Social unrest and frustration over injustice leads to political realignment; however, one can never know the exact moment the tipping point is reached until some years afterward. Democrats, particularly left-leaning ones like this blogger, have prematurely heralded the realignment before; only to discover that not enough new Texas adults have become voters to bring about political change. Therefore, eye with some skepticism any predictions here of a Democratic resurgence in Texas.
However, we do have historical precedents that provide some clue as to what goes into a realigning political movement. In the 1932 Presidential election, Franklin D. Roosevelt forged the New Deal coalition out of resentment over the disastrous economic policies that brought on the Great Depression in 1929. Core components of that coalition held together until 1980, when Ronald Reagan captured Southern whites and evangelical Christians, merging these constituencies with anti-labor, anti-regulation and big business.
Finally, in 2008, a charismatic, if inexperienced, African American galvanized a growing minority vote, coupled with anti-war and struggling middle class voters reacting to 30 years of wage stagnation and growing income inequality. Although the elections of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 motivated large numbers of African-American and Latino voters in Texas, the backlash from white voters in 2010 and 2012 has left many Republicans confident that they can extend their dominance, at least through 2014.
From these three examples, we can draw some conclusions about the conditions necessary to bring about realignment. First, we must have popular dissatisfaction with governing policy, financial hardship and at least perceived injustice for a large majority; and a galvanizing candidate with the ability to inspire new participants in the political process.
With Wendy Davis as a gubernatorial candidate in 2014, we may have all three.
Wendy Davis is a rare candidate that can become the face of a movement. A movement that must grow past choice and women’s heath to a true populist movement that can change the face of Texas politics. A movement that can engage and inspire Texans that don’t usually participate in elections. And she’s the first Democrat in Texas in a long time that has stood up the the GOP and scares them.
One compelling aspect of Wendy Davis is her biography. She was able to work her way through school as a single mother and get an education, which enabled her to get a job with a living wage to support her family. She is a symbol of the American Dream, an American Dream that has been lost for future generations. We need to bring that Dream back.
Win or lose, the Democratic Party in Texas will be much better off if Wendy Davis runs for Governor of Texas in 2014 –obviously much better off if she were to win. But even if her opponent prevails, the Texas Democratic Party would certainly benefit, in the years to come, from the momentum of the popular movement that will come together in this campaign.
Greg Abbott on the other hand is a creation of the modern Texas GOP. Only those that have attained a certain wealth status are on his radar. The poor, the hungry, those in need of health care, equal pay, and a living wage to support their families, will continue to be neglected. He’s a carbon copy of our current governor in many ways, pro-big oil, pro-big money, pro-insurance corporations, and on it goes.
There are a couple of ways that Abbott and Perry differ. Perry had personality, Abbott doesn’t. Perry had the West Texas farm boy upbringing, Abbott doesn’t. Abbott looks like a candidate that’s never had to run a serious race. He recites right wing talking points that have always carried him through. It’s hard to see his appeal outside the GOP base. His inexperience revealed itself when the media quizzed him on abortion, and after stumbling, his wife helped him answer.
Poor, working, and middle class Texans need someone that will speak for them as the leader of this state. We know that the GOP in Texas speaks only for corporations and the wealthy. (see here, TX court ruling benefits insurance companies in workers’ comp cases.) Wendy Davis knows the hard work it takes to get from the trailer park to the Texas Senate. She knows the hurdles right-wing governance has put before us.
Very few believe now that Wendy Davis has a good chance to win the governor’s race in 2014. Here’s a recent example from the Texas Tribune.
Hopes of a Democratic resurgence in Texas soared after this year’s first special session when state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, helped stop an abortion bill with a filibuster and an assist from protesters who disrupted the proceedings with their screa
It was a temporary victory: The Republican-led Legislature is on the verge of passing the same legislation in a second special session.
But the fight energized the moribund Democrats, and activists are urging Davis to run for governor next year. She would face long odds against Abbott, who has a huge war chest and support from the same Republican grass-roots machinery that propelled Perry to one victory after another. Democrats might also lose Davis’ hard-fought Senate seat, the only one seen as competitive under the current district maps, if she were to give it up to run for governor.
In an interview in her office at the Capitol this week, Davis said it was a privilege to be mentioned as a possible candidate for governor. Wearing a bright orange dress, the unofficial color of the abortion-rights protesters, Davis said she would be “very disappointed” if Democrats did not field a serious candidate for governor.
“I don’t know whether it’s me, but I do think it’s terribly important that we have a general election dialogue and debate,” she said. “I really do, particularly because this is an open seat now, and it just brings a new opportunity for those sorts of conversations.” She said she would decide in the next few weeks whether to run.
Much can change in the next 16 months, however.
It’s unlikely Wendy Davis will ever have a better opportunity than she has now to run for Governor of Texas. No one can run a race like Davis could in 2014. The timing is perfect for so many who have for the first time become involved in the political process because of her heroism. And if she does run, there would be an influx of new and energized voters and activists into the Texas political process not seen in decades.
If she does run, win or lose, the infrastructure that would be built because of her run for governor would be invaluable to the future of the the people of Texas and the Democratic party. (It’s already begun, Battleground Texas raises modest $1.1 million in four months and Wendy Davis Raises Nearly $1 Million.)
Wendy Davis may not read this blog post or run for Governor of Texas. 2014 may not be the realigning election in which women, Latinos, African-Americans, marriage equality advocates, environmentalists, labor, Medicare recipients and others come together as one. 8.1 million adult Texans who could have participated in 2012 chose not to vote. Many of those lost hope, and have come to doubt whether voting matters. Refusing to participate in elections is seen by some as rebellion; however, it is as good as a vote for the status quo. It’s the opposite of rebellion. It is acquiescence.
Increasing the number of participants in our political process is the only way to restore democracy. Being right on the issues is not enough to inspire non-voters to participate. We need an inspiring leader with a passion and a clear voice, someone who has walked in our shoes and will work to restore justice, fairness and equality.
Wendy Davis is that candidate for 2014. No one else between now and November 2014 has the ability to run the campaign that she can. She’s the only one who can put forth a message to beat the GOP in 2014. She’s the only one who can restore hope to the millions of Texans that have given up. That’s why Wendy Davis must run for Governor of Texas in 2014.