Updated: Nov 15, 2021
I am convinced that our obsession with state-wide races and big picture politics are what is killing the Democratic Party in rural Texas. For over thirty years we have told ourselves that if we just had the right candidate for Governor, or Senator, or one of the other big races, our voters will finally turn out in droves, and we will reclaim the Democrats rightful place of power in Austin. Then all will be right with the world.
That is a delusion so false, it is almost criminal. Yet we fall for it again and again. We have had several of those candidates over the decades. Every last one of them has gone down to defeat. "Yeah but we came close." Some will say. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. I don't care that Beto O'Rourke or Mike Collier came close. I care that rural and West Texas was their Achilles heel, as it has been for all state-wide Democratic candidates for decades.
I propose a different approach. The last thirty years of obsessing over state-wide races have been nothing but a waste of time and money. as far as I am concerned. I believe that politics is not a top down game. The only way to win at politics is for a local candidate to have people that will vote for him or her. That is the building block of democracy. Then the person with that support throws their support and voters behind someone in the race above them. That is how you build a governing coalition and win in party politics. Our nationalized form of politics has gotten us used to the campaign built around a cult of personality to draw people to them with a messianic fervor. This is not healthy and is undemocratic. This is how tyrants come to power.
I do not really care that much about who is at the top of the ticket. My view is that we need to worry more about getting candidates on the primary ballot for constable than we do for Governor. No matter who they are, in rural areas state-wide candidates do not bring independent rural voters to the polls to vote Democratic. Those who were going to vote for the Democratic state-wide candidates already were. To get the non-voters and swing voters we need good, well known local candidates for County Judge and County Commissioner, not Governor.
We need local candidates who will get people to the polls to vote for their family members, friends, fellow church members and business partners. Those are the voters that will elect a Democratic Governor, a Senator or a President. Beto himself acknowledged how important having down ballot candidates on the ticket was to his performance in the 2018 Senate race. The same holds true for Mike Collier who did even better than Beto in West Texas. It takes down ballot candidates and a state-wide candidate who is willing to run a true state-wide race for Democrats to have any chance of winning a state-wide race. Don't take my word for it. Read this assessment from the New York Times.
There is nothing new about this. It is old time politics. The reason people do not vote Democratic in rural Texas is not because so many of them are Republican. It is because we never give them any Democrats worth voting for at the local level. We must field candidates in every single race we can, regardless of the odds of winning. That is how you will grow the Democratic Party.
That is much easier said than done, I know. This is especially true in the red, rural counites. It can't be done by the state party. It can only be done by local people at the local level. Which is why all the rural and local infrastructure and support The 134 PAC wants to build is so vital. We can do this by starting and building local party apparatus, recruiting and vetting candidates.. If we want to grow the number of voters in the Democratic primary, get local candidates on the ballot. If you'd like to learn more, reach out and ask how we can help in your community.
Jon Mark Hogg is Founder of The 134 PAC.