03.23.12

A Clear Contrast

Posted in 2012 Primary, Around The State, Election 2012, The Lege, US Senate Race at 10:41 am by wcnews

In a post yesterday it was pointed out how far to the right the conversation has moved in our country on economics.  Kuff does a great job of pointing out how ludicrous the whole idea that both sides have become more polarized is, What radicals?

Oh, for Pete’s sake. Please, Professor Jones, tell me who these people are that have radicalized the Democratic Party. I mean, I don’t know who you talk to, but I know an awful lot of folks who will laugh in your face if you suggest the Democratic Party has moved appreciably to the left in recent years. Tell me also what positions the Democratic Party has taken that are noticeably more extreme than they used to be, and what legislation they have been pushing to further those radical ends.

These questions are easy to answer for the Republican Party. For who the radicals are, start with Dan Patrick, Debbie Riddle, Wayne Christian, and most of the people that got elected in the 2010 wave. Oh, and Rick Perry, David Dewhurst, Greg Abbott, and now Susan Combs, too. Just compare the David Dewhurst who is running for US Senate to the one who presided over the Texas Senate in 2003, as a for-instance. The GOP as a whole has gone from a position of generally opposing abortion to a full-fledged attack on birth control and family planning, and from a position of generally supporting lower taxes and fewer regulations to opposing any tax increase on anything for any purpose, pushing huge tax cuts for the wealthy, cutting public education, and seeking to end Medicare. There’s quite a bit of polling data to suggest that they are sprinting towards a cliff by embracing these more radicalized stances, but even Republicans with a mostly moderate history are doing so because it’s what their base is demanding and they fear their primaries more than they fear their Novembers.

My point is there’s just no comparison. The Democratic Party has moved left on some things, most notably marriage equality, but it’s been a gradual shift that’s in line with previously held views on civil rights, and more to the point it’s consistent with national polling. The Republicans have moved way, way more to the right, and it’s happened almost entirely in the last two years, despite a plethora of polling evidence that should warn them against it. The “both sides do it” trope is ludicrous on its face. Why is this so hard to recognize?

To further highilight this here’s a DMN write up on Democratic candidate Paul Sadler talking the the Texas Tribune, Roll the dice: Sadler backs Planned Parenthood, gay marriage, Obama.  First of all, if it’s really a “dice roll” for a Democrat to embrace issues that the Democratic Party and it’s voters endorse, that’s another indication of how far the center has shifted.  Here’s what Sadler said:

Taken as a whole, however, Sadler amply demonstrated during his 50-minute interview with Tribune editor in chief Evan Smith that when it comes to hot-button issues, he is NOT running away from controversy or being branded as a national Democrat. To wit:

On Texas GOP leaders’ moves to de-fund Planned Parenthood: He’s against it. “Worst thing ever,” he said. “Planned Parenthood does a valuable service in this country, it provides health care for women. We’ve got to fund Planned Parenthood and this whole debate is kind of silly.”

On gay marriage: Even as someone from socially traditional East Texas, Sadler said he’s “willing to stand up” and call current marriage laws discriminatory. “Don’t talk to me about whether it’s sinful or not,” he said of homosexuality. “That’s a judgment that God’s going to make” but the state shouldn’t.

President Barack Obama: He should be re-elected for making tough calls, and good ones, after inheriting an economy teetering on the abyss, Sadler said. While some of the passionate opposition to Obama springs from ideology, some of it is race-based, he said. “If he had an ‘R’ behind his name — and unfortunately, in some parts of this state, if his skin color was different — they would hail him as one of the greatest presidents of this country,” he said. “I’ve seen the emails” about Obama, Sadler said, calling those who deny that racism motivates a good many Obama foes “incredibly naive.”

Sadler said of the four main Republicans who like him are seeking U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat, only David Dewhurst and Tom Leppert are qualified. Of Ted Cruz and Craig James, he said: “You don’t run for U.S. Senate without any prior experience. This is the highest legislative office in the land.”

There’s nothing radical in there and certainly what he said is well reasoned and would be endorsed by Democrats, a decent amount of Independents, and even a few of what used to be called moderate Republicans.  There are only two excerpts from the conversation so far but they’re both worth watching.

The first one he defends the Affordable Care Act.

And here he describes the “Dewhurst Disaster”.

That running as a middle-of-the-road/mainstream Democrat in Texas is considered radical by a Rice professor, and a roll of the dice by the traditional media, only goes to prove how far to the right the “political” center has moved.  A 2010 Lyceum poll shows that what Sadler said, even on same-sex unions and health care, is agreed upon by many people in Texas. It’s just that far too many of those people don’t vote on election day.

Sadler is not the nominee, and he admitted that his fundraising is not going well thus far. There are several other candidates in the race. The most notable challenger is Sean Hubbard. Sadler is able to draw more traditional media attention because he’s a former legislator and has better name ID. Not sure if the TT is going to interview any other contenders on the Democratic side.

Running and embracing what Democrats believe is one of the things that’s been missing from the campaigns at the top of the Democratic ticket over recent years. Does this mean that Sadler is likely to beat the eventual GOP nominee for US Senate? Well, realistically, probably not. But a candidate that runs on Democratic principles give s voters an clear alternative to the radical GOP agenda in Texas.  A candidacy that stirs up the Democratic base in a Presidential year, where the GOP candidate may not be “conservative” enough for Texas, could certainly do a whole lot of good fro down ballot races.  And even for the future of the Democratic Party in Texas.

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