Sometimes things work out about as symbolically perfect as could possibly be. That was certainly the case when Donald Trump, around 2:30 AM last Wednesday morning, framed the ongoing counting of votes as causing cancellation of a party for him. “We were getting ready for a big celebration. We were winning everything and all of a sudden it was just called off.”
It would be difficult to encapsulate Trump better than that: Trump, the narcissist; the spoiled man child who didn’t get his way; the victim once again even though he holds the most powerful position in the world; and victim to some unknown, unidentified force, “it was just called off.” The unknown force that caused the “celebration” to be “called off” was of course the American electorate i.e. voters — or as Trump called the majority of us in the same speech, “a very sad group of people.”
“Millions and millions of people voted for us tonight. And, a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people, and we won’t stand for it. We will not stand for it.”
Ever since that moment Trump and his core team have been searching for, and inventing, ways to challenge the election results. They have completely failed so far, with several lawsuits almost immediately thrown out. Trump also stopped making public appearances, other than while golfing, after a second speech on Thursday. That speech was very similar in content to the one election night/Wednesday morning. Some Republicans, including on Fox News, frame the delay as a humane way to give Trump time to accept the results.
Of course that’s pathetic and refusing to allow members of his administration to participate in the transition is dangerous. The refusal to cooperate is rightly being condemned by Democrats and many in the media. Let’s not push too hard, however, on rushing Trump to concede. Maybe we should give him more time to come to terms with losing. I say that because every day that Trump concentrates on pouting is one less day for him to focus on doing more damage to the country before he leaves the White House.
So, by whatever means necessary, Trump will be leaving the White House on January 20 and Joe Biden will move in. In some ways Biden faces the worst situation of any new president since Franklin Roosevelt took office during the depths of the Great Depression. Not only is the economy suffering, with millions of unemployed Americans, long lines of cars at food banks, many businesses closed and millions of others on the brink, but a third coronavirus surge is underway. At the same time many health care workers are worn down, already having been required to stretch the limits of human endurance. Simultaneously, the country faces a continuing crisis in police treatment of African Americans, which is part of a broader legacy of systemic racism. Then there’s climate change. And, those are just a few of the challenges Biden faces. Plus, 70 million Americans lived through four years of Trump and concluded that four more years of that is what they want for the country.
Nonetheless, there is rightly some joy and hope in the country right now. And, that makes sense. Americans turned out in record numbers to vote. A majority of Americans successfully voted out a president that is doing great harm to the country and the world. Another reason for joy is that the American election system worked. That includes the work of election officials and vote counters in every state and tens of thousands of localities. The vote counters and election officials also unflinchingly endured baseless charges from the President of the United States as they did their jobs.
Biden seems to be the person for the moment. Campaigns can be clues to how someone will govern. Let’s hope that proves the case with Biden. He endured countless criticisms of his campaign strategy from other Democrats and from members of the media. He ignored Trump’s ridicule about staying “in the basement.” That all shows a real steadiness that is critical in governing.
Plus, Biden knows how to pass legislation, although that will be difficult unless the Democrats take the Senate — in the January 5 Georgia runoffs.
But, What About Texas
Well, talking about Biden winning and Trump losing is fun, but now let’s talk about Texas. Here we had a severe case of what Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune called afterward, “Democratic over-exuberance.” One person guilty of that was me. Sure, I caveated it by saying that the same old thing might happen i.e. Republicans crush Democratic hopes, but I also laid out a potential scenario in which Biden won Texas and the presidential election ended right there.
I was absolutely right that the election would be over if the Democrats won Texas; it was the part about the Democrats actually winning Texas that was the problem. The disaster in Texas stretched well beyond the presidential race. All the Democratic challengers to incumbent Republican members of Congress failed. Democrats also failed to capture any of the Texas House seats they targeted in what now appears a naive quest to win a majority there. Many of these were seats gerrymandered to favor Republicans. The idea was that Democrats had a chance to capture enough of those seats this year to win a majority in the Texas House for this decade’s round of redistricting — which will be done by the upcoming legislature. Instead Republicans will have total control over that process.
Democrats did hold on to Texas House seats they flipped in 2018. That included Vikki Goodwin winning her seat which encompasses parts of Southwest Austin and the Hill Country while Erin Zwiener prevailed in her northern Hays County district that adjoins Goodwin’s.
Overall, though it was another devastating wipeout of Texas Democrats. One of the worst aspects of the debacle is that it provides strong evidence against arguments that Democrats should invest more time and money in Texas — arguments that I, among others, have made for years. Biden didn’t pour millions into Texas or stake his chances on the Lone Star state. He was smart enough to prioritize rebuilding the “Blue Wall” in the Midwest and Pennsylvania. Biden did, however, advertise here and he sent Kamala Harris to the state during the last days of the campaign — both strategies that previous Democratic nominees have been unwilling to do.
Yet, the results were pretty much the same. Trump beat Biden 52% to 46% in Texas. Four years earlier Trump beat Hillary Clinton 52% to 43% with Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson carrying three percent. If one wants to find a bright side, Democrats have improved since 2008 when Mitt Romney got 57% against Barack Obama as Obama won reelection in 2012.
Nonetheless, before national Democrats get excited about Texas again, Texas Democrats are going to have make some inroads into the vast swath of red counties that sprawl across miles and miles of Texas outside the cities — east, west, north and south. See map.
That’s not even to mention the Rio Grande Valley. Mexican American voters in Texas, particularly in the Valley, are quickly becoming to the 2020 election what the white working class and particularly residents of Appalachian states were to the 2016 outcome. That’s because Trump pulled more than 40% in numerous counties in South Texas where the population is overwhelming Mexican American. Biden fell far short of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 totals throughout the Valley and he even lost Zapata County. One of the first articles examining this phenomena was by former American-Statesman reporter Elizabeth Findell, now with the Wall Street Journal and based in Houston.
Findell writes, “The region is ethnically homogenous, rural in parts, deeply religious, intensely patriotic, socially conservative and hurting economically.”
We might at some point delve into that subject here at the Independent. For now, however, let’s look at it as a positive that the national media is moving away from too often looking at Hispanics as a monolith. For instance, in this election the increased support for Trump among Mexican Americans along the Texas border, helped him win the state. (According to the Times, however, Hispanics in urban areas voted much more strongly for Biden.) At the same time Mexican American residents of Arizona were central to turning that state blue; Biden leads in Arizona, but a winner has not been projected yet, except by Fox News and the Associated Press.
What About the Austin Council‘s Cuts to the Police Budget?
Another subject of post election discussion is whether the Austin City Council’s cuts to the police budget hurt Democratic candidates. That is a specter that I raised here in the Austin Independent back in August when the vote occurred. That vote came after hundreds of Defund the Police supporters spoke at Council demanding cuts of at least $100 million to the Austin Police Department (APD) budget. Playing to those speakers, Council Member Greg Casar tweeted that the Council had “just reduced APD’s budget by over $100 million.” Actually, the Council cut and redirected $21 million from the APD budget, while also putting around $130 million into “transition” funds, with the fate of those funds to be decided over the ensuing six months.
The version in Casar’s tweet, however, grabbed the early headlines, and Republicans preferred Casar’s simpler version as well.
Governor Greg Abbott jumped on it immediately after Casar’s tweet. He first promised legislative action, then threatened to have the state Department of Public Safety take control of APD, and used it as a catalyst for his Back the Blue campaign — all the while using the issue to divert attention from Republican’s failure on the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Democratic candidates were trapped. If they said they agreed with the Council vote then they would almost certainly lose support. If they said they disagreed with the vote, then they risked alienating a number of people who would likely vote for them. So Democrats, like Julie Oliver who was challenging incumbent Roger Williams, simply fired back that Republicans were trying to divert attention from their coronavirus failures.
Williams and fellow Republican incumbent Chip Roy, who faced a challenge from former state Senator Wendy Davis, used the Austin Council vote in their campaign ads.
So it seems that, at the very least, the Austin Council’s police budget cuts hurt Democratic candidates. The degree to which voters decided based on this specific issue though is impossible to nail down completely. Perhaps this is just weariness from watching too many campaign ads, but it really seems that all Republican operatives have to do is simply show pictures or names of Nancy Pelosi and AOC in their ads along with the words “socialism” and “California,” and a majority of Texas voters fall in line.
At the very least, however, Casar and the Austin Council added another item to the Republican mantra that they use to terrify voters about what will happen if they vote for Democrats.
Whatever the case statewide, the Council’s police budget vote clearly had an impact in Council elections. Predictably, Casar cruised to victory in a safe district, but Jimmy Flannigan and Alison Alter face tough runoffs, with the police budget being a major issue. The Independent will have more the Council races and rail elections soon.
To sum up, Texas Republicans remain firmly in control and likely see little reason to adjust any of their policies as they prepare to gather for the 2021 legislative session which begins in January. By the time the Texas Legislature convenes, however, there will be a brand new Democratic administration in Washington. Of course Donald Trump, William Barr and others will be doing everything they can in the meantime to prevent that new administration from taking office. As Biden spokesperson Andrew Bates said, however, “The United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.” That’s the right attitude to have.
Also please don’t feel the need to push too hard for Trump to come to the inauguration. A lot of American traditions have been trampled upon during Trump’s presidency. It won’t really be that bad if the one about the outgoing president attending the inauguration gets violated too. Biden will still become president whether Trump shows up or not.
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