Democratic Party

Governor-elect Greg Abbott waves to supporters at his Election Night night party Nov. 4. 

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

A few weeks ago, I wrote that looking back at past midterm elections could provide clues as to possible outcomes in the 2014 contests, in both Texas and the United States. Historically, a president’s party loses seats in Congress during the sixth year of an administration, and this proved to be the case this year, as Republicans rode a national wave of voter discontent to capture control of the Senate and increase their majority in the House. In Texas, I suggested that President Barack Obama’s low approval rating and the state’s strong Republican bent would be very challenging for Democrats, and indeed, Republicans swept the Lone Star State. Why did this happen, and what does this mean for the next couple of years?

Republicans experienced an election night of triumph. In addition to reclaiming the Senate, the GOP won its largest majority in the House of Representatives since the 1930s, and gained several governorships in typically Democratic states. Voters nationwide were in a pessimistic mood and took their frustrations out on the president’s party, as is common in midterm elections, despite low job performance ratings for Republican congressional leaders. Democrats faced the added disadvantage that midterm voters tend to be older, whiter, and more conservative, which occurred again in 2014. The Democratic coalition of younger voters, minorities and women that propelled and re-elected Obama to the presidency did not turn out to the polls in full force this year. Additionally, the political map favored Republicans this cycle, as Democrats had to defend Senate seats in “red” states. The electorate, voicing anti-incumbency, punished Democratic officeholders in both “purple” and “blue” states, again illustrating the difficulties presidents historically have in off-year elections. Republicans this year also managed to avoid mistakes from past elections and nominated gifted politicians instead of bizarre candidates prone to verbal gaffes.

In Texas, the Republican Party won all statewide offices, again illustrating its dominance of the Lone Star State. Although the Democratic Party ran potentially its strongest ticket in years, led by Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, the conservative electorate and Obama’s deep unpopularity in Texas made Democrats’ chances for victory almost impossible. Greg Abbott defeated Davis for the governorship 59 to 39 percent, while Dan Patrick won the lieutenant governor’s race over Van de Putte by only a slightly smaller margin. Battleground Texas’ efforts to turn out more Democratic voters to the polls proved unsuccessful. The fact is, at least for the time being, that Texas voters remain staunchly Republican and hostile to Obama and his Democratic supporters’ political agenda.

What do these election results mean for the final two years of the Obama presidency and for the state of Texas? Interestingly, national exit polls showed that voters’ primary concern is the economy. Ironically, this should have benefited the president and his party, as the country’s economy has shown steady, if slow, improvement in recent months. Yet voters clearly are weary of partisan gridlock in Washington, and since Democrats control the presidency, the citizenry decided to reward Republicans, in yet another example of midterm elections historically benefiting the party outside of the White House. Republicans, now in full control of Congress, must show that they can govern. Make no mistake, voters do not find either party particularly appealing right now. While Republicans had a great election night nationally, the GOP would be mistaken to take it as a mandate for right-wing policies. The past few election cycles have shown that voters want leaders from both parties to compromise and find common ground to strengthen the economy and provide good governance. And while the majority of Texans unmistakably favor Republican initiatives, Abbott, Patrick and the Texas GOP similarly should resist the temptation to govern in a hyperpartisan manner. Although Democrats suffered through a depressing election night in Texas this year, one of the party’s few bright spots is that it won the majority of Hispanic, African-American and younger voters. For their long-term electoral prospects, Texas Republicans should not ignore this fact.

The 2014 midterms had not even finished when news outlets began speculating about 2016, which will be a presidential year and therefore bring even more voter attention and turnout. In today’s media and technologically-driven political world, the next election is never very far away. Republicans, Democrats, independents and all voters should stay tuned.

Briscoe is a history graduate student from Carrizo Springs. 

The idea is pushed and pushed and pushed. If you have not succumbed to the message, you are thought of as ignorant, and if you have not heard it yet, you must have just been born or currently reside under a rock. The idea is this: The Republican Party is filled with selfish Americans who despise progress. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, is the party for those who are “progressive” and wish to selflessly help others in need. In this week’s column I will destroy the former notion and question the latter.

This is a popular view, but common sense and reality will give it the lie. First, consider our country’s debt of approximately $18 trillion. Last year we went over the “fiscal cliff” because Republicans would not agree to raise the debt ceiling. When Republicans run for office or propose budgets, some people ask why they will not expand government programs or why they insist on making cuts to these programs. Democrats run and champion their plans to spend more and more on these programs. Why are Republicans so mean and selfish?

The United States currently holds unfunded liabilities of over $115 trillion. Unfunded liabilities are the difference between future government spending and future tax revenue. Most of these unfunded liabilities are a result of Medicare and Social Security. These programs are unsustainable, and whenever Paul Ryan or any other Republican proposes reform, critics say the Republicans don’t care about the poor and elderly. One television ad even shows a Paul Ryan-looking man rolling an elderly lady in a wheelchair off a cliff. Regardless of the reform’s effects, the trimming of these programs is said to be selfish.

Will the debt ever have to be repaid? If not, then we essentially have access to blank checks and should increase our annual deficits. However, if we eventually have to pay back the money we spend on these programs, I can think of no act more selfish than to continue unsustainable spending and push the burden onto the next generation and to those who have not even been born yet. College students, you are getting screwed. You are told that Republicans are immoral, while the politicians telling you these lies are confident that they will have lived a great life of power and luxury and will be dead by the time you get around to figuring out that you must be held responsible for their actions.

Democrats mistakenly believe that the act of spending money that is not theirs is charity. In this sense, they refuse to reflect on how their actions affect future generations, whereas Republicans are forward-looking and conscious of the future. Yet Democrats are said to be “progressive”? There is no creativity or innovation in the Democratic Party. Their game plan is to recognize problems, blame “the rich” and throw money at these problems.

This is what Democrats have done with poverty. Former President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the war on poverty 50 years ago. $22 trillion has been spent on this crusade, but little has changed. This crusade has failed because politicians thought by simply creating centralized, federal programs and increasing spending, the problem would just disappear. Among other things, we need to increase the control the state has over the money spent on welfare. We can also create incentives, through grants, for states that are able to actually lift people out of poverty and generate self-sustainability rather than government dependence.

I am tired of Democrats claiming to be more generous than Republicans simply because they are willing to spend more money. We cannot accept that the only solution to problems that arise is to increase spending. We are smarter than that. It is time for progressives to actually support progress.

Olsen is a finance senior from Argyle. Follow Olsen on Twitter @olsen_clay.

 

All across the Lone Star State — from the mountains of El Paso to the hallowed halls of the LBJ School — any modern Texas political debate inevitably leads to a discussion on the coming wave of Hispanic voters and the corresponding demise of an anti-illegal immigration Texas Republican Party. I believe that narrative is both false and overly simplistic. Hispanics are voting Democrat not because their policies are better, but because my party hasn’t figured out how to talk to them yet.

Similarly, the recent parliamentary victories of Marine Le Pen’s Front National Party in France and Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party in Great Britain are being cast by the European press as surprise victories for a new wave of anti-immigration political parties across Europe.

Almost on cue, the American media – and many around UT – are drawing parallels to the immigration debate here in Texas, asking how the Republican Party can possibly survive with such an obvious and glaring “problem” with Hispanics.

I believe that narrative is false and not grounded in fact. Rather, I believe that Republicans – particularly here in Texas – have a short-term messaging problem with Hispanics, while Democrats have a long-term policy problem that threatens their viability with Hispanic voters.

In particular, the Democratic Party’s growing hostility toward faith and prosperity puts them at odds with the values of the burgeoning Hispanic demographic in Texas.

On Faith – There is a segment of the Democratic Party that is hostile toward organized religion – particularly public displays of religious faith – that is growing increasingly militant and becoming progressively more mainstream. While you see this frequently on campus, one need only look at the floor fight from the 2012 Democratic National Convention when former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was forced to overrule the majority of delegates who adamantly opposed the inclusion of a mere reference to “God” in the national party platform.

These views are fundamentally at odds with Hispanic voters. Faith for many Hispanic and Latinos isn’t just something they experience in church. Catholicism – and a passionate belief in the almighty – is intrinsic to who they are as a community and something that permeates their everyday lives. Moreover, according to Pew Research, by a margin of +10 percent, Hispanics are more pro-life than the public at large.

On Prosperity – A recent report by the National Urban League found that the unemployment rate among Hispanics was 9.1 percent, with an underemployment rate of 18.4 percent. The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University puts it another way: The Hispanic homeownership rate of 46 percent – down about 3 percentage points since the end of George W. Bush’s presidency – is at its lowest level in a decade and 27.5 percentage points below white homeownership.

While the numbers can be confusing, the message is simple: Democratic policies are bad for the Hispanic community. Higher taxes, more regulation and a pervasive culture of entitlement reduce jobs, strangle economic growth and hinder the Hispanic community’s ability to prosper.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party’s core beliefs of lower taxes, smaller – less intrusive – government and empowering the individual instead of the state resonate with the Hispanic community. However, the way in which many of our candidates ignorantly fail to communicate these ideas to Hispanic voters gives many in their community the impression that Republicans do not value or appreciate them, their families or their contribution to society.

We do. And it is my hope that the 2014 Republican Party State Convention, which just wrapped up in Fort Worth, will focus the resources and attention of Republicans across the state on effectively communicating conservative values to the Hispanic community.

Hispanics – like any other demographic – will vote for the candidate with the best ideas. In order to win the Hispanic vote, the Republican Party needs to start offering solutions to their everyday problems. Until Republican candidates begin to consistently knock on Hispanic doors and say, “Here’s who I am, here’s what I believe and here’s how what I believe makes a positive impact in your life,” then Hispanic and Latino voters will continue to go elsewhere.

For example, undoubtedly, border security is – and will always be – a top policy priority for lawmakers in Austin. But, when Republican state officials refer to our broken immigration system in the context of an “invasion,” when our party’s nominee for President of the United States touts “self-deportation” as a means to an end, and when the Young Conservatives of Texas chapter here at UT offers $25 gift cards in a nauseating effort to “catch” illegal immigrants on campus, we give Hispanic voters no glimpse into how our ideas make their lives better and no choice but to vote for someone else.  

Here at the University of Texas, we believe “what starts here changes the world.” The College Republicans, the Young Conservatives and any other conservative groups on campus should internalize our campus motto and use it to change our party by proactively reaching out to Hispanic student organizations and sharing how conservative ideas and values can make a positive impact in their lives.

When you talk with other students on campus, it may seem like the Republican Party’s challenges with Hispanic voters are insurmountable. They are not. Soon, my party will figure out how to share our ideas with the Hispanic community. Once that happens, it is the Democratic Party in Texas that should worry; because you can’t change core values, and you can’t message away bad ideas.

Bailey is an MBA student and President of the Graduate Business Council for the Texas Evening MBA class of 2016. He ran for the Texas House in 2010.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn speaks at the State College Republican Convention on Saturday afternoon. Cornyn was among several speakers at the event, who appealed for votes and emphasized the need for the Republican party to attract voters from demographics that historically vote Democrat.

 

Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

In an effort to win over younger voters, several Republican candidates vying for statewide offices spoke at the State College Republican Convention on Saturday.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, George P. Bush, state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and U.S. Senator John Cornyn were among the guest speakers at the convention, which was held at the Student Activity Center. While many candidates appealed to convention attendees for their votes, they also stressed the need for the Republican Party to modernize.

“There’s no doubt that we can win, but, in order to do that, we have to let go of the stale tactics of the past,” said Skot Covert, College Republican National Committee co-chairman. “How could a party that uses out-of-date, behind-the-times technology expect to be competitive with millennials, the very generation that is the most technology-savvy generation to live?”

According to Covert, the Texas GOP is making significant changes to become more competitive with young voters, including incorporating social media into Republican campaigns.

Covert said many young voters agree with the Republican Party on a lot of issues, such as limiting the scope of government and decreasing federal debt, but the party seeks to correct misconceptions that some young voters have about the party.

“There is a huge void — a conservative void — on campus,” Covert said. “Because of that, our generation thinks very, very poorly of the Republican Party.”

Bush, a candidate for Texas land commissioner, said he met students on both conservative and liberal campuses while traveling for his campaign.

“[Students] had told me that I’m the first aspirant for political office to come on campus, so this has got to change,” Bush said.

Sen. Cornyn said his re-election campaign staff is working to combat the efforts of the Democrat-supporting group Battleground Texas to make Texas a blue state.

“If we don’t meet that with equal force and equal organization, then it could well happen, not in 2014, maybe not even in 2016, but in 2020 and beyond,” Cornyn said. “If Texas delivers all of its electoral votes [to the Democratic Party], let’s say in 2020, we’ll never deliver another a Republican president again in my lifetime.”

Bush said Republican politicians need to be more visible and stressed the importance of using social media, such as Twitter, to increase local community participation, especially among demographics who historically tend to vote Democrat.

“In my campaign I created some controversy, as a Hispanic Republican, that we don’t have to sell out our conservative principles to win the Hispanic vote,” Bush said. “They are often — as the saying goes — Republican. They just don’t know it yet.”

John McCord, Texas GOP political director, said the party will rely less on phone banking and increase focus on voter registration and outreach efforts in ethnically diverse communities.

“We’re trying to build a much more ground-up approach and talking with folks about what matters to them instead of driving a statewide narrative,” McCord said. “Our goal is for these field offices to not go away after November but to keep the field offices, keep the staff and to have a fully operational ground game to keep these offices around long before 2016 rolls around.”

According to Bush, to win votes, the party needs to take a more active role in the community.

“We can’t just show up right before elections,” Bush said. “We have to show up after elections to have a meaningful conversation with the community.”

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

This Thursday, State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, is expected to announce whether she will seek the Democratic nomination for governor. All signs point to yes. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that she does, but not because we believe she’s the best possible candidate or even that she can win the race. We want her to run because it will open up a new era in Texas politics in which our state government is as diverse as our demographics. 

Securing the party’s nomination will be a mere formality if Davis throws her hat in the ring. The state senator isn’t likely to face any competition after her 11-hour filibuster this summer against an omnibus abortion bill rocketed her to political superstardom.

With Davis as the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, the real challenge will come in the general election. Davis will almost certainly have to go up against Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a well-funded Republican powerhouse who enjoys a 10-point polling lead over the Fort Worth Democrat in early speculative polls, according to Austin Democratic consultant Jason Stanford as reported in a Reuters article published this weekend.

Democratic Party operatives are hopeful that Davis can close both the funding and polling gaps, but we’re skeptical she can pull it off because of the state’s still strongly conservative voting demographics. Although the majority of the state’s growth in recent years has been in the Hispanic community (today, more than 50 percent of Texas public schoolchildren are Hispanic, according to Texas Education Agency data cited by The Huffington Post), journalist and academic Thomas Edsall predicted in a May New York Times column that the percentage of eligible white voters in Texas will drop to 35 percent in the next 12 years, with a concomitant rise to 44 percent in the Hispanic community.

The state’s demographics are changing, but they aren’t yet at the more “Democrat-friendly” levels Edsall predicts for the future.

Apart from the question of whether Davis can win is whether she should win. We agree with most of Davis’ policies and admire her work on issues such as abortion rights and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. However, we question Davis’ suitability as a candidate for governor. As Associate Editor Riley Brands argued this summer, Davis’ qualifications leave us wanting more. Yes, she has experience in local and state government, but are her terms on the Fort Worth City Council and in the Texas Senate really enough? More importantly, would anyone even be considering Davis as a contender if not for that famous filibuster? 

Still, despite the fact that we have doubts about Davis’ qualifications and her ability to win, we think it is critically important that she run. Hype is energy, and the energy that has been created surrounding Davis’ persona and leadership abilities can go a long way toward re-energizing a party that better represents the needs of the new Texas that is emerging, which in turn would go a long way toward moving our political conversation in a more productive and diverse direction.

The Democratic party hasn’t won statewide office in close to 20 years, and its most recent offerings for governor never inspired anywhere near the level of excitement that Davis has generated. 

That energy probably won’t be enough to get Davis over the hump, but this election presents a special opportunity for the Democrats to show their resilience. True, their continued nomination of candidates could be taken as proof of some sort of kick left in them, but really, the party has spent the past decade merely going through the motions, putting up a candidate every four years out of a mechanical desire to cling to relevance. 

This election is different, however, because Democrats have to show everyone, including themselves, that their current optimism can weather the storm of defeat. Granted, the survival of that spirit beyond the end of the legislative session is suggestive of something more than a fleeting fad, but it’s going to have to last longer than a few months to really mean something.

To put it more bluntly, Davis needs to run in part so that she and the Democrats can lose.

While another shellacking at the polls will mean at least four more years of a Rick Perry-style Republican in the Governor’s Mansion, that time will give the Democrats a chance to do two things: 1) regroup and reconsider whom to run in 2018 or 2022 and 2) wait for the current demographic shifts to swing the balance more decidedly in their favor.

The Democrats will need those two things if they are to have any shot at regaining the governorship in the near future.

Twin politicians Julian and Joaquin Castro discussed Texas politics with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs on Tuesday evening. The brothers covered topics such as Medicaid, medical costs and gun control.

Photo Credit: Mikaela Locklear | Daily Texan Staff

This article was corrected after its original posting. Because of a reporting error, the article misstated the number of uninsured Texans. About 28 percent of Texans are uninsured.

The future of the Democratic Party might be right here in the red state of Texas. San Antonio’s twin politicians U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, and San Antonio mayor Julian Castro spent Tuesday evening at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs discussing their party’s role in Texas politics.

The Castro brothers lobbied Monday at the Capitol for an extension of Medicaid, two hours after Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn denounced the extension.

Texas Tribune Editor-in-Chief and CEO Evan Smith said about 28 percent of Texans are currently uninsured, and Julian Castro said there are millions of unpaid ambulance fees in San Antonio.

In addition to raising concern over medical costs, Julian Castro said Gov. Perry has not been properly prioritizing investments. Julian Castro said Gov. Perry should not have vetoed a tax initiative to increase funding to San Antonio preschools.

Joaquin Castro said Texas and Alaska were the only states to decline to compete in Race to the Top, a program that offered states money to come up with the best practices to increase innovation in K-12 education.

“It was, I think, a missed opportunity to set national standards with other states, to really come onto some new ideas and innovative policies,” Joaquin said.

The interview was followed by audience questions. In response to a question, Julian Castro said the electoral college is fine the way it is. On the other hand, he said that eliminating the Electoral College would be an opportunity for direct democracy.

“There’s nothing more powerful than when folks themselves are motivated to participate in democratic process,” Julian Castro said.

Julian and Joaquin Castro described their positions on gun control during the talk.

Joaquin Castro said he thinks changes regarding guns can be made while still supporting the second amendment. Julian Castro said high-capacity magazines carry the element of surprise, which is not good public policy, but reasonable requirements can be put in place in certain situations, such as for self defense.

Joaquin Castro also discussed immigration and said that currently the net migration rate between America and Mexico is approximately zero because of the struggling U.S. economy, the increase of border patrol agents and a booming Mexican economy.

“This is the moment that we should do comprehensive reform,” Joaquin Castro said.

JuliaCastro said he thinks America is positioned to succeed in the next century as long as the country improves education. In order to do that, America must build up an infrastructure of opportunity, according to Joaquin Castro.

Julian and Joaquin Castro first became interested in politics in 1994 when they ran for, and won, positions in the student senate at Stanford University, according to Julian.

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland speaks to delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

With seven students serving as delegates and a recent graduate speaking Thursday, the University has a strong influence on the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., despite Texas’ conservative political atmosphere.

University Democrats president Leslie Tisdale and the other UT delegates joined the ranks of the 287 Texas delegates who will, with delegates from the rest of the country, officially nominate President Barack Obama as the Democratic Party’s candidate for president. The delegates will also vote on the party’s platform and attend council meetings.

“This is an incredible school representation,” Tisdale said. “We’ve met a lot of cool, prominent people in the Democratic Party.”

She said as a delegate she gets to hear high-profile party speakers including the president, first lady and former president Bill Clinton. Tisdale said speakers greet delegates on the floor after their speeches.

“We are on the floor, so we have the most restricted access,” she said. “We get to meet pretty much everyone. So that is a nice perk.”

The Democratic Party does not cover delegates’ travel expenses, so Tisdale said University Democrats raised $8,000 to cover all costs for the nine UT students attending the convention. Two additional UT students joined the seven delegates as special guests and were given floor access but no vote, she said.

At the Republican National Convention last week, no UT-Austin students served as delegates, Chris Elam, delegation coordinator for the Republican Party of Texas said. One UT System student, Isabel Gonzalez from the University of Texas at El Paso, served as a delegate, he said.

Sherri Greenberg, director for the UT Center for Politics and Governance, said the national conventions have long histories in both parties. The first Democratic National Convention occurred in 1832 and the first Republican National Convention in 1856. She said they are intended to bring a proportional representation of the demographics of each party. Each state is different, but in Texas she said potential delegates pledge themselves to the candidate they will nominate, then caucus at the county level to elect delegates to the state convention and on to the national convention. All registered voters have an opportunity to attend the caucus, as long as they register with the party, Greenberg said.

“This time it is pretty simple because Obama is running unopposed,” Greenberg said. “But it is not just ceremonial.”

Aside from nominating a candidate for president, delegates can fulfill other roles, she said. They also meet to set policy, elect officers or attend to state-level business.

Tisdale said UT is surprisingly active in the political arena, which she thinks is good because politics dictates how young people will participate in their community in the future.

“It’s our future,” Tisdale said. “The economy in 10 years, in 20 years — that’s for us.”

Printed on Thursday, September 6th, 2012 as: Student delegates represent University

Talent is lacking in the Democratic Party, and it is up to the future generation to change it, a political writer told a group of about 50 students at a University Democrats meeting Wednesday. Paul Burka, senior executive editor of Texas Monthly, writes a political blog and has worked for the magazine since 1975. He also served as an attorney in the Texas Legislature for five years and holds a degree from UT’s School of Law. UDems President Billy Calve said Burka speaking to the organization is a great opportunity to get a different perspective on Texas politics. “Paul Burka is an institution in Texas politics,” Calve said. “We really hope our members will build on their understanding by hearing from him.” It’s over for Anglos, Burka said. He said the future of Texas is up to the Hispanic majority because there has not been a significant time when Hispanics have voted in large numbers. If all Texans voted, the state would prove to have a much stronger Democratic voice, he said. “If you plan to spend your life in Texas, you will live in a blue state,” Burka said. However, Burka that the increase in affluence in South Texas threatens Democrats because increased wealth, combined with a cultural sense of family values and patriotism, could lead more Hispanics living in the Valley to vote for Republicans. The Democratic Party hard said ly exists in Texas, he said. He said the party’s infrastructure is not strong because it has not been able to reach out to the Hispanic population. “The talent level you have to replace is not very high,” Burka said. Burka said Gov. Rick Perry is an unsympathetic politician who is not interested in the Legislature but is a political pro who knows what to do and always has a plan. “There’s nobody better at running a campaign and nobody worse at running the state,” Burka said. Burka said charisma is what makes a very strong candidate. He said the next generation of lawmakers need to be better at it. “The ball is there, and somebody has to go pick it up,” Burka said. Government sophomore Huey Fischer said he appreciated Burka’s insight on Texas politics because he came from a nonpartisan perspective. He said UDems members gained new insight into how to move forward for the 2012 elections. “We do need to start recruiting tougher candidates, better candidates, charismatic candidates,” Fischer said.