While this phrase sounds biblical, it is not. It is actually an ancient Greek proverb. It is so old we do not know its true origin. In its most common form we know if from the tale of Hercules and the Wagoner in Aesop’s fables. The wagoner’s cart and oxen become mired in mud. The man sits down in disgust and calls on the God Hercules to lift the cart out of the mud for him. Hercules appears and tells the man, “The Gods help those who help themselves.”
Our Democratic cart is definitely in the mud in rural Texas. No God, no state party, no national party, no outsiders or outside money are going to put their shoulder to the wheel and do it for us. Stop looking to the TDP or the DNC or any outside group. The solution for what ails Democrats in rural Texas can only be found in rural Democrats.
Do not think we cannot do it on our own. The 29 counties that make up Texas 11th Congressional District by themselves contribute over a million dollars in election years to the Democratic Party and Democratic campaigns. Very little of it goes to West Texas parties, causes or candidates. There are 134 counties in Texas west of I-35. If one district can fund one million dollars, how much do the rest of these rural counties contribute? And how much of it makes it back to influence politics here? I would dare say none.
We have the financial resources to impact the politics in rural Texas if we as a region will decide to just spend a fraction of what we give outside our area to local parties, candidates and causes. But it is not enough to commit to give our money within rural Texas. We must also be able to coordinate and prioritize where and how it is spent. Texas is too big and too diverse a state to allow political decisions and messaging to be done as a one size fits all project dictated by one small group of people. These sorts of decisions are best made regionally and locally. They cannot be made effectively by a party organization that is ensconced in Austin that has no idea of the political conditions hundreds of miles away.
The TDP is structured hierarchically and holds the political decision making in Texas close. Whether by design or not, county parties and clubs look to the party in Austin for guidance and support, not to each other. That has started to change. Coalitions are forming, counties are working together. They are tired of being abandoned and are starting to take matters into their own hands. This is a good and healthy development.
We must break the mold of the old party structure and create a new one — one for the 21st century. Our counties and regions must be set free and encouraged to determine their own messaging and priorities and will be supported, not directed from Austin. We need a party structure that focuses on local control and regional decision making. It must also be flexible, and quickly adaptable to the fast moving and constantly changing conditions of 21st century politics.
This change will come. It will start in rural Texas.
Jon Mark Hogg is a lawyer in San Angelo, Texas and a former Democratic Candidate for Congress.