Texas Democratic Party Bum Steer

Illustration by Rami Niemi

The Texas Democratic Party may be the most inept political organization in the country. You’re probably familiar with Texas Dems’ litany of woe, but it bears repeating, if only to admire the sheer breadth of it. They haven’t won a statewide election since 1994. The most recent defeat, in 2014, when all the Democrats in statewide races lost by at least nineteen points, may have been the worst yet. It’s been more than three years since that blowout, and the party looks just as moribund now.

You might be thinking, well, of course, Texas is a Republican state, isn’t it? And that’s true. But plenty of other so-called red states have elected conservative Democrats in recent decades. Deep red Alabama, for instance, has had a Democratic governor and two Democratic lieutenant governors since 1999. Oklahoma had a two-term Democratic governor from 2003 through 2011, the last four years of which he was joined by a Democratic lieutenant governor. And North Dakota is currently represented in the U.S. Senate by a Democrat. Yet in Texas, the party can’t even get close.

Heading into 2018, Texas Dems have a rare chance to gain back ground. The GOP is saddled with an unpopular president and Congress, and the national mood favors Democrats. But while Texas Dems may gain a few seats in the state House, their slate of statewide candidates looks, as of this writing, historically weak.

The exception is U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, the only Democrat with an even shoot-the-moon chance of winning (see our profile in this issue). But everywhere else, Democratic prospects are grim. The party can’t even field strong candidates against indicted attorney general Ken Paxton and buffoonish agriculture commissioner Sid Miller, who famously used taxpayer money for a trip to Oklahoma to receive a restorative “Jesus shot.” Maybe the Dems should look into getting one of those.

It’s tempting to sit back and laugh at the hapless Texas Democrats, but their ineptness has serious consequences. Democracies need competitive elections. Without them, it’s hard for the electorate to hold leaders accountable. Left unchecked, the ruling party has drifted ever further to the right. For that, Democrats have no one but themselves to blame.

And Bum Steer number 3 is . . .