Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Battle for Texas (Part II)

In the first part of this post, I explained what happened in the 2014 general election in Texas. Democrats lost badly statewide and in legislative contests. What is necessary to reverse the results?
I strongly believe that the only way to reverse the Republican dominance of Texas state and local elections in to organize precincts in urban and suburban areas of Texas on a multi-block level within voting precincts. What do I have in mind? 

As you know, political scientists agree that the most effective method of getting registered voters to vote is face-to-face contacts, preferably by people who they know and who share their values. That means, someone who lives in the neighborhood and whom they see frequently in the neighborhood. Can an organization at this level be created?

I have had the good fortune of seeing an operation like this in several precincts in southwest Austin during a runoff election campaign for a city council seat in District 8. Last weekend, precinct chairs and 30 campaign volunteers knocked on 600 doors in 9 targeted precincts by working small turfs near their residences. I was one of the volunteers. I had two turfs: one contained 16 homes, and the other had 18 homes. I covered them in about 2.5 hours. I talked to about one-half of the residents and left campaign literature on the others’ doors. The reception for the candidate was encouraging. The few who weren’t familiar with the candidate listened to my description of the candidate’s experience and issue positions, took the campaign literature, and promised to consider him.

In addition, and on my own, I have contacted most of the people who live on my block and nearby blocks, talked about the candidate, offered yard signs, and encouraged them to vote for the candidate. Through this process, I have been able to convince 23 people to vote for the candidate. As the end of early voting approaches, I will contact them to make sure that they have voted early or plan to vote on Election Day. I have also notified the campaign of my activities. My success is a result of my knowledge of my neighbors’ partisan and political views and the personal relationships that have been established during my thirteen years of living in the neighborhood.

I believe that a similar approach throughout the precincts in urban and suburban areas of Texas can yield Democratic victories. The changing demographics of Texas bodes well for the Democratic Party in Texas, but only if Democrats have the ability to organize voters and give them a reason to vote for Democratic candidates in national, state, and local elections. This means good candidates and exemplary organizations. It can be done!


  1. You are of course, spot on, a real organization at the precinct level is the ideal standard and the most effective way to win elections. The old-time political machines, such as Chicago Daley, machine were of course masters at all of this, but modern versions can be implemented. However, don't ever assume that the other side, are not capable of copying. In fact, I think the GOP has started (and they are still far behind) the sophisticated GOTV effort of Obama. As I said in part I, the GOP sleeping giant was partially awakened by Battleground Texas. Much credit must go to state GOP chair Steve Munisteri and his effort to bring the 21st century into the gotv effort.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I remember--when I was in Carbondale, IL and Centralia, IL (1959-1963, 1969-1978)--the Daley machine and its dominance not only of Cook County but the whole state of Illinois. It was built on patronage and worked well. Today, volunteers must be motivated by non-material incentives such as partisanship and ideology. I don't underestimate the ability of the GOP to organize its party members and get them to vote and to vote a straight-ticket (61 percent of the gubernatorial votes in Texas in 2014 were straight-ticket ballots and 58.3 percent was Republican). Furthermore, Republicans are easier to mobilize than Democrats for many reasons. So I believe that Republicans will continue to dominate electoral politics in Texas for at least the next three election cycles. Building a competitive Democratic Party in Texas will be expensive and require a sustained, precinct-level effort.