An interesting way to look at Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s inaugural speech. Behold, the Word Cloud!
Stop me if you heard this one before: Texas Democrats get their asses handed to them in a mid-term election.
Unfortunately for me, I have heard it six times in six midterms. I recall moving to Austin in the Summer of 1994 (man, that was a great summer) and joining the staff of Comptroller John Sharp just in time for the credits to roll on the reign of the Democrat in Texas. Not only did Governor Ann Richards lose, but the so-called Republican Revolution decimated the Congress. We were 7 for 8 on statewides.
Bump in the road. Still have a great bench. Coming back next cycle.
In 1998, we ran a proven statewide winner, four-term Land Commissioner Garry Mauro. He was a FOB (Friend of Bill) and had what was at the time the best database of voters and Democratic activists statewide. He also had a very capable staff of battle-hardened veterans. Unfortunately for former Commissioner Mauro, he was getting on the tracks in front of the W train that was headed full speed for DC. There was no lift at the top of the ticket and the two most important races on the ballot–Lieutenant Governor and Comptroller–lost by the narrowest of margins (68,000 for Lt Guv & 20,000 for Comptroller). We went 0 for 14 on statewides.
But we had a plan.
2002. New guy. You’ve never heard of him. More money than sense. Hispanic. He can self-fund and awaken the sleeping giant of Hispanic voters. A triple threat if there ever was one. Bested Mauro’s margin by a full 8 points…but still couldn’t break 40%. There was no lift at the top of the ticket and the most important race on the ballot–Lieutenant Governor–lost by 260,000 votes. We went 0 for 15 on statewides.
Clearly, we were in a free fall. The so-called “Dream Team” had been a nightmare. I was livid.
On the way home from a campaign watch party at 1am I started making calls. This can’t stand, I said. We’ve got to do something different, I said. Everyone I spoke to over the next week agreed. After raising holy hell for two months for the ouster of then-TDP Party Chair and “mastermind” of the Dream Team, Molly Beth Malcolm, a vote of no confidence was held by the SDEC. I think we got two whole votes, but she resigned a few months later. Mission accomplished? This is the trough of our lifecycle, right. Um, no.
We slept through 2006 with a nice, but weak candidate who had tens of thousands of votes siphoned off by two Independent candidates (29%, by the way). No lift at the top of the ticket. Didn’t matter. When you sleep walk you don’t really care what is going on around you. We went 0 for 15 on statewides.
We’ll get them next time because W won’t be on the ballot. LOL.
2010. New guy. Unless you live in Houston, you’ve never heard of him. FOB. Can raise money. South Texas roots. Can raise money. He’ll make us competitive in East Texas again. Can raise money. In a wave election, former Houston Mayor Bill White got the best percentage of a gubernatorial candidate since Richards (42%), but was widely criticized for being a bad candidate. No lift at the top of the ticket despite a $10 million IE attacking Governor Rick Perry. 2010 made 2002 look like a success. From a near majority in the Texas House in 2008 to a 100-seat majority for the Republicans. We went 0 for 14 on statewides.
Sigh. No one knew what to do and no one really was in a position to complain. We were 0 for 58 in the prior 4 cycles.
2014. New gal. Good news: you’ve heard of her. Bad news: you’ve only heard of her because of her filibuster of a late-term abortion bill. Smart. Attractive. Ignites the base. Can raise money. Great back story. With the support of Battleground Texas and the Obama-ites she’ll swing suburban woman, bring new people to the polls, get the base fired up. No lift at the top of the ticket and the most important race on the ballot–Lieutenant Governor–lost by 900,000 votes. We went 0 for 14 on statewides.
In the words of the late, great Robin Williams in his best performance (The Survivors), “What do we do now, Sonny?”
One of the truly great things about social media and technology is the real-time analytics that can tell you what is happening around you.
On Twitter it manifests as “trending” topics. This election on Facebook you can see voting participation as projected on a map of the United States that includes when Election Day across the country begins and ends, how many people are voting per hour, where they live, and some of their demographic information.
Check it out at the link below.
This map is live and is constantly updating based on who is posting that they have voted. That button looks like this:
Make sure to click the “VOTE” button so that your friends and followers know you have stopped talking about what’s wrong with your city/state/country and started doing something about it.
Every cycle I find myself visiting with candidates at all levels who have gone through all of the stereotypical moves one thinks a campaign needs: logo, website, Facebook, Twitter, signs of various sizes, letterhead, contribution envelope, bumper sticker, pushcard, and t-shirt. From all outward appearances they have a campaign.
After two basic questions it becomes obvious that most candidates lack the basic facts and data one would need to mount a real campaign.
Me: What’s your magic number?
Candidate: What’s that?
Me: The number of votes you need to win?
Candidate: Oh, I don’t know. I think there were about (crazy guess that’s always way off) voters last election.
Me: The last midterm or presidential?
Candidate: I don’t know. I think presidential. Is that important?
Me: How many positive IDs do you have?
Candidate: What do you mean?
Me: How many people have said they will vote for you?
Candidate: I think there’s a lot of support out there. I was endorsed by (fill in the blank) and I think that will help.
Me: So do you have a list of yeses…of people who said they would vote for you?
Candidate: How/Where do I get that?
It doesn’t matter how many t-shirts you’ve given to casual supporters and people you will never see again, it doesn’t matter how many bumper stickers are sitting on a shelf in your HQ that will never see the light of day, and, I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but it really doesn’t matter how many yard signs you have randomly put out if you don’t know the answer to these two basic questions about your electorate.
Questions 1 & 2 come in that order because that is the order one should employ in a campaign: if I need 10,500 votes to get to 50%, I need to accumulate at least 10,501 positive IDs in order to stand a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning. You can go a little out of order and start accumulating positives before you know your magic number, but sooner or later you must know how many you need or you will not know when to stop accumulating and shift to other activities like suppression and GOTV.
The good news is that if you have not figured out your magic number by 7 days out, it isn’t too late.
The bad news is that if you have not accumulated enough positive IDs (or any, as is frequently the case), it is too late.
The final week of a campaign should be entirely centered around getting your positives out to vote. If you have no list to get out, you have all of the accoutrement of a campaign but no real campaign. You have effectively bought an election lottery ticket: you may win, but it will not be because of your campaign efforts but rather outside forces of which you exerted minimal influence over.
So, if you can answer Questions 1 & 2, congratulations! The onus is now on you and yours to make it happen. If you cannot, may the odds be ever in your favor.
The Voter Games are cruel. There can only be one victor.
The NSA snooping on the phone calls and emails of American citizens is hardly breaking news. Since it was ratified via the Patriot Act in 2001 , some three-letter outfit or another has been spying on you.
None of this happened by accident. A leaked NSA Inspector General report detailed exactly how this all came to pass…and it is oddly riveting for a government report. It explains in elaborate detail how former Vice President Dick Cheney ramrodded the evisceration of Article IV and made certain that every piece of “telephony” and “internet” metadata (a fancy term for the content, rather than the mere physical details of the communication).
As far back as 2006 there were news reports of telecom companies installing splitters and setting up separate rooms to pipe all data directly to the NSA. The largely ignored USA Today article left little to interpretation, stating:
For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.
But in the second paragraph of the article it got one critical point wrong:
The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren’t suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.
As the aforementioned Inspector General’s report clearly states, metadata was authorized for collection and analysis.
So, why does this matter?
In short, because it violates basic rights guaranteed to us under the Bill of Rights–specifically Articles IV, V, and VI. But in long form, it violates the Social Contract as spelled out famously in John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, which our Founding Fathers relied heavily on during the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Due to my work in politics I can guarantee that the NSA has enjoyed an earful and eyeful of my communications with clients as we discussed legislation, positions papers, policy statements, and speeches where words were used that would have certainly set off flashing lights and blaring horns on the NSA software.
A basic search of my email shows 105 emails containing the word “terrorism”, 41 with “bomb”, 9 with “bin Laden”, 85 with “attack”, and 78 with “homeland security”. I can hardly imagine how many phone conversations I have had with clients where those terms and more were discussed.
If you want to know how often you run afoul of NSA filters, here the list.
So, as the NSA violates my rights by listening to me sing my kids silly songs while I’m on the road, hear about the trials of my Great Grandmother’s bad hip, and listen to my best friend’s endless debate with me on the Designated Hitter and PEDs, they are wasting valuable bandwidth, time, effort, and tax dollars that would otherwise be directed at finding actual terrorists.
The presumption of innocence and freedom from self-incrimination alone should be sufficient to gut any argument in favor of monitoring every communication by an American citizen not suspected of any crime. In the past, even American citizens suspected of criminal acts were afforded the guarantee that a warrant must be sought out in order for their communications to be monitored, but no longer. We are all presumed guilty. That isn’t just sad, it is un-American.
- US privacy group challenging NSA and FBI collection of phone records (guardian.co.uk)
- Dick Cheney Defends Spy Program, While Attacking Obama (atlantablackstar.com)
- Supreme Court asked to suspend NSA and FBI’s blanket collection of phone data (rawstory.com)
- Five unanswered questions about the NSA’s surveillance programs (thehill.com)
There is one absolute certainty in life and in politics: things change. The Texas Senate was not always 19-12 for the dark side…er…Republican side. In the 59th Legislature, Democrats held the Senate chamber 31-0. As recently as the 74th Democrats were 17-14. Like I said, things change.
There is great potential–bordering on inevitability–to pick up Senate seats. We don’t need a miracle, we need money and muscle to change the makeup of the Senate and, ultimately, turn it solidly Blue…not in 10 cycles, but possibly 2-3.
Now, if you follow Texas politics at all, you just decided that I am suffering from severe head trauma. I have gotten the same reaction from everyone…I’ve been accused of worse.
Granted, if you do it right, there is nothing easy about any campaign. There is certainly nothing easy about taking on an incumbent in a gerrymandered district. But, who in the hell said politics was meant to be easy? Personally, I’ve heard enough whining about what cannot be done and what races cannot be won to last me a lifetime. This sitting around waiting for demographics to get right or some other gimmick or miracle is precisely how Democrats could be relegated to the minority for another 20 years.
The conventional wisdom is that Democrats need a miracle to pick up any single seat, much less turn the chamber Blue. The numbers show, this reaction is based more on assumptions rather than any empirical evidence.
Here are some districts that should be immediate targets:
SD9 Kelly Hancock (R) Non-White CVAP*= 47% (272,400) 2012 Total Vote=233,577
SD16 John Carona (R) Non-White CVAP= 47% (288,695) 2012 Total Vote=181,746
SD17 Joan Huffman (R) Non-White CVAP=47.5% (287,575) 2012 Total Vote=238,707
*citizen voting age population
First of all, I am well aware that a sole reliance on non-White voters would mean we need astronomical turnout (except in SD 16 where a mere 35% turnout of non-white voters bests Carona). Non-White voters are a piece of the puzzle–not the panacea some think it is. I am also aware that Romney rolled in these districts, as he did in 20 of the 31 districts.
It is also important to note that the 3 districts hold meaningful populations in counties that are nearly 100% Blue from top to bottom (Dallas & Harris), so we are not exactly talking about a handful of voters scattered across a 37-county district like District 31. We are talking about large concentrations of non-white voters in large, urban counties where active GOTV programs are already in place.
For the sake of comparison, SD 10’s non-white VAP is 47.3%, the 2012 total vote was 287,759, Romney won it in the mid-50s, it has numerous down ballot Democratic officeholders, and it holds a meaningful population in an urban county where active an active GOTV program is already in place. Basically, it looks identical to 9, 16, & 17 on paper. The only difference? We made SD 10 a priority, got a good candidate, dedicated the resources, and made it happen.
These 3 districts have good bones, a good bench, and access to existing infrastructure. For a party that desperately needs to grow its market share, these look like a good place to start. (I can assure you that when the Republicans swiped SD 3 in 1994 and SD 5 in a 1997 special, their numbers didn’t look this good.) With a dash of candidate recruitment, a splash of smart staffers, and a chunk of cash, Texas Democrats can be knocking on the door of a 16-15 minority status…not in 10 cycles, but in 2-3.
The closer the margin in the Texas Senate, the more clout we have as a caucus. The more clout we have as a caucus, the greater our ability to kill bad policies, raise money, and force more seats into play. The more seats we force into play, the more seats we win. It ain’t rocket science.
Hell, if we don’t have the sand to take shots at districts with good bones, a good bench, and existing infrastructure, we need to pack it in. Period.
Winning challenge campaigns (and I have won my fair share) is about picking out a good district and fighting like all hell–not waiting for a perfect scenario or sure thing. If the Senate Caucus members put 10% of the more than $14.5 million they individually held in cash reserves on the January 2013 semiannual report towards organizing and turning out Ds in 9, 16 & 17 it might well be the largest Democratic commitment on the ground for state senate races in Texas history…and it would almost certainly yield positive results in the Senate, as well as up and down the ballot.
Yes, things change. As with most things in life, things don’t change because of a miracle. Things change because folks get their mind right, roll up their sleeves, and make change happen.