With the developing news that legislative Democrats may be preparing to break quorum in an effort to stop the Jim Crow 2.0 voter suppression legislation that Republicans have long been coveting, Texas Democrats must also step up to the plate and answer a difficult question that I get on an almost daily basis.
Who is running for governor?
Texas has already become the epicenter of the battle for voting rights in this country, as the drama in the lege plays out over the next few days, Texas is sure to be the biggest story in national politics.
It creates exactly the kind of an environment that a strong Democratic governor should be taking advantage of to build attention and raise money to defeat Republicans up and down the ballot in 2022.
And, folks, we need to be honest with each other. While it’s very noble of folks like Beto O’Rourke to say they aren’t yet considering a statewide campaign because they’re focused on the fight over the bills in the special session, it overlooks the fact that beating these bad bills today, this week, this month or this year will not matter if we don’t also drop the broom and vote out the Republicans who are so hell-bent on suppressing the vote and gerrymandering our state.
We know that because it’s what the recent political history of Texas has taught us. In the aftermath of the 2018 elections, when the Texas GOP lost seats right and left in suburban districts across the state, the Republicans had one of their most cautious legislative sessions in memory, shrewdly working to avoid setting any traps that their candidates might fall into during the 2020 cycle.
After maintaining their majority in the House, Republicans came back with vengeance in their hearts this session, rolling up their sleeves and working to pass a conservative wishlist of genuine, god awful policy priorities as our statewide elected officials began to game out their 2022 Republican primary strategies.
If we stop the Republicans right now, they will almost certainly add Jim Crow 2.0 to the call when Abbott brings lawmakers back to hash out redistricting in the fall. They’ve gone all in on passing this legislation, and they aren’t going to stop until they get what they want.
This brings us to the underlying reason why Democrats need to rally around a candidate for governor right now, today. With the Democratic caucus hurriedly strategizing their next steps, there isn’t a single voice offering leadership for the Democrats. Rather, the strategy and messaging thus far has been disjointed, with a number of members being quoted in the same stories delivering wildly different messages about what’s happening and why.
We need one person with the courage to seize this moment and take the mantle, not only for the Democratic Party but for every Texan who cares about their right to vote. We need a candidate willing to take the fight to the Republicans and frame the debate on our own terms.
If Democrats can’t find someone willing to step up to the plate and take on Abbott right now, with the eyes of the entire country intently on our state, we risk losing any opportunity we have to effectively fight back against the Republicans not only in 2022 but during that second special session on redistricting.
This is a moment that calls for political courage, not political calculation. Every elected official and leader in Democratic politics in Texas has their own ideas about when Texas will finally turn blue, and many of them have spent years constantly looking ahead for their big moment.
There won’t be big moments for Texas Democrats if we don’t stop the Republican conspiracy to suppress every vote that doesn’t agree with them. There won’t be big moments for Texas Democrats down-ballot in 2022 without a strong candidate at the top of the ticket.
We say every election is the most important election of our lifetime, but this time it’s never been truer. This election cycle in Texas is for the whole ball game. It’s time for real leaders to get the bat off their shoulders and swing for the fences.
Joe brings over a decade of experience as a political operative and creative strategist to Texas Signal, where he serves as our Senior Advisor and does everything from writing a regular column, Musings, to mentoring our staff and freelancers. Joe was campaign manager for Lina Hidalgo's historic 2018 victory for Harris County Judge and is a passionate sneakerhead.