I spent Tuesday night at the Driskill Hotel in a circle of Democrats as we all swapped our phones out with the one charger someone had brought along so we could continue poring over election returns as they rolled in.
As the night progressed, the atmosphere became more grim. You can’t sugarcoat Tuesday night — it was bad for Texas, and it was bad for the country. But I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have spent the evening with than my friends, whom I’d been standing alongside for the past 18 months, as they poured their hearts and their passion and their energy into what President Dwight Eisenhower once called “the noblest of professions”: politics.
You see, my friends believe in a dauntingly brilliant future. They envision a Texas with bright skies, clear air and clean water. They want to see a Texas that ranks first in voter engagement, not dead last. They envision a Texas in which public schools are celebrated and supported because they know a well-educated populace plants the seeds for the prosperity of the next generation. They want to see a Texas that supports minimum wage workers and the elderly and people who can’t access the healthcare they need. In short, they want to see a Texas that works on behalf of all its citizens.
And they believe our government can help us do all these things and live up to our potential. They believe in government as a tool to achieve great and noble goals, because they know that no single entity is ever as strong as our collective hearts and minds. And so in the face of Tuesday night, my friends are going to fight on.
Because let me be clear: The Republican party hardly has a mandate in this state. Twenty-eight percent of voting-eligible Texans voted in the election, which means that less than a fifth of eligible Texans voted for Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate. Young people and people of color overwhelmingly supported Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate, and demographically speaking, that’s where this state is headed.
We’ve known for years that Texas has a serious problem with voter engagement. That’s why organizations such as Battleground Texas and the Texas Democratic Party worked tirelessly to register citizens in the face of harmful, repressive and disenfranchising legislation, because we believe in the right of every citizen to make their voice heard.
Our home county, Travis, is a fantastic example of this. We registered almost 50,000 new voters this cycle, which helped Davis see an increase of 27,000 Travis County votes over Bill White, the previous Democratic gubernatorial candidate, in 2010. Our get out the vote efforts have re-elected a slate of wonderful progressive candidates and managed to flip the only elected office in the county with a Republican incumbent.
And we plan to continue the fight. Travis County shows that it isn’t enough to register as many voters as you possibly can before the deadline. The Democratic Party’s message is one of diversity and inclusion and opportunity for all, and during the past six years we’ve had the chance to pass terrific legislation that works to achieve just that. Since President Barack Obama has taken office, 4.5 million jobs have been created and unemployment is predicted to drop to 5.4 percent next summer. Now, it’s our job to share that message with the American people.
But we also have to spend the next two years engaging the American public on the issues. To start, we’re going to continue to register as many people as we can. If Tuesday night showed us anything, it’s that the American public overwhelmingly supports progressive issues, even as they elect Republican candidates. We’ll save that dissonance for another article. In the words of Jeremy Bird, senior advisor to Battleground Texas, “We’re not going anywhere.”
I was so proud to be a part of this progressive movement in Texas. Together, thousands of Texans fought for a future they knew to be worthy of the great state we live in. And as Ted Kennedy once said, “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
Adams is the communications director for University Democrats. She is a mechanical engineering senior from Dripping Springs.