Is Texas being snubbed at this year’s Democratic National Convention?

by | Aug 13, 2020 | 2020 Elections, Politics

*The following story has been updated with a statement from the Texas Democratic Party.

This week, Democrats released their list of speakers for the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

Among them, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Pres. Barack Obama, Sec. Hillary Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The convention even found enough room to squeeze in John Kasich, a Republican and former governor of Ohio.

Noticeably absent: any Texans. It’s hard not to feel snubbed. Of the swing states in play in 2020, the Lone Star State offers the biggest election day prize of 38 electoral votes. Aggregate polling indicates Texas is as much of a tossup as Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, and Pennsylvania — states traditionally viewed as swing states.

Even in 2016, when the gains made by Democrats in Texas were modest compared to the midterms that followed, two Texans were invited to speak at the national convention, Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Joaquín Castro.

His twin brother, Obama-era housing chief Julian Castro, was given the coveted keynote spot at the convention in 2012. 

(A spokesperson for Castro told the Signal that Castro is slated to speak on a panel with other former candidates at the convention but does not have a standalone speaking role this year.)

And of course, national Democrats had an ear to the ground in Texas in 1988 when they invited then-Treasurer of Texas Ann Richards to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, catapulting her profile enough to successfully seek the governorship in 1990. 

Griping about the lack of a Texas presence at this year’s national convention isn’t just a misplaced sense of Lone Star State pride. It’s a serious misstep in representation; more than 2 million Texans cast their vote in the Democratic primary this year, more than any other state besides California. Put another way, Texans made up six percent of the total votes cast during the Democratic primaries.

“Representation matters, and, of course, we believe there’s a remarkable list of Texas leaders that should be front and center,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa told the Signal. “Our understanding is that the speaking program is not yet final, we are concerned, we have made inquiries, and we continue to advocate for Texas’ Democratic leaders.”

It’s also a serious misstep in strategy. Texas is the path to a supermajority in the U.S. House, which is already controlled by Democrats. Republicans knew this in 2003 when they gerrymandered the state and gained twelve congressional seats, securing the necessary votes for controversial legislation during the Bush presidency. Paying careful attention to developing Democratic figures in the state and chipping away at Republican dominance should be at the forefront of any comprehensive strategy to semi-permanently relegate Republicans to the sidelines in Congress.

Democrats have yet to announce their keynote speaker at this year’s convention. 

If a Texan were selected, they would be in a good position to challenge Gov. Greg Abbott in 2022 or Sen. Ted Cruz in 2024. 

Perhaps most importantly, giving a Texan a platform at the convention would be a way to acknowledge the fact that Texas is at the front lines of the Trump Administration. Many of the administration’s most unpopular policies, from Trump’s White Nationalist-driven immigration policy, inaction on climate change, attempts to roll back the Affordable Care Act, to the deregulation of safety and environmental rules for the oil & gas industry, affect or threaten Texas more than other states. 

For now, it looks like Texan will have to wait until 2024 for another chance at a shoutout.

Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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