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Texas Dems Know What's Wrong, But Not How To Fix It

by Molly Ivins

The GOP machine keeps popping out the candidates
Let's talk Texas politics. At this point, the Democratic Party's Great Brown Hope is Tony Sanchez Jr., of whom you may never have heard. No reason why you should have. He hasn't done much and doesn't stand for much.

So why is Sanchez the all-but-anointed gubernatorial candidate for 2002? To be blunt about it, because his last name ends with "z" and because he has money. Texas Democrats do not have real high standards at this point.

Sanchez is a South Texas oil and banking magnate who has never run for anything. He has been a major Democratic donor, but he is also a big-time George W. Bush backer. He gave enough to Bush to get appointed to the UT System Board of Regents, and that means major money.

Sanchez appears to be intelligent and can actually make a decent speech, which puts him several leagues ahead of Gov. Rick Perry, who has good hair.

The problem here, if you will bear with my metaphor, is that the Republicans in Texas have built a party that is like one of those big restaurant toasters that hold eight slices at time. They just pop candidates into their machine -- doesn't matter who the candidates are -- and bingo, they get flipped out into public office.

The Democrats, on the other hand, have a system where every candidate has to build his own toaster and it only holds one slice. Next election, everybody has to build his own new toaster.

Because the D's, as a party, have no money, each candidate has to go raise enough for a statewide race on his or her own. This is difficult, tedious and hard on everybody.

Texas D's are not so stupid that they haven't noticed this is not working. But they don't know what to do about it.

The long-term answer has always been demographics -- time is on our side. Texas becomes majority-minority in 2008, and those are our voters.

The R's under Karl Rove were shrewd enough to have gone to work on the Hispanic vote, with not much effect so far. The D's would have to work pretty hard to throw away that vote, although they are, of course, capable of it.

The D's are simply ecstatic over the prospect of Sanchez on the ticket, apparently undeterred by the fact that he appears to be at least as much of a Republican as he is a Democrat. Hey, this is Texas -- we're bipartisan.

At least he made his own money -- about $600 million. He's already scared the R's enough so that Gov. Goodhair has started clucking about South Texas. To everyone's astonishment, during his State of the State address the governor burst into a declaration of his great passion to save and improve South Texas.

The reason that this came as a surprise is because the only known thing that Perry has ever done about South Texas was to reverse every policy initiated by Jim Hightower to help farm workers after Perry took over as agriculture commissioner.

Every D political operative I know is excited about the Sanchez candidacy. But may I suggest that, long-term, running D's who are indistinguishable from R's is not in our best interests?

Texas D's are so cowed at this point that Sanchez looks like a savior. But I'll tell you something about Texas voters: Offered a choice of an ersatz Republican and the genuine article, they'll take the real Republican every time. The only way to get out our vote is to get it out -- hard, dirty, brick-by-brick labor.

Because of the unfortunate consequences of the 36-Day War, what actually happened in this country on Election Day has been largely ignored. The D's won the ground war, and consequently the election, despite the unfortunate ruling by the Supreme Court.

Thanks largely to efforts of organized labor (brilliantly marshalled by John Sweeney, who cannot be praised enough) backed by NAACP get-out-the-vote efforts, there was a truly amazing turnout -- and some terrifically exciting skirmishing in several key states.

Sorry to sound like a political fundamentalist, but the air war (that's TV advertising) is overrated. And may I point out that most political consultants get 15 percent of what they book on the air ad campaign, giving them a considerable incentive to overdo that and neglect the ground war.

Unfortunately, Texas labor is in a sad state. Essentially, we don't have many troops here (with all apologies to the troops we do have who work their tails off every election).

D's can win elections in Texas if enough people vote. But we have to work harder to get to our people, and television is not the answer. Why should a tired single mom with two kids drag herself to the polls after a long day at work to choose between a Republican and Democrat who sounds exactly like a Republican?

Every assault on the social safety net affects her life first and worst, but all she knows is that the system is not working for her, so why bother? The more that D candidates resemble R candidates, the less reason there is to vote.

If Texas D's are too gutless to stand for anything, why should anyone vote for them?

© Creators Syndicate

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Albion Monitor February 19, 2001 (

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