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The Absence Of The Texas Democratic Party
It's time for some brutal honesty and tough love.
First, the brutal honesty.
The Texas Legislature is in full swing. They only meet for 140 days every two years, so we must show up. There are millions of left-leaning voters in Texas whose voices should be heard.
While Republicans read bills in committee about stripping transgender youth of their civil rights, banning books in public schools, making it harder to vote, and implementing censorship on college campuses, I’ve noticed who is showing up to speak to support these bills and who is noticeably absent.
The Republican Party of Texas has had representatives, executive committee members, various county party chairs, and even the GOP Chairman Matt Ranaldi testifying in nearly every committee hearing to ensure the committee knows its position on each bill.
But the Texas Democratic Party has been absent. One party member testified on one bill last week. Aside from that, they haven’t been there to tell the committees that banning books is fascistic. They were absent when the committees debated whether transgender people deserve equal rights. And they weren’t there when Republicans again had hearings on stripping away our voting rights.
The TDP is headquartered in Austin, so it’s unclear why they haven’t been in every committee hearing every day of this legislative session, as they should be.
Who has been showing up?
One SDEC committee member has shown up repeatedly, but when they testify, they only represent themselves, not the party.
Travis County Democratic Party has been like a dog on a bone in countless committees and even bought pizza for people testifying and staying late (twice).
Grassroots organizations and civil rights groups like Every Texan, the AFL-CIO, MOVE Texas, Mothers Against Greg Abbott, the Human Rights Campaign Austin, the NAACP, the ACLU, the American Federation of Teachers, and several more have all been there.
Yet, the Texas Democratic Party has been observantly absent.
America, especially Texas, is facing down the barrel of fascism. But now is not the time to be complacent.
So, what has the TDP been doing?
About once a week, Chairman Hinojosa publishes a press release about his reaction to political news. As far as I can tell, that’s all.
What should the TDP be doing?
Candidate recruitment and support. If we want to win seats in 2024, we need to work on that now.
Grassroots organizing. There are hundreds of grassroots organizations working independently throughout the state of Texas. The state party should collaborate with these groups on voter education and turnout.
Electoral strategy. We have the numbers to win Texas but lack the infrastructure and organization. Where is their plan to bring it all together?
Communication. Why isn’t the TDP communicating with Texas Democrats about what’s happening in the legislature and urging people to show up and testify?
Policy advocacy. The TDP should be at the capitol daily during the legislative session, advocating for policies they support and speaking against those they don’t.
How did we get here?
In 2020, 5.2 million Democrats in Texas showed up to vote Trump out of office. During that election, the Texas Democratic Party (TDP) only focused on nine House District seats, ignoring dozens of other races. None of those seats flipped. So while we didn’t lose ground in that election, we didn’t gain but should have. During the same election, 5.8 million Republicans showed up to vote.
The TDP blamed Covid for failing to flip House seats but touted how many people voted as a success. However, in 2020 we had enough registered voters that leaned left to flip the state, yet millions stayed home.
The fish rots from the head.
After the 2020 loss, several members of the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) signed a letter to Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa. Below is part of the letter. I’m not posting the entire thing for the privacy of some of the people involved.
The 2020 election was an abject failure. Texas had the momentum to flip but lacked the organization and infrastructure to bring it home. After that election loss, people were angry at the party, especially its leader, Chair Hinojosa.
However, as time crept closer to the 2022 election, we saw no momentum from the TDP. Gilberto Hinojosa filed to run for re-election as Chair. He should have stepped down after the 2020 loss but plowed forward instead. Hinojosa has been leading the charge for over a decade, and while he hasn’t flipped the state, he has built many party-insider relationships.
Hinojosa got re-elected as Party Chair because of the relationships he’s built, not because of the job he’s done. Now, here we are, repeating the same failures of the past.
Hinojosa had ten years to whip the party into shape, improve voter turnout, and build an infrastructure that would allow Texas to flip. Yet, here we are. During and after each election, Democratic candidates complain that they never got support from the TDP. County chairs and SDEC members are in complete disarray, each doing their own thing without training, guidance, or help. And Republican voices are by far the loudest.
And now it’s time for tough love.
The path we’re headed down.
We’re not living in normal times. The political division in America is as bad now as it was leading up to the Civil War. The Republican Party has strayed away from the principles of a free market and individual liberties and has wholly embraced authoritarianism. Right now, everything is at stake.
In 2022, we watched almost every state in America have a sweeping Democratic turnout. Gen Z all across the country was energized and engaged. The only two states that didn’t happen were Texas and Florida.
And look what’s happening in Florida.
Greg Abbott and Republicans in the Texas Legislature have gone off the deep end. However, it’s nothing compared to how bad things are in Florida. Under Ron DeSantis’ leadership, fascism has become the prominent government ideology.
If you think it can’t get that bad in Texas, wait until you see what happens in the 2025 legislature if the GOP maintains control. Some people are already fleeing the state, looking for safety in blue areas. However, as we saw with the recent slew of bills in D.C., if Republicans win the Senate and/or the White House, there won’t be a state safe from the harm they want to inflict on us.
Now, more than ever, we need strong leadership that will stave off this dark path we’re headed down. We need leadership that can put in the hard work it will take. The occasional press release isn’t going to cut it.
While I’ve never personally met Hinojosa, I’ve seen him speak several times. He seems like a genuinely lovely person with a good heart. However, he lacks the leadership skills needed to end the Republican monopoly in Texas. If he could lead the state into a political shift, it would have happened already.
Blue Tsunami is a secret grassroots group that has popped up since the election. There are allegedly over 200 members in this group, comprising of members of various delegates of the counties and state party.
This letter went out to the TDP a few weeks ago.
Blue Tsunami highlighted the failures of the TDP, the underlying cause, and called for action. It is past time for new and enlightened leadership in the Texas Democratic Party.
It’s time for Chair Gilberto Hinojosa to resign.
This isn’t about whether we like him or who in the SDEC is friends with him. This is about doing what’s best for Texans. Democrats have the numbers to flip the state but need the infrastructure and organization. We face a very dark future if we lose again in 2024 without making any gains.
For the sake of all Texans, it’s time for Hinojosa to step aside, so we might get a fighting chance against what’s coming.
And as echoes calling for Hinojosa’s resignation grow stronger around the state, the SDEC is set to have its quarterly meeting tomorrow, April 1.
If Hinojosa loves Texans and wants what’s best for us, he’ll step aside. He doesn’t have to go away. He just needs to move out of the way.
But if he doesn’t resign?
The Texas Democratic Party’s bylaws allow for removal. Any State Party Officer, including a member of the SDEC, may be removed for a good cause by a two-thirds vote of the SDEC membership. There are 62 SDEC members—do at least 42 of them have the courage to make that vote, even though they might be friends with Chair Hinojosa?
The TDP must act now and do its part to prevent Texas from falling into authoritarianism. The signs are clear, and the stakes are high. Our leaders must be accountable. The future of Texas depends on it.