November 06, 2014

Texas and national #Election2014 postmortem

Let's start with Texas, since I did a long national roundup yesterday.

Short and sweet to start? Per friend Perry, it was a blowout — across the board.

Wendy Davis probably had little shot at beating Greg Abbott, but she ran a semi-crappy race in multiple ways.

While I wasn't looking for her to campaign about abortion all the time, she ran away from her August 2013 state Senate filibuster like the plague. She may have thought that that would have kept her protected from epithets like "Abortion Barbie," but it didn't.

Beyond running away from that, she then, already last December, started pandering for moderate (alleged moderate, really) voters, as I discussed in detail. Next, her endorsement of David Alameel, the most ardently (well, the only) pro-life candidate in Democrats' U.S. Senate primary, had people further scratching their heads. It turned out not to free up that much more general election Democratic money for her, I would venture, and at the time, it had two negative results, at least from this quarter.

The first was wondering how few her principles were. (That said, I knew she wasn't that liberal in general, but reproductive choice was the issue that got her into the campaign, after all.) The second was wondering if it wasn't a bit arrogant to be endorsing another Democrat in a primary race when she

Next, Rick Perry (albeit not running for office) looked more enlightened than her, at least initially, on marijuana decriminalization. And, she was a bit late to the party on gay marriage support.

That reflected another problem with her campaign — too buttoned-up and too buttoned-down. Jim Moore gets into this in detail, though I think he's a bit harsh in some ways, and a bit generous in one other way.

Part of that problem stemmed from her state Senate personal and past campaign staffers, but some of it surely came from Battleground Texas and its imported DC handlers. (Moore is too generous in blaming only DC folks for this.)

Battleground Texas, per a piece by Jonathan Tilove, also inflated many Texas Democrats expectations way out of reason, especially when connected with Davis' abortion filibuster:
(S)aid political scientist Joshua Blank, who manages both the University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll and the Texas Lyceum poll, that very excitement also loosed many Democrats, in Texas and around the country, from a more sober appreciation of the enormity of the task at hand. 
“Wendy Davis and Battleground Texas created a set of expectations that were wildly unrealistic and probably helped the Republicans re-energize their coalition in ways they might have had trouble with after a grueling primary and runoff and fissures within the party over just how conservative to be,” Blank said.

Well put. BGTX also buttoned her down more when her original campaign appeared disorganized, but by then, it was probably too late even for a better candidate.

Meanwhile, whether BGTX wants it or not, by directly hitching its star to that of Davis, including with campaign finance/fundraising commingling, has put itself under the gun earlier than it probably planned to do. No excuses; if these are DC pros, they should have vetted Davis' electoral chances better before jumping in the shark tank with her.

Perry and I will have to disagree here. He thinks that this piece by Dave Mann at the Texas Observer is pretty much off the rails, while I think it's pretty much spot-on. Mann discusses this same issue, the entwinement of Davis and BGTX.

Here's Mann's wrap:
But the facts are these: The filibuster forced Davis to run, but also left her forever associated with abortion, a difficult issue for Democrats in Texas. Now, the Democrats have seen one of their once-rising stars discarded to the pile of failed statewide candidates. They’ve also lost a Texas Senate seat to a tea party candidate. And, perhaps worst of all, they’ve seen the image of Battleground Texas severely tarnished. That may hamper future fundraising and damage Democrats’ efforts to turn Texas blue.
Fifteen months ago, the energy produced by the abortion filibuster offered Texas Democrats hope for the 2014 election, hope that the filibuster might kickstart a Democratic resurgence. Instead, in a dark irony, the filibuster likely did just the opposite: It may well have set back a Democratic resurgence for years to come.
Exactly what I've been saying. And, since the filibuster did, in reality, force her to run, while not making reproductive choice the centerpiece of the campaign, again, she could have done more than run away from that filibuster during the campaign.

The other part also seems true. The Abbott campaign was spitting raspberries at BGTX all throughout the campaign and will do so again in 2018.

Anyway, for whatever reasons, the seeming original mission of BGTX, get out the vote?

Since, as adjusted for population, voting turnout was BELOW that in 2010, that's strike one, especially since the dropoff was all Democrats. (Abbott got about exactly the same numbers as Rick Perry in 2010.) It's still a bit early to say whether that was more its fault, or rather, it was doing the best it could against an upstream tide of disenchantment by many women, minorities and liberals.

What the answer is, I'm not sure. I'd love to see more openly socialist politics. That said, it's got to be sold better than either state or national Democratic insiders have sold the last detritus of neoliberalism.

Back to turnout.

And, locally, the minority turnout in midterm elections issues? Anecdotally reinforced for me firsthand. In the county where I live, the most minority-heavy county commissioner precinct, with probably half of the county's total minority population if not more, had a turnout of only about 60 percent that of the other three precincts.

Whether it was state and national office candidates running away from Obama, as seems to be one talking point, or what, I don't know. But black, and possibly Hispanic (even compared to their normal "baseline") voters didn't turn out in my county.

And, as Perry notes in another piece, in Texas, Abbott won the woman's vote over Davis, and in general, nationally, Democrats lost some of their previous advantage with women.

Elsewhere, I don't know whether this is because some women thought some Democrats' campaigns (Mark Udall) were too single-issue focused to the point of condescension or what, I don't know.

Other strikes are ahead. Per Tilove's piece, Hispanics in Texas aren't as reliably Democratic as in some states, and to the degree they are, their turnout is even worse in Texas than other states.

Demographics won't be a savior otherwise. Millennials aren't as much in the tank for Democrats as they have been thinking, contra demographic-based hopes and wishful thinking.

I blogged in detail already last fall "warning" Democrats (as if any are listening to the likes of me) not to make such glib assumptions.

Beyond this all, I think BGTX has to figure other things out.

Is it primarily a get out the vote group? Primarily a candidate development incubator? A quasi-PAC? A bit of all of the above?

And, re the second option for what it does? I'll tackle that below.

Looking ahead?

The 2016 elections, with no major statewide races (no top state positions, no U.S. Senate seat), may be a time for Democrats in Texas to lick their wounds, regroup, and figure out what's next.

Right now, it seems that what's next is not a black Democrat for statewide office, and is not either  Castro brother for statewide office. Good thing 2016 has no statewide races, because as of right now, Texas Democrats don't have a deep "bench."

And, while Tricky Ricky Perry was a bit wrong Tuesday night about it being 25 years (actually, 20, with Bob Bullock "hanging on" in 1994) since a Democrat won statewide office, it's essentially been 25 years.

If BGTX envisions its future as being in part a candidate incubator and developer, it had better have hit the road yesterday. Not today, not tomorrow, yesterday. Much short of that is little different than putting some new DC deck chairs on the Titanic.

This ties back to Davis. Friend Perry is probably right that she was the most available candidate, as well as the best candidate within that group. Take that statement as it is.

Looking ahead, Part 2?

Via what I've seen in comments at new media websites, there's plenty of old white Democrats who are, if anything, even more conservative on modern social issues than Bullock was. Well, they claim they're still Democrats. Democratic candidates should learn to treat them as Republicans and, based on Tuesday's results, to treat independent voters as Republicans, too.

Get out your base, strengthen your base, run a good campaign, make a play for independents only on issues that don't compromise your core, and go from there.

Or else?

Maybe Greens will figure out how to make more noise.

Speaking of ...

One bright spot is Jim Chisolm getting 9 percent of the vote for Supreme Court Place 8, Judith Sanders-Castro getting 10 percent of the vote for Court of Criminal Appeals Place 4 and George Joseph Altgelt getting 9 percent of the vote for CCA Place 9. With just one of those three candidates above the 5-percent mark, Greens have ballot-wide party line access in 2016. Now, can and will they build on it, for then and for 2018? Please, no more Brandon Parmers running for statewide office, OK? Like Democrats, start doing more work to recruit candidates.

Brief national wrap, based on yesterday's post with brief updates, below the fold.

Nationally, Democratic senatorial and gubernatorial candidates struggled from the start with one thing, as I note in my long post linked at the top.

And, that's that they had approximately the same relationship with President Obama as Al Gore did with President Clinton in 2000. In both cases, they couldn't, or wouldn't, fully run away from him, but they couldn't or wouldn't embrace him more either. And, of course, Davis showed that here in Texas.

That said, in this case, the waters were muddied by states that had done the Medicaid opt-in on Obamacare vs. those that hadn't. Funny that Davis didn't even mention that, if she were elected, one of the first things she'd do is opt Texas into Medicaid expansion.

Maybe that's one of the reasons blacks and Hispanics stayed home here in Texas.

Of course, in poorer states, Obamacare has struggled against the realities of being built on the modern American hypercapitalist system and more, including hard-nosed Republicans. Politico describes its Mississippi rollout.

That said, the "interrregnum" of the next two years will be a battleground and testing ground for national Dems with eyes on the White House as to how liberal they will be, and how big of cojones they will have in confronting the GOP.

If Hillary Clinton gets the Democratic nod? I'll vote for the Green candidate for president even if its the AWOL Brandon Parmer. I'll then gouge my eyes out.

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