Thursday, June 8, 2023

Texas Dems - Where Do We Go From Here?

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different outcome. If that’s the definition of insanity, then the picture next to that definition is of the Texas Democratic Party and in particular its Chairman, Gilberto Hinojosa. The TDP keeps doing and saying the same things over and over and nothing changes. 

The Wilco Democratic Party put forth a solid effort during the Governor’s race. Paid staffers, advertising, GOTV, the works. We lost. On that year’s ballot, only one Democrat won, Justice of the Peace KT Musselman was reelected. His precinct was purposefully drawn to be a safe Dem precinct. The rest were not. 

Let’s break down the numbers. Wilco registered 416,324* eligible voters out of a presumed pool of 506,920 who are 18 and over. That’s 82.1%. Sounds good. Until you get to turnout. Only 54.45% of registered voters made to the polls. 226,679 voted. 189,645 sat out the election. With a population of 671,418, that means roughly one third of the people in the county determined the municipal, county, and state elected seats for the other two thirds. And really, that’s not even accurate. You see, the number of people who cast a vote in a race gets smaller the further down the ballot you go. So, we may have had 225,672 people vote for Governor, but by the time those same people got the end of the ballot, many of them left blanks.

Let’s look at my race. I ran for reelection in 2022 as Justice of the Peace for Pct.4 in Wilco. 51,906 people voted in my race. But of the ballots cast in Pct. 4, 1,880 left it blank. Meaning they voted higher up the ballot, for Governor for instance, but didn’t cast a vote in my race. It gets even worse when you start looking at school board or municipal races. Those races are often decided by a very small number of votes that represent a tiny portion of eligible voters. Many times, particularly at the county level, when you look at undervotes (the official name for votes skipped) you see that they could have easily flipped the outcome had they voted in a bloc. 

So, why do we keep doing the same things? Why don’t we change how we run campaigns? Who are we missing?

I believe that in many instances, we’re ignoring entire demographics – 35 and under, people of color, and LGBTQ+. Why? Money, mostly. The younger demographics don’t have the funds to provide major support to campaigns. Hispanics and African Americans are all too often assumed to be at the lower ends of the socio-economic scale and The Powers That Be believe they can’t provide major financial support either. There’s prejudice of all kinds involved as well.  And assumptions made that of course they’ll vote for us, we’re the only reasonable alternative. Why would any member of the LGBTQ+ community vote Republican in a state where they’re clearly trying to criminalize your existence? Why would they vote for you if you don’t explicitly state you’ll support them?

A major part of the reason why the TDP keeps failing to flip Texas is because of funding. The National Democratic Party selects a very small number of races to support. Then Hinojosa tells us we can’t fund your race because the DCCC won’t help us. So, you’re on your own. Talk to your county chair. Well, that county chair has a full ballot of races to oversee funding and support for and a limited number of resources to do so. So instead of focusing on county, municipal, and school board races, county parties are forced to assist state-wide candidates raise money and find volunteers. Money and people that only go so far. Even when the county party does everything it reasonably can to get out the vote, inform voters and raise money, they generally do so without the full support of the state party. Oh, they get some support, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not enough. The county party should be focused on races with seats within the county, yet they must dilute their resources in support of statewide and even federal offices.

For the Texas Democratic Party to affect real change in leadership across the state, that change must first come within. Gilberto Hinojosa must resign. 

How can you help affect this change? Check with your county party and see if your voting precinct needs a precinct chair. Precinct chairs can attend the county party convention and make up a large percentage of delegates the county will send to the state convention. Make it to the state convention and you can vote on the state party chair. 

Hopefully, it’s better organized than the last one. It took three rounds to elect a chair and we adjourned without voting on a party platform. Why? Because we ran out of our allotted time at the convention center, and it would have cost the party more money to stay.

*Numbers come from US Census Data for the County Population and percentage of under 18 plus Williamson County Elections results for November 2022.

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