Maimonides, the 12th century Jewish philosopher defined hope as, said, “Belief in the plausibility of the possible as opposed to the necessity of the probable.” Now let me say that again. That to be a realist is to recognize that the world is not a domain in which the probable always happens. I mean, Goliath is more likely to win. But, you know what, sometimes David does, you know?
And this one from Why Poverty? Park Avenue: money, power and the American dream.
Austin is the ninth stop on a 14-city tour that Brown, alternating with Alex Steele, the lead field organizer, are conducting across the state. An earlier meeting last month in Austin drew a crowd of 300 but that was more a pep rally. This was a little bit more nuts and bolts – “how do we get from here to there.”
Battleground Texas is the brainchild of former Obama campaign organizers. They are not the first or only people attempting to do what they are doing, but their arrival has had an energizing effect, drawing national attention, which can lead to national money, and bringing with them the secret organizational sauce that worked for the Obama campaign.
“What was the secret to the Obama campaign? We talked to voters, neighbors talked to neighbors,” said Brown. “That is 100 percent how we won the election.”
Old-school organizing would pay 250 field organizers to each knock on 50 doors a day – for a grand total of 12,500 doors knocked. The Obama campaign, instead, had those 250 field organizers each create five neighborhood teams, which would each recruit eight volunteers, who would each knock on 50 doors in a day, for a grand total of 500,000 doors knocked.
“It is unbelievably exponential and I know some of you think that’s impossible, but I will tell you, that it is not because I’ve seen it,” said Brown, who was the field organizer for Obama in Ohio in 2012, where she said, each of the last four weekends of the campaign, “we talked to the margin of victory,”
It’s the way the Obama campaign drove up turnout in North Carolina and made it a battleground state.
Brown refuses to be sucked into an expectations game.
“Republicans are saying right now, if we don’t win the governor’s race in 2014 this whole thing is a bust, and take the wind out of our sails. l know this is a long-term effort. I know it’s going to take time.”
If it doesn’t yield a statewide win in 2014, “that’s OK.” If Democrats don’t carry Texas in 2016, “that’s totally OK too.”
“If 2020 is the year we turn this state blue, that’s OK with me.”
All that said, “I’d like to do well in 2014, and convince somebody” – a quality candidate – “we’re here for them,” and to get the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee to seriously contest Texas.
The emotional high point of the meeting came when Brown completed her presentation and asked for questions and comments and called on a burly man with a brush cut, who proceeded to thunder, “I’ll just say that your chart says, have excitement and energy. I have no energy. I have no excitement. But I see this like a Medieval battle. I don’t care if I don’t get the governorship. I’m going to form a shield wall with my clipboard, I’m going to register people and I’m going to push that red wall back. I am powered by disgust and determination.”
“I detect a little excitement,” said Brown.
“I”ll be out here there registering voters in 102 degree weather with a jug of water and I won’t care,” said the man, an East Austin artist by the name of Arthur Schoenig.
The most hopeful sign to me about this effort is that they seem to understand that this must be a years-long battle that will take several election cycles. And they seem to understand that it all starts with registering more voters and then getting them to the polls on election day. All good signs. Be sure and go to their web site and sign up for email updates, if you haven’t done so already.
Former Obama campaign operatives are relocating in Texas as part of a group that plans to use the tools of Barack Obama’s reelection nationally to make Texas a competitive state in future presidential races. Texas is a prime piece of electoral property with 38 electoral votes. The state has been solidly Republican for 20 years. But a growing Hispanic population should help Democrats. Organizers of “Battleground Texas” say they’ll focus on identifying voters, getting them registered and turning them out to vote on Election Day. We wrote about the “Battleground Texas” in January.
What’s new is an announcement today that Jenn Brown, the Obama campaign field director in Ohio, will be executive director. And Christina Gomez, a former digital strategist for the Democratic National Committee, will direct high-tech and social media efforts. The on-line plan, so successful in Obama’s national campaign, will be a key part of the group’s strategy. Brown and Gomez will join political consultant and former Obama field director Jeremy Bird in Austin. “We know part of the problem is too few Texans are participating in the democratic process — so we’re bringing some of the best talent and strategies in politics to the Lone Star State to help expand the electorate by registering more voters and by mobilizing Texans.”
They’re saying the right things, in particular that this will be a years long struggle. So check them out and I wish them luck and will help in anyway that I can.
The rally, organized by education advocacy groups under the banner “Save Texas Schools,” began with a five-block march down Congress Avenue and culminated with an assembly on the south lawn of the Capitol. Speakers included education reform advocates Diane Ravitch, who served as U.S. assistant secretary of education, and former Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott.
“We aren’t providing justice for all when our state Legislature cuts $5.4 billion out of public schools (in 2011) but somehow manages to find $500 million for Pearson Testing Corporation,” said Ravitch, a Houston ISD graduate.
“Texas is the place where the testing madness started, and Texas is the place where the vampire will get garlic in its face and a stake in its heart.”
Scott said tests will always be part of public education, but “they don’t need to be the end-all be-all of our public schools.”
Noted Scott: “I saw the system spinning out of control (as commissioner). We have increased the costs and the consequences at a time that we have cut funding.”
Protesters carried signs reading: “Flunk Governor Perry,” “Stop underfunding and over-testing,” and “We need more teachers, not more tests.”
Perry, Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and Texas Education Agency Michael Williams were targeted by name.
Freshman US Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) is hitting the ground running. This is a funny video in a couple of ways. Funny in that it’s really sad that it’s taken this long for someone to ask this question. But also funny just to watch the regulators squirm. And it completely highlights the fact that not enough government regulation is really what caused the financial crisis in 2008.
“I appreciate that. That’s what everybody does,” said Warren, a former Harvard law professor. “Can you identify the last time when you took the Wall Street banks to trial?”
“I will have to get back to you with specific information,” Walter said as the audience tittered.
“There are district attorneys and United States attorneys out there every day squeezing ordinary citizens on sometimes very thin grounds and taking them to trial in order to make an example, as they put it. I’m really concerned that ‘too big to fail’ has become ‘too big for trial,’” Warren said.
It’s very hard not to like Elizabeth Warren. Unless of course your a regulator or work on Wall Street. Maybe if we would have had more Senators like her in the recent past we would have had a financial crisis in the first place. As Digby says:
Maybe this is one way that women can make the difference. If you’ve had to fight every step of the way to be seen and heard, perhaps you aren’t all that willing to STFU out of respect for the patriarchal traditions that did everything to keep you down.
Or maybe it’s just that Senator Warren is awesome.
It’s starting to become clear that the Democrats in the Texas House have a plan. And that plan seems to be an attempt to show that there’s no reason for the House to sit on it’s hands and wait. Democrats will try to show that the House can move forward now on important issues if they want to. Or the majority party can choose to do nothing now and wait.
As we can see from this Burka post, Opening Moves, which contains the text of an email statement from the House Democratic Causus. Here’s an excerpt from that statement:
Rather than continuing with the Republican agenda of massive cuts to public education, the House Democratic Caucus stands poised to meet our constitutional obligations by providing quality education to all children.
Today, 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.
The House Democratic Caucus remains committed and ready!
And Burka goes on to point out a vote like this will cause problems for many in the GOP.
The debate on the supplemental will be a baptism by fire for the large contingent of freshmen and sophomore Republicans. That’s a $5.4 billion spending bill. Even pro-school Republicans are going to be caught between a rock and a hard place. If they vote to restore the cuts, they can be attacked as big spenders. If they vote against the Democrats’ amendment, they can be attacked as anti-education.
This is serious politics, and it could blow up the session. The Democratic strategy is going to be pretty much the same as it is in Congress: make the Republicans pay for every bad vote.
Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, made a lengthy inquiry Thursday about House rules that would allow the body to begin considering legislation earlier than normal in the legislative session. He didn’t get all his parliamentary questions answered _ more details from Republican Speaker Joe Straus are coming Monday _ but he made it clear he’s ultimately pressing to have the House meet as a “Committee of the Whole” to consider school finance.
Martinez Fischer, a House rules wonk, said that lawmakers “have the ability, within our rules, to act today.” He pointed out that the Legislature has acted on issues in the past that were still the subject of lawsuits, such as the top 10 percent plan for college admission.
“There is a clear path to begin the debate of restoring funding cuts and fixing our broken school finance system,” Martinez Fischer said.
One part of the legislative gamesmanship that may not be well known is that The Lege has an early power advantage, but as session rolls on the governor’s power grows much stronger. Mainly because bills passed early in session have enough time to have a veto by the governor overridden. For bills passed later in session, an override becomes much more unlikely, and eventually impossible, therefore increasing the governor’s power.
In effect here’s what Martinez Fischer is asking, is the House (and Straus) beholden to the governor, or can they set their own agenda, separate from the governor, and force him to act in enough time that the House can react if needed? With an implied question of, would they even want to if they could?
What this will also show, if the House and Texas GOP string school finance along, is that they have no problem with how the public school finance system is currently running. If they did, they would be doing something about it. Their indifference to fixing the system would show that they don’t care about the issue. And putting pressure on the Texas GOP to show how much they do – or don’t, as is usually the case – care about public education has been one of the few winning strategies for Democrats in Texas in the recent past.
This kind of strategy shows the difference between Democrats and Republicans on an important issue like public education. And it’s key to make sure Texans know they have a choice on this issue when it comes time to vote.
There’s a story in Politico today about a new organization coming to Texas called Battleground Texas. It’s a very encouraging article and all the right things are being said. It will be a long-term plan to register, motivate, and get progressive voting Texans to the polls. Oh, and it will be well-funded. From the article, Democrats launch plan to turn Texas blue.
National Democrats are taking steps to create a large-scale independent group aimed at turning traditionally conservative Texas into a prime electoral battleground, crafting a new initiative to identify and mobilize progressive voters in the rapidly-changing state, strategists familiar with the plans told POLITICO.
The organization, dubbed “Battleground Texas,” plans to engage the state’s rapidly growing Latino population, as well as African-American voters and other Democratic-leaning constituencies that have been underrepresented at the ballot box in recent cycles. Two sources said the contemplated budget would run into the tens of millions of dollars over several years – a project Democrats hope has enough heft to help turn what has long been an electoral pipe dream into reality.
At the center of the effort is Jeremy Bird, formerly the national field director for President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, who was in Austin last week to confer with local Democrats about the project.
In a statement to POLITICO, Bird said the group would be “a grass-roots organization that will make Texas a battleground state by treating it like one.”
“With its diversity and size, Texas should always be a battleground state where local elections are vigorously contested and anyone who wants to be our commander in chief has to compete and show they reflect Texas values. Yet for far too long, the state’s political leaders, both in Austin and in Washington, D.C., have failed to stand for Texans,” said Bird, who recently founded a consulting firm, 270 Strategies. “Over the next several years, Battleground Texas will focus on expanding the electorate by registering more voters — and as importantly, by mobilizing Texans who are already registered voters but who have not been engaged in the democratic process.”
Said Bird: “Candidates who represent Texans should have to fight hard for the honor — and Battleground Texas will help make sure they do.
One Democrat close to the planning process said the group intended to bring in “top campaign talent to Texas” for a long-term organizing push. Strategists filed papers with the Texas Ethics Commission to create Battleground Texas earlier this month with that goal in mind.
“It’s going to take a sustained effort and we’re going to have to prove ourselves over time,” the Democrat said. “We need to have the talent in state to build something real over time and make the environment such that you can look someone in the eye and say, ‘You can run statewide and you can win,’ or you can tell a presidential candidate that you should really consider putting resources here.”
Another strategist tied to Texas called the project a “very positive effort to try to put together a pretty broad grass-roots organization to try to identify and ultimately mobilize progressive voters.”
“There’s a realistic view that that will take more than one cycle,” the strategist said. “None of this stuff is ever real until you’ve got money.”
Democrats have eyed Texas longingly for years, watching as the Republican bastion has transformed into a majority-minority state. The 2010 census found that 38 percent of Texans identified themselves as Latino or Hispanic; just under 45 percent were non-Hispanic whites.
But the Democratic infrastructure in Texas has decayed over two decades of GOP ascendancy. Congressional and legislative redistricting has undercut the party’s efforts to rebuild there. Republicans control every statewide office, and Obama lost to Mitt Romney in the state by 16 points in November. No exit poll was taken in Texas last November, but Latinos have typically made up a smaller share of the electorate than the overall population.
Still, Democrats buoyed by the breadth of their 2012 victories are looking to Texas as a political holy grail: a prize so spectacular that it might just be worth a big, sustained investment of money and energy. If state and national party leaders committed the time and almost presidential-level resources required, the thinking goes, the most important cornerstone of the GOP’s electoral map could become competitive. [Emphasis added]
Show us the money! We can certainly use help like this in Williamson County. It’s hard to trust something like this is going to happen until it actually does. The TDP has been starved for money to organize for at least a decade. But this looks promising, and sooner or later, the Democrats at the national level have to reengage in Texas.
Republicans have consistently scoffed at Democratic attempts to woo the Texas electorate — and with some cause. As strategists in both parties see it, national Democrats periodically find themselves gripped with excitement about competing there, only to find that the state is too big, too expensive and too culturally conservative for them to pull it off.
The party fielded a strong candidate for governor in 2010, former Houston Mayor Bill White, only to see him lose by 13 points to incumbent Gov. Rick Perry. Two years later, Democrats recruited retired Gen. Ricardo Sanchez into the open-seat Senate race, presenting him as a candidate who could appeal to conservative voters and energize Latinos. Sanchez withdrew several months later after raising a paltry sum for the race.
From the deeply skeptical Republican perspective, Democratic hopes for flipping Texas — even over the medium to long term — recall the GOP’s short-lived aspirations to compete in California at the height of George W. Bush’s popularity.
Republican strategist Dave Carney, who has worked extensively in Texas and steered Perry’s 2010 reelection, dismissed mocked Democratic claims that a brand-new voter mobilization project would help transform the state. He called it a matter of “consultants coming up with a project to get paid.”
“The more money they spend on [Battleground Texas], the better it is for Texas and the taxpayers of Texas, because it will basically lead to continued conservative dominance of the state. There’s a reason voters are low-propensity voters. They don’t vote,” Carney said. “It’s their message that hurts [Democrats]. It’s their inability to articulate a message that the vast majority of Texas voters agree with.”[Emphasis added]
Andy Seré, a national GOP strategist with Texas ties, emphasized just what a steep challenge Democrats have ahead of them: “Democrats simply lack anything close to the statewide infrastructure that a majority party has, and they don’t appear even close to it. In order to become competitive, they need to expand their donor base beyond trial lawyers and their voter base beyond minorities. And until they do, they are not going to be competitive in a state as big and fast-growing as Texas is.”
Even more-than-usually upbeat Texas Democrats acknowledge that state Republicans have built a formidable edifice to protect their majority. If Perry currently looks like a weakened governor, he has been underestimated before; and state Attorney General Greg Abbott is waiting in the wings as a possible successor with a massive war chest at his disposal.
“Republicans here have a decade’s worth of fundraising and infrastructure that plays to their advantage. I don’t care what state you’re in, that’s going to be hard for any challenger to go up against,” said Austin-based Democratic operative Ed Espinoza. “Having said that, we have some really bright stars. We don’t have a deep bench, but we do have a good bench.”
Looking to 2014 and beyond, Espinoza echoed the Democratic consensus that building viable statewide institutions for Democrats is the top priority.
“We do need to have a good team, and we do need to have a good ticket. We’ve had too many go-it-alone candidacies that just weren’t able to do it on their own,” he said. “Coordination should focus on things like who can raise money, who can build structure and who can build votes. Too often we say, ‘Well, this person’s brown, so they can win brown votes, and this person’s a woman, so she can win women’s votes.’”
There’s much more in the article, so read the whole thing. It’s hard not to get excited about what looks like a great effort coming to help “turn Texas blue”. One thing I noted is that, even though the TDP has decayed, they didn’t talk to anyone from the TDP for the story. It would be nice to know what they think and how they will fit in with this effort.
Carney’s comments are what is to be expected from the Texas GOP about an effort like this. Democrats have been unable to compete because of a lack of resources over the past decade or so, which has enabled much of the free ride the GOP has had in Texas during that time. They know this kind of effort is the only thing that can get in their way. A real, sustained, and well-financed effort like is truly the only thing that will ever make the Texas demographic myth a reality, and bring the future Democratic success in Texas.
The Texas Progressive Alliance, a consortium of Lone Star-based liberal weblogs, has selected the protesters of the Tar Sands Blockade as Texans of the Year for 2012.
The award has been given annually to the person, or persons or organization, who had the most significance influence — for good or ill — on the advancement of progressive interests and causes over the past twelve months.
“As with previous winners (like Fort Worth city council member Joel Burns in2010, the Harris County Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign in 2008, and Carolyn Boyle of Texas Parent PAC in 2006), the Tar Sands Blockaders represent what progressive Texans strive for: correcting injustices through direct action. Sometime that takes place at the ballot box, sometimes in the courtroom, and once in a while it happens in the streets. In 2012, it happened in a handful of pine trees in East Texas,” said Vince Leibowitz, president of the TPA.
The Tar Sands Blockade began when TransCanada, the pipeline company constructing the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, began seizing property from East Texans via eminent domain to connect the pipeline, which will transport tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in Houston and Port Arthur. Despite the fact that the pipeline hasn’t yet been approved by the US Department of State,TransCanada and other operators have been busily cutting down swaths of forest, appropriating the land along the route as necessary, and when challenged by the small group of people protesting, responded with threatening measures and occasionally brute force.
When petitioning, lobbying, and public hearings failed to slow the construction of the pipeline, concerned citizens took to non-violent protests, risking arrest in order to demonstrate the will and demands of Texans concerned about the environment, about the nation’s continuing dependence on dirty fuels, and the collaboration of government officials with the corporate interests. A group of protestors climbed into a stand constructed in a grove of pine trees and halted construction for weeks.
Along with the property owner, actress and activist Daryl Hannah was arrested as the two women physically blocked a piece of heavy equipment and its operator from clearing land for the pipeline. Even as the number of arrests climbed past thirty, the protests grew. A few days before the November election, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was arrested at the construction site in Winnsboro. In Cherokee County, sheriff’s deputies pepper-sprayed protesters. All of this occurred while the legal battle went back and forth — in December, a judge granted, then vacated, his temporary restraining order on pipeline construction.
And the efforts to stop the pipeline continue today, even as pipeline construction proceeds apace. On November 29, Bob Lindsey and prominent environmental activist Diane Wilson were arrested by Harris County sheriff’s deputies outside Valero’s refinery in the Manchester neighborhood of Houston, where the pipeline will terminate. They chained themselves to tanker trucks outside the gates, were promptly taken into custody, and continue a hunger strike to this day that adds the humiliating and disgusting conditions of Harris County’s jail to the list of outrages.
With training and mobilization of additional protests and protestors scheduled for early January, 2013, there will be more to report on this action.
The Texas Progressive Alliance salutes those who have sacrificed so much of themselves to underscore the seriousness of America’s fossil fuel addiction, and how the system of corporate and political corruption has come to manifest itself in the controversy surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline.
Runners-up for this year’s Texan of the Year included the following…
– The emerging scandal of the Texas cancer research organization, CPRIT;
– The spectacular failure of Governor Rick Perry’s presidential campaign;
– Attorney General Greg Abbott’s woeful losing record in court in his many lawsuits related to the federal government, including redistricting, voter ID, Obamacare, etc.;
– Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, who defied conventional wisdom and was re-elected to the Texas Senate despite the best efforts of Republicans to deny her;
– The expansion of the Texas Congressional delegation to 36 as a result of the 2010 census and apportionment of extra seats based on population growth in the Lone Star State. New Texans in Washington DC include former Democratic state representatives Pete Gallego and Marc Veazey, but also — and unfortunately — ultraconservatives Randy Weber and Steve Stockman.
Despite the overall election outcomes for Democrats in Texas, there were a few Democratic election successes in Texas in 2012. While these results are no “game change” yet, they could lead to one in the future. The success seems to have been built through a well financed and sustained effort of contacting the campaigns likely, or persuadable voters, with a populist message, and then getting them to the polls for early voting and election day.
The formula was simple: the right message + innovative targeting + good old-fashioned field operation = a Gallego win.
First, we ditched the message recommended by a now out-of-business pollster, that Pete should focus on his background as a prosecutor and run as Mr. Law and Order. Instead, we started talking about the issues that Latino Democrats in Bexar County, South Texas, and El Paso really care about: protecting Social Security and Medicare for our seniors, and providing educational opportunities for our kids.
Trial lawyer and über Democrat Mikal Watts financed the effort this year, making it the most lavishly funded GOTV campaign ever mounted through Vote Texas. Watts had contributed $500,000 by the time the final pre-election campaign report was filed, and Daniels said Watts gave another $100,000 in the final days of the campaign.
The operation circumvented the Bexar County Democratic Party headquarters and chairman, an approach pioneered by Daniels and Lukin Gilliland Jr. in the 1990s.
Adelante Strategy Group partners Christian Archer and Cuauhtémoc “Temo” Figueroa organized the effort on the ground. Notably, Figueroa was the National Latino Vote Director for the 2008 Obama Presidential Campaign. And he ran a 2010 grass-roots effort in Nevada for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, which became the model for the Bexar County program.
Voter contact began late last summer. The targets were 125,000 “soft Democrats” who voted in the 2008 Democratic primary but aren’t consistent Democratic voters.
Figueroa directed a team of 50 workers that went door-to-door for months. Phone banks also were used to push voters to cast early ballots.
Archer said more than 60,000 of the targeted voters cast ballots early.
But a little noted relatively low-budget effort in San Antonio demonstrated what Democrats have to do to capitalize on demographic shifts that are making a difference elsewhere in the country.
A wealthy contributor kicked in $600,000 to build a ground game that spent months identifying 125,000 so-called soft Democrats who voted in 2008. The organization made multiple contacts and, according to a San Antonio Express News report was so successful, almost half of those targeted showed up to vote early.
Democrats had a blowout year in the San Antonio area and that $600,000 may have been the best utilized Democratic money in the cycle.
Turnout drops dramatically in non-presidential years, so Texas will probably still be solidly Republican in 2014. But a barely noticed effort in San Antonio may have built the roadmap to a future two party state.
Democrats still do not have any statewide officeholders — and their numbers in those races were dismal. But they held their ground in the state Senate, gained seven seats in the Texas House, split the four new seats in Congress and wrested another one away from the red team. The rebound from the disastrous 2010 election was not dramatic, but a gain is a gain.
I’ve seen little analysis of how Wendy Davis won her reelection in the Fort Worth area. The campaign consultant for her opponent Mark Shelton has received blame for running a bad campaign. But the truth is Davis just ran a better campaign.
The Democrats in Texas need to go back to a message like this in order to succeed in the future.
In the century in which we live, the Democratic Party has received the support of the electorate only when the party, with absolute clarity, has been the champion of progressive and liberal policies and principles of government.
The party has failed consistently when through political trading and chicanery it has fallen into the control of those interests, personal and financial, which think in terms of dollars instead of in terms of human values.
The Republican Party has made its nominations this year at the dictation of those who, we all know, always place money ahead of human progress.
For some reason too many voters in Texas still see the Democratic Party in Texas as the party of elites and the greedy. Part of the reason is because not enough Democrats have been telling them it’s the GOP that now wears that mantle in Texas.
Hispanic voters, as it turns out, are smart. They overwhelmingly support Democrats because we believe in educating their children, caring for their elders and ensuring that their family has health care. They know that Democrats support the Dream Act and that we don’t believe that wasting $7.3 billion on a border wall is the answer to immigration reform.
As the Hispanic voting population continues to increase in Texas, so too will the turnout rates for the community. We’ve seen how grassroots organizing efforts in Colorado and Nevada increased Latino turnout and transformed those states blue. A similar effort in Texas will reap equal rewards. That work will occur alongside the continued rise of elected Democratic Latino leaders. Julian and Joaquin Castro, Juan Garcia (assistant secretary of the Navy), Rafael Anchia and Leticia Van de Putte are just a few of the promising leaders in the Democratic Party.