state level. The future is bright for liberal bloggers who had been fretting over a shrinking beat.
Reporting from Williamson county’s Democratic-leaning precincts indicates a surge in turnout as election day progresses. The uptick indicates that Democratic candidates that had fallen behind during early voting are now closing the gap.
Polls remain open for another two hours, and lines are beginning to form in strongly Democratic areas of Anderson Mill, Hutto and Round Rock. Voters in line at 7:00pm will be allowed to vote, even if there is a line.
Among the possible reasons for the last-minute urgency by Democratic voters are reports that the election may actually be much closer than statewide polls have indicated. If the Democrats get an expected boost from elevated election-day turnout, they may erase an early deficit that emerged in the first week of early voting.
Texans For Lawsuit Reform, the notorious lobbying group that has pumped tens of millions of dollars into Republican state legislative campaigns since its foundation in 1993; has given Larry Gonzales about $260,000 in his campaign to unseat Rep. Diana Maldonado (D-Round Rock). Still, TLR is not Gonzales’ greatest source of funds. That honor goes to Bob “Swiftboat” Perry, the Houston homebuilder who realy likes his Texas Residential Construction Commission, and is willing to invest $285,000 in Gonzales to purchase one more Republican vote against sunsetting this disgrace out of existence.
The two mega-donors combined have provided the majority of the funds that Gonzales has used in his bid for the House seat. Contrast that with the thousands of individual donors contributing relatively small amounts to Maldonado’s campaign and you have a pretty clear picture of the difference between the two candidates. One represents all of us who work for a living and bring home a paycheck, and the other represents businessmen who hate paying damages when their defective products kill people or make them homeless.
The source reporting for this post comes from the Austin American-Statesman. The policy of this blog is to cite this source reporting at the top of the story to make it more likely that the reader will click on the link and read the full story; however, there is a problem with this story that resulted in the decision to bury the link. The reporters, Jason Embry and Corrie MacLaggan, usually dependable and informative, in this story have committed the mainstream media sin of false equivalency.
In a desire to appear balanced, Embry and MacLaggan have listed two of Maldonado’s largest supporters to support the narrative that “House races (are) awash in cash”. The best they can come up with, however are donations of $50,000 from the House Democratic Campaign Committee and $120,000 from Annie’s List. Together, this makes up $170,000 or less than one-fourth of Maldonado’s total campaign contributions this cycle.
Embry and MacLaggan have written the ultimate “Dog bites Man” headline one week before election day. Voters, especially those who watch television, are painfully aware that campaigns are awash in cash. Politics is a game of big money. However, when that flood of cash is made up of millions of raindrops from you and me, it produces a candidate who is likely to represent the interests of a wider segment of society. Larry Gonzales is taking his campaign cash from very few sources, which shows that he lacks a broad base of support, and provides an insight into whose interests he will be championing in the unfortunate event that he is actually elected.