by Daryl Slusher
This publication will be primarily dedicated to local and regional issues in the Austin area. Occasionally, however, we will branch out beyond the metropolitan boundaries when I think there is something to be added; and this is one of those times.
Let’s begin with a mental exercise and it might hurt a little bit at first. Imagine an almost exact repeat of the 2016 electoral college map this time around. The eventual Democratic nominee wins every state that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, and loses every state she lost — except, the Democrats are able to flip just one state. If that state was Texas, then Democrats would win the presidency with exactly the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.
The same cannot be said of the next biggest swing state, Florida with 28 electoral votes nor of Pennsylvania with 20. But, if you take the 232 electoral votes Clinton won and add the 38 from Texas, well that equals, like I said, exactly 270.
The Democrats of course should try to win Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona — all the swing states. What they have not done in a very long time, however, is actually try to win Texas. Now might be a good time to give it a shot.
Imagine if Texas went blue: the networks would likely call the race right then. Most likely it would be too close to call until late in the night or early in the morning and the whole nation might end up waiting to see what will happen in Texas. If and when it did happen, people all over the nation, all over the world, would burst into the streets to celebrate. The focus would then shift to whether Donald Trump will accept the verdict of American voters and peacefully vacate the White House come January 20, 2021.
I know, it’s a long shot — except for the part about Trump refusing to leave if he loses — but this is truly an existential election for our country — for our democracy. Texas Democrats and national Democrats should at least give it a try.
Let’s look at a few recent polls. In a recent very thorough Texas Tribune-UT Austin poll taken from January 31 through February 9, 47% of those polled said they would “definitely vote for someone else” other than Trump. That’s a pretty good start for the Democrats.
Another 5% said they would “probably vote for someone else.” Put those two numbers together and it’s 52% i.e. more than half, a majority.
I know polls can change, but 47% who will “definitely vote for someone else” is a really, really good place to start.
In head-to-head match-ups Trump only led Bernie Sanders by two points, 47%-45%. Elizabeth Warren was three points behind Trump at 47%-44% and Joe Biden four back at 47%-43%. Trump did not get above 47% in any of the one-on-one match-ups — which is consistent with 52% saying they would definitely not vote for him.
Yes, that’s only one poll. In an even more recent CNN poll conducted February 22-26, and posted right before press time, Biden actually leads Trump by one point in Texas, 48%-47%; Warren and Trump are tied at 47%; Buttigieg and Bloomberg each trail by one; Sanders trails by two points, 48%-46%; and Klobuchar is three back. In none of the CNN head-to-head matches does Trump go above 48% — again consistent with the 52% that say they will either definitely or likely vote against him in the fall.
Those are all within striking distance.
What Would It Take?
It sure seems like time that national Democrats should do more than use Texas as an ATM to fund campaigns in other states; and instead pour some money into trying to win here. Even if they do so, however, that won’t be enough by itself. It will take both a persuasion and get-out-the-vote effort across the entire state beyond the Democratic Party apparatus and way beyond what has been done for decades.
Beto O’Rourke showed the way though, visiting all 254 counties. It is unrealistic to think that the Democratic nominee would visit every county in Texas, but Texas Democrats can work the whole state.
And, once again, to all you skeptics out there, I know, Beto didn’t win. But, he made a really big dent and the turnout he generated was instrumental in Democrats gaining seats in the Texas House and also helped Democrats win local offices.
Taking more Texas House seats in 2020, even winning the majority, is considered possible enough that it is receiving prominent national organizational help from a group headed by former Attorney General Eric Holder who is working in partnership with former President Barack Obama. Their goal is flipping legislatures to Democratic control before redistricting takes place after the 2020 census. Also, the Texas Observer recently reported that Republican strategist Karl Rove is worried enough that he coming back to Texas to try to protect his life’s work of turning Texas red.
A very serious Democratic presidential effort would help the Texas House effort tremendously, and also the U.S. Senate race.. Such an effort would require unity and every possible effort. In addition to pouring in money, the national party, or better yet the presidential nominee’s campaign, would need to open offices in every major city in the state and in as many smaller cities and rural areas as possible.
There would have to be a particular emphasis on working to solidify, and then turn out, the Hispanic vote. There would need to be a large voter registration component. The African American vote is even more solidly in the Democratic column, but Democrats should devote resources to make sure their agenda is addressing the priorities of both Hispanic Texans and Texan African Americans — as opposed to just assuming their votes. At the same time operatives and volunteers can register the unregistered, then turn out the vote. To make this happen the Democratic Party could invest some real money directly into predominately African American and Hispanic communities; create some jobs, create some excitement. There needs to be particular attention given to countering voter suppression efforts. One place to be on guard there is the new driver license requirements.
There is also huge opportunity in Texas’ growing Asian American population.
A Democratic victory in Texas would also require a relentless effort in the suburbs where Trump is particularly vulnerable with women voters. Then there are the young folks. There appears to be tremendous excitement among the young this time around, but getting enough of them to actually vote has too often been an unfulfilled challenge in the past.
It will also be critical to have massive turnouts in Democratic strongholds like Austin — on a scale not seen in our time — so as to build up huge margins to counter areas of the state that stick with Trump. Campaigning all over the state, however, should shrink margins in areas that stick with Trump.. Turning Texas Blue will also take a lot of individual efforts and conversations and rides to the polls — things that will never come close to getting on the news, except cumulatively because those small things can add up.
Ultimately, for Democrats to win in Texas, every one who can envision how horrible another four years of Trump will be needs to get every living person they know who will vote for the Democratic candidate to the polls.
Yes, again, it is a long shot and one the Democratic Party has not been willing to take in the past. If not now though, when? One way we know it won’t happen is if national or Texas Democratic leaders write off Texas like they do every four years. Texans should work hard to keep that from happening.
It is not outside the realm of possibility that in November Democrats could take back the Texas House and deliver the presidency to the Democrats.
What a bragging point that would be.
The Austin Independent, March 1, 2020
The Austin Independent, a publication of The Austin Independent, LLC