Appearing in the San Antonio Express-News, columnist Rick Casey brought up the subject of Castro’s speech and what it could mean to Texas Democrats. Casey recounted that President Obama, in a recent fundraising visit to San Antonio, told supporters about the millions of dollars that would be spent on TV ads painting the faltering economy as his fault.
From Casey’s commentary:
Then he [Obama] said this: “The next four months, you guys won’t see them, because, you know, you’re not considered one of the battleground states, although that’s going to be changing soon … ”
The Democratic crowd roared.
Was Obama pandering or engaging in wishful thinking, or both? After all, Texas hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
I absolutely disagree with the president and anybody else who thinks that Texas is going to be a battleground state in the foreseeable future. The Democratic party in this state is on life support. It is not a factor in state politics. It made scant effort to recruit candidates in legislative districts where, as recently as the middle of the previous decade, Democrats were winning elections. In 2010, every incumbent Democrat in a contested state House race was defeated.
The party’s fundraising base was destroyed by tort reform in 2003. Republicans have successfully demonized trial lawyers. The party chairman is a former county judge and onetime South Texas political boss who was defeated by a Republican. The party’s candidate for U.S. Senate is Paul Sadler, a former state legislator who was one of the best members of the Legislature in his day, but that was a long time ago. He has no realistic chance against Ted Cruz, and his party cannot come close to funding a major statewide campaign. I doubt that the national Democratic party will put much in the way of resources into Sadler’s campaign. For all practical purposes, there is no Democratic party in the state with the capacity to engage in and win elections.
For the better part of two decades, Democrats have put their hopes on an increase in the Hispanic vote, only to be frustrated, election cycle after election cycle. But there is little indication of a “brown wave” that could change the pattern of the Hispanic vote. The increase in Hispanic voting is steady, but it is not sufficient to allow Democrats to compete with Republicans.
The one thing Democrats do have is talent. Marc Veasey and Pete Gallego won their congressional primaries, as did Joaquin Castro. Gallego’s race against Republican Quico Canseco will be one of the marquee matchups of this election cycle.
San Antonio mayor Julian Castro has a bright future, but he holds a nonpartisan office that is a notoriously poor base for winning statewide. Bill White didn’t make it; Ron Kirk didn’t make it; Kirk Watson didn’t make it. Castro has the time and the opportunity to make a splash. There is little that his party can do for him.
As far as I can tell, the strategy of the Democratic party is to hope that Republicans continue to move farther and farther to the right until they become so extreme that the independents will take a look at the Democrats. It’s not a bad bet.