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On Being Toto

Because of how I am, the path I have chosen, and what I believe is best for Texas, and the Texas Democratic Party I catch a little flack, and deserve some correction, from time to time. I welcome it. No one should be above criticism or reproach. Not me, not politicians, not candidates, not our poor messaging, and not the Texas and National Democratic Party. My friends sometimes tell me I am being negative, and unhelpful. Others accuse me of causing actual harm to the party. This is because the party establishment and leadership has nothing I want or need. I have chosen the path of a critic of our party, not that of a yes man or a cheerleader. Some caution that the best way to change and help the party is from within, and behind closed doors. I disagree. I believe the best way to help and change the party is to draw its inner workings, machinations and errors out into the light so that all Democrats can see it and we can then discuss together what we should do about it.

A current example of such an error is the establishment's desire to squelch a contested U.S. Senate Primary and get everyone to rally around a single, anointed candidate chosen in a smoke-filled room. Why? A contested primary for one of the highest state-wide elected offices is a sign that our party is alive. Contested primaries do not seem to hurt the GOP's chances in November. To squelch the competition of candidates and ideas within the party is to smother the party in its bed, with its own pillow. Let all the candidates make their case and let the Democracy choose. To do otherwise is arrogant. It is to say to the people, we know better how to choose a candidate and win an election than you do. I might go along with that if the party had won an election in the last thirty years. But they haven't. The fact is party leadership does not trust the people, its county chairs, precinct chairs, volunteers and primary voters. I believe there is right and there is wrong in politics. This is wrong.

What does it mean to be helpful as a Democrat in our current situation in Texas? What does it mean to be positive when, because of our failings and failed leadership, we have a Governor inflicting unheard of cruelty on people who have never hurt him, Texas or the United States? I do not fault the Republicans who voted for their candidate. I fault the Texas Democratic Party which because of its failed leadership has forgotten how to win an election, and the best I can tell apparently no longer really wants to. What does it mean to be helpful in a Republican one party state that hasn't elected a state wide candidate for longer than my adult children have been alive? What does it mean to be positive when our state officials silence free speech and are consolidating unprecedented power in their own hands in Austin while the only viable opposition party is nowhere to be seen?

Forgive me if I seem unhelpful or negative. But I am angry. Most Democrats are. But directing our ire towards Republicans only is to miss the bigger picture. Give me a party that wants help and I will be glad to help— but it doesn't. Show me a vision from the Texas Democratic Party that is a positive message and vision for the people of Texas and I will be positive—but it can't or won't. We need to reform the Democratic Party in Texas.

In my view offering criticism of an inept party and bad messaging is not being negative or unhelpful. It is being truthful. Only when we are truthful with ourselves can we fathom the problem and find our way back. FDR was truthful with the American people about the disaster at Pearl Harbor and our failings that let it happen. That made the country stronger, not weaker.

To be helpful, is to be like Toto. If you remember in The Wizard of Oz, Toto was Dorothy's dog who pulled the curtain aside to reveal the truth that there was no almighty and powerful Wizard at all. He was a weak, traveling patent medicine salesman behind a cheap curtain just pulling levers. It was all done with smoke and mirrors. It is only when Toto pulls back the curtain that Dorothy and her companions discover they had the courage, the heart and the brains all along. The did not need the Wizard at all. Neither do we.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

Many cannot conceive the problem, or are too afraid, are unwilling, or have too much invested in the current system to confront the powers that be to demand change. But if we believe in our party's old nick-name, "The Democracy", if we believe in Democracy, if we believe in freedom, we must have at least one Toto who will pull back the curtain and show us the truth and the reality. Only then can we confront ourselves, our challenges, our opportunities, and discover that we can do what the old Wizard can't or won't do.

I am not the enemy of the Texas Democratic Party. I am the truest friend she ever had because I am willing to tell her the truth with no varnish and to face it with her.

Jon Mark Hogg is a San Angelo lawyer, former County Chair, City Councilman, Candidate for Congress and a Founder of The 134 PAC.

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