Yesterday the Wendy Davis for Governor of Texas train got rolling. Kuff has the details, The people want Wendy to run for Governor. Until she decides there will continue to be opinions from every corner. And many seem to think she can only win in a 2010-like scenario if she embraces well worn losing advice.
The bottom line is this is one big, uphill climb for Davis. She has star power, but she can’t win it going the traditional Democratic route. She has to run hard to the middle and even to the right. That could cost her with some Democrats, but that’s the only way she can win.
That’s unlikely to be how Davis would run her campaign. If she does run, she previewed her likely frame last week at the National Press Club.
Davis went to great lengths to portray her quest as one not rooted in partisan politics, even though the state is almost entirely in the hands of Republicans, and hasn’t had a Democratic governor since George W. Bush defeated Ann Richards, the late mother of Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards, in 1994.
During the question-and-answer period that followed her speech, Davis was asked what chance she thought a Democrat really had at being elected into office in her notoriously red state.
“You know, I think the question really is: What chance do new leaders have of winning elected office in the state of Texas?” she said. “I think the best way to talk about that is to talk about what Texans want to see in their government, and not to talk about it in party frames.”
In both her speech and the question period, Davis laid out her case against the current leadership, talking not only of the recent anti-choice bill that drew national attention, but also of the legislature’s 2011 bill that “strip[ped] $5.4 billion from our already underfunded public schools.” That attempt prompted her first, less-heralded filibuster, which despite the bill’s ultimate passage (which led to the layoffs of some 10,000 teachers), bought time for parents and teachers to travel to the capitol to voice their opposition, Davis said.
It’s not a message rooted in left or right, D or R, necessarily. It’s a message that says the people will be put first over the powerful if she is elected governor. Giving voice to the voiceless.
Granted Texas is different, but it’s hard to believe that voters in Texas want more of the same. Our infrastructure continues to be neglected, despite the minimalist approaches taken with regards to water and transportation funding this year. When it comes to education, health care and poverty, we are at or near the bottom in all of those. And on issues like the environment and income inequality Texas is lacking there as well.
But the other part is that 2014 is not 2010. The heat is going out of the tea party. So much so that the politicians they’re trying hassle this year are from the GOP, and they’re doing their best to hide from the tea party.
Representative Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, is no stranger to town hall meetings and their political possibilities. Four summers ago, he helped his party use them to stoke opposition to President Obama’s health care bill. Across the country, forums like his fed a budding Tea Party movement and set the stage for returning the House to Republican control in 2010.
But when Mr. Sessions returned to his Dallas-area district for the August recess this year, a pause before Congress takes up an agenda that includes immigration, government surveillance, health care and budget cuts, there was something conspicuously missing from his schedule: a town hall.
One of his constituents, Katrina Pierson, 37, who describes herself as a “conservative grass-roots volunteer” and had hoped to press Mr. Sessions on his commitment to pulling financing from the health care law, is so exasperated that she and a group of like-minded advocates have offered to host a meeting for him.
“He can just give us a date,” she said. “We’ll set it up.”
Though Republicans in recent years have harnessed the political power of these open mic, face-the-music sessions, people from both parties say they are noticing a decline in the number of meetings. They also say they are seeing Congressional offices go to greater lengths to conceal when and where the meetings take place.
“The whole thing is very anti-democratic, and it’s classic behavior of entrenched insiders,” said Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, a Tea Party group that in 2009 helped send legions of demonstrators to town halls. Now, it is trying to draw out seemingly reluctant members by staging public events like mock meet-your-lawmaker meetings with empty chairs. “We’ve lost that Rockwell image of citizen participation in democracy.”
With memories of those angry protests still vivid, it seems that one of the unintended consequences of a movement that thrived on such open, often confrontational interactions with lawmakers is that there are fewer members of Congress now willing to face their constituents.
Although local Congressman John Carter is still on board, he’ll be addressing the tea party on August 22nd. There is much less GOP cohesion. Greg Abbott is not Rick Perry. Although it’s only in the nascent stages the Democrats are beginning an organizing push that hasn’t been done in decades. And most important of all, a Davis run may give Democrats what they’ve been missing most in recent years – hope.
But all of this begs a question. Will enough Texas voters, not just GOP primary voters, continue to buy the anti-everything message the Texas GOP keeps selling? If you’ve seen any of the ads for GOP announced statewide candidates in Texas there are several recurring themes. (if you haven’t seen the ads just go to the Texas Tribune they have them all). It appears that the only way to appeal to a GOP primary voter is to prove your hatred of Obamacare, the President, and your belief that the federal government is evil.
Texas has money to spend on public education just not the right people in office to make it happen. Texas also has the money for roads, for water, a generous offer from the federal government on health care, and for many other needs. There’s just not the right people in office that will make the needs of Texans a priority over the needs of the powerful.
That’s the choice Wendy Davis will bring to the voters of Texas. If the last 40 years have taught us anything it’s that making the rich richer, doesn’t help everyone else down the line. (Reagan’s “trickle-down” was snake oil). It’s long past time we had a government that works for all it’s people. Hopefully that’s what the race for Governor will be about in 2014.