• Dems shouldn't vote straight-ticket

    A “Vote” sign at the Lamar County Services Building, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 in Paris, Texas.
    A “Vote” sign at the Lamar County Services Building, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 in Paris, Texas.

    By and large, I consider myself a fairly reliable Democratic voter. Until fairly recently, I was an explicitly partisan one, belonging to on-campus organizations such as the University Democrats. The reasons for my political views are rather complex and nuanced, but at its core, I agree with the sentiment espoused in the Democratic platform more than the Republican one.

    But I will proudly repudiate two statewide Democratic candidates when I vote in my native Houston today, and support Republican and Green candidates, respectively, for the posts. In doing so, I take a stand against the asinine procedure of "straight-party voting."

    As I previously noted in a column for the Texan, the Democratic candidate for agriculture commissioner, Jim Hogan, is a non-candidate who is openly hostile to the political process. His Republican opponent, former state Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephensville, talks up abortion and amnesty on the campaign trail, as opposed to agriculture. The only sensible solution for any Texan, liberal or conservative, is to vote for the Green candidate, Kenneth Kendrick. Unlike many of his compatriots, Kendrick is not a socialist intent upon revolution. Rather, he is a pragmatic policy-wonk with a detailed plan to conserve water, improve crops and run the office transparently.

    Likewise, the race for Place 3 of the Court of Criminal Appeals (the state's highest criminal court) is a remarkably easy choice. The Democratic candidate, John Granberg, does not have much experience practicing criminal law, and is otherwise rather unqualified for the seat. The Republican, on the other hand, Bert Richardson, is a middle-of-the-road jurist loved by those on both sides of the aisle. He is perhaps best known for presiding over Governor Rick Perry's ongoing corruption case, but he also has a long history as an apolitical and honest arbiter of the law. In an election cycle where many Republicans have gone off the deep end on extremism, even in judicial elections, Richardson is a thoughtful professional who checks politics at the courthouse door.

    Those two elections are easy choices for Democrats and Republicans alike, unlike most of the statewide contests. But for Yellow Dog Democrats, the choices are only possible if they eschew the silly notion of straight-ticket voting, where a voter ignores the countless individual, unique names and personalities on a ballot, instead opting for a letter of the alphabet. For the sake of our state, please use a little more brainpower.

    Horwitz is an associate editor.

  • The Campaign that Didn't Want to Win

    State Sen. Wendy Davis speaks with with Evan Smith, The Texas Tribune CEO and editor-in-chief, at The Texas Tribune Festival on Saturday, Sept. 20.
    State Sen. Wendy Davis speaks with with Evan Smith, The Texas Tribune CEO and editor-in-chief, at The Texas Tribune Festival on Saturday, Sept. 20.

    The updated Huffington Post model of the 2014 Texas gubernatorial race predicts the outcome of the election in Republican candidate Greg Abbott’s favor with a confidence of 99 percent, which should not be a surprise to anyone. Criticism has come from Republicans and Democrats alike in the choice of state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, as the Democratic nominee. Many believe her famous 2013 filibuster is her only claim to fame. It may not be her only one, but it sure is the biggest. Put up against Greg Abbott, who has led a quieter and steadier, but no less controversial, rise to power, Davis is the perfect straw man to the Republican bulldozer machine. Davis’ campaign has been fraught with controversy, leading many to ask, why didn’t they choose someone else who might actually win?

    Because the Democratic Party was not trying to win. Not this election.

    The Texas Democratic Party is playing the long game. It’s not about this election. Like the Battleground Texas mantra says: Texas can’t turn blue overnight. And in politics, one election is practically one night. No one in the Democratic Party was naïve enough to believe that Davis would win this election. The Davis rhetoric is lofty and often unrealistic. Critics complain that the Texas Democratic platform is utopian and unfeasible. But this campaign wasn’t about proposing implementable policies. This campaign was about making waves, starting conversations and asking provocative questions that Texans will have to think about for the next four years. Four years is a long time, and this is just the start. The important action is to keep the momentum and the undeniable fervor the Davis campaign has sparked so that come 2018, Texas might just turn blue.


    Haight is an associate editor.

  • University reports on domestic, dating violence incidents are important

    This year's Annual Security Report  a document published by the University listing crimes committed on campus, in non-campus buildings and on adjacent public property  reports for the first time on dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. It has reported "sex offenses," both forcible and non-forcible, in previous years, as well as sexual assault, but not the more specific crimes listed above. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education published final changes to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 that will go into effect in July, and one of the regulations requires universities and colleges to report statistics about incidents of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. The University is one of many schools that began implementing the rest of the requirements "in good faith" this year, complying with the act's request that schools begin reporting these instances now, even though they aren't required to begin reporting them until July.

    The fact that the law didn't require schools to report these incidents previously is baffling, but at least some are doing so now, and in less than a year, the law will require all to report these crimes. In the past, the security report has included crimes such as liquor law violation arrests — arrests for a crime that usually hurts no one — but no statistics on the much more harmful crimes of dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. Now that this information is available, hopefully the easy accessibility will help people better quantify and understand how frequently these crimes occur. Domestic and dating violence, as well as stalking, are crimes people often either shy away from discussing or sensationalize, and neither of those extreme methods decreases the occurrence of these crimes. Both the University's and other schools' transparency of information involving these crimes will hopefully help strengthen campus organizations' abilities to continue teaching students about domestic violence and similar crimes against both women and men. Universities and colleges must do everything possible to diminish the communication barrier that surrounds discussions of crimes of this nature, because that's essential to people’s becoming fully educated about these problems.

  • America needs proactivity, not reactivity, to fight its enemies

    This winter, it was Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Crimea. In the spring, it was 276 missing Nigerian girls and one missing Malaysian jetliner. Summer brought tumult in the Middle East, and in autumn Ebola hit America’s shores (via landlocked Dallas, of all places).

    None of these issues has stayed in the national consciousness for more than a few months at a time. The changing of the crisis is as routine as the changing of the seasons.

    Jeremi Suri wrote last week that our society has become “driven by crises.” And it’s true that reactivity is a major element of the American psyche — not just in the media and in Washington, but in barrooms and in boardrooms and in living rooms, where our hopes and our worries change alongside the catastrophe du jour.

    Yet in spite of its can-do spirit of bald eagle iconoclasm, America has been sustained from the beginning by this sort of reactive attitude. Would George Washington and company have taken on the British were it not for Parliament’s heavy-handed taxes? Would FDR have entered World War II had the Japanese never struck Pearl Harbor? When the arc of our history bends towards justice, it’s not because of our actions. It’s because of the wisdom and resilience of our reactions. America’s values best shine through when we pull together and respond to our problems.

    But in the 21st century, that model is becoming increasingly outdated. Our biggest enemies are no longer other countries that can be negotiated with or defeated, but extreme and violent ideologies that will threaten us for as long as they have adherents. We know that some forms of environmental damage are irreversible, and that we need to take measures to prevent them long before we begin to feel their consequences. Reacting to these problems as they crop up won’t do us any good. Instead, we must find ways to make sure they don’t crop up at all.

    That responsibility lies not only with those who are currently in power, but with the college students and young adults who have the energy, passion and creativity to build a better world. So it would be nice if many of us weren’t so apathetic toward, or disillusioned by, the prospect of doing so. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movement to support more funding for geoengineering research or promote awareness of renewable energy, even in windmill-dominated Texas, and the occasional protest against drone strikes on the West Mall doesn’t offer any alternative that would keep the secular world safe from harm.

    Worse still, hashtag activism has replaced more public communication efforts, to the detriment of activist movements as a whole. While new technologies have the power to unite people like never before, they also shatter us into countless individual bubbles. No one has to find media that will challenge their point of view, and no one has to pay attention to a complex issue for very long. In such an insular digital environment, it’s no surprise that #BringBackOurGirls brought back zero girls.

    The activists of America's past sought to bring issues into focus before they could become crises, relying on their ability to persuade observers and disrupt public life. But who can create the "national dialogue" reformers so often call for when we can barely even talk to each other?

    With a greater need for proactivity than ever before, it behooves all Americans to find an answer. Otherwise, for the first time in our history, it might actually be too late.

    Shenhar is a Plan II, government and economics sophomore from Westport, Connecticut.

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