Does The Texas Democratic Party Need New Leadership?

Does The Texas Democratic Party Need New Leadership?

Will new leadership finally flip Texas blue?

As most Living Blue in Texas readers know, last year (2020), I spent a lot of time covering the protests and issues surrounding the efforts to remove the Confederate statues in rural Texas. During that time, I frequently spoke to the groups leading these efforts, got to know them, and many I even became friends with. Most of the groups pushing these odes to white supremacy out of their towns were progressive groups with leftist ideologies. Often I asked them have they reached out to their county Democratic party for help; the response was almost always, “they suck.”

There are robust groups of progressives in rural Texas organizing and working for political goals with no genuine relationships with their local county Democratic party.

More than once, I’ve heard, “the local county Democratic party is a bunch of old ladies that use it as a social club.” The consensus from rural progressives is that there are no efforts in rural areas to recruit candidates, organize, or fundraise.

Is that a fair characterization?

Perhaps in some counties, it is, but I’ve been told something utterly different from party chairs in rural areas.

More than one county party chair has told me that they don’t have support from the state party and there is animosity towards the state party over their relationship with the national party.

People who don’t live in Texas don’t understand Texas.

In Virginia, we became the Democratic Party’s slogan, “Don’t Texas Virginia.”

What a slap in the face that was to the thousands of activists and organizers who have spent years on the ground working to make Texas a better place. It pissed a lot of people off.

For a long time, we needed strong candidates in statewide positions, like Julian Castro. Why hasn’t Julian Castro ran for Senate or Lt. Governor, even though Texans have been pleading for this for years? He’s thought about it. Insiders tell me he’s tossed around the idea more than once. Every time, the National Democratic Party talked him out of it. The fact has remained that Julian Castro would do much more for Texas here in Texas or in the U.S. Senate than he will in Congress. This is just one of the ways the National Democratic Party has undermined Texas.

Rural county parties aren’t getting the support they need, and in turn, precinct chairs haven’t been getting the help they need.

A while back, I signed up to be a precinct chair of the county I was living in at the time. I was emailed a link to VAN and a login, and nothing else. I ultimately resigned because I didn’t know what to do or how to do it. There was no training, no reading material… nothing.

It’s a stark difference between how the Democratic Party and the Republican Party handle the precinct chair positions in Texas.

While most Democratic county parties have a lot of open precinct chairs, the Republican county parties have a strategy around recruiting, training, and keeping precinct chairs.

Precinct chairs in the Texas Republican Party are given much more importance.

Precinct chairs are the people on the ground, talking to their neighbors and organizing in their neighborhoods.

Yet, county Democratic parties rarely ever to give them the support they need because the county parties aren’t getting support from the state party. And it becomes a repetitive cycle of no one knowing what the hell they’re doing.

County Democratic parties haven’t embraced progressive activists and organizers all over Texas.

Progressives and leftists have complained about how they run progressive candidates under (D) and receive no support. Instead, many have talked about running their candidates as Independents or the Green Party. This leads to devastating consequences when the left vote is split between Democrats and a third party; it helps Republicans win.

What’s going to help Texas turn blue is when these ideological groups work together under one umbrella; even though they don’t agree on everything, they agree on the important things; healthcare, wealth inequality, the environment, etc.

Now, Texas leftists are using Joe Manchin and Kristen Sinema as examples of why “vote blue no matter who” is a strategy that doesn’t work.

But where is the Texas Democratic Party pointing to how Manchin and Sinema aren’t Texas Democrats? Where is the party pointing to how Texas Democrats are nothing like those two?

Where is Gilberto Hinojosa?

As the Texas Democratic party leader, shouldn’t he be out in the front, shouting from the rooftops and trying to bring the younger, more progressive Texans under the Democrat umbrella?

Neither Hinojosa nor the Texas Democratic Party has a real presence online. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Hinojosa or other party leaders on MSNBC, CNN, or even my local news station.

What is the state party doing?

That’s a good question. But, unfortunately, I don’t know the answer. Although I’ve reached out to Chair Hinojosa more than once for a chat or interview, I’ve always been ignored, which leads me to believe that he’s mostly inaccessible.

This attitude trickles down.

Last year, a rural Texas county progressive group had a candidate for mayor and city council. They asked their local county party for help. The county party ignored them for a few months until they finally answered how they wouldn’t help because of the progressive group’s position on police accountability.

There is a perception that the Texas Democratic Party only pushes moderate candidates and alienates progressives.

Someone formally in the state party pointed told me that they don’t push any candidates. It’s up to voters who they choose in the primary elections. The state party gets behind whichever candidate wins the primary. While that makes a lot of sense, if they refuse to help more progressive candidates because of one position difference, they are doing more to hurt Texas than to help Texas.

There has been an argument between Texas voters and party establishment members for years, should the party push further left, stay in the middle, or become more conservative.

The group most saying how the Texas Democratic Party should stay where they are or become more moderate are people from the Baby Boomer generation (and a small minority). They believe that progressive policies like universal healthcare, legalizing cannabis, and reimagining policing aren’t appealing to Texas Democrats.

On multiple occasions, I’ve asked on the Living Blue Facebook page or Twitter what they think the Texas Democratic Party should be doing, ideologically, pushing left, staying where they are, or moving more to the right. And almost every time, the answers have overwhelmingly been, “move further left.”

There’s an ideological split within Texas Democrats, and in some cases, it’s causing a lot of drama.

Aside from the county party refusing to help out candidates with progressive ideology (like I mentioned above), there was also a mutiny in a larger, suburban county party last year.

The county party was evenly split between moderates and progressives in this particular county. When it was time for the party to elect their chair, the progressives tried to stage a mutiny and put their candidate in place. Wooo, it was a lot of drama at the time. The moderates won, though. The progressives in the county party all jumped ship and started a new political club even though these two groups should have been working for the same goals.

Consequently, the county, which should have flipped blue last year, did not flip. And the local Democratic county party-endorsed Republicans in their municipal races over progressives, claiming it was about the experience. However, they still endorsed someone in the party of Trump.

How is this helping Texas? It’s not. It’s hurting us. But with no guidance from the state party, they’ve gone completely rogue.

Why didn’t Texas flip in 2020?

There are many reasons for this, but one of those reasons is that the Texas Democratic Party put all of their eggs in one basket.

The party focused on the house seats, which they were sure they could flip, and ignored dozens of other races. There were a lot of good, strong candidates in 2020 that never even heard from the state party, let alone got help from them.

Yet, Texas didn’t flip, and the House seats the party focused on didn’t flip either.

Don’t confuse that sentiment. Texas will still turn blue, whether Hinojosa or someone else is at the top of the state leadership. Democrats outnumber Republicans, but we just don’t vote. The party’s history of alienating progressives and not appealing to the leftist vote has hurt us.

Should Chair Hinojosa stay because of his experience?

That’s what he’s saying. Hinojosa has been the chair for over a decade and has done a lot for the state of Texas, which is why he believes he will win this race. And it’s true, Gilberto Hinojosa HAS done a lot for Texas and Texas Democrats, but we remain a battleground state controlled by Republicans.

When Hinojosa was chair of the party, Texas Democrats gained a more significant majority each cycle. Has that been due to Hinojosa’s work or a natural progression due to the rapid demographics change? It’s hard to say.

There has to be a point when the state party realizes that 20 years of being moderate candidates have cost us elections by driving progressive voters to stay home. This leaves many of us to wonder if Hinojosa can do the job since he’s a self-described “Yellow Dog Democrat.”

What is a Yellow Dog Democrat?

The Democratic Party used to be the Conservative Party. LBJ, Barry Goldwater, and Richard Nixon ultimately changed that in the 1960s, and by the 1990s, Conservatives were running from the Democratic party the same way that rats jump off of a sinking ship. However, many Democrats in the 1990s said they would never join the Republican Party or vote for a Republican and started calling themselves “Yellow Dog Democrats.”

(If you want to learn more about the Dixiecrats and political realignment, check out my book.)

I would never want to be known as a “Yellow Dog Democrat” because, in the 1990s, those were Conservative Democrats who once aligned with the Dixiecrats. Does that mean I would vote for a Republican? Not in a million years. Fuck Republicans.

We have changed a lot as a party since the 1990s, and our state leaders should embrace that change.

So, does the Texas Democratic Party need new leadership?

What do you think?

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