It takes a lot to put together a governing coalition. And it takes even more to keep it together. Whether anyone wants to admit it, or not, it takes a lot of compromise too. Right now the GOP in Texas has a winning coalition. And the Texas Democrats main aim should be to destroy that coalition, by building one of their own.
The best way to do that is to point out, whenever possible, the hypocrisy of the GOP’s positions. An easy issue that everyone can understand is one I like to call “Beer and Democracy”. It points directly to the issue of keeping inane and illogical laws on the books, because of wealthy powerful interests that make our politicians keep it that way. And why these laws won’t get changed has everything to do with the way our pay to play government works in Texas. But first a few questions.
Why can’t I go to my local brewery and buy a six pack of beer?
Why can’t I but beer direct from my local brewery?
And, as this HChron article points out, why can’t these guys, Brewers in Texas caught up in a Catch-22, who own a small brewery and a restaurant sell the beer from their brewery in their restaurant? (Hat tip to Kuff, Our stupid beer laws in action.)
Owners of the popular Eatsie Boys food truck will open their first stand-alone restaurant later this year on Montrose Boulevard, serving everything from breakfast items to sandwiches to house-made gelato.
Closer to downtown, and possibly around the same time, the young entrepreneurs will cut the ribbon on their 8th Wonder Brewery. They recently took possession of a brand-new brewhouse and three shiny tanks that will produce craft beers like Alternate Universe, Hopston and Intellectuale, “the beer that makes you think.”
But don’t expect to see any of those brews on tap at their restaurant. Texas law forbids it.
“What a joke is that?” asked Ryan Soroka, a founding partner of both operations. ” … It makes no sense that we’re doing things the way we have to do them.”
Ted Duchesne, president of Open The Taps, a consumer group with more than 400 members, agreed that 8th Wonder is caught in a Catch-22 that should be fixed legislatively.
Duchesne said one of Open The Taps’ priorities will be to see the brewpub law amended so that Texas companies will have the option, available in some other states, to make and distribute beer and operate a brewpub simultaneously.
The main reason this won’t change is because of the money and influence the big brewers and the wholesale beer distributors have over the Texas Legislature. The attempt to change these inane laws last session died and it’s not hard to figure out why. From Kuff last year, RIP, HB602.
Texans won’t be buying liquor on Sunday and the state’s 29 brewpubs won’t be competing with their out-of-state rivals on local grocery shelves.
And Texas breweries or liquor distillers still can’t sell a 12-pack of beer or a souvenir bottle of bourbon to tourists, as the Legislature has killed all bills related to changes in state laws on beer and liquor retailing.
“We got railroaded,” said Dan Garrison with Garrison Brothers Distillery, a Hill Country distiller who wanted the ability to sell a souvenir bottle of his bourbon to tour groups.
Garrison’s comment could sum up the frustration of the smallest players in the state’s beer and liquor industry that is controlled by giants.
Rep. Mike Hamilton, R-Mauriceville, chairs the House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures, where most of the alcohol-related bills died this session.
He said it’s difficult to change decades-old laws without affecting someone’s financial interest.
Translation: It’s difficult to give small brewers and distillers an even break because doing so might put a tiny dent in the massive, oligarchic profits of the big distributors.
While beer laws in Texas are, by no means, the most important issue, this is a microcosm of what is wrong with our state government. A painfully obvious illogical law, whose time has come to be changed, is unable to be changed because of the influence of money in our political system.
This issue highlights the hypocrisy of those who run our state. They prattle on, over and over again, about “evil” regulations, keeping down small business and then, here they are, keeping a regulation in place that is overwhelmingly in favor of the big and powerful, and hurts small business. As has been written here many times before – money erodes trust.
But it’s issues like this, one at a time, where Texas Democrats have to start differentiating themselves from the GOP. Here’s an excerpt from a Booman post, circa 2011, where he mentions the new Alabama Democratic Party chair, who is George Wallace’s son in law, and brewing laws. And point out a new strategy, Deep South Dems Need a New Model. (Just everywhere you see Alabama substitute Texas).
In my humble Yankee opinion, the only way for Alabama Democrats to overcome the racial/Christianized/anti-Washington rhetoric of Fox News, talk radio, and the GOP is to adopt a competing form of populism. Effective populism in Alabama probably has to be presented in a scriptural context. One of Jesus’s favorite words was “hypocrites,” and it’s a word that should used liberally to describe how the Republicans operate as the party of big business and corporate interests while pretending to represent core American values. It’s easy for people to understand hypocrisy when they see someone like David Vitter espousing family values while he frequents brothels behind his wife’s back. But is Sen. Richard Shelby any less of a whore-monger the way he serves the banking industry? If Republicans make bashing Washington DC their mantra, the Democrats should do the same with Wall Street. The mantra is “they’re ripping you off, and the Republicans are in bed with them.”
Alabama Democrats should be promising to go after the mortgage industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance industry, the too-big-to-fail fat cats that game the system so that they make money when we lose it.
There is no point in playing defense on God, gays, guns, and immigration. All of that is a distraction so people won’t realize they’re being ripped off. That is all Fox News and hate radio is, too. Don’t get played for a sucker. Don’t be a dupe of The Man.
But being anti-corporate doesn’t mean being anti-business. Democrats need to be the party of youth. Young adults want brew pubs, and they want to be able to buy a six-pack or a growler and take it home with them. They want college loans and grants. They’re not as conservative about race or gays. Democrats need to aggressively fight for a youth agenda, and brand the GOP as the party of old folks. Republicans are uptight. They’re stuck in the mud. They’re not cool. They’re always trying to tell you what to do, but they do what they want when no one is looking.
I think there is an opportunity for strands of progressivism in the Deep South, too. Certainly, getting Wall Street money out of elections is an acceptable rhetorical position to take down there.
What I am confident about is that the Democrats will continue to lose in Alabama, and lose badly, if they don’t adopt an alternative form of populism. The Blue Dog model is good for attracting campaign financing, but that’s the problem. If the Democrats are the party of not only Washington but Wall Street as well, then the GOP is actually a little better. And, since the GOP’s positions on social issues comport better with Alabama’s sensibilities, it’s really not a contest.
Populism is the only answer for Democrats in the Deep South.
Yes! The Democrats have to, in the minds of voters, turn Democrats back into the party of the people and the GOP back into the party of the rich and powerful. The winning won’t start again until that’s done, and that new governing coalition is built in Texas. “Beer and Democracy” is as good a place to start as any.
To find out more about this issue check out Openthetaps.org and their Mission and Goals. As well as a recent House Research Organization report on this issue, Small craft producers seek alcohol regulation revisions.