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It's Time We Talk About The Texas Democratic Party
The 2020 election was a failure for Texas Democratic Party, the 2022 election was even worse. What do Democrats need to do in Texas to win?
Only 33% of children born in Texas in 2020 were white. 48% were Latino, another 13% were Black, and 5% were Asian. The only states/areas with a lower birthrate of white babies than Texas are California and New Mexico, both blue states. Washington, DC, also has a 33% white birth rate. DC is blue.
According to the 2020 Census, Texas is 39.8% white (non-Hispanic), 39.3% Hispanic, 11.8% Black, and 5.4% Asian. Of course, that doesn't include the half-million Texans who were undercounted. The only states/areas less white than Texas are Washington, DC, New Mexico, California, and Hawaii. Once again, all blue states.
Here is an exit poll from the 2022 election:
What do you notice?
Although white (non-Hispanic) people only make up 39.8% of the population in Texas, during the 2022 election, they made up 62% of the vote. That was higher than in the 2020 election when Anglos made up 60% of the vote.
People of color haven't been voting as religiously in Texas as white people have, which is why the Texas government is run by white supremacists, despite no longer being the majority of the state. It's only one of many problems facing Texas and statewide politics.
By sheer demographics alone, Texas should be blue. It should have been blue a long time ago. As the age-old adage goes, we aren't a Republican state; we are a non-voting state. During this last election, 9 million registered voters opted to stay home instead of voting for change.
Because of the severity of the bills and bad laws we faced during the last legislative session and the ones that we will face this next session, there isn't a good reason why so many people stayed home. The process is broken. We need to understand why it's broken and how we can fix it.
The Texas Democratic State Infrastructure.
It's mostly non-existent. However, it should be the State Party connects with the County Parties, which connect with the Precinct Chairs, and there are a million tentacles in place to get messages out, get out the vote, or regularly engage with voters. While that's a simplistic description, it's not happening in Texas.
One of the biggest problems is the lack of precinct chairs and the lack of effort to recruit precinct chairs.
What is a precinct chair, and what do they do?
A precinct is the smallest unit of the Democratic Party. Each county has dozens or even hundreds, depending on the size of your county, of precincts. All the precincts are under the direction of your county party, and the county parties are under the state party.
A single precinct usually consists of your neighborhood and includes adjoining areas.
A precinct chair is elected, but when you first sign up to become a precinct chair, your county party will appoint you if the position is empty. Still, you’ll have to be on the ballot in the next election.
As a precinct chair, you will organize within your own precinct/neighborhood and help with elections. In addition, you can attend conventions, get involved in committees within your county party, and, most of all, have a ton of fun doing it.
Why are precinct chairs so important?
Precinct chairs represent the registered Democratic voters in their neighborhoods. For many Democratic voters, the precinct chair is the most accessible person within the Democratic Party. You will coordinate messaging between the party and your neighbors and help increase voter turnout.
Real grassroots change comes from your community. If you want your voice and your neighbor’s voice heard by the Democratic Party from your elected officials, the best way to achieve this is by becoming a precinct chair.
There are 9,500 precinct chair positions in Texas.
The Republican Party of Texas is mopping the floor with the Texas Democratic Party regarding precinct chairs.
The Republican Party treats precinct chairs as royalty. Precinct Chairs have tons of support and training and are highly regarded within the GOP. Texas Republicans throw balls for precinct chairs and give out awards. Many GOP precinct chair races are competitive, meaning multiple people are running for one chair position.
The GOP’s precinct chair strategy also involves rigorous training on recruiting and involving neighbors. Within a precinct, the chair will usually have block captains and up to five volunteers, getting the word out about elections and getting to the polls.
The Texas Democratic Party doesn’t have any of that. Speaking from first-hand experience and the accounts of others I’ve talked to when a Democrat signs up to be a precinct chair, they’re given no training, no direction, and sent out on their own.
The TDP also does very little to recruit precinct chairs.
Why this is a problem:
During an election, candidates should be teaming up with precinct chairs in their areas to go door-knocking. One House candidate I recently spoke with in DFW said there were about 75 precincts in his district. Of those, only about 20 had precinct chairs. And of those 20 precinct chairs, only 11 were active. So, most precincts don’t have Democratic representation for candidates to team up with before an election to help get out the vote.
Democratic voters or would-be Democratic voters are not being engaged regularly.
This leads us to the second reason why the Texas Democratic Party is failing in Texas.
Over the last few years, I’ve often spoken with activists and civil rights groups in East Texas and Central Texas, in towns and counties where white people are a minority or nearing a minority. Still, the area is ruby red, and the voter turnout is less than 40%.
Black and brown people are not voting in those areas. When asked why, the response is always, “We only hear from politicians once every two years. They ask for our vote or money, then we never hear from them again.”
In a recent Zoom call with some House candidates who didn’t win this election cycle, several said they reached out to people who didn’t vote and asked them why. But, unfortunately, that was also the most common response.
The Texas Democratic Party isn’t doing anything to keep voters engaged between election cycles.
But you better believe the GOP is.
The Republican Party of Texas frequently partners with grassroots organizations and uses them to hold events, rallies, town halls, parties, and just about everything else. So if you are a Republican voter in Texas, it’s likely that you frequently hear from the GOP. Not just when they want money or need your vote.
Who’s job is it to keep voters regularly engaged?
The State Party? County parties? Precinct chairs? Grassroots organizations?
It doesn’t matter what the answer is. There is no one doing this or trying to make this happen. There is no strategy to keep voters regularly informed and engaged.
Currently, there are people behind the scenes who are aware of this problem and are trying to come up with solutions. Still, those people are not leaders at the Texas Democratic Party, who should be leading this state and building a sustainable infrastructure.
I live in the 7th biggest city in Texas, and during the election, not one statewide candidate showed up in my town, except when they went to the college (but those events weren’t open to the general public). This is why our voter turnout is relatively low, even though my city is big and diverse.
There aren’t anywhere near enough precinct chairs or Democratic volunteers to handle the entire population of 400,000. Unfortunately, many towns and cities are in that same boat.
Shouldn’t the County Party be doing more?
Yes, the problem with most county parties is they don’t have enough resources, funds, or direction to achieve that. So they’re mostly on their own.
The strategy should come from the top. Whether precinct chair recruitment, fundraising, or getting out the vote, the State Party should have a solid plan, which should be adopted and executed by each county party.
Some county parties have figured it out independently and have done well in supporting their candidates and precinct chairs and getting out the vote. In contrast, other county parties failed and flopped around like a fish out of water, trying to figure out what works, often to no avail.
Too many county parties are ill-equipped and /or complacent with Republican rule.
Progressives are being entirely left out or ignored.
Over the last few years, I’ve met a lot of left-leaning groups and organizations in rural areas fighting to move Confederate statues off courthouse lawns. These groups often do Democratic-type activities, including attending city council meetings and registering people to vote.
When the conversations of the local county party come up, it’s almost always the same answer. The local Democratic County Party is essentially a bunch of old ladies using it for a social club.
I’ve talked to the chairs of county parties about this specific comment. The response is, “well, that’s who volunteers.”
This isn’t a bash on retirees or baby boomers, but county parties in rural areas often (not always) do not include young activists.
It becomes a never-ending cycle. Neither the state nor the county is doing anything to reach out to younger or progressive voters in rural areas, so they aren’t getting involved.
The non-voting progressive bloc in Texas is more significant than many people realize.
The non-voters contribute to the misleading views of the Democratic Party being “just like” the Republican Party.
Some older and more rural Democrats still take Conservative positions and argue that voter turnout in their areas is so low because Texas Democrats have moved too far left and need to do more to appeal to the middle.
So, while the State Party has given the perception of pandering to the middle and taking centrist positions, it’s alienated millions of would-be progressive voters.
Who’s running the show and making all of the decisions?
It’s easy to blame Gilberto Hinojosa, Chair of the Texas Democratic Party since he’s the head honcho. However, there is plenty of blame in the TDP leadership to go around.
The SDEC Committee is supposed to be the middleman between the State Party and the county parties. They are supposed to be making the rules for the party, strategizing on messaging, and going to bat for county parties to have more resources.
I had to talk to a lot of people even to understand what the role of the SDEC Committee was. There is no general definition available from the TDP about the responsibilities of the SDEC Committee and committee members. Last summer, leading up to and during the State Convention, I asked a handful of SDEC Committeepeople what they did. None of them would answer.
When searching through the TDP website, you can find a link to a Google Drive called “Minutes, Notes, Rules, and Public Documents.” Unfortunately, aside from meeting agendas and documents relating to the State Convention, minutes and notes from public meetings haven’t been posted to the TDP website since 2018.
This indicates a lack of transparency, and we’ll get to that. But, back to the SDEC Committee. What do they do?
Party insiders have told me that they meet once a quarter, get drunk, and take many pictures with each other.
Is the SDEC the middleman between the State Party and county parties?
Each Senate District has one committeeman and one committeewoman. Republicans have intentionally and racially gerrymandered the Senate Districts in Texas to diminish the Black and brown vote. Since the TDP bases its districts on the GOP’s gerrymandered maps, much of the same has happened.
In Texas, only 16% of the population lives in rural areas. The other 84% live in urban areas. Yet, the GOP drew their gerrymandered maps to remove voting power from diverse urban areas and hand it to white rural Republicans. So while it sucks that many people in urban Texas don’t have political representation, it’s compounded by rural Democrats’ need to be part of the dynamics.
While we shouldn’t ignore rural Democrats, who should have representation in the party, many urban areas have lost representation in the SDEC.
The SDEC committee members are voted in by precinct chairs.
However, tactics to keep urban precinct chairs from voting in an SDEC committee election have been used to keep rural SDEC members in power. For example, they are setting up the meeting and election nearly a two-hour drive away from the urban area on the other side of the district.
Rural Democrats have been extremely vocal about how the State Party ignores them and have pushed to have as much representation within the district as possible. Their logic is to cater to the few while ignoring the many. They are leaving urban areas without anyone advocating for the county party to the State Party.
It’s one of the reasons Tarrant County flipped back to red this last election.
What about transparency?
What does the Texas Democratic Party do? Do you know? Have you seen any efforts from the State Party to fight against the current threat of fascism, respond to the garbage that the right spews, or work hard to win an election?
If you have, congratulations because most Texas Democrats will tell you otherwise.
There is no reason why Beto should have lost this last election. He did everything right and went above and beyond.
Despite every other state seeing record voter turnout in the 2022 midterms, Texas Democrats didn’t show up. Why?
Because there’s no infrastructure in place, there’s no strategy, and there’s no messaging. So as hard as Beto busted his ass, he couldn’t carry the entire state.
So, what does the Texas Democratic Party do?
They send out press releases about how great it is that Texas has more Democratic voters than every other state, even though we’re losing.
They have allowed the National Party to talk Joaquin Castro out of running twice for a statewide seat in Texas. Even though most Democratic voters believe either Castro brother could easily win a statewide seat.
A few weeks ago, on a post-election call with multiple candidates who ran in the 2022 election and lost, several of them said they never heard from the State Party one time…not until two weeks before the election, when they got a phone call for money.
Money. Then, there is the subject of money.
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa has long talked about how he has worked with the National Party to get funding, and he’s working on them to get more funding. If he’s able to secure that funding, he’ll be able to swing the state further blue.
(Let’s ignore that Beto raised 100 million and still lost.)
This has been counter-productive.
The National Party has used Texas as a slogan, bashed the thousands of organizers on the ground, and repeatedly trashed us. I. E. “Don’t Texas our Virginia.”
The National Party takes money from big donors in Texas and sends it to important races in other states. In fact, aside from the Beto Campaign directly during the last election, I didn’t receive one text message or email to support any Democrats in Texas. But I did get texts and emails asking for money for Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Raphael Warnock, John Fetterman, and several others.
Does the fish rot from the head?
The 2020 election was an abject failure in Texas because the State Party focused its entire strategy on flipping nine House seats, ignoring almost all other races.
After 2018, when Beto only lost by a few points, the lessons should have been learned then. Yet, in 2020, Republicans beat us by 600,000 votes, while 7 million people stayed at home.
Texas was set up to flip, and voter enthusiasm was at an all-time high, but we missed the mark again. So thousands of people said after that, it was time for Hinojosa to retire and open the way for new leadership who could get us over that hump.
The failures in 2018 and 2020 were because of the lack of infrastructure and were directly reflected in Hinojosa’s leadership.
Texas Democrats had a chance to get it right this year and elect a new chair.
The rural SDEC members endorsed Hinojosa, and many rural Democrats seemed to have his back. But remember, rural Texans only make up 16% of our state.
None of the three candidates running for chair got the majority vote, and the candidate who dropped out, Carroll Robinson, endorsed Hinojosa at the last minute after an alleged backroom deal.
Each convention section was appointed a tallier, who asked the delegates in their area to write who they wanted on an index card, then the tallier reported their tally to the front.
Hinojosa allegedly won by around 2,000 votes.
Remember how the State Convention ended without a platform?
That’s because after the votes were tallied in an unorganized and haphazard way, Robinson endorsed Hinojosa, and he was re-elected as chair.
Thousands of Democrats already blamed the 2018 and 2020 losses on him. To them, voting for him was like voting to lose again. So, when they called the race for Hinojosa, thousands got up and walked out of the stadium in protest.
And would you believe, in 2022, Democrats lost again?
The Texas Democratic Party, as it is and for whatever reason, has not and seemingly cannot turn Texas blue. But that doesn’t mean it’s over for Texas Democrats.
Multiple grassroots organizations and PACS have already been formed or recently launched and will be working over the next two years to attempt to do what the TDP hasn’t been able to achieve.
All these groups are beginning to organize together and share resources to become a bigger powerhouse than each org would be capable of separately. Since many things are still in the works, I can’t say much, but I promise you guys a thorough update soon.
These groups will work on precinct chair strategies, candidate recruitment, civic engagement, and building an infrastructure that the TDP doesn’t have.
A quick history lesson.
In 1948, Southern Democratic Parties broke with the National Party to start the Dixiecrats. When that failed, they called themselves the States’ Rights Party. Meanwhile, the National Party appointed the Black Democratic Parties to replace them as the state parties in several states.
While you shouldn’t expect to see a new Texas Democratic Party chapter pop up to the edge for power anytime soon, you should expect to see leaders and caucuses replaced by activists and organizations that will bend over backward to continue pushing for a better Texas.
There are millions of Democrats and left-leaning voters who call Texas home with no plans to uproot their lives because we have to endure one more fascist legislative session.
The only way Republicans still have Texas, despite the enormous demographic switches, is because of racial gerrymandering and voter suppression. However, there are too many people who care about democracy and living in a better world to give up.
They’ll keep fighting, pushing left, and striving for better.
We know what needs to be done. Now it’s time to do it.