Newsletter: D and R Achilles heels, election integrity, “House Cleaning”

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Welcome to the Signal’s newsletter of progressive politics in Texas. Here are our quick takes of the week. Click here to subscribe.

Election watchdog

The Texas Democratic Party sounded an alarm this week around the election results on Super Tuesday. The party made known, following last Tuesday’s Iowa debacle, the Texas Secretary of State told party officials that the agency “will not be able to report delegate totals on election night for the Texas Presidential Primary.” Hours later, the party issued another statement saying the SOS “decided to revert course and report all election results.”  Good for the party.

Why this matters: Election integrity — trust in the process — is obviously paramount. And the Sec. of State’s office has a recent history of trying to screw with voters. See the infamous voter purge scandal of 2019 when the office tried to erase tens of thousands of legal, legitimate voters from the rolls. With the beginning of early voting in Texas barely a week away, all the more reason to get out to the polls. 

Presidential contenders and Texas

Early voting in Texas begins Feb. 18. In the coming days we’ll be publishing a primer on the Democratic presidential primary for those who haven’t yet made up their minds. For now, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are leading the race in Texas, based on polls taken prior to this week. At least one independent poll is in the field now, so there should be fresh data prior to the 18th. 

In the meantime, which candidate wins over voters of color in Nevada and South Carolina will be telling. A Democrat can’t win Texas, the overall nomination, or the White House without the strong support of African American, Latinx and growing Asian American  communities. 

Republicans again vote against health care

Last night, Texas GOP Reps. Dan Crenshaw, Mike McCaul, Chip Roy and John Carter voted in support of President Trump’s proposal to allow states to turn Medicaid into block grants. That’s bad because block grants cap spending on health insurance coverage from Medicaid. In Texas, that’s the equivalent of not only sticking the knife in but twisting it. Already, the state didn’t expand Medicaid and has the highest uninsured rate in the nation. 

The DCCC noted that allowing block grants would likely “limit coverage and cut medical access for 3.5 million Texans who rely on Medicaid for their health coverage.”

“Texas Republicans’ votes today are irresponsible, dangerous, and just the latest in their longstanding assault on Texans’ health care,” DCCC spokesperson Avery Jaffe said. “Over the past year, Texas families have watched as their Republican congressmen have voted in favor of a lawsuit to rip away protections for pre-existing conditions, against lowering prescription drug costs and altogether refused to take on Trump’s proposed cuts to Medicare.” 

Health care is the GOP’s Achilles heel, as the 2018 midterm showed. We should keep exploiting the hell out of it. 

Jamming the signal 

There are a number of threats to Democrats this cycle. The newest: being completely overcome with projectile disinformation cooked up by savvy GOP information experts (and, potentially, the Russians). It’s our blind spot. As McKay Coppins notes in the latest issue of the Atlantic:

Every presidential campaign sees its share of spin and misdirection, but this year’s contest promises to be different. In conversations with political strategists and other experts, a dystopian picture of the general election comes into view—one shaped by coordinated bot attacks, Potemkin local-news sites, micro-targeted fearmongering, and anonymous mass texting. Both parties will have these tools at their disposal. But in the hands of a president who lies constantly, who traffics in conspiracy theories, and who readily manipulates the levers of government for his own gain, their potential to wreak havoc is enormous.

The Trump strategy, here and nationwide, is to be loud and spread false information far and wide across digital platforms. The goal is to drown out the progressive message. To make matters worse, at least in the short term, Facebook is allowing outright lies and legit fake news on their platforms. 

So what to do about it? The way to fight back, we think,  is not through fact checks; that’s like bringing a butter knife onto a battlefield of bazookas and bombs. The way to stand a chance is to fight fire with fire: engage in information warfare. Pump more compelling content out and get it before the right voters. That means spending millions of dollars on digital, TV, and radio ads— especially the more cost-effective digital spots. 

PODCAST: Our new “House Cleaning” segment on Texas state House elections

The Signal will be covering a number of competitive races for control of the Texas House of Representatives. Democrats only need to flip nine seats to win a majority. We begin our “House cleaning” series — ridding the house of right-wing Republicans — with a look at House District 112 in Dallas County. Hardcore conservative Angie Chen Button is running against progressive Brandy Chambers. Button has received a “who’s who” of right-wing endorsements.

We also spoke to Kirsten Myers, the area director for Refugee Services of Texas about Gov. Abbott’s decision to close Texas to refugees. “It’s really not even a matter of Republican versus Democrat, it’s not a matter of religion,” she said. “It’s really just welcoming people who are in need and that’s just based on morality. I think that Abbott himself is a little confused about the definition of a refugee.”

Also on the pod is Antonio Arellano, the director of Jolt Action, whom we spoke to about the growing power of the Latino vote in the state. 

You can listen to our podcast here.

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