The Texas Signal https://texassignal.com Progressive Media for a Progressive Texas Mon, 23 Nov 2020 16:33:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 https://i2.wp.com/texassignal.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/cropped-favicon.png?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 The Texas Signal https://texassignal.com 32 32 166339080 Our Texas Signal Holiday Book Recommendations https://texassignal.com/our-texas-signal-holiday-book-recommendations/ Mon, 23 Nov 2020 16:33:05 +0000 https://texassignal.com/?p=31990 Thanksgiving is different this year. For many of us, we’re going to be celebrating Thanksgiving via Zoom. And at the Texas Signal, we want to keep y’all safe, which is why we are encouraging the very safe activity of reading! Here are some recommendations from our Texas Signal staff: A Promised Land by Barack Obama What better way to prepare for the Biden years by reliving the first campaign and administration of the Obama years? Beautifully written prose and surprisingly personal insight into everything from Michelle’s conflicted feelings about his presidential ambitions to the daily grind of campaign life provide […]

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Thanksgiving is different this year. For many of us, we’re going to be celebrating Thanksgiving via Zoom. And at the Texas Signal, we want to keep y’all safe, which is why we are encouraging the very safe activity of reading! Here are some recommendations from our Texas Signal staff:

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

What better way to prepare for the Biden years by reliving the first campaign and administration of the Obama years? Beautifully written prose and surprisingly personal insight into everything from Michelle’s conflicted feelings about his presidential ambitions to the daily grind of campaign life provide all the page turning content you need.

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Though this book chronicles the life of the esteemed actor (and perhaps future governor), McConaughey prefers to call this an “approach book.” McConaughey draws upon previous journals and notes that he gathered before hibernating in the desert to write this tome alone. It debuted as the number one nonfiction book on the New York Times bestseller list.

A House of My Own: Stories from My Life by Sandra Cisneros

Cisneros is famously from Chicago and helped kick off the city’s grand renaissance of Chicana literature. However, she has lived on-and-off in San Antonio for decades. Her life as a Tejana plays a part in her experimental collection of these vignettes. This collection, which blends poetry and storytelling, is simply magical and a joyous read.

Cult of Glory: The Bold and Brutal History of the Texas Rangers by Doug Swanson

Like many historical reckonings, the Texas Rangers are getting their due. Swanson does a brilliant job of exposing the discrepancies of Texas Ranger lore, and he dives deep into many of the violent and bloody terrors they waged.

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke 

Houston’s own, Attica Locke has been churning out thrilling bestsellers for over a decade. This debut novel is the first in a two-book collection about struggling lawyer Jay Porter. Set in Houston in 1981, Locke brings to life the city, which essentially serves as a primary character. Locke recently signed a deal with her sister, Tembi, to write a reboot for television of “Waiting to Exhale” with Empire creator Lee Daniels as the Executive Producer.

The End of October by Lawrence Wright

There is perhaps no other writer with their finger on the pulse of everything Texas than Lawrence Wright. His latest novel, first published in April, is about a devastating flu-like virus that unleashes a global pandemic. We’ll never know how he was so freakishly prescient. And we might be too afraid to read this book, but we hear good things!

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No lockdown or pandemic relief as Texas braces for second wave https://texassignal.com/no-lockdown-or-pandemic-relief-as-texas-braces-for-second-wave/ Fri, 20 Nov 2020 20:03:46 +0000 https://texassignal.com/?p=31986 Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference on Thursday updating Texans on the second wave of coronavirus cases in the state. No lockdown is coming this time around, Abbott said during his press conference in Lubbock.   The governor said a new antibody treatment is already being distributed in Texas and that medical researchers are close to an effective vaccine.  “It is important for everybody in the state to know that statewide we’re not gonna have another shutdown,” Abbott said. “There’s an overestimation of exactly what a shutdown will achieve, and there’s a misunderstanding about what a shutdown will not achieve.” […]

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Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference on Thursday updating Texans on the second wave of coronavirus cases in the state.

No lockdown is coming this time around, Abbott said during his press conference in Lubbock.  

The governor said a new antibody treatment is already being distributed in Texas and that medical researchers are close to an effective vaccine. 

“It is important for everybody in the state to know that statewide we’re not gonna have another shutdown,” Abbott said. “There’s an overestimation of exactly what a shutdown will achieve, and there’s a misunderstanding about what a shutdown will not achieve.”

Coronavirus cases have surged in Texas since they last peaked in July. Sometime last month, Texas overcame California as the state with the highest number of cumulative confirmed cases in the U.S., just shy above 1 million total cases. 

On Thursday, Texas saw a new record: more than 12,000 new cases in a single day. The last time the state saw a surge this large, Abbott closed down bars and limited restaurant occupancy. 

For now, the state will follow the guidelines the governor set in place in October that allows certain venues to reopen at 75 percent capacity depending on the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the region. 

The state has already demonstrated its willingness to prevent local governments from taking more stringent action. Last week, FBI-investigated Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton scored a victory with his office after the Texas 8th Court of Appeals ruled in his favor to block a lockdown order in El Paso.

The update from the governor comes a day before Congress finds itself adjourning yet again without a deal on pandemic relief. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and fellow Senate Republicans are unwilling to act on a $2.2 trillion House-passed bill that would renew $600 weekly federal unemployment benefits and deliver another round of stimulus checks. Republicans are seeking a slimmer $500 billion bill without direct relief that was blocked by Senate Democrats last month.

The Senate has adjourned for the week and will not reconvene for a full session until after the Thanksgiving holiday, on November 30. 

Photo: Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via Getty Images

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Here we go again https://texassignal.com/here-we-go-again/ Thu, 19 Nov 2020 20:01:11 +0000 https://texassignal.com/?p=31981 As we waited for the results of the 2020 elections to become clear on election night, one thing became unmistakable as the hours wore on and Democrats lost ground in Texas and a slew of seats in Congress across the country. A reckoning was coming.  After a fractious and crowded primary that seemed like an extension of the tumult from the 2016 elections, it seemed preordained that Democrats would need to reconcile the gulf that seems to exist between its progressive and more moderate wings. Now that Democrats have lost races in places as disparate as South Florida and Staten […]

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As we waited for the results of the 2020 elections to become clear on election night, one thing became unmistakable as the hours wore on and Democrats lost ground in Texas and a slew of seats in Congress across the country.

A reckoning was coming. 

After a fractious and crowded primary that seemed like an extension of the tumult from the 2016 elections, it seemed preordained that Democrats would need to reconcile the gulf that seems to exist between its progressive and more moderate wings.

Now that Democrats have lost races in places as disparate as South Florida and Staten Island in New York, the recriminations have begun to flow anew in what feels like a never-ending cycle or screaming into the void.

The beef came to light on a widely reported post-election briefing during which several members of Congress, including Vincente Gonzales here in Texas, forcefully pushed back on messaging employed by progressives on everything from police reform to healthcare policy.

Members who barely won like Gonzales and many who lost blamed Republican efforts to define police reform for a lot of their plight. Republican candidates and their canvassers spent months telling voters that Democrats wanted to defund the police and put their communities at risk. The fact that it wasn’t true barely mattered, Republicans had found yet another effective way to reframe a progressive policy, and hung it as the albatross around Democrats necks in Texas and swing districts across the country.

It was an attack that proved to be as effective, if not more, than the old classic standby they continued to push South Texas and other communities across the nation. If they needed a one-two lunch this cycle, they found it by pairing defund messaging with the threat of encroaching socialism. 

Of course, the progressive flank of the party wasted no time pushing back. The problem as they saw it wasn’t that progressive policies were unpopular and cost moderates elections, it was that moderates didn’t lead boldly enough and adapt to a combustible new campaign environment. 

In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Justice Democrats pointed to a slew of television ads run across the country that attacked Democrats not on defund messaging but more standard-issue fare to demonstrate that it wasn’t progressive messaging that hurt them.

This analysis overlooks a lot of the unseen from the 2020 election cycle. In direct mail, phone calls and door to door contacts, Republicans were attacking Democrats in Texas, saying they wanted to defund the police. Governor Greg Abbott saw how effective it was and blanketed the state with television ads using the same attacks, helping dampen Democratic hopes to take back the state house. 

But here we find ourselves, once again, watching the not-as-different-as-they-think wings of the Democratic Party shout past each other rather than making a sober assessment of what worked and what didn’t in 2020.

Not to put too fine a point on it but the problem isn’t located on an ideological or policy axis. Democrats didn’t lose because they were wrong on the merits, or that their message was ineffective. It was that Republicans defined the issue early and hammered their point home before Democrats had even managed to lace up their sneakers and get out of the starting gate.

The key for Democrats in Texas and nationally isn’t to figure out if they should lean to the left or the middle, it’s figuring out the emotional through-line that will connect their best policy ideas with the intangible needs of voters and embracing the type of message discipline they both loath and admire Republicans for mastering. 

For Democrats to succeed moving forward they need to get a lot better at defining the issue and going on offense. If they don’t, they’ll be in for a long year.

Photo: Hill Street Studios/Getty Images

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Will Congress act to help Texas before Christmas? https://texassignal.com/will-congress-act-to-help-texas-before-christmas/ Thu, 19 Nov 2020 17:40:13 +0000 https://texassignal.com/?p=31979 This week, a video showing thousands of Texans lining up to receive food went viral. Dallasites reportedly waited up to 12 hours to receive food in time for Thanksgiving. It’s a stark reminder for the president (preoccupied with overturning the election results) and other Texas lawmakers that they need to act now.  If not, an estimated 12 million Americans could lose their jobless relief program benefits that are set to expire by the end of the year, the day after Christmas.  Some federal benefits, like the additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits provided by the federal government, have already […]

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This week, a video showing thousands of Texans lining up to receive food went viral. Dallasites reportedly waited up to 12 hours to receive food in time for Thanksgiving.

It’s a stark reminder for the president (preoccupied with overturning the election results) and other Texas lawmakers that they need to act now. 

If not, an estimated 12 million Americans could lose their jobless relief program benefits that are set to expire by the end of the year, the day after Christmas. 

Some federal benefits, like the additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits provided by the federal government, have already long expired. So long food bank lines are only the tip of the iceberg of misery Texans are facing. 

For now, it doesn’t look like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are even close to striking a deal.

The price tag of the overall bill appears to be the biggest hold-up. Republicans don’t want to spend more than $500 billion and Democrats don’t want to spend any less than $2.2 trillion. 

Americans don’t have a clear picture of the negotiations going on in Congress because there’s a lot to account for in these massive, shifting spending bills. At this point, lawmakers should go line by line with the bills they need to get passed, starting with another relief check.

The pandemic check, which is included in the bill by House Democrats but not in the Republican Senate version, is an easy sell. An overwhelming majority of Americans, 82 percent, already support a monthly stimulus check. And take it with a grain of salt: President Trump has previously said he would approve a stand-alone bill for a second pandemic check.
The last stimulus check cost only $290 billion and was largely used by Americans to pay for food and bills. Another check won’t solve the pandemic or rescue state and local governments from facing financial ruin, but it would be a good start to reminding Americans that the government is good for something.

Photo: Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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The FBI is allegedly looking into allegations against Ken Paxton https://texassignal.com/the-fbi-is-allegedly-looking-into-allegations-against-ken-paxton/ Wed, 18 Nov 2020 20:59:40 +0000 https://texassignal.com/?p=31975 While Ken Paxton may be digging in his heels and refusing to resign over accusations of bribery and abuse of office, federal law enforcement is apparently moving forward into an investigation against the Texas Attorney General. According to the Associated Press, the FBI is officially looking into Paxton’s alleged illegal behavior. Last month, seven members of Paxton’s staff accused him of abuse of office and reported their concerns to federal authorities. The staff members were alarmed about Paxton’s relationship with Nate Paul, a wealthy donor in Austin who is also the founder, president, and CEO of World Class Property Company. […]

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While Ken Paxton may be digging in his heels and refusing to resign over accusations of bribery and abuse of office, federal law enforcement is apparently moving forward into an investigation against the Texas Attorney General. According to the Associated Press, the FBI is officially looking into Paxton’s alleged illegal behavior.

Last month, seven members of Paxton’s staff accused him of abuse of office and reported their concerns to federal authorities. The staff members were alarmed about Paxton’s relationship with Nate Paul, a wealthy donor in Austin who is also the founder, president, and CEO of World Class Property Company. After agents with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Treasury raided Paul’s office and home in 2019, Paxton, through his office, stepped in and launched an investigation into those government agencies who targeted Paul.

All of the former aides to Paxton have since been fired, resigned, or placed on leave. On Friday, four of those aides officially filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Paxton.

In a statement following the lawsuit’s filing, Paxton dismissed the accusations. “After reviewing the claims made by former employees of this office, their allegations are overblown, based upon assumptions, and to a large degree misrepresent the facts,” Paxton said in his statement.

As more revelations about Paxton’s behavior have emerged, it was revealed that Paxton allegedly had an extramarital affair with a former Texas Senate aide, who he later recommended be hired by Paul. Though he has not commented publicly about the affair, he did allegedly tell members of his senior staff in 2018. Paxton then said the affair was over, and he was “recommitted” to his wife State Senator Angela Paxton.  

Five years ago, Paxton was indicted by a grand jury of felony securities fraud. The case has bounced around Texas ever since, and recently a Houston Appeals Court halted a ruling that called for Paxton’s trial to take place in Collin County, where his hometown is located.Paxton is still listed as a co-chair for Lawyers for Trump.

Photo: Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images

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Matthew McConaughey teases run for Texas governor https://texassignal.com/matthew-mcconaughey-teases-run-for-texas-governor/ Wed, 18 Nov 2020 20:30:00 +0000 https://texassignal.com/?p=31977 Texas’ very own Matthew McConaughey recently said he just might be considering running for governor.  “I don’t know. I mean, that wouldn’t be up to me. It would be up to the people more than it would [be] me,” McConaughey said on “The Hugh Hewitt Show” on Tuesday.  For now, however, it looks like the Dallas Buyers Club and Interstellar actor will stay away from the political spotlight. “I would say this: Look, politics seems to be a broken business to me right now. And when politics redefines its purpose, I could be a hell of a lot more interested,” […]

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Texas’ very own Matthew McConaughey recently said he just might be considering running for governor. 

“I don’t know. I mean, that wouldn’t be up to me. It would be up to the people more than it would [be] me,” McConaughey said on “The Hugh Hewitt Show” on Tuesday. 

For now, however, it looks like the Dallas Buyers Club and Interstellar actor will stay away from the political spotlight.

“I would say this: Look, politics seems to be a broken business to me right now. And when politics redefines its purpose, I could be a hell of a lot more interested,” McConaughey said before previewing some of the issues he plans to run on.

“I want to get behind personal values to rebind our social contracts with each other as Americans, as people again,” McConaughey said. 

“That leads to us not trust in ourselves, which if that becomes epidemic, then we’ve got anarchy,” McConaughey continued. “I’m all for the individual, and I think it’s for — to make collective change that the individual needs to look in the mirror and say, ‘How can I be a little bit better today?'”

Not exactly the most compelling stump speech, but hey, he has at least another two years to iron things out before Gov. Greg Abbott is up for re-election. If he does decide to throw his hat in the ring, Abbott could be in real trouble, argues the Signal’s William Kim. 

Photo: Moody College of Communications/ Wikimedia Commons

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Why Texas didn’t flip in 2020 https://texassignal.com/why-texas-didnt-flip-in-2020/ Wed, 18 Nov 2020 16:10:06 +0000 https://texassignal.com/?p=31974 Three weeks after Election Day, Democrats in Texas are still scratching their heads. Not only did Donald Trump win the state on Election Day, but the far-reaching down-ballot offensive Democrats launched following their success in 2018 fizzled out by that same Tuesday evening. Sen. John Cornyn coasted to re-election, all targeted congressional seats remained in Republican hands, and most importantly, there was little to no movement in the statehouse, guaranteeing Republicans another opportunity to design congressional and state district lines that will undoubtedly be just as harsh as the current ones.  And while Democrats once again improved their margins and […]

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Three weeks after Election Day, Democrats in Texas are still scratching their heads.

Not only did Donald Trump win the state on Election Day, but the far-reaching down-ballot offensive Democrats launched following their success in 2018 fizzled out by that same Tuesday evening.

Sen. John Cornyn coasted to re-election, all targeted congressional seats remained in Republican hands, and most importantly, there was little to no movement in the statehouse, guaranteeing Republicans another opportunity to design congressional and state district lines that will undoubtedly be just as harsh as the current ones. 

And while Democrats once again improved their margins and turnout in many urban and suburban areas that were already drifting toward them (something that should worry Republicans as they return to their corner of the ring), it wasn’t nearly enough to offset the reliably red rural counties that have long provided an easy cushion for any narrowing Republican margins in the state’s most populated and fastest-growing counties. 

If that analysis of the election results sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a trend that has been around for at least two decades in Texas and everywhere else in the nation. Election after election, rural counties have shifted to the right and urban counties have shifted to the left. In many states with growing cities and urbanization, Republicans have simply run out of rural votes. The national trend held true and rewarded Democrats in 2020 by delivering Georgia, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. 

In Texas, polling leading up to the election and gains from two years earlier served as proof that, pending the resources and turnout, the urban-rural shift and Trump’s unpopularity would bless Democrats in Texas once again; maybe not flipping the entire state, but at least matching or exceeding the gains made down-ballot in 2018.

Instead, Election Day saw Democrats gain several points in urban areas they already held, flip some suburban counties while siphoning votes in others, receive a stiff warning from voters in the Rio Grande Valley, and ultimately find little more than a stalemate on the electoral map. 

Trumpism is alive and well in Texas

Statewide, Democrats saw a three-point improvement with their margins at the top of the ticket. Biden gained 1.3 million voters compared to Hillary Clinton in 2016, but Trump came close by gaining 1.1 million voters. 

Curiously, Cornyn received 71,506 more votes than Trump, the first time a U.S. Senate candidate has beaten the top of the ticket in Texas in two decades. That speaks to Trump’s weakness (or Cornyn’s strength?), but it’s not exactly clear where and why until full canvassing reports for how state and congressional districts voted at the top of the ticket are released by Texas election officials in December. 

Regardless, the fundamentals of Election Day remain the same: President Trump turned out more than 1 million new voters, an amount too big to celebrate a similar improvement in turnout by Democrats in key areas. 

In an interview with the Signal, Texas Democrats Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said those new voters coming out for Trump in gerrymandered battleground districts, coupled with the pandemic stifling their own organizing efforts, most likely cost Democrats victory in their offensive races. 

“We did well, just to survive with what we had before,” Hinojosa said, estimating that Democrats may have lost a dozen statehouse seats and at least three congressional districts without this year’s record-breaking efforts to flip the state and boost turnout.

Whatever the fanfare there is in discussing Republican swing voters and vote-splitting, margins in areas where those split votes mattered were still fairly close for Democrats, particularly in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. 

Statewide, however, the truth remains that Trump was and is immensely popular within his own electorate. Across the country and in Texas, his approval rating among Republicans only steadily increased throughout his presidency to around the high eighties and low nineties.

Even George W. Bush could not perform the same feat while facing an unpopular war and a recession more timid than the one we are currently facing. The younger Bush ended his presidency hated by Democrats, independents, and not particularly supported by Republicans. 

At a macro level, Trump’s general unpopularity cost him the White House, but he remains beloved by Republicans. And in Texas, there are a lot of Republicans.

That was true even in the state’s most populated counties. Turnout improved significantly in major counties around the state, but the improvement in turnout did not always perfectly translate to an equally strong improvement in Democrat’s vote share (although most of the time it did favor Democrats). 

Most notably in Harris County, the state’s most populated county, turnout increased seven percentage points but Democrat margins inched upward by only two points at the presidential level. That two-point increase represents about 103,000 new votes for Democrats and about 62,000 new votes for Republicans.

Turnout in 2016Turnout in 2020Share of presidential votes for Democrats 2016Share of presidential votes for Democrats 2020
Harris County58.72%65.86%54.2%56%
Dallas County58.97%65.59%61.1%65.1%
Tarrant County62.04%67.64%43.5%49.3%
Bexar County56.41%63.57%54.5%58.3%
Travis County64.65%70.55%66.3%71.7%
Collin County67.26%74.82%39.2%47%
Denton County64.25%73.72%37.5%45.2%
Hidalgo County51.23%56.08%68.6%58%
El Paso County49.96%52.01%69.1%66.4%
Fort Bend County64.86%73.99%51.6%54.7%
Montgomery County65.61%73.28%22.5%27.4%
Williamson County67.7%76.22%42%49.7%
Cameron County46.57%51.91%64.6%56.1%
Brazoria County61.67%68.69%35.8%40.1%
Bell County50.93%58.14%40%44.6%

Democrats will need to find a minimum of 600,000 votes (the difference in votes at the top of the ticket in 2020) in the areas they’re performing well in and by rescuing margins in South Texas to keep their momentum going for a statewide win. And as 2020 demonstrated, there’s no guarantee that increasing turnout will narrow that deficit enough or that Republicans are running out of voters — according to the Texas Tribune, Trump’s margin of victory in rural counties grew by 200,000 votes to 1.7 million between 2016 and 2020. 

Simply put, the results show that Texas is changing in favor of Democrats, but its history as a state with voter suppression and lower voter turnout also means it has room for incredible growth, growth that may only result in the status quo or a more accurate count of just how Republican the state remains. 

There’s still good news for Democrats in the results

Perhaps this is something that got lost when Texas was lumped into this year’s crop of swing states: Texas is a swing state, but not in the same way that Pennsylvania, Florida, and others are or become to be. 

Since turnout in the state has been historically poor, the strategy for Democrats was and still requires them to split their focus between registering voters, expanding their electorate, and convincing voters to back them at the ballot box. Even in 2020, which saw Texas break a 40-year record for turnout, the state was still among the bottom in the U.S. for turnout among its voting-eligible population. 

The bad news for Republicans while looking at these results is that the fundamental path to victory for Democrats in the state seems unbothered: as turnout increases, Democrats are winning more growing urban and suburban counties and Republican margins at the top of the ticket are shrinking as a result

Would there have been more movement in down-ballot races if the pandemic had not forced Democrats to halt in-person campaigning? The jury is still out. Some past studies show door-knocking pads the margins by a few points and that it is by far the most convincing and effective method of turning out existing voters. So it’s probably an easy guess that the Biden campaign and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s post-pandemic ban on door-knocking probably did more to leave Democrats defenseless than it did nudge voters into believing they were the responsible party to vote for. But again, who knows. 

Probably more decisive is the fact that winning Texas simply wasn’t part of Biden’s electoral strategy. Democratic groups and the Biden campaign spent 20 times more on TV ads in Florida than what they spent in Texas. Ohio and Iowa, two states that ended up with worse margins than Texas in 2020, also received more attention and funding leading up to Election Day. 

What about messaging?

The pandemic and comparative lack of national resources in the state make it difficult to parse just how effective Republican messaging surrounding police funding, and Democratic messaging over healthcare and Trump’s bungled pandemic response were.

Ed Espinoza, the executive director of Progress Texas, told the Signal that progressive and Democratic issues are popular in Texas, but the branding surrounding them veers towards malpractice. 

“We spent a lot of time this year showing that defund the police is not a persuasive message,” Espinoza said referring to a poll they conducted in June. “It’s an important policy. But our polling shows that when you say ‘reform the police,’ you get 72 percent of support, but when you say ‘defund the police’, support drops to 19 percent.”

He said at the end of the day, the issue of the election was not policies or issues but Trump.

The Signal spent the final weeks of the election interviewing Democratic congressional candidates in competitive districts whose platforms varied from progressive to moderate, but no candidates on either side of the Democratic political spectrum did particularly better than the other on Election Day, and none of the candidates supported defunding the police, including the well-funded campaign of Democrat Wendy Davis who ran attack ads against Rep. Chip Roy for defunding police. 

Congressional candidates in Texas weren’t the only ones who came up short. Republicans across the U.S. flipped eight congressional seats in areas that were surprisingly competitive.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one Democratic adviser who worked on a competitive congressional campaign in Texas told the Signal the nationwide Democratic losses in the U.S. House are less about messaging and more about where national Democrats invest their resources.

“That can’t be attributed to any one candidate, any one message, it has to be pointed at the top, it wasn’t just Texas, there were other bedrock states that were competitive that should not have been competitive,” they said. “And I think this strategy of appealing to three white-working class states that we lost in 2016, may have come at the expense of a coalition of voters that are largely Black and Brown and that will power our victories in the years ahead.” 

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

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5 Tips for a Zoom Thanksgiving https://texassignal.com/5-tips-for-a-zoom-thanksgiving/ Tue, 17 Nov 2020 17:21:55 +0000 https://texassignal.com/?p=31970 I’m sure like many of y’all, in our house, we had to take a good, hard look at whether it was safe to gather as a family this Thanksgiving as COVID-19 cases surge across the country. As of this writing, more than one million of our neighbors have battled COVID-19 infections, and 19,579 Texans have lost their lives to the novel coronavirus. While hope for an effective vaccine grows by the day, we hope you and your family will take every precaution to keep each other safe next week and give your thanks via video chat. Navigating the holidays is […]

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I’m sure like many of y’all, in our house, we had to take a good, hard look at whether it was safe to gather as a family this Thanksgiving as COVID-19 cases surge across the country. As of this writing, more than one million of our neighbors have battled COVID-19 infections, and 19,579 Texans have lost their lives to the novel coronavirus. While hope for an effective vaccine grows by the day, we hope you and your family will take every precaution to keep each other safe next week and give your thanks via video chat.

Navigating the holidays is always tricky, but in these trying times, we really are in uncharted territory. To make sure you make the most of your first virtual Thanksgiving, we’ve got these five tips for success.

Be the host this time 

Since no one needs to be physically inside your house, you should reach for that brass ring and host the Zoom meeting. There are some very important reasons for this, but chief among them is the host’s ability to mute any members of your family deadset on convincing everyone that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 elections and that everyone in Philly frequents Four Seasons Landscaping. Did Uncle Chuck show up with his MAGA hat again? Cousin Chad inviting everyone to join Parler? Hit that mute button. 

Dial-up your most festive background.

Have a solid photoshop of Joe Biden carving a gigantic Turkey? Dial it up for the big moment. Did Uncle Chuck figure out how to unmute himself? Switch over to a good, old fashioned Nancy Pelosi slow clap. From a family that loves to hunt? Ann Richards with a shotgun. Do it big, Texans. It’ll be worth it. (And send screenshots to editor@texassignal.com.)

Remember that you love each other. 

We’re coming out of four long years of divisiveness, and we don’t have to live our lives that way anymore. Even if you don’t see eye to eye with your family, there has never been a more important time to remember the common ground we’re still able to stand on together. 

Only show your best work. 

Thanksgiving accidents happen. Turkeys take a few extra minutes, gravy is a labor of love, sometimes pies don’t bake symmetrically. Your biggest advantage in Thanksgiving chefery this year is that your aunt isn’t there to see your missteps and mention them at each successive Thanksgiving you spend together. Prepare your feast off-camera, plate only what you’re willing to reveal to the inquiring eye, and rest safe in the knowledge that they’ll never know you burned something.

Be thankful, but be thoughtful. 

While we’re all thankful that we’re turning a page in our national politics, we should also all keep our neighbors and fellow Texans in mind. From a raging pandemic to an antiquated criminal justice system to a fragile economy, we face some serious challenges as Texans and Americans. Let’s all use this Thanksgiving as an opportunity to think of the work yet to be done and the people who most need us to build a fairer and more just Texas.

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Transition update: Rep. Filemon Vela floated as possible cabinet pick https://texassignal.com/vela-floated-as-possible-cabinet-pick/ Tue, 17 Nov 2020 15:28:43 +0000 https://texassignal.com/?p=31968 President-elect Joe Biden has yet to announce any Cabinet picks but plenty of names have been buzzing in policy circles. There is at least one Texan among the possible picks: Rep. Filemon Vela. The four-term congressman currently represents Texas’ 34th congressional district, which stretches from Gonzales County to the US-Mexico border. The Biden team is considering Vela  for Commerce or Transportation, according to Axios. Vela is also a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, so he’d be a logical choice for Ag Secretary.  Vela was a very early Biden endorser, declaring “I’m with Tío Joe” back in May of […]

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President-elect Joe Biden has yet to announce any Cabinet picks but plenty of names have been buzzing in policy circles. There is at least one Texan among the possible picks: Rep. Filemon Vela.

The four-term congressman currently represents Texas’ 34th congressional district, which stretches from Gonzales County to the US-Mexico border. The Biden team is considering Vela  for Commerce or Transportation, according to Axios. Vela is also a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, so he’d be a logical choice for Ag Secretary. 

Vela was a very early Biden endorser, declaring “I’m with Tío Joe” back in May of last year.

Vela is one of several prominent Latinos reportedly in contention for Biden’s Cabinet. Other names include California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for Homeland Security, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for Health and Human Services and former National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen-Garcia for Education. Axios reports that Democrats are urging Biden to pick Latinos for high-profile Cabinet positions after underperforming with Latino voters. 

In other transition news, Barack Obama has ended any speculation that he will serve in Biden’s Cabinet, saying “Michelle would leave me.”

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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Where Things Stand for Ken Paxton https://texassignal.com/where-things-stand-for-ken-paxton/ Mon, 16 Nov 2020 21:45:06 +0000 https://texassignal.com/?p=31967 If you didn’t know any better, it would seem Ken Paxton’s life as Attorney General of Texas was churning along normally. A casual observer of the attorney general’s latest activities, which includes asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act and suing a federal judge in El Paso who called for more COVID-19 restrictions, might not even realize Paxton was mired in some deep legal trouble. But legal trouble and Paxton go hand in hand. Five years ago, he was indicted by a federal grand jury on securities fraud. Now, despite more devastating details emerging about […]

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If you didn’t know any better, it would seem Ken Paxton’s life as Attorney General of Texas was churning along normally. A casual observer of the attorney general’s latest activities, which includes asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act and suing a federal judge in El Paso who called for more COVID-19 restrictions, might not even realize Paxton was mired in some deep legal trouble.

But legal trouble and Paxton go hand in hand. Five years ago, he was indicted by a federal grand jury on securities fraud. Now, despite more devastating details emerging about his shady, and likely illegal, dealings as attorney general, Texas is very likely stuck with Paxton for the next two years until he is up for re-election.

Paxton’s most recent legal woes stem from his relationship with Nate Paul, a wealthy donor in Austin and the Founder, President, and CEO of World Class Property Company. After agents with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Treasury raided Paul’s office and home in 2019, Paxton, through his office, stepped in and launched an investigation into those government agencies who targeted Paul.

Last month, seven members of Paxton’s staff then accused him of abuse of office and bribery, and they reported their concerns to federal authorities. All of those former top aides have since been fired, resigned, or placed on leave.

On Friday, four of those former aides filed a whistleblower lawsuit. In the lawsuit, the aides are asking not only for a reimbursement on lost wages and other damages, but also that Paxton pay a $15,000 fine for every violation he committed against the Texas Whistleblower Act.

Paxton participated in an exclusive interview with Austin affiliate KXAN shortly after the whistleblower lawsuit was filed. He dismissed all of the aides’ concerns and allegations. “Everything I’ve seen is untrue,” he told the reporter from KXAN.

When asked by the KXAN reporter if he would consider resigning, he was similarly dismissive, and pointed to the lawsuit against the ACA as well as a Google Antitrust case, as reasons he should keep the state’s top legal job.

“The types of things that we’re doing with Google, the types of things we’re doing with Obamacare, the types of things we’re doing with election fraud, with child support — we just collected $4.8 billion in child support, no state has ever come close to that,” Paxton said to the interviewer. “So, we’re doing some amazing things and I would just say the proof is in the pudding,” said Paxton.

There have been calls from some Republicans in the state for Paxton to resign, including from Rep. Chip Roy, who previously worked for him. The editorial board at the Dallas Morning News, which tilts conservative, also called for Paxton’s resignation.

After the first accusations from Paxton’s former staff emerged, Gov. Greg Abbott released a tentative statement noting these were serious allegations. “I will withhold further comment until the results of any investigation are complete,” he said further in the statement. 

It’s highly unlikely Paxton will face impeachment over his legal entanglements as noted by Ross Ramsey in an analysis from The Texas Tribune. Paxton himself gives no indication he has any plans to resign.

Paxton has yet to publicly comment about allegations of an extramarital affair with a former Texas senate aide, who he later recommended be hired by Paul. He allegedly did tell senior staff about the affair in 2018, and that he had “recommitted” to his wife State Senator Angela Paxton.

Photo: Office of the Texas Attorney General

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Moderate Texas lawmakers blame progressive issues for election results https://texassignal.com/moderate-texas-lawmakers-blame-progressive-issues-for-election-results/ Mon, 16 Nov 2020 16:40:58 +0000 https://texassignal.com/?p=31965 If anyone thought the 2020 election results would put a pin in the 4-year internal strife among Democrats of different ideological stripes, they were wrong. Three weeks after the election, moderate lawmakers in Texas are deadset on warning others that the left-leaning policies of their progressive colleagues are hurting Democrats at the ballot box. “Defund police, open borders, socialism — it’s killing us,” Rep. Vicente Gonzalez said in a Democratic conference call last week with Democrats, according to the New York Times. Gonzalez said white voters associate socialism with Nordic countries, but Asian and Hispanic voters associate it with “left-wing […]

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If anyone thought the 2020 election results would put a pin in the 4-year internal strife among Democrats of different ideological stripes, they were wrong.

Three weeks after the election, moderate lawmakers in Texas are deadset on warning others that the left-leaning policies of their progressive colleagues are hurting Democrats at the ballot box.

“Defund police, open borders, socialism — it’s killing us,” Rep. Vicente Gonzalez said in a Democratic conference call last week with Democrats, according to the New York Times. Gonzalez said white voters associate socialism with Nordic countries, but Asian and Hispanic voters associate it with “left-wing regimes.”

Gonzalez narrowly won re-election by three percentage points in his South Texas congressional district TX-15. In 2018, he won by a 20-point margin, suggesting real Republican inroads into reaching Latino voters or a weak performance by Democrats in the majority-Latino region.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, a moderate Democrat who faced a progressive challenge from Jessica Cisneros, made similar comments to Axios this week. He blamed “defund the police rhetoric” and progressive climate policies that were portrayed as killing oil jobs for Republican gains along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Cisneros, who supported a Green New Deal and Medicare for All, responded on Twitter with a screenshot of her four-point primary margins with Cuellar. 

Natalie Montelongo, the executive director of Julián Castro’s PAC People First Future, pushed back on Texas lawmakers who were blaming Medicare for All and a Green New Deal by sharing a photo of the 2020 primary results in the state, where Sen. Bernie Sanders won half the state, including the Rio Grande Valley. 

In an interview with the Signal last week, Gilberto Hinojosa doubted that those two issues cost Democrats votes, but admitted that the way Republicans took Biden’s position on fracking out of context was effective in South Texas. He also revealed that the Biden campaign spent only $15,000 in organizing the same region, another overlooked reason for losses in the region. 

Another piece of compelling evidence for why the new wave of progressive candidates and elected officials are less of a problem for moderate Democrats than they may believe: in Texas, Democrats lost all 10 Republican congressional districts targeted by Democrats with candidates across the ideological spectrum.

One reflection worth reading concerning this debate is from Sri Kulkarni, who ran on supporting Medicare for All in 2018 and did not support it in his second bid for Congress in 2020. He argues that Republican disinformation and attack ads labeled him and Joe Biden a socialist regardless of the planks on their platform, and admitted that running a more “centrist” campaign helped him with donors, but not voters.

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

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Rona isn’t done with us yet https://texassignal.com/rona-isnt-done-with-us-yet/ Fri, 13 Nov 2020 16:31:59 +0000 https://texassignal.com/?p=31958 As national political news remains in a state of oddly arrested development as we wait for Donald Trump’s frivolous lawsuits to at last finish their business of getting laughed out of courtrooms for Waukesha to Las Vegas, it was uncomfortably easy to miss the news. With Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick more intent to stoke Trump’s baseless claims of illegality surrounding the 2020 elections than to do their day jobs, earlier this week Texas became the first state to hit a tragic milestone when we surpassed one million diagnosed coronavirus infections since the pandemic began.  It quite […]

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As national political news remains in a state of oddly arrested development as we wait for Donald Trump’s frivolous lawsuits to at last finish their business of getting laughed out of courtrooms for Waukesha to Las Vegas, it was uncomfortably easy to miss the news.

With Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick more intent to stoke Trump’s baseless claims of illegality surrounding the 2020 elections than to do their day jobs, earlier this week Texas became the first state to hit a tragic milestone when we surpassed one million diagnosed coronavirus infections since the pandemic began. 

It quite literally did not and does not have to be like this. Rather than rededicating themselves and our state government to battling this deadly pandemic, Abbott took the time this week to jump on a radio show and pointedly refused to rule out a potential 2024 presidential bid.

And Patrick? He’s been trying to entice reports of voter fraud by dangling a million-dollar bribe for information. Of course, this comes despite the Department of Homeland Security issuing a memo that concluded the 2020 elections were the safest in our nation’s history. But who are you going to believe, facts or Dan Patrick’s soulless lies?

Over the last seven days, Texas has averaged more than 7,000 new cases and 99 deaths per day due to COVID-19 according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. More than 19,000 Texans have died since the pandemic began to sweep across the state. 

And so, because your Governor and his second in command won’t do it, we are again asking you to be vigilant. We know it can be hard to think about missing a family gathering over the Thanksgiving holiday, but families should carefully review the case data and trends in their home county and make informed and safe decisions.

If you can continue working from home and self-isolating as much as possible please do so. Wear your mask whenever you’re in public, and wash and sanitize your hands frequently. If you haven’t yet, please consider getting your flu vaccination. 

The final weeks of 2020 may be the worst of the pandemic. Please do everything you can to take care of yourself, your family and those around you. We’ll make it through this together.

Photo: Dan Tian/Xinhua via Getty Images

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