Yes he did! Retired game warden Pete Flores poaches Democratic Senate seat!

 

Good day Austin:

Well, at least they didn’t chant, Sí, se puede.

That would have been overkill, gloating, rubbing it in.

But exultant Republicans did spontaneously chant the English version of the United Farmworkers-cum-Barack Obama motto – Yes we can! – at Pete Flores’ victory party last night, because, yes they did, yes he did, with the retired game warden convincingly defeating Pete Gallego, a former state representative and member of Congress, in what for Democrats was a must-win, can’t-lose district, a devastating defeat that serves as a pin prick to what overnight looked like overblown Democratic expectations in Texas for 2018.

This from last night’s Flores’ victory, in every detail, could be the most excruciating seven minutes of video a Texas Democrat could ever have to endure watching.

Dan Patrick: Pete Flores made history. For the first time in history there are 21 Republican senators. For the first time in history we have an Hispanic Republican senator.

Seven weeks from tonight I have a message for the Democrats that Pete Flores and his hard work delivered here. All this talk about a blue wave, well the tide is out.

Patrick: And here’s the message to the Democrats: If you think – and this is a 66 percent Hispanic district – if you think Hispanic Republicans across the state are going to vote for abortion, open borders, to take your guns away, to raise your taxes, well, the message was sent tonight and the answer is “no.”

Patrick introduced Flores and then, at about the 2:15 mark, as Patrick was high-fiving Texas Republican Party Chairman James Dickey – he’s the one under the Trump (and some, I assume are good people)  sign – the crowd spontaneously began chanting, Yes we can!

From Chuck Lindell’s story:

Casting serious doubt on Democratic hopes for a blue wave in Texas, Republican Pete Flores defeated Democrat Pete Gallego in Tuesday’s runoff election for a vacant seat in the state Senate — a seat that had been safely Democratic in previous years.

Flores will represent Senate District 19 when the Legislature convenes in January, filling the final two years of the term vacated when former Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, resigned in June, shortly before he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role in defrauding investors in a Texas oil services company.

With Tuesday’s victory, Republicans will hold 21 of the Texas Senate’s 31 seats, giving Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick an even stronger base of support in the 2019 legislative session.

¡Ay, caramba!

Reading those three paragraphs and you realize this was as important, as consequential an election as is likely to occur in Texas in 2018.

The stakes could not have been higher.

Yup. There it is. Right above ROGER STONE: “I will never roll….

But Democrats, don’t worry. Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa has it covered, issuing the following statement:

Come November, no Democrat can sit on the sidelines and no campaign can take any vote for granted. We need to make sure that every voter understands what’s at stake.

Governor Abbott stole an election, plain and simple. Republicans set a date that would guarantee low voter turnout, then Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Republican special interests poured money into the race, denying the people of West Texas and the U.S. Mexico border representation that shares their values.

This was a hard-fought race, but make no mistake, Texas Democrats will not stop fighting to give every Texan the fair shot they deserve.

Shame on Texas Republicans – using their money and power to win an election.

LBJ is rolling over in his grave.

And it was ultra-sneaky running a candidate who bore such a superficial resemblance to Gallego.

And the same first name.

And, who without any doubt, actually lived in the district.

Christian Archer struck a more somber, realistic note:

From Dylan McGuinness’s story in the Express-News.

Christian Archer, Gallego’s campaign strategist, said he was shocked by the results, adding that they weren’t able to generate as much excitement as the Republicans.

“I don’t have any regrets, but I have a lot of disappointment,” Archer said.

Flores’ win marked an incredible upset in a district that political observers said shouldn’t have been competitive for Republicans. Low turnout in special elections and high-level GOP interests in preserving a Senate supermajority helped push Flores across the line, they said.

“It will provide a completely unexpected gift for Republicans for the next legislative session,” said Mark Jones, a professor of political science at Rice University.

Jones said Flores’ victory all but assured a Republican supermajority next year, which would allow Senate Republicans to bring bills to the floor without any Democratic support

Maybe Gallego lacked a spark.

From yesterday in the thick of Election Day get-out-the-vote efforts, Gallego was the calm in the storm. Or the drizzle.

Before Gallego decided not to run again for his old seat in Congress, now held by U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, whose own already decent re-election prospects against Gina Ortiz Jones, look brighter this morning, I quoted Rick Treviño, who ended up in a runoff for the Democratic nomination against Jones, as saying, of Gallego:  “Sequels are bad, trilogies are worse, and this guy is no Rocky IV.”

 

From Asher Price’s story on the Quinnipiac poll:

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has a 9 percentage point lead over challenger U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, according to a poll of likely voters released Tuesday.

The Quinnipiac University poll has Cruz holding a 54 percent to 45 percent lead over O’Rourke. Ninety-three percent of those polled who picked a candidate said their minds were made up on the matter.

As in previous polls, white and male voters tend to favor Cruz; voters of color and women tend to favor O’Rourke.

“The Texas U.S. Senate race between Sen. Ted Cruz and Congressman Beto O’Rourke, and Democratic hopes for an upset win there, have boosted talk of a Senate takeover. These numbers may calm that talk,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll, said in an analysis accompanying poll results. “Congressman O’Rourke may be drawing big crowds and media attention, but Texas likely voters like Sen. Cruz better.”

From Quinnipiac:

Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz has a 54 – 45 percent likely voter lead over U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, his Democratic challenger, in the Texas Senate race, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released today.

This is the first survey of likely voters in this race by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll, and can not be compared to earlier surveys of registered voters. Among Texas likely voters who choose a candidate, 93 percent say their mind is made up. That includes 94 percent of Cruz backers and 92 percent of O’Rourke backers.

Women are divided as 50 percent back Cruz and 48 percent back O’Rourke. Men back Cruz 57 – 42 percent. White voters back Cruz 66 – 32 percent. O’Rourke leads 97 – 3 percent among black voters and 54 – 45 percent among Hispanic voters.

Republicans back Cruz 94 – 6 percent, as Democrats go to O’Rourke 94 – 4 percent. Independent voters are divided with 51 percent for O’Rourke and 47 percent for Cruz.

Texas likely voters approve 53 – 44 percent of the job Cruz is doing and give him a 52 – 43 percent favorability rating.

O’Rourke gets a divided 43 – 42 percent favorability rating.

This is not good news for O’Rourke. Cruz has a higher favorability rating. And O”Rourke is not doing nearly as well as he needs do with Hispanics, and Lupe Valdez, the Democratic candidate for governor, may be of marginal help to him on that score.

From Quinnipiac:

There is a wide racial gap in the Texas governor’s race, as Republican incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott leads former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez 58 – 39 percent among likely voters.

Gov. Abbott leads 69 – 28 percent among white voters as Valdez leads 83 – 16 percent among black voters. Hispanic voters are divided with 49 percent for Abbott and 45 percent for Valdez.

But, that’s just one poll.

From Reuters:

Among the bright spots for Democrats: U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas had a 2-percentage-point lead over Cruz among likely voters in the state and U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona had a 3-point lead over Republican congresswoman Martha McSally in the race to succeed U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, one of Trump’s most vocal critics from within his own party.

Both leads are within the poll’s 4-percentage-point credibility intervals, a measure of precision, meaning the candidates are drawing about the same level of support.

The finding suggests that O’Rourke has a shot at becoming the first Democrat to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate in a quarter century.

“There’s a possibility it could happen. I’m not saying probable. But it’s possible,” said Larry Sabato, director of the UVA Center for Politics.

Cruz’s feuds with Trump during his unsuccessful 2016 campaign also hurt his standing with some Texas Republicans, Sabato added, saying: “That damaged him with parts of the Texas electorate that he needs for re-election.”

The Reuters/Ipsos/UVA poll was conducted online, in English, from Sept. 5 to 17. It surveyed between 992 and 1,039 people in each of five states including California and weighted the responses according to the latest government population estimates.

So, take your pick.

Beto O’Rourke is no Pete Gallego. Or rather, Pete Gallego is no Beto O’Rourke.

But no Democrat can be cheered by yesterday’s outcome.

As Henson and Blank recently laid out, even if everything breaks O’Rourke’s way, he’s still very unlikely to win, and yesterday’s outcome in Senate District 19, while not a real test of general election mobilization, does nothing to suggest that Texas Democrats are going to be able to expand the electorate – especially with Hispanic voters even in the thick of the Trump presidency – in the dramatic way on which their success in the  2018 midterm election depends – or that Texas Republicans are less motivated or will be caught napping.

THE ODDS AGAINST O’ROURKE: SOME BACK-OF-THE-ENVELOPE VOTE COUNTING IN THE TEXAS SENATE RACE

A series of recent articles focused on Republican concerns over Senator Ted Cruz’s reelection chances has Democrats beaming, and national reporters falling all over themselves to get in front of the possible defeat of Cruz in deep red Texas. The attraction of the storyline for editors and reporters is obvious enough, and poll numbers showing low single-digit leads for Cruz provide a ready rationale for ever more breathless speculation on Beto O’Rourke’s chances of pulling off an upset. But a look at recent election outcomes and some simple back-of-the-envelope math highlight just how unlikely an O’Rourke victory is in Texas.

While “unlikely” doesn’t mean impossible – this is where we usually insert something about a “non-zero probability” – the magnitude of the change in the patterns evident in recent Texas elections would have to be historic. If we consider recent midterm elections since 2010, the average Republican vote total has been 2,798,519 votes, which we can round to 2.8 million for simplicity. The average Democratic vote total in those races has been 1,846,459, which we can round up to 1.9 million (again, for simplicity). This means that Democrats, on average, have to make up approximately 900,000 votes to get in the range of a tie in Texas. What would this take? (The table below also includes presidential results from 2016, just to provide context, though those results are not factored into these averages).

Recent Top of the Ticket Election Outcomes in Texas
Year Race Republican Vote Total Democratic Vote Total Republican Vote Total Advantage Republican Vote Share Advantage
2016 President 4,685,047 3,877,868 807,179 +9
2014 Senator 2,861,531 1,597,387 1,264,144 +27
2014 Governor 2,796,547 1,835,596 960,951 +20
2012 President 4,569,843 3,308,124 1,261,719 +16
2012 Senator 4,440,137 3,194,927 1,245,210 +16
2010 Governor 2,737,481 2,106,395 631,086 +13

This assessment is based on some quick math, rather than finely grained projections, geographic or otherwise, and there are plenty of other ways one might go about this exercise. But simply thinking about vote totals based on previous elections provides a succinct look at what one is talking about when one considers Beto O’Rourke defeating Ted Cruz.

A good starting point is one of the underlying assumption of many assessments of O’Rourke’s chances: the potential migration of votes from the expected GOP vote either to O’Rourke or to the Texas army of the non-voting. The most recently released poll, as of this writing, showed 15 percent of likely Republican voters saying that they’ll cast a vote for O’Rourke. According to a few different analytic approaches using University of Texas / Texas Tribune polling data of registered voters, as well as Texas Lyceum data of registered and likely voters, the size of the poll of potential Republican cross-over voters is probably closer to 6 percent. This estimate is drawn from current polling, which almost certainly reflects a different underlying population than the likely electorate once general election voting begins, so the size and magnitude of the shift in this data may or may not emerge in actual voting. But assuming just for the sake of this exercise that O’Rourke has or will convince 15 percent of Republican voters to cast a vote for him (which would be quite impressive), we can subtract those votes from the average Republican vote total and add them to the average Democratic vote total, resulting in 420,000 votes shifting to the O’Rourke column. This would cut his likely deficit to 480,000 votes.* While this 15 percent estimate seems high given the context (and divergence of) the polling data, it tests the outer limits for one of the clear concerns of Republicans in Texas and elsewhere: the possibility of either a lack of enthusiasm or outright discontent leading to an increase in Republican non-voting among usually reliable midterm voters.

In addition to discontent with Cruz amongst Republicans, O’Rourke would also have to turn out Democrats at significantly higher rates than normal. So let’s assume, again for the sake of argument, that Democratic turnout increases by 20 percent, which would add another 380,000 votes to O’Rourke’s total. Even under this optimistic scenario, combined with the outer-bound estimate of Republican defections, this surge in turnout would only result in a decrease in the overall expected gap between O’Rourke and Cruz to 100,000 votes – a little more than 3.5 percent under our rough turnout assumption – still in Cruz’s favor.

This simple, back-of-the-envelope calculation using incredibly optimistic expectations (if you’re a Democrat) about the electorate shows why, when experts are asked about O’Rourke’s chances at toppling Cruz, they are so cautious in feeding the hype. Even under extremely rosy circumstances, O’Rourke needs BOTH a momentous shift in voter sentiment, AND a momentous shift in Democratic turnout: possible, but still not probable.

The risks of cool: Is Beto skating on thin ice with his old DWI?

Good Friday Austin.

Forty-four years ago, at the age of 20, I drove drunk and got in a minor accident.

I have no memory of what happened.  All I know is I could have killed someone. I could have killed myself.

I was two years into college at Tufts University. I had moved into a house off-campus for the first time with a friend, and we were throwing a party and, well, hardly anyone showed up (I’m not even sure  my housemate came).

In despair and humiliation, I consumed most of what was probably a 750 ml bottle of Jack Daniels, my drink of choice, having outgrown the sicklening sweetness of Southern Comfort. That summer I had made a pilgrimage in my parent’s hand-me-down Dodge Dart to the Jack Daniels distillery on my drive from Somerville, Massachusetts, to visit a college friend in Seguin. (It would also be my first visit to Austin.)

The next morning after my “party” – actually the next afternoon –  I woke up in my bed and realized I couldn’t account for the night before.

I didn’t know where my car was. I walked in circles around the neighborhood and the nearby campus looking for it, sheepishly asking friends if they had seen me the night before. (I didn’t bother to ask why they had not shown up for my party, which would have saved me from the awful dilemma I found myself in.)

Eventually, I got a call from the Somerville police. I had apparently grazed a car with my car and parked it, or nicked the other car while trying to park the Dart. There was not much damage to either car, and there had been no one in the other car, but that was sheerest good fortune.

I went to the police station. I told them what I knew, which was not much, and the officer, who was used to dealing with students from Tufts and other fancy schools in an area teeming with them, told me I had a privileged and lucky place in the world, and not to blow it.

That was it.

I felt embarrassed, ashamed, chastened and enormously privileged and lucky.

I told my family and a few friends about what happened, but have seldom mentioned it since.

To this day, a mere sniff of Jack Daniels makes me retch, though I learned in the last few years that that reaction only applies to Jack Daniels and its inferiors, and not to the many finer whiskeys now so available, which are better savored than swilled.

I am telling you about this experience because it kept coming to mind of late as I thought about how to assess Beto O’Rourke’s DWI twenty years ago, in the early morning hours of Sept. 27, 1998, following on the night of his 26th birthday.

I am back this week after two weeks back East for the wedding of my son last Saturday, and my nephew, the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend.

Just before I headed East, Gardner Selby had done a PolitiFact Texas looking at whether O’Rourke had been arrested for drunk driving back in 1998, as Silvester Reyes, the congressman he unseated in 2012, had charged in a campaign ad that year.

That DWI was not in dispute.

As Selby noted, “Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke of Texas has said that in younger days he was twice arrested in his hometown of El Paso–once, he says, for leaping a campus fence and the other time for driving while intoxicated.”

“The oldest published account of the arrests appears to be an April 2005 El Paso Times news story about O’Rourke’s successful run for a seat on the El Paso City Council. The story, which we found by searching the Nexis news database, quoted the incumbent, Anthony Cobos, stressing O’Rourke’s DWI arrest. Cobos, who later served as county judge before being convicted on embezzlement charges, said at the time: “I think you lead by example and his example speaks for itself.”

According to the story, O’Rourke was arrested on a DWI charge in September 1998 that was dismissed in 1999 after he completed a court-recommended DWI program. “I’ve been open about that since the very beginning. I have owned up to it and I have taken responsibility for it,” O’Rourke told the paper.

But, on the Friday before Labor Day I saw on my phone a tweet about a story revealing new information on the 20-year-old DWI.

The story had originated with Kevin Diaz, a Washington correspondent with the Houston Chronicle.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke has long owned up to his drunken driving arrest 20 years ago, describing it in a Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News op-ed piece earlier this week as a “serious mistake for which there is no excuse.”

Although the arrest has been public knowledge, police reports of the September 1998 incident – when the Democratic Senate candidate had just turned 26 – show that it was a more serious threat to public safety than has previously been reported.

State and local police reports obtained by the Chronicle and Express-News show that O’Rourke was driving drunk at what a witness called “a high rate of speed” in a 75 mph zone on Interstate 10 about a mile from the New Mexico border. He lost control and hit a truck, sending his car careening across the center median into oncoming lanes. The witness, who stopped at the scene, later told police that O’Rourke had tried to drive away from the scene.

O’Rourke recorded a 0.136 and 0.134 on police breathalyzers, above a blood-alcohol level of 0.10, the state legal limit at the time. He was arrested at the scene and charged with DWI, but completed a court-approved diversion program and had the charges dismissed.

In a statement Thursday, O’Rourke did not address the witness account of his alleged attempt to flee.

“I drove drunk and was arrested for a DWI in 1998,” O’Rourke said. “As I’ve publicly discussed over the last 20 years, I made a serious mistake for which there is no excuse.”

That and a separate arrest for jumping a fence at a University of Texas-El Paso facility have long been a matter of record in O’Rourke’s public life, both on the El Paso City Council and in Congress. But the unexplained details of the crash and DWI in Anthony, a suburb about 20 miles north of El Paso that borders New Mexico, could now emerge as a potential attack point in his quest to unseat Texas Republican Ted Cruz.

The report (and the reporter referred to in the report, is I believe, simply a reference to a witness, not to a member of my besieged and dwindling craft) paints a far more disturbing picture of the scene than my default assumption that O’Rourke had simply been pulled over for weaving, or the like,  and found to be drunk.

His story doesn’t really add up, except perhaps as the best a drunk suspect could come up with on the fly.

But again, who am I to talk?

O’Rourke told the El Paso Times in 2012 that “he was driving an intoxicated friend home in the fall of 1998 when he was arrested for DWI.”

There is no mention of the other person in the police report.

O’Rourke was never charged with attempting to leave the scene – and it’s not clear from the report how exactly the witness kept him from fleeing. O’Rourke completed a diversion program and the charge was dismissed.

Case closed.

But, when I read the Chronicle story, I assumed it would explode.

O’Rourke had been on a most remarkable run that had made what should be an unwinnable race at least competitive. But, to sustain his momentum, everything needed to continue to break just right, and now here was that unforeseen thing breaking very wrong.

It seemed like the kind of story that could give serious pause to that small but crucial category of Texas voters who don’t usually vote Democratic but were thinking about giving this open and engaging new guy a shot.

From New York Magazine:

It’s true that drunk-driving offenses are nothing new for Texas voters — former governor George W. Bush once pleaded to driving under the influence, an incident that came out in the press just before he won the presidency in 2000, and did not seem to hurt his standing in the eyes of Texans. But O’Rourke came closer to causing death and destruction than Bush. O’Rourke has also positioned himself as a forthright chronicler of his own imperfect past, and the fact that he left out a key part of it may hurt his reputation for candor.

I thought that it certainly meant that every time he was compared to a Kennedy – which is all the time – the underside of that likeness would now kick in.

I thought that myself and other reporters – at fault for not having had the story sooner – might look at O’Rourke at least a little differently.

And I thought that even Betomania might now be tinged with some doubt, that even his supporters might pause for a moment to take it in.

But, I was wrong, at least so far – and I say so far because I am sure the Cruz campaign and/or allied super Pacs, will eventually make great use of it – because the story didn’t blow up and, so far at least, it doesn’t appear to have slowed O’Rourke’s momentum one whit.

The week between my two weddings, O’Rourke appeared on The Ellen Show, after DeGeneres, in awe of his viral tweet on NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem, tweeted …

I didn’t watch the show live, but I figured this would be a very safe space for O’Rourke to offer a fuller, more Beto-like explanation of the new facts about his long-ago DWI.

When I looked later, The Ellen Show had cut up his interview into bite-size videos, one of which had the promising title, US Senate Candidate Beto O’Rourke Gets Candid on His DUI.

 Here it is. You can watch it, and then I’ll break it down into even more bite-size morsels.

 

Yes indeedly-doodly, as Ted Cruz might saying doing his best Ned Flanders.

Ellen proceeded cautiously.

 

 

OK Beto, let ‘er rip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was, in and of itself, a good answer, and one that, as someone who benefited from the same privileges twenty years earlier, I wholly subscribe to.

To Beto I say, “Right on my white brother.”

The audience loved it, and I thought, fine, now keep going. Put a little texture, some telling detail, on what happened way back when. Lay a little candor on us. At least tell us that no one showed up at your birthday party and you were drowning your sorrows

But no. That was it.

OK. I understand this isn’t Ellen’s job, but then she shouldn’t present her tropical pink set as  place where candor, and not just canned righteousness, might flourish.

I understand this was not 60 Minutes.

This was not Oprah.

I believe, as Beto told Ellen, that she is force for goodness and kindness.

But, as an interrogator here, she is who she is when she voices Dory.

Somehow – and this is how good he is – O’Rourke had turned an opportunity to come clean about a shameful moment in his past into an opportunity to be further praised and congratulated on national television for his moral virtue.

Wow.

But wait, there’s still half the 2 minutes and 37 seconds left in the Beto O’Rourke Gets Candid on his DUI segment.

There is still time to see him sweat.

And, indeed we do, as Ellen marvels at O’Rourke’s heroic journey across Texas in the dreadful heat of summer.

But Ellen is all about solutions, not just problems.

In this case it’s a custom-designed Beto for Senate fan harness to keep O’Rourke cool on the campaign trail.

 

 

OK.

Having survived Ellen, O’Rourke took his chances this week with a tougher customer – Stephen Colbert.

Colbert gave O’Rourke a lot of time – offering a four-minute  comedy monologue setting up his seven-minute interview with O’Rourke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK.

Texans of every political stripe know there is no shame in a super-cool booking photo.

Poster by Sabo

But O’Rourke’s DWI was dispatched by Colbert as old news that O’Rourke had already apologized for.

Colbert didn’t return to the subject in his interview with O’Rourke, though he did ask a number of other pertinent questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was another charming, bravura performance by the phenom.

But, while O’Rourke is consistently earnest and modest in his presentation, there does lurk the danger of simply being too cool, which can, at some point, invite the jealousy and resentment of the less cool, not to mention the uncool.

Texas Democrats do not want their underdog hero’s campaign to unspool amid the Revenge of the Nerds.

I expect the Cruz campaign to present O’Rourke as an indulged child of out-of-touch privilege who could afford to collect a cool booking photo or two along the way and not pay a price.

O’Rourke is only a year younger than Cruz, but as Colbert noted this week, he appears much younger.

 

That can be an advantage for O’Rourke, if it embodies his fresh energy.

Or it can be a disadvantage if the Cruz campaign is able to persuade voters that O’Rourke is callow, or even hollow.

When it’s all over, the defining image of O’Rourke’s campaign may be him effortlessly gliding by  – looking 20, or 40, or nearly 47 – on a skateboard in the parking lot of a Brownsville Whataburger last month.

He is cool, but the peril of being so cool and beguiling is that he can skate by on things that maybe he shouldn’t skate by on

That may be what it takes to elect a Democrat to statewide office in Texas in 2018. But, with the new details about the old DWI, the way he’s handled it so far, and the opponent he is up against, he may skating on thin ice.

 

Remembering the Alamo … and remembering the rest of Texas history

 

Dan chandler, from Plano, attends a State Board of Education meeting at the William B. Travis Building, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Good day Austin:

Last month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, at a bill signing to make sex trafficking a felony in his state, said, “We’re not going to make America great again. It was never that great.”

His audience gasped.

For a politician, it was neither a smart nor a sensible thing to say.

Cuomo is expected to win renomination this week for governor, even though his opponent, Cynthia Nixon, played Miranda Hobbes, who was the smartest and most sensible of the quartet of lead women characters on “Sex and the City,” and even though Election Day is on a Thursday, instead of a Tuesday, so as not to conflict with Rosh Hashanah or the 17th anniversary of 9/11.

But I think President Trump was right in concluding that, as for as any higher ambitions, Cuomo’s remark, which I’m sure didn’t come out quite as he intended, was a career-killer from which there can be no comeback.

Yes, American politicians can get carried away with endless, pious self-congratulation about how great America is. But who wants to live in a country led by someone who doesn’t think the country is all that, or at least, was all that.

I truly believe one can accept that America was founded on the genocide of the continent’s indigenous people and the enslavement of Africans — and still believe this is a great country, maybe even, as is de rigueur among the political class, the greatest ever.

Really.

I also believe that every nation — including the former Republic of Texas — is entitled to its own mythic stories, especially one as good, and heroic as that of the Alamo.

Everybody the world over remembers the Alamo.

So, I do not begrudge the State Board of Education’s disposition Tuesday, under enormous political pressure, to continue to refer to the “heroic defenders of the Alamo” in the state’s curriculum standards.

From Julie Chang’s story for the American-Statesman:

Heeding concerns by conservatives that the State Board of Education is trying to water down how Texas history is taught in middle school, a board-nominated committee has backtracked on a recommendation to remove references to heroes and a letter by William B. Travis in lessons about the Alamo.

More than 60 people signed up to testify before the board Tuesday to express concerns about proposed changes to the state’s social studies curriculum standards, particularly those that address the Alamo, slavery, the civil rights movement and references to Judeo-Christianity in American history.

The curriculum standards serve as the framework for history, government and economics textbooks and lessons for the state’s 5.4 million public school students.

Multiple board-nominated committees, made up mostly of educators, met this year as part of a broader effort to streamline curriculum standards across subject areas. The board is expected to take a preliminary vote Wednesday on whether to accept changes to the social studies curriculum.

Elected officials and others spoke against the recommendation to change the curriculum standard that reads, “explain the issues surrounding significant events of the Texas Revolution, including the Battle of Gonzales, William B. Travis’s letter ‘To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World,’ the siege of the Alamo, and all the heroic defenders who gave their lives there.”

One of the board’s committees this spring had recommended removing the reference to the letter as well as heroic defenders.

“These are the most famous words in all of Texas history,” U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Houston, told the board after reading an excerpt from Travis’ letter on Tuesday. “I cannot fathom any possible way that one can teach Texas history without teaching William Barrett Travis’ plea to the people of Texas and all Americans and the world.”

Travis, the commander of the Texian rebels at the Alamo, sent the letter to ask for help as he was being surrounded by Mexican forces. The missive is said to have inspired many of the volunteers who ended up joining the army that Sam Houston later led to defeat Mexican forces.

Stephen Cure, the Texas State Historical Association’s director of education and a member of one of the board committees, said the panel, looking for areas to streamline, thought the language was redundant because it’s impossible to learn about the siege of the Alamo without learning about the letter or its defenders.

Under pressure, a majority of his colleagues on the committee said they would be willing to change its recommendation, Cure said Tuesday.

“The outcry from the people of Texas said that they felt it should be in there and, from the committee’s perspective, we felt that it was better to make a productive recommendation,” Cure said.

The new curriculum standard with the restored language now reads that students must learn about the siege of the Alamo, including Travis’ letter and “the heroism of the diverse defenders who gave their lives there.”

But, as Jerry Patterson, the former land commissioner and as staunch a defender of the Alamo and its heroes as one will find, noted when I talked to him Tuesday night, the controversy was really much ado about almost nothing, affording politicians an opportunity to beat their chests about a threat more imagined than real to the heroic standing of Alamo defenders in the way history is taught in Texas.

Of stripping the Alamo defenders of their “heroic” status, Patterson said, “The state Board of Education was never going to do that. Everybody knew that they weren’t going to do that. And furthermore it wasn’t this huge politically correct, conspiratorial dark cloud. It was just trying to make the language shorter. But nonetheless it created an extremely safe opportunity for politicians to bravely, at great risk— NOT — step out there and try to do something that people might like.”

From Lauren McGaughy’s story in the Dallas Morning News:

“I stand before you today as a member of one of your volunteer workgroups maligned by some of our state’s highest elected officials and respected media outlets,” Stephen Cure, the former director of education with the Texas State Historical Association, told the board. “Let’s set the record straight.”

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But Cure, who helped write the proposed changes, said the volunteers didn’t remove the word “heroic” because they thought the Alamo defenders didn’t deserve the moniker. It was taken out, he insisted, because the group was sure their heroism would be taught even without an explicit requirement to do so.

“You can’t teach the siege of the Alamo without teaching the [Travis] letter and the heroism. As the Declaration of Independence says, it’s ‘self evident,'” Cure said. “Our primary goal, or primary path, was to reduce the amount of content in the standards.”

Cure said the group recommended deleting the entire phrase — first added in 2010 — because it would be impossible for teachers to educate students on each and every person who defended the Alamo. He blasted reporters for not calling the volunteers who wrote the standards but said he didn’t reach out to elected officials who criticized their work

Here is the opinion that Ted Cruz, embroiled in a  re-election contest with U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, posted on Fox News Tuesday:

The Board of Education was holding a hearing in Austin on the proposal Tuesday. Fortunately, according to the San Antonio Express-News, “the board appeared poised to keep the words in the curriculum” when it is scheduled to discuss the issue Wednesday. A final decision is expected in November.

 The advisory group, called “Social Studies TEKS Streamlining Work Group,” even recommended dropping the requirement that students in Texas should be able to explain the importance of a letter from Col. William B. Travis, commander of the rebels at the Alamo. The letter was addressed to “the People of Texas and All Americans in the World” and is known as the “victory or death letter.”

This letter has been considered a vital founding document of Texas history ever since it inspired thousands of men to take up arms in revolution to free Texas from the oppressive regime of General Santa Anna.

Travis wrote in the letter:

“The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken – I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls – I shall never surrender or retreat.”

And go down fighting Travis did – alongside scores of his comrades, from brave Tejanos such as Toribio Losoya and José Gregorio Esparza, to legends of the American frontier like Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett.

The volunteers were outnumbered by at least 7 to 1 by the Mexican Army. They were surely aware of General Santa Anna’s slaughter of civilians in the rebelling state of Zacatecas the previous year, and his Mexican Army’s brutal treatment of prisoners and noncombatants.

But rather than retreat or surrender, the defenders of the Alamo defied the promise of “no quarter” from Santa Anna, and shed their blood so that Texas could be free of his oppressive regime.

Among the politically correct jargon supposedly justifying the proposed changes to the Texas social studies curriculum, one statement stood out: “Heroic is a value-charged word,” and thus it must be purged.

Indeed, “heroic” is very “value-charged.” It is not a term to be used lightly.

But the troubling implication here – in addition to scrubbing patriotism from our schoolbooks – is that our children cannot be taught history with a sense of value and valor. This is an absurd claim.

Who would teach their child about the historical reality of human slavery, and fail to call it evil? That is a true and necessary value-charged word.

Who would teach about the men landing at Normandy on D-Day to free Europe from Hitler’s tyranny, and not call them brave?

Who would tell of Mother Theresa helping the sick and poor, and not call her good?

The classroom is not supposed to be a place without values. It must be a place with the right values.

Somehow, in an age when professional athletes disrespect our flag only to get millions of dollars in advertising deals, and our public forums are increasingly devoted to tearing down our national legacy rather than building it up, it is not surprising that some bureaucrats rewriting schoolbooks should try to eliminate one more source of American pride from our schools.

But that gives Texas families a chance to be a part of history once more.

We are not called to defend the Alamo with muskets and cannon today, but to defend it in our public square, and in our schools. We can preserve the legacy of its defenders, and of all heroes throughout our history who teach us duty and faith and sacrifice.

We can value the things worth valuing.

We can remember.

By all means, remember the Alamo, and even revere the defenders as heroic.

But that does not mean that one must forget all else.

In 2003, University of Texas historian H.W. Brands wrote a piece in Texas Monthly, headlined, “The Alamo Should Never Have Happened: Generations of Texas schoolchildren have been taught that the battle at the center of the Texas revolution was our finest hour. Maybe so— but it was also a military mistake of mythic proportions.”

It closes as follows:

For decades student of Alamo history have refought the battle, debating how many people died there and where they fell. Much less attention has been paid to the larger issue of whether it should have been fought in the first place. Questioning patriotic sacrifice is bad form, especially with the powerful words of the dead commander haunting the collective conscience.

But sacrifice is not synonymous with good judgment, and in truth the defense of the Alamo was woefully misguided. Houston was correct that San Antonio had little significance for the defense of the Texas settlements. Even if Travis and the others had held the Alamo, Santa Anna might easily have left a token force to pin them there and sent the main body of his army after Houston and the rest of the rebels. Nor did the delay caused by Santa Anna’s insistence on taking the Alamo slow his advance appreciably. Santa Anna spent two weeks at Béxar, two weeks in which Houston made scant progress in organizing or training the Texas army. The rebels were no readier for battle in early March than they had been in late February, as Houston’s subsequent forced retreat east demonstrated, and they would have been far readier had their ranks included the men killed at the Alamo. Santa Anna’s losses at Béxar were considerably greater than those of the Texans, but his army was so much larger that he could afford to be wasteful.

The primary result of the Alamo’s fall was precisely what Santa Anna intended: the terrorizing of the Anglo settlements in Texas. As word raced east of the disaster at Béxar, the settlers fled toward Louisiana in what later was called, with relieved levity, the Runaway Scrape. Santa Anna had long since decided that the American colonization of Texas was a mistake, which he intended to rectify by removing the Americans. The destruction of the Alamo, and the refugee flight it precipitated, got the process well under way.

The only thing that saved the revolution (as it really became after the declaration of Texas independence on March 2, 1836) was Santa Anna’s impatience. Hoping to catch the Texas government, which had joined the flight east, he committed a cardinal sin of invading commanders: He divided his army. And then he allowed Houston, who until this point had shown every indication of retreating clear to the Redlands of East Texas, to corner him where Buffalo Bayou joins the San Jacinto River.

Houston’s victory at San Jacinto had nothing to do with the defeat at the Alamo (or the subsequent massacre at Goliad), except that it (and Goliad) furnished a rousing battle cry and an excuse for a slaughter that matched in ferocity and scale anything the Mexicans had committed. And in fact, the victory at San Jacinto, though an enormous morale booster, neither ended the war nor guaranteed Texas’ independence. The captured Santa Anna was overthrown in absentia, and the agreements he negotiated with the Texans were immediately disavowed by the Mexican government. Mexico continued to claim Texas for another decade and in 1842 succeeded twice in reoccupying San Antonio. What finally settled the Texas question was the intervention of the United States, which annexed Texas in 1845 and defeated Mexico in the war of 1846-1848.

By that time the Alamo had entered the mythology of Texas. A prime characteristic of myth is that every sacrifice serves a purpose; the larger the sacrifice, the more profound the purpose. During the Texas Revolution itself, the legitimacy of the rebellion was disparaged by opponents of slavery, who held that the chief purpose of the breakaway was to ensure the future of slavery in Texas (Mexico had outlawed the institution), and by others who judged it a landgrab by armed speculators. The sacrifice of the Alamo afforded an emphatic riposte to the criticism. Would the heroes who died there have done so for the base motives ascribed to them by their critics? Hardly. They must have fought and died to secure democracy and individual rights.

And so they did—at least some of them, and at least the rights of some people. But whether the Alamo was the proper place to do it is another question entirely. It casts no aspersion on the defenders’ courage to assert that they got the answer to this question wrong. If anything, there is a certain sublime nobility in an act that reflects bravery undiluted by good sense. And it is entirely in keeping with everything about the Texas Revolution, and with much that is characteristically Texan, that this military mistake was not the work of ignorant or fatuous commanders, as has typically been the case in history. No Raglan ordered the Alamo garrison to stand against Santa Anna; the defenders’ decision to do so was theirs alone. Texans have long prided themselves on their individuality, including their right to be wrong in their own way. For them, the Alamo is the perfect shrine.

When I talked Tuesday night to Miguel Suazo, the Democrat challenging George P. Bush’s re-election, he said. “I think it’s kind of silly not to refer to the Alamo defenders as heroes for multiple reasons.  If you’re telling Texas history and telling the Texas story, a small group of individuals fighting a major battle against long odds, I think that’s pretty heroic in and of itself, regardless of the imperfections behind some of the men if you want to delve deeper into the history.”

As Brands wrote: “What finally settled the Texas question was the intervention of the United States, which annexed Texas in 1845 and defeated Mexico in the war of 1846-1848.”

And, one need not look to a revisionist historian to get a stark appraisal of the “Texas question” that probably doesn’t and won’t find its way into most Texas classrooms. For that one need only read the extraordinary  “Personal Memoirs of  Ulysses S. Grant,” which Grant wrote as he lay dying.

 

I write this as someone who, brought up in New York, and educated in Long Island public schools, grew up believing that Robert E. Lee was a nobler and wiser figure than Ulysses S. Grant — who, I came to understand, was a drunk and later a corrupt president, or at very least a president negligent to his friends’ corruption.

(Before the Texas Senate race is over, I imagine the Cruz campaign will run ads noting that O’Rourke named one of his sons Ulysses. While O’Rourke, who studied literature at Columbia University, claims this is a nod to the ancients and that he and his wife named their son, Ulysses “because we didn’t have the balls to name him Odysseus,” I am sure it can be made to appear to be the self-loathing, political correctness of a renegade son of the South.)

And, while my sympathies were not with the Confederacy, I recall receiving in school very nearly “Birth of a Nation” instruction on the terrible failure of Reconstruction, focused almost entirely on carpetbaggers and scalawags.

As Sen. Cruz asks in this Fox opinion piece on the importance of values in the classroom, Who would teach their child about the historical reality of human slavery, and fail to call it evil? That is a true and necessary value-charged word.

Carisa Lopez, Political Director at Texas Freedom Network speaks in support of renewing a fight to have the board change the curriculum standards outside the William B. Travis Building during a State Board of Education meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Yes. Of course.

But the question is, amid being taught the heroic story of the Alamo, are Texas schoolchildren also being taught about the insidious role of slavery in the founding story of Texas, and the central role the annexation of the slave-state Texas into the Union and the Mexican-American War played in precipitating the Civil War?

From Grant’s memoir, CHAPTER III: ARMY LIFE—CAUSES OF THE MEXICAN WAR—CAMP SALUBRITY

There was no intimation given that the removal of the 3d and 4th regiments of infantry to the western border of Louisiana was occasioned in any way by the prospective annexation of Texas, but it was generally understood that such was the case. Ostensibly we were intended to prevent filibustering into Texas, but really as a menace to Mexico in case she appeared to contemplate war. Generally the officers of the army were indifferent whether the annexation was consummated or not; but not so all of them. For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory. Texas was originally a state belonging to the republic of Mexico. It extended from the Sabine River on the east to the Rio Grande on the west, and from the Gulf of Mexico on the south and east to the territory of the United States and New Mexico—another Mexican state at that time—on the north and west. An empire in territory, it had but a very sparse population, until settled by Americans who had received authority from Mexico to colonize. These colonists paid very little attention to the supreme government, and introduced slavery into the state almost from the start, though the constitution of Mexico did not, nor does it now, sanction that institution. Soon they set up an independent government of their own, and war existed, between Texas and Mexico, in name from that time until 1836, when active hostilities very nearly ceased upon the capture of Santa Anna, the Mexican President. Before long, however, the same people—who with permission of Mexico had colonized Texas, and afterwards set up slavery there, and then seceded as soon as they felt strong enough to do so—offered themselves and the State to the United States, and in 1845 their offer was accepted. The occupation, separation and annexation were, from the inception of the movement to its final consummation, a conspiracy to acquire territory out of which slave states might be formed for the American Union.

Even if the annexation itself could be justified, the manner in which the subsequent war was forced upon Mexico cannot. The fact is, annexationists wanted more territory than they could possibly lay any claim to, as part of the new acquisition. Texas, as an independent State, never had exercised jurisdiction over the territory between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. Mexico had never recognized the independence of Texas, and maintained that, even if independent, the State had no claim south of the Nueces. I am aware that a treaty, made by the Texans with Santa Anna while he was under duress, ceded all the territory between the Nueces and the Rio Grande—, but he was a prisoner of war when the treaty was made, and his life was in jeopardy. He knew, too, that he deserved execution at the hands of the Texans, if they should ever capture him. The Texans, if they had taken his life, would have only followed the example set by Santa Anna himself a few years before, when he executed the entire garrison of the Alamo and the villagers of Goliad.

In taking military possession of Texas after annexation, the army of occupation, under General Taylor, was directed to occupy the disputed territory. The army did not stop at the Nueces and offer to negotiate for a settlement of the boundary question, but went beyond, apparently in order to force Mexico to initiate war. It is to the credit of the American nation, however, that after conquering Mexico, and while practically holding the country in our possession, so that we could have retained the whole of it, or made any terms we chose, we paid a round sum for the additional territory taken; more than it was worth, or was likely to be, to Mexico. To us it was an empire and of incalculable value; but it might have been obtained by other means. The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times.

As William S. McFeely, in, “Grant: a Biography,” wrote: “Grant proceeded in his  Memoirs to a brief essay on how wars are begun in America. His point loses no force in the twentieth century, for having been written in the nineteenth.”

From Chapter IV: Corpus Christi—Mexican Smuggling—Spanish Rule in Mexico—Supplying Transportation.

The presence of United States troops on the edge of the disputed territory furthest from the Mexican settlements, was not sufficient to provoke hostilities. We were sent to provoke a fight, but it was essential that Mexico should commence it. It was very doubtful whether Congress would declare war; but if Mexico should attack our troops, the Executive could announce, “Whereas, war exists by the acts of, etc.,” and prosecute the contest with vigor. Once initiated there were but few public men who would have the courage to oppose it. Experience proves that the man who obstructs a war in which his nation is engaged, no matter whether right or wrong, occupies no enviable place in life or history. Better for him, individually, to advocate “war, pestilence, and famine,” than to act as obstructionist to a war already begun. The history of the defeated rebel will be honorable hereafter, compared with that of the Northern man who aided him by conspiring against his government while protected by it. The most favorable posthumous history the stay-at-home traitor can hope for is—oblivion.

 Mexico showing no willingness to come to the Nueces to drive the invaders from her soil, it became necessary for the “invaders” to approach to within a convenient distance to be struck. Accordingly, preparations were begun for moving the army to the Rio Grande, to a point near Matamoras. It was desirable to occupy a position near the largest centre of population possible to reach, without absolutely invading territory to which we set up no claim whatever.

Finally, and at length, a passage from Grant’s memoir that Ta-Nehisi Coates cited in The Atlantic on Jan. 20, 2011, under the headline, The Literary Heroism Of U.S. Grant.

Coates: “I present the following words from Grant’s memoir. This has always struck me as one of the most eloquent defenses of the Union which I’ve ever seen. I haven’t read enough Jefferson, but I have to believe that Grant is one of the greatest writers to ever occupy the White House. This is the writer enlisting the entire arsenal–literature, legal theory, history and memory all in one.”

CHAPTER XVI: THE COMING CRISIS:

Up to the Mexican war there were a few out-and-out abolitionists, men who carried their hostility to slavery into all elections, from those for a justice of the peace up to the Presidency of the United States. They were noisy but not numerous. But the great majority of people at the North, where slavery did not exist, were opposed to the institution, and looked upon its existence in any part of the country as unfortunate. They did not hold the States where slavery existed responsible for it; and believed that protection should be given to the right of property in slaves until some satisfactory way could be reached to be rid of the institution. Opposition to slavery was not a creed of either political party. In some sections more anti-slavery men belonged to the Democratic party, and in others to the Whigs. But with the inauguration of the Mexican war, in fact with the annexation of Texas, “the inevitable conflict” commenced.

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Doubtless the founders of our government, the majority of them at least, regarded the confederation of the colonies as an experiment. Each colony considered itself a separate government; that the confederation was for mutual protection against a foreign foe, and the prevention of strife and war among themselves. If there had been a desire on the part of any single State to withdraw from the compact at any time while the number of States was limited to the original thirteen, I do not suppose there would have been any to contest the right, no matter how much the determination might have been regretted. The problem changed on the ratification of the Constitution by all the colonies; it changed still more when amendments were added; and if the right of any one State to withdraw continued to exist at all after the ratification of the Constitution, it certainly ceased on the formation of new States, at least so far as the new States themselves were concerned. It was never possessed at all by Florida or the States west of the Mississippi, all of which were purchased by the treasury of the entire nation. Texas and the territory brought into the Union in consequence of annexation, were purchased with both blood and treasure; and Texas, with a domain greater than that of any European state except Russia, was permitted to retain as state property all the public lands within its borders. It would have been ingratitude and injustice of the most flagrant sort for this State to withdraw from the Union after all that had been spent and done to introduce her; yet, if separation had actually occurred, Texas must necessarily have gone with the South, both on account of her institutions and her geographical position. Secession was illogical as well as impracticable; it was revolution.

Now, the right of revolution is an inherent one. When people are oppressed by their government, it is a natural right they enjoy to relieve themselves of the oppression, if they are strong enough, either by withdrawal from it, or by overthrowing it and substituting a government more acceptable. But any people or part of a people who resort to this remedy, stake their lives, their property, and every claim for protection given by citizenship—on the issue. Victory, or the conditions imposed by the conqueror—must be the result.

In the case of the war between the States it would have been the exact truth if the South had said,—”We do not want to live with you Northern people any longer; we know our institution of slavery is obnoxious to you, and, as you are growing numerically stronger than we, it may at some time in the future be endangered. So long as you permitted us to control the government, and with the aid of a few friends at the North to enact laws constituting your section a guard against the escape of our property, we were willing to live with you. You have been submissive to our rule heretofore; but it looks now as if you did not intend to continue so, and we will remain in the Union no longer.” Instead of this the seceding States cried lustily,—”Let us alone; you have no constitutional power to interfere with us.” Newspapers and people at the North reiterated the cry. Individuals might ignore the constitution; but the Nation itself must not only obey it, but must enforce the strictest construction of that instrument; the construction put upon it by the Southerners themselves. The fact is the constitution did not apply to any such contingency as the one existing from 1861 to 1865. Its framers never dreamed of such a contingency occurring. If they had foreseen it, the probabilities are they would have sanctioned the right of a State or States to withdraw rather than that there should be war between brothers.

The framers were wise in their generation and wanted to do the very best possible to secure their own liberty and independence, and that also of their descendants to the latest days. It is preposterous to suppose that the people of one generation can lay down the best and only rules of government for all who are to come after them, and under unforeseen contingencies. At the time of the framing of our constitution the only physical forces that had been subdued and made to serve man and do his labor, were the currents in the streams and in the air we breathe. Rude machinery, propelled by water power, had been invented; sails to propel ships upon the waters had been set to catch the passing breeze—but the application of stream to propel vessels against both wind and current, and machinery to do all manner of work had not been thought of. The instantaneous transmission of messages around the world by means of electricity would probably at that day have been attributed to witchcraft or a league with the Devil. Immaterial circumstances had changed as greatly as material ones. We could not and ought not to be rigidly bound by the rules laid down under circumstances so different for emergencies so utterly unanticipated. The fathers themselves would have been the first to declare that their prerogatives were not irrevocable. They would surely have resisted secession could they have lived to see the shape it assumed.

I travelled through the Northwest considerably during the winter of 1860-1. We had customers in all the little towns in south-west Wisconsin, south-east Minnesota and north-east Iowa. These generally knew I had been a captain in the regular army and had served through the Mexican war. Consequently wherever I stopped at night, some of the people would come to the public-house where I was, and sit till a late hour discussing the probabilities of the future. My own views at that time were like those officially expressed by Mr. Seward at a later day, that “the war would be over in ninety days.” I continued to entertain these views until after the battle of Shiloh. I believe now that there would have been no more battles at the West after the capture of Fort Donelson if all the troops in that region had been under a single commander who would have followed up that victory.

There is little doubt in my mind now that the prevailing sentiment of the South would have been opposed to secession in 1860 and 1861, if there had been a fair and calm expression of opinion, unbiased by threats, and if the ballot of one legal voter had counted for as much as that of any other. But there was no calm discussion of the question. Demagogues who were too old to enter the army if there should be a war, others who entertained so high an opinion of their own ability that they did not believe they could be spared from the direction of the affairs of state in such an event, declaimed vehemently and unceasingly against the North; against its aggressions upon the South; its interference with Southern rights, etc., etc. They denounced the Northerners as cowards, poltroons, negro-worshippers; claimed that one Southern man was equal to five Northern men in battle; that if the South would stand up for its rights the North would back down. Mr. Jefferson Davis said in a speech, delivered at La Grange, Mississippi, before the secession of that State, that he would agree to drink all the blood spilled south of Mason and Dixon’s line if there should be a war. The young men who would have the fighting to do in case of war, believed all these statements, both in regard to the aggressiveness of the North and its cowardice. They, too, cried out for a separation from such people. The great bulk of the legal voters of the South were men who owned no slaves; their homes were generally in the hills and poor country; their facilities for educating their children, even up to the point of reading and writing, were very limited; their interest in the contest was very meagre—what there was, if they had been capable of seeing it, was with the North; they too needed emancipation. Under the old regime they were looked down upon by those who controlled all the affairs in the interest of slave-owners, as poor white trash who were allowed the ballot so long as they cast it according to direction.

I am aware that this last statement may be disputed and individual testimony perhaps adduced to show that in ante-bellum days the ballot was as untrammelled in the south as in any section of the country; but in the face of any such contradiction I reassert the statement. The shot-gun was not resorted to. Masked men did not ride over the country at night intimidating voters; but there was a firm feeling that a class existed in every State with a sort of divine right to control public affairs. If they could not get this control by one means they must by another. The end justified the means. The coercion, if mild, was complete.

There were two political parties, it is true, in all the States, both strong in numbers and respectability, but both equally loyal to the institution which stood paramount in Southern eyes to all other institutions in state or nation. The slave-owners were the minority, but governed both parties. Had politics ever divided the slave-holders and the non-slave-holders, the majority would have been obliged to yield, or internecine war would have been the consequence. I do not know that the Southern people were to blame for this condition of affairs. There was a time when slavery was not profitable, and the discussion of the merits of the institution was confined almost exclusively to the territory where it existed. The States of Virginia and Kentucky came near abolishing slavery by their own acts, one State defeating the measure by a tie vote and the other only lacking one. But when the institution became profitable, all talk of its abolition ceased where it existed; and naturally, as human nature is constituted, arguments were adduced in its support. The cotton-gin probably had much to do with the justification of slavery.

The winter of 1860-1 will be remembered by middle-aged people of to-day as one of great excitement. South Carolina promptly seceded after the result of the Presidential election was known. Other Southern States proposed to follow. In some of them the Union sentiment was so strong that it had to be suppressed by force. Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri, all Slave States, failed to pass ordinances of secession; but they were all represented in the so-called congress of the so-called Confederate States. The Governor and Lieutenant-Governor of Missouri, in 1861, Jackson and Reynolds, were both supporters of the rebellion and took refuge with the enemy. The governor soon died, and the lieutenant-governor assumed his office; issued proclamations as governor of the State; was recognized as such by the Confederate Government, and continued his pretensions until the collapse of the rebellion. The South claimed the sovereignty of States, but claimed the right to coerce into their confederation such States as they wanted, that is, all the States where slavery existed. They did not seem to think this course inconsistent. The fact is, the Southern slave-owners believed that, in some way, the ownership of slaves conferred a sort of patent of nobility—a right to govern independent of the interest or wishes of those who did not hold such property. They convinced themselves, first, of the divine origin of the institution and, next, that that particular institution was not safe in the hands of any body of legislators but themselves.

Meanwhile the Administration of President Buchanan looked helplessly on and proclaimed that the general government had no power to interfere; that the Nation had no power to save its own life. Mr. Buchanan had in his cabinet two members at least, who were as earnest—to use a mild term—in the cause of secession as Mr. Davis or any Southern statesman. One of them, Floyd, the Secretary of War, scattered the army so that much of it could be captured when hostilities should commence, and distributed the cannon and small arms from Northern arsenals throughout the South so as to be on hand when treason wanted them. The navy was scattered in like manner. The President did not prevent his cabinet preparing for war upon their government, either by destroying its resources or storing them in the South until a de facto government was established with Jefferson Davis as its President, and Montgomery, Alabama, as the Capital. The secessionists had then to leave the cabinet. In their own estimation they were aliens in the country which had given them birth. Loyal men were put into their places. Treason in the executive branch of the government was estopped. But the harm had already been done. The stable door was locked after the horse had been stolen.

During all of the trying winter of 1860-1, when the Southerners were so defiant that they would not allow within their borders the expression of a sentiment hostile to their views, it was a brave man indeed who could stand up and proclaim his loyalty to the Union. On the other hand men at the North—prominent men—proclaimed that the government had no power to coerce the South into submission to the laws of the land; that if the North undertook to raise armies to go south, these armies would have to march over the dead bodies of the speakers. A portion of the press of the North was constantly proclaiming similar views. When the time arrived for the President-elect to go to the capital of the Nation to be sworn into office, it was deemed unsafe for him to travel, not only as a President-elect, but as any private citizen should be allowed to do. Instead of going in a special car, receiving the good wishes of his constituents at all the stations along the road, he was obliged to stop on the way and to be smuggled into the capital. He disappeared from public view on his journey, and the next the country knew, his arrival was announced at the capital. There is little doubt that he would have been assassinated if he had attempted to travel openly throughout his journey.

State Board of Education member Marisa B. Perez-Diaz, D-District 3, speaks in support of Texas Freedom Network renewing their fight to have the board change the curriculum standards outside the William B. Travis Building during a State Board of Education meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Asche is to ashes, but is James Dickey a man the Texas GOP can trust?

 

Good day Austin and San Antonio:

About two hours into yesterday’s afternoon session of the Texas Republican Convention, in the lead-up to the vote for chairman, the battle between James Dickey, the current chairman, and Cindy Asche, his rival, was truly joined.

The outcome, based on Senate caucus votes in the morning, was already clear. Dickey would prevail by a large margin but the Asche camp was persisting with some tactical maneuvers, though it was unclear to what end.

At which point, Amy Clark, the outgoing vice chair of the party, who was presiding over the session, recognized Toni Ann Dashiell, the state’s national committeewoman and a leader of the Asche forces, to speak.

DASHIELL: I have a very important announcement and I would like to yield my time to Jennifer …

JENNIFER STONER: I’m Jennifer Stoner, Republican Party accounting director … for eight years, and I have resigned my position as accounting director …

Amy Clark: Ma’am. I’m advised this is out of order.

Having cut off Stoner, Clark went called on delegate Terry Holcomb.

Terry Holcomb, Senate District 3, I am speaking in heavy opposition to this. I never thought I would say this at a Republican Party State Convention in Texas, but don’t California my Texas. What are we really talking about here? They say they don’t concur with the will of the voter.

This sounds like something Hillary Clinton would do when Trump beat her. We heard speech after speech about unity and here we are doing the most divisive thing possible. We want to burn the party down so she can be queen of the ashes.

I encourage you to vote “no” and let’s join together behind Chairman James Dickey.

Before the vote, Dickey and Asch each got five last minutes to speak to the delegates.

Dickey strode to the stage access;pained a score of well-known figures in the Texas conservative firmament.

Dickey:

This has been a challenging year.

It was challenging being the third chairman of the Republican Party in two years.

It was challenging standing up strongly for what we believed in and having donors and elected officials and everybody else not know what we really meant by that and not knowing that was going to be a positive things and to turn it around and have it result in growth and benefit and this amazing unity that you see up here has been so humbling. and I am so grateful that every  one of you who has seen this with your own eyes and felt it with your own heart.

We have lived out leadership over the last year  taking strong stands, doing the hard work that needs to be done and I will tell you there were significant obstacles to that.

When I ran a year ago, I kept getting badgered with, “Will you keep everybody from the old administration that had failed, would you keep all of those things, and, of course my response was, “I have no intention of changing things up, time will tell and what the party needs is the most important thing.”

It has been tough to try to unify the group while there has been a core faction of folks from prior leadership that were disappointed that they were out, and were disappointed that they didn’t win the election, and were trying to do everything they could possibly do to overturn the bodies who had voted and I thank you guys for looking past that, looking over  that, looking through that.

You can look around and judge by your own eyes how things are going. It is so important that we move forward together. We have President Trump. We have the House. We have the Senate. We have the Texas House. We have the Texas Senate. We have city councils, school boards county commissioners and county judges. We are going expand our victories here and we can do that if we unite to win, and we have offered that olive branch and we are consistently offering.

You can decide by your own eyes, which campaign, which candidate has shown an interest in and a commitment to growing this party by being welcoming and open versus tearing it apart. And I ask you, vote for winning, let’s beat the Democrats in November. Let’s support President Trump. And let’s continue to have new donors, new supporters, new voters feel welcome and encouraged and loved so together we grow our majority.

God bless you.

Then it was Asche’s turn to take the stage.

ASCHE:

I know many of you are not happy with me for being here right now. But I hope, I hope you will allow me the opportunity to be heard one last time.

xxxx

This race is not about me. I am not running because I want to hold office.

You deserve to know the truth. You deserve to have leadership that is above reproach, because the only way we can advocate for our party’s principles and our elected officials and candidates is to be known as people of our word.

I have been accused of running a negative race and spreading mistruths, but every piece of information we’ve put out has been backed up overwhelmingly by evidence and support.

In fact, if you missed it just a moment ago, our current accounting director, Jennifer Stoner, submitted her resignation minutes ago. Jennifer has been with the party for eight years. She was hired by Cathie Adams and proudly served under Steve Munisteri. She is known by every one of those state chairmen as a professional  of unquestioned personal and professional integrity.

According to Jennifer, she has resigned because, in her entire time as accounting director, she has never seen the level of dishonesty, manipulation and erroneous reporting that she has seen, that she has seen from this chairman, and her direct quote, her quote was, “He is not trustworthy.”

The crowd, about two-third Dickey supporters, was growing increasingly restive.

Please hear me out.

The information that was disseminated via both RPT email and also on James’ printed campaign literature was not approved or verified by the accounting department or with Jennifer’s consent. Unlike any previous chairman, Mr. Dickey has required  that she submit an Excel spreadsheet instead of a PDF, where the data can easily be moved and manipulated and the numbers simply don’t match up. The way the numbers are communicated by the current chairman are in contrast to the processes that have been used and approved for almost ten years. And this past Wednesday, when directly asked by an SREC member at the SREC meeting if Jennifer had approved the numbers being disseminated, he lied.

She asked him publicly to retract the email and the statement multiple times but, as you know, he has not. She has offered a resignation statement but has promised me that she will return if Mr Dickey is not elected.

Talking amid some tumult not he floor, Asche ran out of time.

ASCHE:

My time has expired because I could not complete it.

I am asking you to vote and I am praying God will give you the wisdom to make the right decision.

It was a gripping scene, and properly seen as Act II of a drama that played out a year ago when Dickey was first elected chairman by the State Republican Executive Committee.

Here are scenes from Act I, trom a June 2, 2017  First Reading: Trump loyalty an issue in Dickey-Figueroa contest for Texas GOP chairmanship

(Candidates to become chairman of the Texas Republican Party James Dickey, the current chair of the Travis County Republican Party, and Rick Figueroa, a Houston-area businessman, recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of a meeting of the Texas State Republican Executive Committee at the Sirloin Stockade in Round Rock June 1. 06/01/17 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The 62 members of the Texas State Republican Executive, meeting at Austin’s Wyndham Garden Hotel, will choose a new Republican State Party Chairman Saturday to replace Tom Mechler of Amarillo who resigned two weeks ago because, when you get right down to it, he would rather “spend time with my 6 children, 16 grandchildren, and my beautiful wife Becky,” than the 62 members of the SREC who are so divided down the middle in all matters Mechler that Amy Clark, the party’s vice chairman and top ranking figure with Mechler’s resignation, might have to break a tie vote to determine his successor.

There are two candidates – Rick Figueroa of Brenham and James Dickey of Austin, the chair of the Travis County Republican Party. (A third candidate, Robert Morrow, tweeted he was running but that’s it so far, and he will not be a factor in the race. See my recent First Reading: Robert Morrow throws his jester’s hat in the ring for Texas GOP chair on an ‘Impeach Trump’ platform;)

On the face of it, Figueroa ought to have he edge.

He is the favored choice of Mechler, who named him ten months ago as co-chair of the Republican Party of Texas’ New Leaders on the Rise Committee, and in recent months has been crisscrossing the state with Figueroa on the Republican Party of Texas Hispanic Engagement Listening Tour.

Figueroa is also in good with President Trump, serving on his Texans for Trump leadership team and on his National Hispanic Advisory  committee and now President Trump’s National Coalition of Hispanic Leaders.

And, maybe it’s me, but wouldn’t the Texas Republican Party benefit from the headlines that it had selected its first Hispanic chairman?

Dickey also comes with a couple, three strikes against him.

  1. He managed to lose the chairmanship of the Travis County Republican Party in the March 2016 primary to the aforementioned Robert Morrow, no mean feat and one that made the Travis County Republican Party an object of intense and sustained national ridicule.
  2. While he says he was never a “Never-Trumper” he was part of a movement to “free the delegates” to stop Trump, until Trump became the nominee, when Dickey climbed on board the Trump train, but for those punching tickets, that was a mite late.
  3. Trump won 27 percent of the vote in Travis County.

Normally, three strikes and you’re out. But in this case, I’m giving the slight edge to Dickey.

Why?

  1. He is a far more familiar figure to the members of the SREC, somebody who knows them, who they know, who knows the rules and seems more likely to follow their lead than lead them where he wants to go, and won’t get too big for his britches. He’s paid his dues.
  2. He is not Mechler’s choice.
  3. While naming an Hispanic chair might seem, symbolically and practically, a good thing to do, this is the Republican Party, which rejects anything that smacks to them of pandering, and are particularly disinclined to choose someone for the symbolic value if that’s the reason they are picking him

Here is a summary of the argument against Dickey from Travis County Republican Bill Crocker, a former Texas national committeeman and former RNC general counsel, in an endorsement letter he wrote this week for Figueroa.

When his county chairman’s seat came up for election in 2016, Dickey spent very limited time and money in the first reporting period campaigning to defend his turf. And in doing so, lost his seat to a conspiracy theorist who made Texas an international laughingstock. When Dickey had the opportunity to make amends for this stinging loss and be a unifier at the 2016 National Convention, he instead chose to attempt to subvert the will of Republican voters all across the nation by being a leader in the “Never Trump” and “Free the Delegates” movement. At the same time, Rick was working to unite the bitterly divided factions of our party. In fact, during one particularly heated moment in our Texas caucus, I am told that a Cruz delegate and Trump delegate were on the verge of a physical fight. Rick approached this altercation to talk with both of them, and by the end of it the three of them were praying together. The mark of true leadership is the ability to lead and find peace in even the most difficult of situations.

Mr. Dickey also has a spotty record of raising funds for the Travis County Republican Party. When he lost his seat to Robert Morrow, the Travis County Republican Party was in rough financial shape. The most important job of the Chairman is to raise funds. During election years, the RPT will need to raise a minimum of 2-3 million dollars, just to ensure we maintain our current seats. A person who struggled to keep money in the bank is not a person with the capability of raising that level of funds.

Finally, Dickey does not have a strong record of success in his current position. In addition to his inability to maintain his own seat, Dickey has failed to hold on to the precious few Republican seats in Travis County. In fact, from my research, of the 56 partisan elected seats in Travis County today, only 2 are held by Republicans. Friends, we cannot let Texas begin to look like Travis County.

Whether it was his temperament or that he thought he had it in the bag. Figueroa did not go for the kill at the forum that night.

From that First Reading,

Afterward, I noted to Figueroa that I thought he had pulled his punches a couple of times during the night, not attacking when he could have.

“You noticed that,” he said. “It was intentional.”

Figueroa said he’d like to win, but if he doesn’t, it will be OK. He has a great life for which he is very grateful.

There was also this moment at that Williamson County forum.

The question addressed this tweet, about those rumors, came up the next night, at an SREC forum on the chairman’s race, the night before the election.

Figueroa were asked by the party’s general counsel, Patrick O’Daniel, who was moderating the discussion, whether he intended to keep the current party officers and committee chairs in place.

Figueroa said he woudn’t make any changes.

Then Dickey answered:

Dickey:

As both Patrick and (RPT Treasurer) Tom (Washington) can confirm, I had conversations with both asking them whether they were willing to stay on if I win election tomorrow. There is a very logical process for making change. You figure out the goals. You figure out the talents and skills needed. You match people with talents and skills needed. Until I’ve got an indication we are not going to meet the goals or we don’t have the necessary talents and skills needed, my bias is to leave things alone and that’s exactly what I’d do and that’s why I extended those invitations to Patrick and Tom.

But, the next day, right after his one-vote victory, Dickey announced that he was replacing almost the entire board, O’Daniel and Washington included.

I spoke some weeks ago about this with Melinda Fredericks, a former vice chairman of the party who represents Senate District 4. She told me that as soon as they broke for lunch that day she approached Dickey.

“I pulled him over to the side of the room and said, `James, you said you were going to keep the officers and you just didn’t.’ And he said, `Wait a minute, wait a minute, Melinda, what I said was I asked the officers if I were to ask you, would you continue serving as an officer?”

But, Fredericks said she told Dickey, “You led us to believe that you were going to keep the officers,” and he replied, `I had to in order to win.’ “

“I said, `Wait James, that is ends justify the means and that is totally unacceptable and you owe us an apology,” she said.

When I asked Dickey about this last Friday (June 8), he said that’s simply wrong.

I have consistently said, including to Melinda, that that is an absurd claim on its face. Not only would I not do such a thing but that the idea that I would do an impression of a Bond villain disclosing my plan to one of my most stalwart opponents is as ridiculous as it sounds,” Dickey said.

Dickey said that, at the forum the day before the election, “It  actually was my intention at that moment to keep them, which is why there is that impression, even though there was no such blanket statement.”

DICKEY: 

The more I thought about Patrick O’Daniel’s conditions upon which he would remain, I both had concern  about the specifics of the conditions and the fact that there were conditions, and so that changed my mind on that.

And Tom Washington, for the first time in his entire service as treasurer, warning the SREC members that the party was in dire financial straits and likely to be out of money by November, his choosing to hide that fact until the night before the election was, in my opinion, a breach of fiduciary duty and unacceptable, and he didn’t do that until ten or eleven o’clock that night.”

Mechler wrote a  post about all this at the Houston politics blog, Big Jolly Times, at the end of May, to which Tom Washington appended his own version of events:

This is an important point. James Dickey would prefer that you pay attention to his point that he never agreed to actually reappoint either Patrick O’Daniel or myself to our former duties. The actual key point here is that James Dickey used deception with the SREC voters to mislead them on his actual intentions in order to gain votes that he would not have gotten otherwise. James Dickey had already lined up his officers in advance and announced them as soon as the election was completed. He had no intention of following through and reappointing Patrick or myself.

James asked me for a meeting during the Friday evening before the election. He asked me if I would serve as Treasurer if he was elected on Saturday. I did not know that he was asking me only to give him a chance at shifting votes in the SREC with people who wanted some stability in the RPT key officers if he was elected State Chair.

I was fine with not being reappointed by James Dickey. I had reservations about serving with James because I had known him for over 15 years. I knew that there would be benefit to the continuation of the financial condition of the Republican Party of Texas if I continued as Treasurer but I had to address my reservations. I knew that James would be under extreme fundraising pressure if he was elected. Any signs of stability that the major donors saw in the party would be helpful.

In fact, before I told him I would serve because of my reservations, I gave James Dickey two conditions that he had to agree to in advance.

Condition #1 was that he retain Jennifer Stoner as RPT Accounting Director. Jennifer does a fine job for the Republican Party of Texas and I had no desire to retrain another person in that role.

Condition #2 was that James not interfere with the Republican Party of Texas keeping true and accurate accounting records and filing true and accurate reports to the FEC and TEC for our political and financial activities. James agreed to both conditions and I agreed to serve if James was elected.

James Dickey did in fact win the election by one vote (after shifting 3 votes with his deception that James intended to reappoint Patrick and myself).

The deception came to light in Chair Dickey’s first comments from the podium after election. James read his list of officers and did not reappoint Patrick O’Daniel or myself to office. He then added for the benefit of the deceived voters that he found that both Patrick and I had insisted on conditions for our service which he, James Dickey, could not accept.

James Dickey then made the first mistake of many that morning. He invited Patrick O’Daniel and me to the podium to give our final officer’s reports. Patrick went first. Prior to giving his report, Patrick clarified that he had made no conditions to his continuing service to the Party. James stated in response that Patrick had insisted on the retention of all of the Assistant General Counsel’s currently serving. Patrick stated again that he made no conditions to his service.

I was up next. I told the SREC that I did have two conditions to my service and I was sorry that they were unacceptable to Chair Dickey per his statement contrary to his acceptance with me on the prior evening. I then told the SREC what the two conditions were. You could hear an audible gasp from the SREC members.

Perhaps some were just becoming acquainted with Chair Dickey’s brand of ethics.
James stood up quickly and clarified that he only had issues with Patrick O’Daniel’s conditions for service (Patrick didn’t make any). James then said from the podium that his issue with me was my lack of transparency in financial reporting to the SREC over my seven years of service to that body.
During my service, I had increased the financial transparency that the SREC had from previous State Treasurer’s. First as Assistant Treasurer and then as State Treasurer, the SREC received a full income statement in detail by fund as well as Cash balances by fund. The new State Treasurer has since eliminated reporting by fund to the SREC.

Two weeks later, James Dickey contacted me to apologize for his conduct and statements to the SREC involving me.

James Dickey’s conduct involving the appointment of new officers for the Republican Party of Texas illustrates James Dickey’s ethics, morals, honesty and integrity in action.

Marvin Clede, a member of the SREC from Senate District 17, also commented at Big Jolly.

The comments to Melinda Fredericks are telling. —Melinda then asked him “why did you mislead us?” He replied “I had to or I would have lost the race because 2 votes would be determined based on my response.”—

I was one of those 2 votes who expected different things from Mr. Dickey. And this does not even address the heavy handed and impolitic way he dealt with the chair of the Auxiliaries and Coalitions Committee who is my colleague on the SREC. At the very least I am concerned about style and character expressed in subsequent actions. There are difficult questions to evaluate in this upcoming election, which to date, has become exceptionally divisive.

Dickey won that election by a single vote.

As I wrote then,

Travis County’s James Dickey was elected Saturday to lead the Texas Republican Party, defeating Rick Figueroa on a 32-31 vote of the State Republican Executive Committee.

Dickey succeeded Tom Mechler, whose sudden resignation two weeks ago left it to the statewide Republican Party leadership in the nation’s largest red state to pick his successor in a previously scheduled meeting at Austin’s Wyndham Garden Hotel.

“I am deeply humbled,” Dickey said, adding that he was only disappointed by the divisions revealed by the razor-thin margin.

For Dickey, chairman of the Travis County GOP, the victory was a stunning success for a campaign that was thrown together and executed in less than two weeks, quickly piling up endorsements from conservative activist groups.

Dickey’s victory signaled the strength of grass-roots tea party leaders, who felt Mechler was insufficiently aggressive in pushing the state party’s platform at the Capitol. Texas Right to Life also backed Dickey.

won

After Saturday’s vote, Mechler said he was “shocked and disappointed” with the result.

The next state convention in June 2018 will decide whether to ratify Saturday’s choice or select someone else as chairman.

Figueroa said he had no intention of challenging Dickey for chairman in 2018.

“It’s not who I am,” he said.

Ultimately, Mechler couldn’t impose his choice on an executive committee that was divided down the middle between what are described, broadly speaking, as establishment and tea party wings.

Mechler’s abrupt resignation two weeks before the executive committee’s meeting might have been intended to improve Figueroa’s chances, but it didn’t work, and there was some resentment on the committee that the chairman was trying to force his choice on them.

Yesterday, Bill Crocker nominated his daughter, Cindy Asche, for state party chair. Mechler was her most prominent supporter.

Dickey prevailed, and this time it wasn’t close.

From today’s story.

The final vote was 5,680 votes, or 65.4 percent for Dickey, a former Travis County Republican Party chairman, and 3,009 votes, or 34.6 percent for Asche, a nurse from Frisco who serves as chaplain of the Texas Federation of Republican Women and whose father, Bill Crocker, is an Austin attorney who formerly served as the Republican national committeeman from Texas and general counsel of the Republican National Committee.

After the tally was announced, a relieved and smiling Dickey briefly took the stage to offer his thanks to strains of the Beatles “Come Together,” and to ask those who voted for him and those who didn’t to “come together” to beat the Democrats in November.

As for Asche’s exit music, well, there wasn’t any, but if there were, the choice is obvious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Texas GOP: Abolish abortion, property taxes, taxpayer-funded lobbying and gun licensing requirements

Good Friday Austin:

The Texas Republican Convention’s Platform and Resolutions Committee and the Legislative Priorities Committee finished their work late last night with some drama.

The submission of the platform was accompanied by the submission of a far shorter minority report, signed by nine members of the committee and intended to be something the public beyond the 10,000 hard-core Republicans in attendance at the biennial convention San Antonio are likely to read.

The Legislative Priorities Committee, led by Amy Clark, the vice chair of the state party, is a new innovation this convention.

Here, in no particular order, are the five issues it recommends that the full convention identify as the five top issues the party should set as its goals for the next session of the Texas Legislature.

The plank that packed the most emotional wallop, and was attended by the most angst, was on abortion.

As I  wrote about in a First Reading earlier in the week, this was a tug of war between the abortion abolitionists, who want Texas to abolish abortion and ignore and resist Roe v. Wade, and what Texas Right to Life describes as the “prudent incrementalist” approach of chipping away, with an aim to ultimately undoing Roe through legislation and the courts.

The 2016 platform adopted the radical abolitionist approach as its priority, and the new language recommended by the new committee, is a hybrid, which leaders on both sides considered mixing “oil and water,” but which the abolitionists especially found distasteful.

In his closing remarks in favor of the compromise plan, Terry Holcomb from San Jacinto County, representing Senate District 3, said that people needed to realize just how radical the implications of at the undiluted abolitionist plank are.

Holcomb:

So obviously I’m going to speak in favor but I am going to try to educate this bunch, I mean. I’m the one who wrote the original language, so forth and so one, but when someone says, “All we have to do is ignore Roe,” that shows the literal lack of understanding of the impact this would have, because you wouldn’t just have to ignore Roe, you’d have to arrest DA’s, you’d have to arrest doctors, you might even have to arrest governors and lieutenant governors and all these other people, and the magnitude is something that we need to get our arms around because if we ever decided we had the backbone to abolish abortion, this is what we’d have to do.

It has nothing to do with the federal government, it has to do with what we would do right here in Texas. And that is going to require more than people can possibly imagine. Blood. Tears, Treasure. The whole thing.

While the language they settled on had the support of most of the members of the committee, Melissa Bodenger of Austin, representing Senate District 14, was overcome with emotion with passage of what she considered to be a dangerous and destructive recommendation when Clark called the question.

Bodenger:

This is lunacy. No legislator is going to walk out of his office with this. And I’m sorry, but who here signed up to start defying the Constitution? I mean, seriously? Seriously, you’re going to do that? My God, how selfish. 

On adjournment, Bodenger was still trembling.

Bodenger:

This is the Constitution.

States cannot nullify decisions of the federal courts

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land.

They’re going to defy the federal government on purpose.

Why are we blowing a hole in the Constitution? That is what the left does.

From Holcomb after adjournment:

This is compromise language, stating we want to abolish abortion but, until we get there, it offers incremental steps.

He said that the rank-and-file delegates who endorsed the purely abolitionist priority two years ago – and wanted to see it simply reiterated in this platform – really didn’t fully comprehend the implications of  what they were saying.

They do not understand the magnitude. They don’t understand what it is actually saying.

It was a more of a political, emotional position without ever really truly looking to understand the reality and the impact.

This is not over. the abolitionist guys are going to be there, first thing out, guaranteed, to try to change it from the floor. This is not final.

Here is the platform and minority report.

The 30-page platform has 331 planks and one resolution – the censure of Rep. Byron Cook.

There is also a seven-page minority report with 81 planks.

It was submitted by nine members of the committee led by Steven Armbruster of Round Rock. It was signed by:

Steven Armbruster, SD5
Henry Peyton Inge, SD12
Todd Gallaher, SD18
Brandey Batey, SD20
Brian Hill, SD21
Stephen Broden, SD23
Beth Cubriel, SD25
Morgan Graham, SD27
Mark Dunham, SD2
The preface explains its premise:

Our platform planks should be strong, clear assertions of the contemporary principles of our party membership. They should unite our membership under shared ideals rather than divide the membership with fractious detail. These assertions should be tailored for brevity, clarity, unity, and to distinguish our positions from those of our opponents.

This platform has planks that define the principles of the Republican Party. In addition to this platform we have included specific action items that would help implement principles in our platform.

The minority report was mostly the handiwork of Armbruster.

Armbruster:

I’ve been working on the platform for the last ten years and the number one complaint that I have gotten in the last four years is that the platform is too long, too unruly, too contradictory of its own self and that the average voter doesn’t read it.

The delegates read it because they gave up a weekend, or, in my case, a week of my life to come play politics. But the people I know at church, the people that I know through work and my friends, they’ve never read the platform. It’s so long, they pick it up and thumb through it and say, “I’m not gong to read this.”

It becomes an exercise to produce a document that, once we leave here, nobody reads. The only people who actually use it are the political activists.

My whole point behind this – and I told the members of the committee – this is a one-time deal. I’ll not do this again. I won’t bring a simplified platform again. We get one shot at doing this, and we’re done, but I want the 8,000 delegates to have their voice heard.

Ambruster said he was elected by his Senate District with the explicit promise to do what he’s doing.

My people have sent me here to produce a simplified document.

The major debate comes down to this one point. What is a platform? Is a platform what it historically has always been, which is a statement of beliefs and principles which the members of an organization all agree on or, is it a laundry list of items which you want to see acted on.

I’ll be honest, I call our platform a Christmas tree. We built a Christmas tree and then every special interest group and every individual that has their pet project comes along and hangs it on there and, since 2006, our platform has done nothing but get larger.

 

 

The Abbott campaign may show Lupe Valdez `no mercy,’ but will Latino voters say, `No más.’

Good morning Austin:

Lupe Valdez looked very, very happy last night.

And why not.

As they say,  what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

Who says that?

Kelly Clarkson.

Friedrich Nietzche.
From Quora:
Charlene Dargay, word maven

Answered Apr 12, 2016 · Author has 935 answers and 1.5m answer views

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s original line was “Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stärker.” The saying comes from the “Maxims and Arrows” section of Nietzsche’s book, Twilight of the the Idols (1888). It is usually translated into English as “what does not kill me makes me stronger.”

Nietzsche used a similar line in Ecce Homo (written 1888, published 1908), the last book he wrote before going completely insane. In the chapter entitled “Why I Am So Wise,” he wrote that a person who has “turned out well” could be recognized by certain attributes, such as a knack for exploiting bad accidents to his advantage. Regarding such a man, Nietzsche said: “What does not kill him makes him stronger.” (“Was ihn nicht umbringt, macht ihn stärker.”)

Today, English translations and variations of Nietzsche’s maxim are often used for ironic effect. But they are also frequently used in a positive way, to express optimism and determination in the face of adversity.

The race was closer than it should have been.

Andrew White, son of Gov. Mark White, but making his first run for elective office, proved to be a good candidate.

But, for the most part, Valdez’s undoing was mostly her own doing.

My first take on Valdez running for governor was that it was desperate, eleventh-hour (really 11:59 p.m.) gambit by the state party – which was officially neutral – to find a non-white, non-White candidate for governor after efforts to recruit a Castro-tier candidate failed.

Not so, said Valdez to me last week.

Let’s get something clear here. The party never asked me to run. Once I said I think I want to do this, they were excited, but they never asked me to run, never asked me to make my decision.

In January, when I went to Dallas to meet Valdez for the first time, I was impressed. Her life story is truly compelling and inspirational.

And, she’s simply an interesting person.

I thought she had potential as a candidate.

But the campaign never really took flight, and it kind of hit a low point when at the end of April she managed to lose the endorsement of Jolt, an organization of young Latino activists, to White.

From my First Reading: Lupe Valdez talks Latinx activists into backing the White guy for governor

As of today, thanks largely to the forces of political inertia, Lupe Valdez remains the favorite to win the May 22 runoff and become the Democratic candidate for governor in 2018.

But, steadily, bit by bit, Valdez appears determined to chip away at her lead.

On Sunday it was an appearance, along with rival Andrew White, Miguel Suazo, the Democratic Party’s candidate for land commissioner, and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso,the party’s candidate for U.S. Senate, at a town hall put on by Jolt, a barely year-old organization intended to mobilize younger Latinos as a political force in Texas (note that both Suazo and O’Rourke are both running against Hispanic Republican incumbents in Land Commissioner George P. Bush and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.)

But somehow, on the strength – or weakness – of her performance, Valdez lost the endorsement of a passionate and energized group of Latinx (as I have learned, the gender-neutral term for Latinos/Latinas) Texans to a white man named White who is the son of a white man named Mark White who served as a centrist governor of Texas for one term from 1983 to 1987,  and who is running in 2018 as a centrist Democrat for governor.

Earlier, back in February, I wrote another First Reading: Knocked for a Lupe: Morning News, Chronicle, Houston GLBT Caucus snub Valdez for Andrew White

It’s not like she had any chance of defeating Greg Abbott for governor to begin with. And I’m not saying that she won’t still end up being the Democratic nominee. But, after this weekend, that is less certain than it was before, and she is more likely to have to go to a runoff to secure the nomination.

But mostly, after this weekend, her chances of running a formidable campaign are severely diminished.

It’s not simply because the state’s two biggest newspapers endorsed Andrew White. It’s not just because the Houston GLBT Political Caucus chose White over Valdez, a groundbreaking lesbian sheriff. It’s because in each case, Valdez was found to be unprepared to be governor, or a good candidate for governor.

Most devastatingly, this is how the Dallas Morning News, her hometown paper, wrote of her in its endorsement of White.

We had high hopes for former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, the only candidate who’s held elective office, having been elected in 2004 and re-elected four times since, and someone we’ve supported locally at various times.  We were disappointed by her gross unfamiliarity with state issues, however, particularly an almost incoherent attempt to discuss state financing. 

At one point, Valdez, 70, volunteered that she didn’t know whether the state was spending $8 million or $8 billion on border control. (It’s closer $800 million.) On college tuition, she first suggested the Legislature “and stakeholders” should set tuition rates, but then contradicted herself, and she later said the state should move to reduce local property tax rates, apparently unaware of those set by local jurisdictions.  

Those two paragraphs will be hard to recover from.

No matter what she does from here on out, they won’t go away.

White, in his own campaign, may choose to rely on the positive things the Dallas Morning News had to say about him.

xxxx

But those lines about Valdez will haunt her campaign if she faces Greg Abbott. The ad writes itself:  gross unfamiliarity with state issues … almost incoherent attempt to discuss state financing … didn’t know whether the state was spending $8 million or $8 billion on border control.

But last Wednesday I traveled to Laredo to see Valdez in the midst of a campaign tour across that overwhelmingly Latino stretch of Texas along the border, from end to end, where she overwhelmed White.

New York Times

In Laredo, I saw the potential I had seen in that original interview realized.

Her bio was no longer just background. It was fresh and meaningful.

As I wrote:

White said it’s clear that Abbott sees Valdez as an easier mark and is focusing his attention on her in hopes of helping her win the nomination.

“He’s aware that I’m not the average person that has gone against him,” Valdez told the Statesman. “I think he’s just getting an early start. He’s starting earlier because he knows he’s got a challenge ahead of him. I’m not your everyday politician.”

Bluster, perhaps.

But with an element of truth.

She may not have the Stanford and Harvard bona fides of the golden Castros.

But she speaks Spanish – it is essential to who she is – and she is, in her background, unlike any other candidate to have run for governor of Texas.

From my story:

LAREDO —Magda Gonzales has dreamt about Lupe Valdez.

In the dream, Valdez is campaigning in the border community of El Cenizo, a one-time colonia 16 miles south of Laredo where Gonzales lives, and Gonzales is vainly running all over the barely half-square-mile city of about 800 households trying to find Valdez and get a picture with her.

Wednesday night, at a lively rally at the Pan American Courts food truck park and beer garden in Laredo, Gonzales caught up with Valdez, 70, considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for governor, amid a final campaign swing that also took her to Corpus Christi, Kingsville, McAllen, El Paso and San Antonio. She is scheduled to end up Sunday at the Travis County Democratic Party Ice Cream Social at VFW Post 856 in Austin.

“Lupe’s story is like mine,” Gonzales said of growing up without sidewalks or indoor plumbing. “I said, `Yes, that’s the one.’ And Beto O’Rourke, he’s the one. He is so empathetic. He’s here, he’s there, he’s all over the place, and that’s what we need, people that are passionate.

xxxxxx

But, despite her sometimes rough ride, Valdez’s appearance before a delighted crowd in Laredo is a reminder why she remains the favorite Tuesday and why, more than White, she has the potential to deliver crucial votes for O’Rourke and the rest of the ticket.

“We need to get the Latinos fired up and voting,” declared a fired-up Valdez. “My name is Lupe Valdez, and I have a voice, and I am going to put my name on that voice, and you are going to hear me very loud. We need to vote.”

At the Pan American Court, a cultural and political gathering spot, her audience seemed to love everything about Valdez — her recounting of her hardscrabble San Antonio beginnings as the eighth child of a family of migrant workers, her service in the military, as a federal agent for Customs and Homeland Security, her 13 years as the sheriff in Dallas County, her historic role as an out lesbian in Texas politics, and the way she weaves warmly remembered Spanish colloquialisms into her speeches.

“I can tell you that more people identify here with her than do with Beto, and I think it’s because she represents a cross section of everything that Laredo is kind of struggling to find,” said 23-year-old David Barrera, who recently organized a branch of the San Antonio nonprofit MOVE — Mobilize, Organize, Vote, Empower — in Laredo. “We love our vets. We respect our women. She’s Hispanic. It’s an interesting thing because I have not met anybody here who doesn’t like her – even the Republicans are like, `I like her.’”

Barrera, who founded the Webb County Young Democrats, will needle those Hispanic Republicans, telling them, “but she’s for abortion,” and he said they’ll respond, “Well, you can’t like everything about a person.”

“I think you’ve got a lot of people here who don’t know any other single candidate but who know who she is because of Hispanic media,” Barrera said. “You see a lot of coverage, especially here in a border town.”

Barrera was impressed when he walked with O’Rourke through a Laredo neighborhood during a campaign swing a couple of weeks ago with how he seamlessly moved back and forth between Spanish and English. But Valdez, he said, has a more intimate, organic way into the heart of voters here.

“I’ve heard Beto O’Rourke. He is such an eloquent orator, he has his points – A, B, C, D,” Barrera said. “She speaks very simply, very comfortably, but it resonates with her because she looks like somebody I grew up with. She looks like my grandmother, and I love my grandmother.”

“I just have to listen to her because if not, I’m going to get emotional because my grandmother didn’t get the chance to do X, Y and Z, because she was born into a machismo culture that held her down and she, to this day, still holds to those tenets,” Barrera said. But, he said, his grandmother has made it very clear, “I’m going to vote for her.

 

Valdez won Laredo’s Webb County, 81.5 percent to 18.5 percent..

If you wonder what the Abbott campaign would have done if White had somehow defeated Valdez, you need not wonder, per chief strategist Dave Carney last night.

But, Dave, what about Lupe?

But, embedded in the fun, there was this reflective moment

Well, with all the money in the world at your disposal, perhaps not.

But I would offer this caution

Four years ago, the Abbott campaign made much of the fact that his wife, Cecilia Abbott, would be the first Latina First Lady in Texas history.

The Abbott campaign also made great use of her mother in an ad.

From the campaign blurb about the ad:

For a frank assessment of a person’s character, look no further than his mother-in-law. Now, Texans have the opportunity to hear about Greg Abbott’s honesty, values and commitment to serving the people of Texas directly from his mother-in-law. Greg Abbott is proud of his multicultural family, and our campaign is proud to share their story with all Texans.

Wendy Davis was idolized by many of her admirers, but, for many Texans, she was a cold and aloof figure, and an ideal opponent for Abbott.

Lupe Valdez is not cold and not aloof. And beating up on her is going to be like beating up on a lot of Hispanic Texans’ grandmothers, only this one will fight back.

From my story Sunday:

Valdez expects the general election campaign to get ugly.

“He’s going to tear me down any way he can — this way and that way and that way and that way, he’s going to tear me down,” Valdez said of Abbott. “But when it’s over I’m still going to be standing.”

“‘It is going to be unpleasant,” Valdez said. “That’s the type of human being he is.”

Barring the very unforeseen, Lupe Valdez is not going to be elected governor, so her qualifications as a candidate are actually more important to Democrats this year than her qualifications to be governor, and, properly deployed, she could be an asset to the ticket, even, or maybe, especially if the Abbott campaign shows no mercy.

Valdez spoke in Laredo in front of light installation by local artist Poncho Santos – I Love U Chingos – a border take on Austin’s I love you so much wall, with chingos a Spanish expletive doing the work of so much.

Her crowd in Laredo that night loved Valdez chingos, and it was voters like them who’ saved Valdez’s campaign.

Which is why Lupe Valdez looked very, very happy last night.

And why not.

 

 

 

 

Trump-West 2020: Why Trump will dump Draggin’ Energy Mike for Dragon Energy Kanye on the ticket

 

 

 

Good day Austin:

I was there at the NRA annual meeting in Dallas Friday to hear Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump, in that order, speak.

By the time Pence and Trump were finished I wondered how Trump would deliver the news to Pence that he was replacing him as his running mate in 2020 with Kanye West.

A tweet a/la Rex Tillerson would be the traditional way to go.

But who knows with what kind of flourish Trump will send Pence back home again to Indiana.

I figure, though, that Pence has been elected to office a bunch of times. He is vice president of the United States. His political antenna must be in good working order. So I’ve got to believe that he left Dallas knowing he was doomed.

In his introduction, Pence lavished praise on President Trump, going so far as describing Ronald Reagan as “my second favorite president.”

I don’t remember what if anything Trump had to say about Pence.

But I do remember what he had to say about Kanye West.

Trump:

Kanye West must have some power because I doubled my African-American poll numbers. We went from 11 [percent] to 22 in one week. Thank you, Kanye. Thank you. When I saw the number, I said, ‘That must be a mistake. How can that have happened?’ Even the pollsters thought that must be a mistake.

From The Wrap:

Kanye West’s total embrace of President Donald Trump may be starting to have real-world implications beyond Twitter.

According to the results of a Reuters weekly tracking poll released this week, support for the president among black men doubled from 11 percent, for the week ending April 22, to 22 percent, for the week ending April 29. The approval numbers are the highest Trump has enjoyed in the survey among black men all year.

The timing is noteworthy since the rapper began to go public with his pro-Trump views on April 21, first tweeting support for right-wing pundit Candace Own on April 21. Four days later, he proclaimed “love” for POTUS and his “dragon energy” — and posted a selfie in which he wore a MAGA hat.

Pence must know he’s about to go the way of  Henry Wallace and Nelson Rockefeller, vice presidents who got dumped by the presidents they served – FDR and Gerald Ford – for presumably more dependable and  useful running mates, like Harry Truman and Bob Dole, and now, Kanye West.

At first, the idea sounds cracked.

But think about it.

There is simply no reason for Trump to hang on to Pence.

He served his purpose, such as it was, but he doesn’t serve it any more.

It can be asked of Pence as it was of war –  What is it (he)  good for? And the answer is exactly the same:  Absolutely nothing.

Pence, huh, yeah.

What is he  good for?

Absolutely nothing

Pence, huh, yeah.

What is he good for?

Absolutely nothing

Say it again, y’all

Seriously.

Is there a single American voter, not named Pence, who is more likely to vote for Donald Trump for president because Mike Pence is on the ticket?

I don’t think so.

Pence was added to the ticket to assure conservative, mostly evangelical Christian voters that Trump, the candidate from Sodom and Gomorrah, could be trusted, and to keep an eye on him.

But Trump, who carried the evangelical vote running against Ted Cruz, didn’t turn out to need any vouching for.

Evangelical Christians seem, by and large, to love him.

And, ever since he’s been president he has only solidified his standing with those voters.

Every odd and aberrant aspect of Trump, right down to having an affair with a porn star and paying her hush money, is simply evidence that God works in mysterious ways.

Trump is now so secure with his base, there is nothing I can think of that would shake it.

I guess there might be some white nationalist Never-Westers, who would balk at a Trump-West ticket as a betrayal. But not too many, and many times more voters might vote for Trump with the addition of Kanye than would depart on his account.

I mean, if you’re Donald Trump, how can the draggin’ energy of Mike Pence compete with the dragon energy he shares with fellow master of the universe Kanye West?

And if you think a Trump-West ticket is just too crazy, it is clearly less crazy than Trump getting elected in the first place, and to pick, in West, his brother in narcissism and branding, is the logical, inevitable outcome of Trump’s presidency and politics.

And, have you heard Ultralight Beam?

I mean, President Obama’s Amazing Grace in Charleston, S.C., was quite something.

But West is next level, and Obama’s performance is precedent that there is no reason that Kanye couldn’t continue to tour and perform as Veep.

As West raps in Ye vs. the People:

I know Obama was heaven sent
But ever since Trump won, it proved that I could be President.

Or vice president.

In any case, you think we’re going to go through the Trump administration only to Return to Normalcy with Mike Pence, like Warren G. Harding after those chaotic Woodrow Wilson years?

Now, you might ask, will the Grand Old Party accept dumping Pence for West?

Here’s the real-time thought process on that: No, of course, well  …. Hell yeah!

Why wouldn’t they?

Apart from those scattered party poopers like Sens. Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Neocon Czar William Kristol, most of the rest of the Republican Party and the conservative movement in America has thrown its lot with Trump, overlooking every shocking and bizarre permutation of his presidency in favor of an awed allegiance to what Jeff Roe, Ted Cruz’s campaign manager for president and for re-electionto to the Senate, recently described in a New York Times op-ed, as the maddening brilliance as Trump.

If somehow Trump’s choice of a black man as his running mate is the one thing Trump has done that they don’t fall in line behind, well …  they can’t do that.

Vice does indeed do  a comprehensive job of identifying the right-wing losers who suddenly love Kanye.

The only critique I would offer is that these right-wing losers won in 2016..

 

 

On Friday, Alex Jones snuck a little time at home before the start of his daughter’s first birthday party to deconstruct what was going on with Kanye and Trump.

Jones:

I don’t pay attention to pop culture. I really should because that’s where the brainwashing is going on. And I saw like the gay fish stuff, whatever, five years ago, but I listened to (Kanye’s) music, and I’m thinking, this is some pretty good, relaxing rap. Every Kanye song is good, not great, some are great, but they’re all good. Some music, like Metallica, Led Zeppelin – some’s great, all of it’s good. Kanye’s in that class. That’s my opinion.

But I’m not into celebrities. I’ve already seen it. I’ve already done it.

OK. Let’s skip ahead.

Jones doesn’t like what Snoop Dogg had to say about Kanye.

Snoop Dogg, Jones says, is like Urkel, and a fraud.

Kanye is real folks, Urkel is not.

Jones:

You know why people love Trump so much? It’s about the energy. He doesn’t care what color you are.

Oh, if I even told you, they would go crazy with that.

Trump likes black people. He likes their energy, but I’m gonna leave it at that.

 

 

Then there’s Dilbert cartoons Scott Adams, a leading Trumpologist and the author of Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter.

Scott Adams Tells You How Kanye West Showed the Way To The Golden Age

What follows are notes, not the complete text, of what is on this video:

Scott Adams:

We keep seeing things that don’t seem possible based on our old way of thinking.

We’re seeing more signs of the Golden Age  …. when all the big stuff is going right, heading in the right direction … the tealization many of our problems are psychological, not physical.

A President Trump comes on the scene. One of the things that defines him more any … he doesn’t see limits on what he can do. His marriage. What level he can rise to. How much money he can make. What he can say on Twitter.

“You can’t do that. You can’t say that.”

Hold my Diet Coke. I am going to do this in front of you. I am going to give this nickname. I am going to insult this person.

And it all seems impossible. Until it works out.

The economy is blazing. North Korea is starting to go in the right direction. And if North Korea goes it will be the biggest signal of the Golden Age. It will be the biggest success in history that was a psychological problem that was solved by psychological means, short of war.

It feels like there’s something big happening.

People are breaking out of their mental prisons, things that used to hold us back.

The best example of that recently …  Yes we are going to the white board.

President Trump is not in a mental prison. He knows that history doesn’t repeat itself. Where did he get that. Same place I did. Norman Vincent Peale and The Power of Positive Thinking.

Another mental prison – the problem has to be the solution.

With slavery, white people were the problem and white people were the solution.

Same with civil rights. White people are the problem and the solution.

But now you get to this “last mile fog,” where things are much better but could be better still, and people don’t agree what the problems are.

We are coming to the point where we are separating the problems from the solution.

And what I mean by that is you are sort of seeing the philosophy represented by Candace Owens.

And you can Google her if you’re not familiar with her. She is a conservative African-American woman who has become a very important voice, because she represents a point of view that you don’t see as much as you will in the future.

The conservative view ,which Candace holds,  is that society has done what it can do, meaning that white people have done what they can do to make the laws as close as possible, to enforce the laws, and the last mile, no matter who causes the problem – doesn’t matter whether white people are the cause or not the cause of the last-mile problem, they can’t fix it. They can do what they can do but they’re not really the solution.

So Candace’s realization is the problem and the solution are disconnected.

Only the people who have the problem can fix it. Not the people who did cause it you think they caused it. Even if they wanted to, which they probably do.

Candace says we’re in the Golden Age already, because the biggest problem is the way we think about the problem. If we think about it differently we can get to a better place.

What was the big news of the last week? Kanye West, who is famous for saying things like, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

For getting on stage with Taylor Swift and making the statement that Beyoncé  should have won and racism was probably part of the voting, somebody who has strong credentials for being an advocate for black people and against racism.

So Kanye probably has good credentials from that point of view, and what did he tweet? He tweeted, “I love the way Candace Owens thinks.” Seven words. And he ripped a hole in reality with seven words.

Because Kanye is supposed to be over here. And Candace is supposed to be over here. And they are never supposed to say the other one said something right. That’s not supposed to happen

But Kanye did it anyway. Kanye knows history doesn’t repeat. He is not a prisoner of the mind. He knows the problem is not the solution. Whatever you want to say about Kanye’s politics, and I don’t even know what his preferred politics would be, I’m not even sure what party he would run for if he ran for president at this point.

Whatever else you want to say about him, and I don’t know enough about his actual management skills or political ability, but he did something that you could rarely see. He actually just altered reality. He just made the entire conservative twittersphere go WRUMP.

What did I just see? Did I really see this?

Forget about if you think Candace has everything right or everything wrong. That’s not the story. The story is  that these two people that shouldn’t be in the same conversation, and Kanye just changed that, in seven words. And he just freed a lot of people from a mental prison. Kanye unlocked a mental prison, and is bringing you to the Golden Age.

But then, of course, there was this contribution to the public dialogue from Kanye.

A little background

The big difference between a white liberal and white conservative is the liberal has some sense of guilt.

The best thing ever for some white conservatives is when some black people say they have absolutely nothing to be guilty about.

(Maybe it’s Jewish thing, but I associate religion with guilt. Yet it seems for some, confessing sin and begging forgiveness is way better than feeling guilty about it.)

So, per Kanye, or at least the soundbite of Kanye, if slavery was a choice that slaves somehow accepted – who are white people to get all judgmental and say that black people made the wrong choice.

I am sure that a lot of people at the NRA annual meeting would have been pleased with the shorthand of what Kanye had to say.

Otherwise, they might have considered giving posthumous life memberships to John Brown and Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey who sought to use guns in the name of freedom..

Instead, here, in segments tweeted by NRA-TV, so you know they thought they were especially choice, are Trump superfans Diamond and Silk, dropping some really lame but crowd-pleasing lines of argument.

 

Kruse is a Princeton historian who is pretty active on Twitter.

In the meantime, Kanye and T.I. have put out Ye vs. the People (starring T.I. as the People), in which Kanye explains what he is up to with Trump and MAGA and is cross-examined by the rapper T.I., playing the part of the skeptical Kanye faithful.

It’s at a far higher level than Diamonds and Silk.

Oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh
I had for us
You turned my dreams into dust

KW: I know Obama was heaven sent
But ever since Trump won, it proved that I could be President

TI: Yeah, you can, at what cost though?
Don’t that go against the teachings that Ye taught for?

KW: Yo, Tip, I hear your side and everybody talk, though
But ain’t goin’ against the grain everything I fought for?

TI: Prolly so, Ye, but where you tryna go with this?
It’s some shit you just don’t align with and don’t go against

KW: You just readin’ the headlines, you don’t see the fine print
You on some choosin’side shit, I’m on some unified shit

TI: It’s bigger than your selfish agenda
If your election ain’t gon’ stop police from murderin’ niggas, then shit

KW: Bruh, I never ever stopped fightin’ for the people
Actually, wearin’ the hat’ll show people that we equal

TI: You gotta see the vantage point of the people
What makes you feel equal makes them feel evil

KW: See that’s the problem with this damn nation
All Blacks gotta be Democrats, man, we ain’t made it off the plantation

TI: Fuck who you choose as your political party
You representin’ dudes just seem crude and cold-hearted
With blatant disregard for the people who put you in position
Don’t you feel an obligation to them?

KW: I feel a obligation to show people new ideas
And if you wanna hear ’em, there go two right here
Make America Great Again had a negative perception
I took it, wore it, rocked it, gave it a new direction
Added empathy, care and love and affection
And y’all simply questionin’ my methods

TI: What you willin’ to lose for the point to be proved?
This shit is stubborn, selfish, bullheaded, even for you
You wore a dusty-ass hat to represent the same views
As white supremacy, man, we expect better from you
All them times you sounded crazy, we defended you, homie
Not just to be let down when we depend on you, homie
That’s why it’s important to know what direction you’re goin’ now
‘Cause everything that you built can be destroyed and torn down

KW: You think I ain’t concerned about how I affect the past?
I mean, that hat stayed in my closet like ’bout a year and a half
Then one day I was like, “Fuck it, I’ma do me”
I was in the sunken place and then I found the new me
Not worried about some image that I gotta keep up
Lot of people agree with me, but they’re too scared to speak up

TI: The greater good of the people is first
Have you considered all the damage and the people you hurt?
You had a bad idea, and you’re makin’ it worse
This shit’s just as bad as Catholic preachers rapin’ in church

KW: Y’all been leadin’ with hate, see I just approach it different
Like a gang truce, the first Blood to shake the Crip’s hand
I know everybody emotional
Is it better if I rap about crack? Huh? ‘Cause it’s cultural?
Or how about I’ma shoot you, or fuck your bitch?
Or how about all this Gucci, ’cause I’m fuckin’ rich?

TI: You’ll deal with God for the lack of respect
Startin’ to make it seem like Donnie cut you a check
Now you toyin’ with hot lava, better be careful with that
What’s it mean to gain the world if you ain’t standin’ for shit?
Okay I gotta say it, Ye, you sound high as a bitch
Yeah, genocide and slavery, we should just try and forget
And all that free thought shit, find a better defense
But if Ye just stuck in his way, he can leave it at that
Fuck it

KW: Alright, Tip, we could be rappin’ about this all day, man
Why don’t we just cut the beat off and let the people talk.

Returning to Kevin Kruse, the Princeton historian, here is an extensive thread: Since @kanyewest’s tweets have apparently made this topic unavoidable, some thoughts on the history of the parties’ switch on civil rights.

First, it’s important to note that, yes, the Democrats were indeed the party of slavery and, in the early 20th century, the party of segregation, too.

(There are some pundits who claim this is some secret they’ve uncovered, but it’s long been front & center in any US history.)

Indeed, as @rauchway once noted, one could argue that *the* central story of twentieth-century American political history is basically the evolution of the Democratic Party from the party of Jim Crow to the party of civil rights.

At the start of the 20th century, the Democrats — dominated by white southern conservatives — were clearly the party of segregationists.

President Woodrow Wilson, for instance, instituted segregation in Washington and across the federal government. (See @EricSYellin’s work.)

That said, both parties in this period had their share of racists in their ranks.

When the second KKK rose to power in the 1920s, it had a strong Democratic ties in some states; strong GOP ones elsewhere.

There’s a meme purporting to show the 1924 Democratic convention was known as the “Klanbake” but — wait a second, you should sit down for this — that internet meme is not in fact historically accurate.

See @pashulman & @CleverTitleTK for a breakdown: washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-h…
This, then, was a period when the two parties’ IDs were in flux.

Democrats still had a base of segregationists in the South, but increasingly some liberals in the North.

Republicans, liberal & even radical in Lincoln’s era, had more conservatives joining, often in the West.
With the New Deal, FDR brought new big-government liberalism to the Democrats, but found sharp resistance from southern Dems on two issues: unions and civil rights.

(Among dozens and dozens of great books on this, see Ira Katznelson’s Fear Itself:
‘Fear Itself,’ by Ira KatznelsonIra Katznelson examines how Franklin D. Roosevelt won approval for the New Deal, and at what cost.https://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/07/books/review/fear-itself-by-ira-katznelson.html)

Importantly, despite some small gestures, FDR’s brand of liberalism was purely focused on economic issues.

Though some in the administration (Eleanor Roosevelt, progressive Republican Harold Ickes, etc.) were racially liberal, the Democrats as a whole were not.

As Nancy Weiss Malkiel and others showed, African Americans began voting Democratic not because of the New Deal’s record on race, but in spite of it.

Blacks stayed loyal to “the party of Lincoln” in 1932, but shifted in massive numbers to FDR in 1936. (~76% of northern blacks)

Over the next two decades, Democrats had an uneasy coalition that combined white southern conservatives and African Americans in the north, plus a growing number of white liberals.

This tension came to a head in the 1948 election, under the leadership of President Harry Truman.
Outraged at reports of black WWII vets being assaulted, Truman launched a presidential commission on civil rights in 1946-7.

Then — to the nation’s shock — he pressed hard for all its recommendations, including protecting black voting rights and desegregating the military.

Liberal Democrats rallied around Truman’s call, with then-Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey urging the 1948 DNC “to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.”

After Humphrey’s speech, the convention adopted a strong civil rights plank.

It was a turning point for the party, the first major fight on civil rights in which northern liberals beat back southern conservatives and took control of the party on race relations.

Famously, of course, Southern Democrats bolted the party in anger, forming the States Rights Democratic Party — “the Dixiecrats” — under the leadership of avowed segregationist Strom Thurmond.

Thurmond and the Dixiecrats took four Deep South states (notably, all places where local allies kicked Truman off the ballot) but Truman still won re-election that fall.

The Dixiecrats came back into the coalition, but increasingly saw that they were on the losing end of things.

The Democratic Party was still the only party in the South, where the Republicans — “the party of Lincoln” — were still reviled and, as a result, virtually non-existent.

In his classic 1949 study, the famous political scientist V.O. Key judged that the Republican Party in the South “scarcely deserves the name of party. It wavers somewhat between an esoteric cult on the order of a lodge and a conspiracy for plunder.”

In fact, Republicans were so rare in the South that in the 1950s they told a story in East Texas about a sheriff who threw out the only two votes for a Republican candidate on the assumption that the candidate himself must have voted twice.

Both parties vied for the southern white vote during the 1950s, and thus took a fairly hands-off approach to civil rights.

Republican President Dwight Eisenhower and Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson, his Dem opponent in 1952 & 1956, both tried to duck the issue whenever possible. As president, Ike sympathized with southern whites.

After Brown v. Board, he said appointing Chief Justice Earl Warren had been “the biggest damfool mistake I ever made.” He refused to urge compliance with Brown, allowing southern Democrats to wage “massive resistance” to it.

Eisenhower reluctantly intervened in Little Rock, but only belatedly, when Democratic Governor Orval Faubus’s defiance of the Supreme Court — and, by extension, Eisenhower’s own authority — got dangerously out of hand.

JFK was a lot like Ike on civil rights. He made symbolic efforts in the 1960 campaign, calling Coretta Scott King when MLK was in jail and winning key black votes in the North.

But until the Birmingham protests in 1963 he was generally reluctant to act, just as Ike had been.
In June 1963, after the Kennedy administration secured the desegregation of the University of Alabama — over the objections of Democratic Gov. George Wallace — JFK issued this stirring call for the legislation that would become the Civil Rights Act.

When JFK was assassinated, Lyndon B. Johnson didn’t simply continue to push for the Civil Rights Act, but went further, making it even stronger than originally planned.

He signed it into law in July 1964 with Martin Luther King at his side:

Now, Republicans were pivotal in helping pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It *was* a Democratic admin’s bill, but Southern Dems in the Senate blocked it at every turn, so Democratic leaders reached out to Minority Leader Everett Dirksen to get GOP votes to help pass it.

Despite that GOP support for the Civil Rights Act, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican presidential nominee, voted against it.

Personally, Goldwater wasn’t a bigot. He opposed not integration itself, but federal intervention to achieve it.
For most Southern whites, however, the nuances of Goldwater’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act didn’t matter. All that mattered was that he stood against it, while LBJ stood for it.

Goldwater carried four Deep South states that fall, with segregationists rallying to the GOP.
Notably, Senator Strom Thurmond — the original Dixiecrat — bolted from the Democratic Party to join the ranks of the Republicans.

Importantly, he secured a rare deal with the GOP whereby he’d keep his seniority, and all the congressional power that came with it.

The Goldwater/Thurmond moment was transformative in how Americans understood the two parties on civil rights.

Until 1964, it seemed clear that Democrats were the party of economic liberalism and the GOP economic conservatism, but civil rights had been left out of the picture.

Indeed, as @edsall has noted, as late as 1962, polls asking which political party was “more likely to see to it that Negroes get fair treatment in jobs and housing” showed that Americans saw virtually no difference between Democrats and Republicans.

But in 1964, when asked the same question, 60% said Democrats were more in favor of fair jobs and housing for blacks; just 7% said Republicans.

Asked which party was more likely to support school integration in 1964, 56% pointed to Democrats while 7% did so for the Republicans. There was a stark change in popular perception about the two parties on civil rights.

But, that said, there was *not* an immediate, massive change in party affiliations for elected officials in Washington. The “realignment” that scholars write about didn’t happen overnight.
Strom Thurmond’s deal — in which he kept his seniority and thus, in the era of strong committee chairs, his real power — proved to be a one-off.

Most of the other old Dixiecrats in Congress didn’t switch parties themselves, but oversaw a transition for the next generation.

Take former Senate Maj. Leader Trent Lott. He served as an aide to Rep. William Colmer (D-MS), head of the House Rules Committee.

When Colmer retired in 1972, he handpicked Lott to fill the seat — but told him to run as a Republican. He did & won.
 

https://twitter.com/KevinMKruse/status/991867113643143168

https://twitter.com/KevinMKruse/status/991867103241105409

https://twitter.com/KevinMKruse/status/991867105149640704

Returning to Kruse’s thread:

Or consider Jesse Helms. He’d grown up a southern Dem, getting his first taste of politics helping Democrat Willis Smith run a race-baiting campaign for a NC senate seat in 1950 (see the ad below).

 

When Helms ran on his own in 1972, though, like Lott, he ran as a Republican.

Ah yes, Jesse Helms.

From Jennifer Bendery at the Huffington Post, on September 14, 2013.

Ted Cruz: ‘We Need 100 More Like Jesse Helms’ In The Senate

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Wednesday that the country would be better off if the Senate was full of people like Jesse Helms, the late senator who was ardently opposed to all kinds of civil rights measures and even tried to block the Senate from approving a federal holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

During remarks at a Heritage Foundation event dubbed the “Jesse Helms Lecture Series,” Cruz told a story of Helms receiving a $5,000 political donation from actor John Wayne, who apparently later told Helms he liked him because “you’re that guy saying all those crazy things” and that there needed to be 100 more of him.

“It’s every bit as true now as it was then,” Cruz said. “We need 100 more like Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate.”

Helms, the conservative North Carolina Republican who served in the Senate for 30 years, was known for his efforts to stop progressive polices relating to gay rights, abortion and race. He opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which he referred to as “the single most dangerous piece of legislation ever introduced in the Congress.” When the Senate acted in 1983 to create a federal holiday honoring King, Helms staged a 16-day filibuster to try to block it. He ultimately caved in exchange for action on a tobacco bill.

In 1988, Helms opposed the Kennedy-Hatch AIDS bill, stating that there “is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy.”

Helms passed away in 2008.

Cruz said the first political donation he ever made was to Helms — $10 — and praised the late senator for his outspokenness. If Helms were alive, Cruz said, he would be taking a more aggressive stance against “radical Islamist terrorism” than President Barack Obama has been taking.

“If Jesse Helms were still with us, he would not shy away from this fight,” Cruz said.

Cruz spoke at the NRA meeting after Pence and Trump, Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

The tone of the NRA meeting was angry and defiant, at once crowing about how gun owners have never enjoyed as many rights and privileges as they have today, thanks to the NRA, but also haranguing that gun rights have never been more imperiled and under siege.

In his column, Ken Herman, who I went to Dallas with, wrote:

The part I don’t get about gun culture is the part that says I should have one to defend myself against my government. I feel no such need.

Well, that’s easy for Ken to say.

He probably knew all along that the (Alex Jones fueled) conspiracy theory back in 2015 about the Jade Helm military exercises being a prelude to the Obama administration declaring martial law in Texas was really early evidence of beta testing by the Russians of a disinformation campaign in the United States.

But, the NRA, it seems is always on Jade Helm alert.

From Ken’s column:

dStrategically placed throughout the convention center are big (really, really big) banners featuring the meeting’s slogan — “A Show of Strength” — and a challenging, menacing, come-and-take-it oversized visage of NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.

His welcome message in the program reminds NRA members, “Forces from the extreme left in the political class to anti-Second Amendment extremists in the academic community to the ever more aggressive, deceitful national media have joined together in a massive conspiracy to seize control of the U.S. House and Senate in the next election.”

The goal of that cabal, he says, is nothing less than “to pervert our great nation into their European-style socialist utopia.”

It made we wonder about staunch defenders of the Second Amendment who might not necessarily buy into the whole LaPierre agenda – there must more than a few of them – which seems to go well beyond defending the Second Amendment.

If not as stern of visage as LaPierre, Cruz was also combative in his remarks:

We understand the Second Amendment right is not about hunting,” Sen. Cruz said. “It’s not about target shooting. The Second Amendment is about the fundamental, God-given right each and every one of us has to defend our lives, to defend our homes, to defend our children, to defend our family, and when the Second Amendment says ‘shall not be infringed’ it means exactly that: shall not be infringed. That’s what the men and women here are standing up and defending.

And:

In 1776, 56 patriots affixed their names to the Declaration of Independence. Signed their lives, fortunes and sacred honors. When they made that commitment those were not empty words. Those were the words that launched a revolution, the greatest experiment in freedom that the world has ever known. Today, in this gathering, we are once again in the presence of patriots. From the minutemen at Lexington and Concord to civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, Americans have long understood that the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental for preserving our liberty. And the men and women here are committed to standing up for freedom..

Suffice it to say that Jesse Helms would not have thought to recruit Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, both of whom were assassinated with guns, nto the campaign against gun regulation. Nor, I suspect, would Jesse Helms have welcomed Kanye West to a national Republican ticket, as I’m sure Cruz, when the time comes, will.

Fourteen years ago, I covered Kanye West at a hip-hop political summit at Ohio State University.

Forty years after Freedom Summer and the murders of three young civil rights workers in Mississippi, there is a nascent effort to rouse a new generation to activism by transforming hip-hop from a cultural force into a political movement – to bring bling bling to the ballot box.

It was evident in early June at the celebrity-driven Hip-Hop Summit at Ohio State University, credited with adding some 10,000 new voters to the rolls. And it will be in further evidence beginning Wednesday at the three-day National Hip-Hop Political Convention in Newark, N.J., an issues-driven, grass-roots affair (delegates were required to register 50 new voters to be credentialed) that will try to define just what a hip-hop politics would look like.

“There’s a phrase in hip-hop _ `show and prove,”’ said James Bernard, 39, a pioneering figure in hip-hop journalism who is now devoted to political organizing. The field director for the Newark convention, Bernard has raised $1.4 million for the Hip-Hop Civic Engagement Project, a registration and get-out-the-vote drive that he will direct in 14 key states. “I think we are about to show and prove.”

Freedom Summer flowered amid one of the most fertile periods of social change in American history. Black voting rights were secured, and the voting age was lowered to 18. But in 2000, nearly two-thirds of blacks ages 18 to 24 did not vote, and the turnout among young whites was hardly any better (especially considering how many young black males cannot vote because they are in prison or, once out, in states that deny ex-felons the vote).

Some rappers, like Kanye West, 26, who headlined the Ohio State summit, are pointedly mindful of both the legacy and burden of history for a generation more used to commemorating the black freedom struggle than advancing it.

West’s father was a Black Panther. His mother is a professor of English at Chicago State University who, as he raps in “Never Let Me Down,” was taken by her grandfather to a sit-in where “at the tender of six she was arrested.”

“With that in my blood I was born to be different,” he continues. “Now n—-s can’t make it to ballots to choose leadership, but we can make it to Jacob and to the dealership.” (Jacob is the jeweler designing West’s line of diamond-studded Jesus pendants.)

xxxxxxx

In his own conversation with reporters at the summit, Damon Dash, co-chair of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and CEO of Roc-A-Fella Records, the major label whose artists include West, admitted that political rap does not sell and that rappers have to slip wisdom into more commercial work.

“Sometimes it’s not in our best interests to let people know how smart we are,” Dash said.

“That says it all,” observed Mark McPhail, a professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he is conducting a course on Freedom Summer on the very campus where civil rights volunteers were trained before being dispatched to Mississippi.

So, it appeared Kanye was using 400 years of slavery to sell an album by selling out his people.

As T.I., as the people, put it:

Startin’ to make it seem like Donnie cut you a check
Now you toyin’ with hot lava, better be careful with that

But, as West replies, Alright, Tip, we could be rappin’ about this all day, man.
Why don’t we just cut the beat off and let the people talk.

So maybe he is just getting the conversation going, per Scott Adams, to liberate some minds and usher in the Golden Age, though I suspect is has more to do with his own Golden Age.

For better or worse, it is world-class branding, something that Trump understands and at which Trump, like Kanye excels.

Think of the ratings potential.

A Trump-West inaugural in 2021 might actually draw the biggest crowd ever.

They are a perfect match.

Bye bye Pence.

P.S.  From PAULA ROGO at Essence:
It appears that President Donald Trump is prepared to start a national discussion on race — and he wants Colin Kaepernick and Kanye West involved.

Cleveland-based pastor Darrell Scott, who is an outside adviser to the president, told PEOPLE that the president had signed off on a series of meetings on race that will include athletes and artists.

“He is 100 percent for it,” says Scott, who said he had spoken with Trump. “He was very enthusiastic about it.”

He added: “It’s not going to be a black-only event. It will be a melting pot.”

Scott also confirmed that Kanye, who has shared his admiration for Trump, has been invited. Though the idea of the summits has been in play for a while, Kanye’s recent controversial tweets may have sped up the process, Scott says.

Kaepernick, who Trump once vilified for his position to kneel during the national anthem, has also been asked to attend. 

“Maybe he should find a country that works better for him,” Trump said of Kaepernick last year, adding that players who kneel for the anthem should be fired.

According to Scott, who will be apart of the organizing team, invitations will also be extended to Jim Brown, Evander Holyfield, Herschel Walker and Mike Tyson. 

Trump also plans to be in attendance, a move that Scott says will help people understand the president better.

“I want them to see and know the Donald Trump I know and they will say, ‘This guy isn’t who I’ve been lead to believe he is.

 

Lupe Valdez talks Latinx activists into backing the White guy for governor

(Photo by Ken Herman)

Good Monday Austin:

As of today, thanks largely to the forces of political inertia, Lupe Valdez remains the favorite to win the May 22 runoff and become the Democratic candidate for governor in 2018.

But, steadily, bit by bit, Valdez appears determined to chip away at her lead.

On Sunday it was an appearance, along with rival Andrew White, Miguel Suazo, the Democratic Party’s candidate for land commissioner, and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso,the party’s candidate for U.S. Senate, at a town hall put on by Jolt, a barely year-old organization intended to mobilize younger Latinos as a political force in Texas (note that both Suazo and O’Rourke are both running against Hispanic Republican incumbents in Land Commissioner George P. Bush and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.)

But somehow, on the strength – or weakness – of her performance, Valdez lost the endorsement of a passionate and energized group of Latinx (as I have learned, the gender-neutral term for Latinos/Latinas) Texans to a white man named White who is the son of a white man named Mark White who served as a centrist governor of Texas for one term from 1983 to 1987,  and who is running in 2018 as a centrist Democrat for governor.

(The Valdez campaign issued a statement Monday night in which she apologized for her performance at Jolt.)

Valdez ought to be worried, and if she isn’t, Texas Democrats ought to be worried about the prospect of nominating a candidate for governor on the increasingly questionable premise that her name and identity alone guarantee that she will be the stronger general election candidate or, at any rate, the candidate best able to help draw an increased Hispanic turnout in November, which is the raison d’être of Jolt.

Jolt is relatively new (here is an early story about Jolt from Gus Bova at the Texas Observer), not that well-known and has no electoral track record yet, though it has made an impression with its creative organizing efforts, including the Quinceañera at the Capitol celebration of resistance to SB 4 last year that they said reached 50 million Americans through social media.

Jolt has ambitions, according to its founder and executive director Cristina Tzintzun, of mobilizing 30,000 Hispanic voters who don’t usually vote and bringing them to the polls this year.

And, on Sunday, Jolt’s first endorsement town hall generated newspaper headlines across the state that were bad for Valdez.

There’s my story:

Young Hispanic activists ‘Jolt’ Valdez campaign by backing Andrew White

In a stunner, Jolt, a year-old organization of young Hispanic Texans with ambitions of spurring a surge in turnout this year, endorsed Andrew White over Lupe Valdez for the Democratic nomination for governor Sunday after a town hall at which Valdez failed to effectively answer questions about whether her record as Dallas County sheriff was “anti-immigrant.”

There’s Immigration questions put governor hopeful Lupe Valdez on hot seat at young Latino voters’ forum from James Barragán in the Dallas Morning News.

AUSTIN — A group of young Latino voters has endorsed Andrew White for governor instead of his opponent, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, after she struggled to answer questions about her record on immigration during a forum Sunday.

There’s Latino voting group snubs Lupe Valdez, backs Andrew White for governor by Peggy Fikac in the San Antonio Express-News.

AUSTIN — After expressing dissatisfaction with Lupe Valdez’s answer when she was quizzed about her allegedly “anti-immigrant” policies as Dallas County sheriff, a Latino voting group Sunday instead endorsed Houston businessman Andrew White in the Democratic runoff for governor.

There’s  Austin town hall turns heated for Dems Valdez, White by the Houston Chronicle’s Mike Ward.

AUSTIN – The two Democrats running for Texas governor were confronted Sunday during a town hall forum over their positions involving immigration, putting them on the defensive at an event that was expected to be friendly.

Injecting drama into a race that so far has mostly been a snoozer, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez was questioned about why she cooperated with federal immigration detainers while she was in charge of the Dallas County Jail.

The forum that attracted about 200 people was staged Sunday by Jolt The Vote, a civic-engagement organization working to mobilize Latino millennials in the 2018 elections. Only Democratic statewide candidates appeared.

Later in the day, hours after the forum, Jolt group endorsed White over Valdez, the first Latina to run for Texas governor, saying he had shown his “commitment to improving the lives of Latinos.” The group also endorsed Beto O’Rourke for Texas Senate for the same reason.

And there’s the Texas Tribune story – Democratic statewide candidates get tough questions from Latino youth – from Patrick Svitek:

 Karla Quinoñes did not mince words as she asked the first question to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez.

“Ms. Valdez, you were sheriff of Dallas County for many years, and it seems that your legacy was one of supporting anti-immigrant policies that actually expanded ICE enforcement,” said Quinoñes, a Dallas high school student, posing a series of pointed questions about Valdez’s cooperation with the federal agency and intentions if elected governor. “Why should we trust you today?” 

The less-than-direct answer that followed from Valdez did not appear to satisfy Quinoñes and the group she represents — Jolt Texas, which was created last year to mobilize young Latinos in turning the state blue. And before the end of the afternoon, Valdez had lost another endorsement to her runoff rival, Democrat Andrew White, after coming across as ill-prepared or -informed.

Ay yi yi

As Svitek wrote, the endorsement of White was probably largely due to Valdez’s inability to successfully answer the mutli-pronged question from Quinoñes.

As I wrote:

It was a question from Karla Quiñones, an 18-year-0ld senior at W.T. White High School in Dallas, that crystallized ongoing concerns about Valdez’s record in the Latino activist community, and her inability to offer a crisp and clear response.

“Miss Valdez,” said Quiñones, the daughter of Mexican immigrants who grew up watching Valdez coverage on Univision, the Spanish-language television network, “you were the sheriff of Dallas County for many years, and it seems that your legacy was one of supporting anti-immigrant policies that actually expanded ICE enforcement.”

“Given that, one, the Dallas community walked out of your forum with (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) saying that you turned your backs on them; two, you complied with every ICE request for warrantless ICE detentions even when other counties, like Travis County, were taking a courageous stand against them … why should we trust you today?”

Valdez thanked Quiñones for a “chance to explain.”

“Of course, look at me, I’m going to fight for as much immigration as I can,” Valdez said, detailing her vigorous opposition to Senate Bill 4, the ban on so-called sanctuary cities passed by the Legislature and signed into law last year by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Let’s pause here.

Valdez has taken to introducing folks at her appearances to the “Greg Abbott tracker” in their midst – the young man with the nice earrings who records things she has to say that might find their way into Abbott campaign ads.

It’s a funny, and well-received, when she tells her audience to welcome him. But her generosity of spirit should not extend to giving him what he is looking for.

Of course, look at me, I’m going to fight for as much immigration as I can.

One could fairly hear Abbott strategist Dave Carney’s YEEHAH! echoing from his lair in Hancock, New Hampshire, off Skatutakee Mountain, the 1667 miles to Austin, Texas, above the low hum of Abbott Oompa Loompas working through the night to churn out a new line of 100 percent cotton T-shirts with an image of Lupe Valdez and the words, Of course, look at me, I’m going to fight for as much immigration as I can.

It’s not just that that’s not a policy. It’s that it’s exactly what Texas Republicans think, or their leaders would like them to think, is the actual Democratic thought process on immigration – fight for as much immigration as possible to help turn the state blue over time.

Two weekends ago, the last time I saw Valdez in Austin, she introduced her Abbott tracker to the crowd and then, after brief remarks, had this to say in answer to a question about debates.

(Photo by AMANDA VOISARD)

Asked by a Democratic activist at a campaign event at North Austin brewpub Black Star Co-op on Friday night if she was going to debate White, Valdez replied, “I’m open to any kind of debate, but my staff are the ones who are going to take care of all of that.”

Pressed for a firmer answer, Valdez said, “You know there’s only certain decisions that they let me make, and most of them have to do with policy. … I can’t even tell you where I’ll be in the next few days. They’ll tell me. So they’re taking care of that.”

Abbott is primed to run against Valdez.

As John Moritz wrote in early April in a piece that appeared in the Caller Times under the headline, Greg Abbott declares Lupe Valdez a winner in the May 22 Democratic runoff for governor. The Democratic runoff for Texas governor is more than a month away, but the Republican incumbent is eager to cast Democrat Lupe Valdez as pro-sanctuary cities.

AUSTIN – Texas Democrats needn’t bother voting in the May 22 runoff because Republican Gov. Greg Abbott already has declared former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez the winner over Houston businessman Andrew White.

“The next 7 months will be a battle between @LupeValdez and me about whether or not Texas will secure our border and protect our sovereignty,” the governor said in a tweet Wednesday night. “It’s about whether sanctuary cities will remain banned or be allowed.”

Abbott, with the power of incumbency running in a solid red state, will be the prohibitive favorite no matter who the Democrats choose next month. But the tweet that came in response to Valdez’s statement castigating President Donald Trump’s plans for troops on the Texas-Mexico border suggests Abbott likes the idea of making sanctuary cities and illegal immigration Topic One for the general election campaign.

Valdez was happy to engage with Abbott on the issue.

The fact that Valdez find herself whipsawed between Abbott’s claims that she is too soft on immigration and the activist’s charges that she is too hard-line, is a dilemma that perhaps cannot be avoided. But she could attempt to make the case that she is charting a reasonable middle ground.

But her responses Sunday fail to reveal a coherent through-line.

Returning to Valdez’s response to Quiñones’ question Sunday, from my story:

She talked about the May 2015 community engagement meeting in Dallas at which immigrant activists confronted Sarah Saldaña, director of ICE, over what crimes constituted just cause for deportation.

“I brought in the director of ICE so they could come and explain the whole situation that was going on, and there were a couple of people who were upset with me because I couldn’t explain what was going on, and they literally got up and turned their backs and walked away,” Valdez said. “The thing that was uncomfortable about that was there were many people there that needed to hear what they needed to do, what they could do, and the director of ICE was standing right there to tell them. But because of that, they weren’t able to hear the direction that could have been given and the paths that they could take.”

OK. So in the course of providing an answer that may have figured importantly in Jolt’s turning its back on her, Valdez explained that back in 2015, there were a couple of people who were upset with me because I couldn’t explain what was going on, and they literally got up and turned their backs and walked away.” 

Things didn’t get any better after the speech when Valdez was confronted by a gaggle of reporters who wanted to follow up on Quiñones’ question.

After the town hall, Valdez was asked about Quiñones’ question suggesting she had an “anti-immigrant” record.

“I think it was one person’s opinion,” Valdez said, recalling her vocal opposition to SB 4.

“As you recall, the governor actually sent me what I call nastygrams because of my decision of defense of the people that were being deported and separated from their parents,” Valdez said.

Valdez was also asked about a 2015 federal civil rights lawsuit brought by Dallas County jail inmates against the county and her as sheriff, claiming they were being illegally detained because of “immigration holds” placed on them for ICE.

Valdez said the lawsuit was “filed against immigration being able to take people from the jail; the lawsuit was against the authority of ICE to be able to deport.”

“The lawsuit is still going on, so I have to be real careful how I discuss that,” Valdez said.

Asked about Quiñones’ question of whether she deserves the trust of the Latino community, Valdez said, “I think there’s a misunderstanding of the track record. I went to fight SB 4 way before anybody else.”

With that, Valdez told the scrum of reporters, “I’ve given you some answers. You wanted some answers, and I’ve given them to you. OK, now let us do what we love to do best and deal with some of the voters and go on to some of the other things we’ve got to do.”

The bad/good news for Valdez was that, from my limited experience, Sunday’s was one of her better performances. She was more lively and animated and had more rhetorical threads than I had seen before.

She certainly has way more endorsements than White, including at least three state senators, 24 state representatives, and U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio.

The Democratic nomination for governor, of course, could have been Joaquín’s or his twin brother, Julián’s for the taking but Joaquín chose to stay in Congress and Julián is exploring a run for president, which is apparently less daunting than running statewide in Texas.

For her fellow Democratic politicians, endorsing Valdez is the safest course, the path-of-least-resistance option.

But, for Jolt, the political calculation is  different.

It brought to mind what Mike Webb, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus told Ken Herman in February about the organization’s decision to endorse White, who is straight, over Valdez, who made history as a lesbian sheriff.

 

“Let’s be clear: Our members wanted to endorse Valdez,” said Mike Webb, Houston GLBT caucus president. “There’s nothing that would make us more proud than electing a member of our own community. However, we also have an expectation in our community to endorse the person who will do the best job. And our members just thought that Andrew White would do the best job.”

Webb also said, “Our members were convinced he would be best positioned to fight back hard against the aggressive bigotry we are getting from our governor” and that on “questions of deportation of immigrants, (Valdez’s) answers just weren’t very empathetic.”

Jolt’s founder, Tzintzun, who’s mother is Mexican and father is white, is originally from Columbus, Ohio, but moved to Texas when she was 21.

“My parents told me that it had the three things I love the most: year-round sunshine, lots of Mexicans and vegan food,” Tzintzun said.

The last seems a questionable draw, but she lives in Austin.

Before Jolt, Tzintzun spent 12 years building the Workers Defense Project .

Tzintzun is 36. Jolt is intended to mobilize Latinx voters younger than she is.

Founder and Executive Director Cristina Tzintzun said they chose the name Jolt “because when Latinos come out to vote, we are going to be a shock to the political system, not only of Texas but of the entire country.”

For Tzintzun and Jolt, there is little incentive to follow the safer course, the path-of-least-resistance option of endorsing Valdez if they don’t really believe she would best advance their goals.

At 18, Quiñones, grew up with Valdez as a public figure in her hometown.

“It was always good seeing her on TV. Wow, someone who looked like me was in such a high position.”

Energized to get involved in politics by the 2016 election,Quiñones got in touch with Jolt and became the  president of her high school chapter, which meant she would be among 16 leaders of the organization to vote on its endorsement this weekend.

Assigned the task of posing a question to Valdez, Quiñones did her research and delivered her accusatory question in a very even manner. When I spoke to her after the town hall, she said she didn’t think that Valdez had answered her question: “I think she kind of veered off.”

(JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

White is making the argument that he is a more capable candidate who will acquit himself better as the party’s nominee for governor, that he will stand the ticket – topped by Beto O’Rourke  and followed by the candidate for governor – in better stead. He is also making the case that, as long a shot as it may be for either of them, he stands a better chance of defeating Abbott than Valdez.

As he told the town hall Sunday, there is a blue wave building and it has already elected a moderate Democrat to the Senate in a special election in Alabama, and a moderate Democrat to Congress in a special election in Pennsylvania.

“And,” White said, “our turn is next.”

Electing a middle-of-the road white guy might not seem to be the most compelling argument to win over Latinx activists in Texas in 2018. But, on Sunday, thanks to Lupe Valdez, it carried the day.

 

 

 

 

 

Nancy Pelosi’s `cold-blooded’ warning to Democratic primary voters: `If the person who can’t win, wins, it’s not a priority race for us anymore.’

 

U.S. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, visited with members of the Statesman’s editorial board, a chief political writer and metro columnist Monday morning February 19, 2018 in the newspaper offices in Austin, TX. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Good afternoon Austin:

Life is filled with mysteries.

For example, how did I end up talking to Nancy Pelosi for an hour and 25 minutes yesterday.

Here she is, the House Democratic leader, former speaker, the most powerful woman in American politics, busy trying to recapture the House for Democrats and reclaim the gavel as Speaker of the House – third in line for the presidency – and she came to me, or, more exactly, a third-floor conference room of the Austin American-Statesman, to meet with the paper’s editorial board, Ken Herman and myself.

(Pelosi talks with editorial board member Bridget Grumet, right.)
RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

And this was no mere drop by.

She had done public events in Houston over the weekend, and had another, later in the day Monday, in San Antonio. In Austin, it was just private meetings, and this interview.

Her devotion, even delight, in talking at length to folks at a newspaper was sweet, if a bit quaint.

I wondered whether she knew the Statesman was on the block. Maybe she knew something. Something terrible about the fate that awaits us. Maybe some journalistic Make a Wish Foundation had dispatched her here to buck us up.

Maybe every time her aide, Jorge Augilar, quietly signaled that they had to wrap it up, she looked into our sad, needy eyes and said, “No, I think I’ll stay and talk with these people for another 40 minutes. They need it”

Pelosi talks with Viewpoint’s Editor Juan Castillo, right.
RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

About 35 minutes in, I asked a question, and for the next 22 minutes – really – Pelosi answered my question.

I set up the question by recounting how she had become a bit of an issue in the Democratic primary for the seat being relinquished by Republican Lamar Smith, a district that national Democrats have targeted, even if it remains a long shot.

From my story on the race:

The race for the party’s nomination in the 21st Congressional District has emerged as a microcosm of the sharp division among Democrats across the nation in how to respond to Trump — do they nominate a candidate like Joseph Kopser, a former Army Ranger turned tech entrepreneur who the smart party money says can appeal to folks in the middle who rarely if ever vote Democratic but are offended by Trump, or go with a candidate who taps the outraged passions on the left, like Derrick Crowe, Elliott McFadden or Mary Wilson?

xxxxxx

Crowe, 37, a former congressional staffer, game store owner and advocate with liberal policy shops in Washington, D.C., and Austin, grew up in Sunray in the Panhandle. His first job on Capitol Hill was working for his congressman, Charlie Stenholm, among the last of the conservative Southern Democrats in Congress, who was ultimately gerrymandered out of his seat.

After Trump’s election, Crowe said he told his wife, Laurie, whom he met at Texas Tech University and who now teaches government at Lehman High School in Kyle, “if we ever were going to flip this district the time was now.”

Crowe, who has been endorsed by Our Revolution, the political organization launched by Bernie Sanders, and who backs free public college and university tuition and a national jobs guarantee, recalled a gathering of potential Democratic candidates last March at a restaurant in San Marcos.

“That was the first time I met Joseph Kopser and the first thing he said to me is, `If we get tagged as Nancy Pelosi liberals in this district, we’re dead,’” Crowe said.

“That was a huge red flag to me that is someone who didn’t share my progressive commitments,” said Crowe, who worked for California’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Pelosi on Capitol Hill.

“This is an incorrect way to approach a race like this,” Crowe said. And, try as Kopser might, Crowe said, “There’s nobody in Texas running at this time as a Democrat who is not going to get tagged as a Nancy Pelosi liberal.”

PELOSI: The districts we have to win – and I say this to everybody no matter what district they represent. – your job title and your job description are one and the same – representative. You represent the district. Now, if they trust your knowledge, your vision, your judgment, your plan and you connect with their aspirations, they’ll give you some leeway on some issues that may be of national consequence that don’t resonate back home. But, by and large, you’re their representative.

Let me just make a few points.

First of all, I don’t think the opposing party should choose the leaders of the other party. That’s what they’re trying to do, said she immodestly, you have an effective leader who has landmark legislation, has a national network of supporters to help in this cause, to elect Democrats, to further advance the causes of our party, and one of those causes is bipartisanship, by the way. It’s bipartisanship, transparency and unity, what unifies our party. So we don’t do to them what they do to us.

I am liberal.

But I represent my district and you represent yours. I couldn’t win in your district and you couldn’t win in mine.

But we do have a commonality of interests, and what unifies us as Democrats … is economic well-being of America’s working families. So you can’t let them smell blood, because if it’s not Nancy it’s whoever the leader is. But if the target happens to be effective, and that’s what I am, said she immodestly, but I really am because if I weren’t they wouldn’t even be paying attention to me. They went after me on the Affordable Care Act … and then, in their eloquence, what they can talk about is LGBTQ, they are so bankrupt of ideas.

Q: How do you like your chances of being speaker?

PELOSI: It’s not about me being speaker, it’s about the Democrats getting the gavel.

Q: OK. That question.

PELOSI: You want to talk politics? You ready for politics?

This is about people showing what’s in their hearts to their constituents, the authenticity of their representation, the sincerity of why they are running for office. This isn’t about a job promotion. This is about our country, and it’s a patriotic endeavor.

So you want to talk politics?

I wish the election were today because we would win today.

Go back in history, and not to our Founders, and I am not going to take eight hours on it, but here’s the deal. when Number 45 became president of the United States…

I pause here and let Ken Herman pick it up at precisely this moment from the column he wrote after the interview.

Pelosi talks with Ken Herman, Metro columnist, left.
RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“When number 45 became president of the United States …,” she said just before I interrupted her.

“You really don’t like to say Trump. I’m getting a pattern here,” I said. (I’m pretty good about being quick to detect patterns. For example, I’m starting to think our current president is a tad different.)

Pelosi assured me she had no trouble with saying Trump. No, she said, she has no trouble with that. “It’s to say President and Trump in the same” breath that’s the problem, she said.

The ex-speaker speaks for much of a concerned nation.

Sensing an outcry for help, I staged a one-columnist intervention to help Pelosi say the words she has trouble saying: “Come on, try it. It’ll be OK.”

And she did and it was, though she quickly fell back into the previous pattern. Some habits are difficult to break. Some you don’t want to break.

“When President Trump became president… ,” she said in prefacing her next line of thought. “As I said, I’m a respectful person. More respectful of this office than he is. And, by the way, you know who tells us every day that he should not be president? You know who tells us every single day, who knows better than anyone that Trump should not be president?”

Pelosi then answered her own question: “Forty-five,” she said, referring to the number our 45th president has monogrammed on the cuffs of some of his shirts. “Every day. Right? More than once a day sometimes. Tweet city.”

OK, picking up with the interview where Ken leaves off.

PELOSI: We don’t agonize, we organize, that’s our motto. We don’t waste time. We don’t waste energy we don’t waste resources. This is a cold-blooded, strategic, focused campaign to win the Congress for the American people.

xxxxx

Here’s the deal. History. (Pelosi rapping her finger on the table for emphasis. Tap, tap, tap, tap.)

When President Trump won last year. (Nervous laugh.)

AAAHHH! (Sound of distress.)

Was I quivering in my face?

I seriously say that because I have to rid myself of my negative attitude. I realized that during his speech on the State of the Union, because it was horrible. It was so horrible in how he talked about immigrants and how he talked about people on opioids and the rest. I thought, my attitude on him is a luxury I can no longer afford.

You have to give me credit. My members did not leave the room.  Standing up for the Dreamers for eight hours was like so easy compared to sitting sill for one hour listening to his speech.

But I had to keep them in the room. He was making it very difficult. So I said to people before, “If you’re going to leave, don’t come.”

The Black Caucus wanted to sit together. They had their kente cloths on.

The women wanted to wear black.

Everybody had their thing so that they were making their statement.

And I thought, it’s even hard for me to stay in my seat, I hope nobody gets up to leave, and they didn’t. That was my success. So they say, “Oh, you didn’t look happy.” I was happy nobody left. That was my goal.

When he won, back to your question, people said, to me, “Are you going to win the House? You’re the only game in town. Nobody thinks we can win back the Senate.” I don’t agree with that, by the way.

I said I can only tell you in a year. We can prepare during this year, but I can’t tell you if we’re going to win for one year. Because, one year before the election is when people decide to run. They are thinking about it. Some people have already announced. But by one year before the election you’ve got to get started, and if you’re president is under 50 percent, the door is closing for you.

Clinton won, went down, we lost.

The door was open for their victory.

President Bush, we took his numbers down.

We took his numbers down. We win.

George W. Bush, 

January, 2007.

We just had a really important lunch. First, I want to congratulate Congresswoman Pelosi for becoming the Speaker of the House, and the first woman Speaker of the House. This is historic for our country. And as a father of young women, it is, I think, important. I really do.

PELOSI: Obama, his numbers go down, they win.

It’s not dispositive of the issue, but it is an open door.

So, if  you are thinking about running and you’re a Republican and your president is under 50 or 50, you think, “I’ll run next time.”

And if you’re an incumbent and you’re a chairman, and your votes have been terrible this last year you go home and masquerade as some kind of a moderate but you’ve been up here enabling nothing to come up on guns, nothing to come up on immigration, all these terrible things, well you’re thinking, “I’ve had a nice career, I’m respected in my community, nobody knows how I’ve voted, but they’re going to tell them in this election and I’m going to have to spend a lot of money to win, and I’m probably going to be in the minority, I think I’ll teach in the university.”

 

So they get the retirements. We get the A-plus recruits. And so 36 of them, I think, maybe it’s changed since this morning, around 36 of them have said they are not running, 7 or 8 of them are committee chairman who are not running. So they see the handwriting on the wall.

From Paul Kane at the Washington Post:

Five-term Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.) announced Monday that he plans to retire at the end of the year rather than stand for reelection, leaving behind a deeply conservative district in central Florida.

Rooney, 47, was considered a rising star among Florida Republicans, but he never hid his frustration with the gridlock that gripped Congress for most of his decade in office.

He becomes the 28th House Republican to quit politics — at least for now — this election season. That group includes several committee chairmen and a handful who resigned in pursuit of private-sector jobs or amid scandal. Fourteen more House Republicans are leaving their seats to run for another office. Eighteen House Democrats have announced that they are not seeking reelection; half are running for higher office.

“After what will be 10 years in the United States Congress representing the good people of Florida’s Heartland, it’s time to ‘hang em up’ as my old football coach used to say,” Rooney, a grandson of Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney, said in a statement.

PELOSI: On the other side, it’s not even a recruitment because so many of these people self-recruited – veterans, academics elected officials, private sector people, so many people coming forward. Forty-five happens to be one of our best recruiters. I have never in my whole political life seen anything like the energy at the grassroots level. You saw that at the march and that was organic, it wasn’t political, they did it and now they’re showing how they want to participate And this past year, all of those people helped us fend off the challenge to the Affordable Care Act, we couldn’t defeat the tax bill, but we won the argument so far.

So we have something like a hundred races, a hundred races, far too many, that are better than any of those special elections, because those special elections were in Republican districts, where hates those Cabinet officers, or Murphy had to resign, right away, your computers turned off, get out of the building kind of resign.

From Rebecca Savransky at The Hill.

House Democrats are planning to take aim at more than 100 congressional districts that are held by Republicans in this year’s midterm elections.

The plans from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) would expand the number of battleground districts to the largest amount in at least a decade.

The districts Democrats plan to target will be in states including South Carolina, Wisconsin and Texas.

“They should do some re-evaluating,” Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the chairman of the DCCC, said of Republicans’ confidence about the midterms, according to NBC News.

PELOSI: So, out of that hundred, we have to reduce that down about two-thirds of that to get down to the 24 we need, perhaps 30, 35, you know I’d like to have more than the 24.  Right now, today  we could do that. But 100 is too much. In other words, we’d rather double down and win than spread too thinly and lose by a little.

The value of that is, say you’re a slacker, you’re not the candidate we need you to be, you say, “Sunday’s I always play  golf.”

“Oh really, not on our time.”

And then we say, we have other places we can go.

So  many women candidates

So candidates know, this is almost like a competition. They have to do their share. This isn’t an entitlement program. We need people  to run, oh you’re good, you look good for the district, here’s the money, No, they have to work. How do you connect with your constituents? That’s the most important thing. First of all, it’s would you win, but even before that, chronologically, show how you are going to represent them. How are you going know them, how are they going to know you.

We have  a great (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) chairman, Ben Ray Luján, who is from New Mexico, very talented, very respected by the members.

(Pelosi is rapping on the table top again.)

Forgive me for using this word,  you have to be very cold-blooded about how you make these decisions about the races because everybody’s so great, but one in five children lives in poverty in America and we have to have our best fighters go out there to win.

So today we would win. Texas is really  important to us. We have always invested in Texas because Texas will make the difference as to what the future of our country is. Imagine Texas just turning purple even. Wow. We’re one of the few national committees that actually does invest in Texas because we have prospects, and we believe in turning Texas blue, purple, whatever the color.

(Coming soon to a Greg Abbott fundraising appeal: Nancy Pelosi, in Austin, said “Texas is really  important to us. We have always invested in Texas because Texas will make the difference as to what the future of our country is. Imagine Texas just turning purple even.” Yes, imagine Texas turning blue. Invest in keeping Texas red. Give to Greg Abbott. Because no amount of money is too much.)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

We pause here for another contribution from Ken Herman, who the very evening of our interview with Pelosi was listening in on an Abbott fundraising teleconference, in which Pelosi’s name came up a few times.

Like here, from Nicole, the call center operator.

We need a big big turnout in the March 6 primary to set the record straight about this so-called enthusiasm gap. We don’t want to give the mainstream media the fuel they want for their fire. You know, Nancy Pelosi was in Harris County last week and she pledged to spend whatever it takes to win back seats in 2018. She even said, and quote, she had a good feeling about this year. Well, I don’t want Nancy Pelosi to have a good feeling about this year. I hope you don’t either.

And this, from Gov. Abbott himself

At the very beginning you used the word concerned, that you were concerned about it. I got to tell you your concern is valid and everybody on this phone needs to understand that George Soros is playing a role in elections this cycle. Very importantly, George Soros gave a whole lot of money in the last cycle and he gave that money here in the state of Texas. so George Soros did directly influence the outcome of the elections in the state of Texas last go-round. He’s trying to do the same thing this time. You’ve heard on this phone call, you probably know separately, people like Nancy Pelosi are involved. The way that the laws are set up for this election cycle, they’re going to be able to donate money here and so what weve got to do is  make sure that we’re going to be able to meet and overwhelm their attempt to hijack the state of Texas, which is exactly why Bobby I’m talking to you and close to a hundred thousand people right this minute. And that’s because all of us need to work together to ensure that we are not going to let George Soros and Nancy Pelosi hijack this state. We’re going to keep Texas Texas. And we’re going to do that block by block, house by house with the largest grassroots effort in the history of the state of Texas, and that’s the one that we are putting together tonight.”

Back to the interview, that morning, with Pelosi:

PELOSI: We have five races.

(The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted five seats in Texas, now held by Republicans, that it would like to flip. In addition to Smith’s seat in the 21st, they are John Culberson’s seat in the 7th CD, Will Hurd’s seat in the 23rd, Pete Sessions’ seat in the 32nd, and, most recently, John Carter’s seat in the 31st.)

I’ll talk to you  after the primary or the runoff. We think we have a couple of prospects in the Houston area, one in  Dallas, in the Valley. I have a little broader list than the cold-blooded list of the committee, so I’m still hopeful of a little more.

Pelosi is handed a binder by Aguilar, the aide, who executive director of Nancy Pelosi for Congress, with a list of the races and the Democratic candidates competing in each.

So they’re all multi-candidates. So we’ll see. this is about the choice of the people in those districts about who they want.

Could she identify the preferred candidates?

PELOSI: I wouldn’t think of doing that.

There are candidates who match the districts.

The reason I became speaker, I think, apart from my mastery of the legislative skills and my broad base of support around the country, was I got tired of losing.

I had no intention of going leadership. I was forged on the Intelligence Committee and Appropriations and I knew my stuff and I loved it. It was like eating really dark chocolate ice cream every day, but we were losing. and we lost in ’94 and ’96 and ’98,  and so in 2000  I said to them, they’re very nice people, I raise a lot of money in California, I’m going to spend it in California, we’ll export some money but I want to call the shots in California.

So I was chairman. I knew the grassroots in this state down to the last blade of grass. I know who can win where. I know how different the districts are from each other, and within the district, how different it is from one part of the district to each other.

So we knew what candidates would work. So on that day of the election in 2000 we had 26 Democrats and 26 Republicans. The next day, we had 31 Democrats and 21 Republicans. Giving us that ten to help win the House a few years later. You know what it is now? 39 to 14, and we still want to win some more this election.

How can I say this in a nice way? We have to be cold-blooded in what we do. In other words, if the wrong person wins – well nobody’s wrong – but if the person who can’t win, wins, it’s not a priority race for us anymore, because we’ve got 100 races.

For the Democratic aspirants in the Texas 7, 21, 23, 24, 31 and 32, the March 6 primary is the time to show and prove.

PELOSI: Show us your strength or your weakness in a race.

Now people have their own enthusiasm, their own enthusiasm that they bring to it and they might be able to created something.

I hope for a wave, but I believe you make your wave. You make your wave.

Since it’s the Olympics, this is what I tell them. In one second, you’re gold, silver, bronze or nothing. These races are tough. They are tight, you win by 300 votes, 1,000 votes, this isn’t like, I’m riding a wave here and it’s just a question of hail fellow well met, combed hair. You have to go door to door to door to door, over and over again so people see what’s in your heart your sincerity, Authenticity is bigger than any amount of intellectual prowess, because people think you can buy that anyway. You can hire that. But conviction, courage, that’s who you are.

It’s always that way but even mores this year because of our friend in the White House, the great organizer

And that was the answer to my question, but Pelosi, even after being advised again by Aguilar – this time in writing – that she really needed to get to her event in San Antonio, happily answered another couple of questions for another half hour.

As she parted, we shook hands, we thanked each other for the time, and she told me to call if I ever wanted to talk politics.

Really?

That seemed about as likely as her coming to Austin to talk to me for an hour-and-twenty five minutes on a Monday morning

But my puzzlement turned to horror when I saw the photo that Ralph had snapped of us as we parted company.

I am 63. Nancy Pelosi is 77. I always thought that I looked young for my age, but here I was, looking older than I had ever looked, than I had ever imagined looking, bidding goodbye to niece Nancy as she headed back to college after winter break.

Somehow, in our hour-and-25-minutes of talk, she had sucked years of life force from me – aging me as she grew younger. I had experienced my own, personal Zombie apocalypse.

And then I realized that only two weeks ago, Pelosi, ostensibly in support of the Dreamers, had “set the record for the longest-continuous House floor speech on record …speaking for 8 hours and 7 minutes –  in four-inch heels.”

Oh, the humanity.

Who knows how many years she gained  that day – it’s lucky she didn’t end up an infant a la Benjamin Button – even as had sapped the essence, bit by bit, from the millions of unsuspecting Americans who watched her.

Put that in your next fundraising letter Gov. Abbott.

 

 

`My son, who is autistic, was robbed by three black thugs.’ Lisa Luby Ryan on why she will oppose gun regulation `to my last breath.’

Challenger Lisa Luby Ryan points a hand gun at state Rep. Jason Villalba while debating gun control.

Good morning Austin:

Yesterday, seventeen people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a Florida high school.

It was the deadliest mass shooting since Nov. 5, when 26 people were killed when a gunman opened fire inside First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Which was the deadliest mass shooting since 58 people were killed when a gunman opened fire on a crowd at a music festival in Las Vegas from a room in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Right after the Sutherland Springs tragedy, I wrote in the Statesman:

In the aftermath of the Sutherland Springs church shooting, state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, is calling for the creation of a Commission on Gun Violence to examine its causes in Texas and recommend “common sense gun control reforms” to the next session of the Texas Legislature.

In an open letter to his “Fellow Texans,” Villalba wrote that he was asking Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus to create a Commission on Gun Violence in Texas to be chaired by an appointee of the governor and vice-chaired by appointees of the lieutenant governor and speaker. It would be made up of four senators — two from each party — four members of the House — two from each party — and four other members — a law enforcement specialist, a mental health expert, a member of the clergy and an ethicist, all chosen by a majority of the other appointees.

“The primary charge of the commission shall be to determine the root causes of gun violence in Texas and to provide proposed legislation to address these issues and which shall be adopted in the 86th Legislature,” Villalba wrote. “The secondary charge of the commission shall be to publish the findings of the commission and disseminate through education and conference the proposals of the commission.“

There is no question that mental health plays a significant role in these attacks, and certainly, adequate mental health funding and accessibility shall be a key component to any solution to this complex issue,” Villalba wrote.

“But, to be perfectly clear,” the letter continued, “the commission shall focus on ALL possible causes of gun violence in Texas INCLUDING lax or deficient gun control laws and regulations in Texas. No shibboleth shall be off limits. THERE NEEDS TO BE COMMON SENSE GUN CONTROL REFORMS IN TEXAS! If we expect a change in the outcomes, we must consider all inputs. The time is now to DO something. Whatever that may be.”

“Tonight,” Villalba, “I will go home and I will rest my hands and my face on the tops of my children’s heads. We will say our prayers and we will hug and I will thank God for them. For many families in Charlottesville, Sandy Hook, Killeen, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs and across America, that will not happen. Today is the day that Texan parents like you and me stand up and say, enough. As God is our witness, this stops here.”

On Tuesday, Lisa Luby Ryan, who is challenging Villalba in the March 6 Republican primary, took Villalba to task for that initiative at a debate hosted by the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce and League of Women Voters of Dallas.

As James Russell, who covered the debate for the Quorum Report, wrote:

Citing Villalba’s op-ed in The Dallas Morning News last year calling for a statewide commission to study the causes of gun violence ahead of the next legislative session, written after a man shot and killed 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, a town just east of San Antonio.

Ryan maintained her strong stance against any restrictions on gun ownership and usage, taking a personal view on the issue.

“My son, who is autistic, was robbed by three black thugs. He wouldn’t give them the money and they beat him up,” she said. Texas laws currently bars anyone deemed mentally unfit from owning a gun.

Villalba said Ryan essentially wanted to equip terrorists with guns.

“I’m sorry if Ms. Ryan wants to give guns to ISIS,” he said.

Here is the pertinent portion of the debate, followed by a more complete transcript.

Ryan:

We are so pro-Second Amendment. We own guns. My husband has a concealed carry license. The only reason I don’t have one is I haven’t had time to do it. But my opponent, in the last campaign and this campaign, has not been endorsed by the NRA or the Texas gun rights association.Why? Because after the Sutherland Springs shooting, my opponent, who is a Reagan conservative (Ryan gestured air quotes as she said this) –

and by the way, Ronald Reagan would never call for the governor of Texas to create a special commission for gun regulations in Texas. Never would Ronald Reagan call for that, nor would a conservative call for special gun regulations, I don’t care what the situation is.

My younger son that I told you about, who’s autistic, 29-years-old, who lives on his own, didn’t live in the best part of Dallas because he couldn’t afford to. He came home four weeks ago Saturday at 9 p.m. He called me and said, `Mom, I’m home.’ He had been out with some friends. He called me at home and  I said, Great.’ Three minutes later my phone rang and he called me, hysterical. He had been robbed by three black thugs. with 9mm guns to his head, asking for his money.

Here’s a kid who makes $15 an hour and lives off that, and they asked him for his money. And you know what he said? He said, `No.’ And you know what happened to him? They beat him up.

And do you think Mr. Villalba that special regulations and regulations on guns would protect my son? Guns don’t kill. People do. And I will fight all day long against gun regulation, and stand pro-Second Amendment to my last breath.

I tried to reach Ryan yesterday to ask about that loaded turn of phrase: three black thugs.

Why not just say, three thugs?

I couldn’t reach her, but I did receive a statement made on her behalf from Jordan Powell, spokesman for her campaign:

 Less than a month ago, Lisa’s autistic son had two handguns pointed at his head while being assaulted and robbed. If she had it to do over again, she would use different words but as a mom this crime and the lingering trauma caused to her son is still very real and raw. The substance of the exchange centered on Representative Villalba’s support for gun control, which Lisa strongly opposes.

The problem, though. is that Ryan’s reference to three black thugs is lodged in a statement otherwise disconnected from any logic.

How would her son’s traumatic experience have been different, and worse, if Villalba had his way and the state examined the causes of gun violence in Texas?

This incident occurred under the current state of Texas’ gun laws, which Ryan does not want to see infringed upon by the likes of Villalba.

Her son did not have a gun on him, and if he did, someone might have gotten killed.

As it was, according to the Dallas Police Department report on the incident, the victim’s injuries were, thankfully, limited to “redness on cheek.”

If the police – or an armed citizen – had shown up at precisely the right moment that night, and events unfolded in precisely the right way, the perpetrators might have been caught in the act.

But that didn’t happen, and nothing about Texas gun laws or what a study commission might recommend about changing Texas gun laws, would have changed what happened on Saturday Jan. 6 (the incident was slightly longer ago than she remembered it), unless, of course, they came up with better ways of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.

Nonetheless, Ryan’s real and raw reaction to her son’s trauma at the hands of three black thugs, armed her with the emotional ammunition she needed to fight all day long against gun regulation, and stand pro-Second Amendment to my last breath.

Here, in part, was Villalba’s reaction at the debate:

The panel that I called for didn’t call for additional gun regulation or gun control. It said, let’s look at the root causes of gun violence in Texas. Let’s find out why this happens.

xxxxxxx

I am a concealed handgun carrier. I have several weapons. I voted in favor of campus carry. I voted in favor of open carry. I voted against Constitutional carry because it’s a foolish, ridiculous law that makes no sense in Texas, or at least the urban centers. It might make sense in certain counties where it’s OK, but not in the middle of Dallas County.

Constitutional carry means permitless carry, which means you don’t have to have any kind of certification. You don’t have to have any kind of test. That means that anybody can have access to them, and that means somebody who could be mentally infirm, that could be somebody who’s a domestic abuser. That could be somebody who is a card-carrying member of ISIS. I’m sorry Ms. Ryan, if you want to give guns to ISIS, that’s your business.

As for Ryan’s assertion about President Reagan on gun regulation, there is this, from Janel Davis at PolitiFact Georgia on Feb. 5, 2013, on the question, “Did Reagan support an assault-weapons ban?”

About a month after a mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., left 20 schoolchildren and six adults dead, President Barack Obama rolled out a package of gun-control proposals during a speech with Vice President Joe Biden. The package included initiatives such as an assault-weapons ban that requires congressional approval, along with 23 executive actions that the president can implement on his own. The price tag for the package is estimated at $500 million.

 In presenting the package, specifically the portion dealing with the assault-weapons ban, Obama made a point of conjuring past President Ronald Reagan’s stance on the same issue.
“Weapons designed for the theater of war have no place in a movie theater,” Obama said during the speech. “A majority of Americans agree with us on this. And, by the way, so did Ronald Reagan, one of the staunchest defenders of the Second Amendment, who wrote to Congress in 1994, urging them — this is Ronald Reagan speaking — urging them to listen to the American public and to the law-enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of military-style assault weapons.”

Evoking past presidents is a frequent practice by politicians. Unfortunately, sometimes the context and the content of the recollections are incorrect. PolitiFact Georgia decided to check the accuracy of Obama’s statement, as well as whether most Americans support a ban on military-style assault weapons.

Obama pitched his gun plan at the White House surrounded by school-age children who had written letters to the president about the Newtown school shooting. In the audience were the parents of one of the students killed at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, along with a survivor of the 2007 shooting massacre at Virginia Tech that left more than 30 people dead and an additional 15 wounded.

Against this emotional backdrop Obama’s plans drew immediate and intense reaction from supporting groups such as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, as well as opponents such as the National Rifle Association.

Obama’s push for an assault-weapon’s ban hearkens to the original ban passed in 1994 that expired in 2004. At the time of that ban’s passage, Reagan — who took office in 1981– supported it. In a joint letter to The Boston Globe with Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, the former presidents wrote, “While we recognize that assault weapon legislation will not stop all assault weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals.”

Eight years before this letter in the newspaper supporting the assault-weapons ban, Reagan, who was then president, signed into law the Firearm Owners Protection Act, which was supported by gun rights advocates. In addition to providing protections for gun owners, the act also banned ownership of any fully automatic rifles that were not already registered on the day the law was signed.

These items provide a framework for Reagan’s actions around an assassination attempt on his life months after taking office in 1981. The shooting left Reagan wounded and presidential press secretary James Brady paralyzed. The shooting provided the impetus for the Brady Bill, introduced in 1987, that required background checks for gun purchasers and a waiting period before a buyer could take possession of a gun.

In a 1991 New York Times op-ed titled “Why I’m For the Brady Bill,” Reagan detailed his support of a seven-day waiting period for gun buyers. “Every year, an average of 9,200 Americans are murdered by handguns, according to Department of Justice statistics,” Reagan said in the op-ed. “… If the passage of the Brady bill were to result in a reduction of only 10 or 15 percent of those numbers (and it could be a good deal greater), it would be well worth making it the law of the land.”

“Reagan supported the Brady Bill. That was after he had left office, but he did support it,” said Allan Lichtman, a professor of history at American University. “His views are a little complicated because he also signed legislation easing the (1968) Gun Control Act, so you can take Reagan either way.”

As for the president’s assessment that “a majority of Americans agree” with the assault-weapons ban, we went to the polls for answers.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll involving guns, politics and governing priorities was conducted by telephone Jan. 10-13. The poll included a random national sample of 1,001 adults, including land-line and cellphone-only respondents. The poll’s results have a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

The poll includes three pertinent questions about weapons bans:

— Would you support or oppose a law requiring a nationwide ban on semi-automatic handguns, which automatically reload every time the trigger is pulled?
Fifty-one percent of all adults said yes; 46 percent said no. Fifty percent of registered voters said yes; 47 percent said no.

— Would you support or oppose a law requiring a nationwide ban on high-capacity ammunition clips, meaning those containing more than 10 bullets?
Sixty-five percent of all adults said they supported a ban; 32 percent opposed. Those same numbers applied to registered voters.

— Would you support or oppose a law requiring a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons?
Fifty-eight percent of all adults supported a ban; 39 percent opposed. Fifty-nine percent of registered voters supported a ban; 38 percent opposed.

So how does Obama’s statement rate?

During his speech laying out a package of gun-control proposals, the president evoked Reagan’s support of an assault-weapons ban. History shows that Reagan’s track record on guns is a winding road. He was a strong gun rights supporter who signed legislation easing an earlier gun law. But he also supported legislation for background checks and a waiting period for potential gun owners. He did support an assault-weapons ban and even joined two other former presidents in a letter to a major newspaper urging congressional approval of a ban.

Not only did Reagan support the ban, but so do most Americans, Obama said. Information from a Washington Post/ABC News poll supports the president’s statement.

On these two issues, we gave Obama a True rating.

Ryan might also might want to read this: How Ronald Reagan learned to love gun control, from Peter Weber at The Week.

Or, When Ronald Reagan embraced gun control, by Francis X. Clines at the New York Times.

From the recent Dallas Morning News endorsement of Villalba over Ryan:

Villalba has a pragmatic approach to finding solutions to everything from highway funding and addressing the working poor, and is not afraid to cross the aisle to get things done. We worry that Ryan, the 57-year-old owner of an interior design firm, is unprepared for office,  given her shallow understanding of important issues facing her district and her misstatements of fact.

Meanwhile, there was this.

Here is the top of what I wrote in that story on May 27, in which Villalba expressed his frustrations with the last session.

When state Rep. Jason Villalba was first elected to the Legislature in 2012, he was described as the future of the Texas Republican Party.

Five years later, representing an affluent North Dallas district that Hillary Clinton carried and whose constituents include former President George W. Bush, Villalba is one of only three Hispanic Republicans in the Legislature. During his years in Austin, he has been a loyal and outspoken advocate for House Speaker Joe Straus and an unabashed admirer of Gov. Greg Abbott.

Yet despite his talents and ambition, Villalba remains literally and figuratively a back bencher in the Texas House. Denied a chairman’s gavel, he is custodian of the House candy jar, his talents thwarted and ambitions blunted as he now closes out a session he calls “my toughest yet,” a self-described Reagan Republican out of step with the continued rightward march of his party.

“The conservative grass roots and Lt. Gov. (Dan) Patrick and his followers can say, ‘We moved the needle materially this session from where it was last session, and last session we claimed it was the most conservative session in Texas history,’ ” Villalba said this week, in the session’s waning days. “So I think it’s a real win for Lt. Gov. Patrick. I think he had an excellent session. Did he go as far as he wanted to go? The answer to that is ‘no.’ But I think he got further than he expected to get.”

But for Villalba, with tough votes on sanctuary cities, transgender bathroom policy and abortion, “There have been more times this session when I felt icky when I drove home, just gross with what the body had done, that I never felt before.”

Rep. Jason Villalba on the House floor on May 26, 2017.
(RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The story concluded with this:

Villalba, meanwhile, finds himself wondering: “Is this worth it? I come down here away from family, making less money away from my kids, away from my wife. I did some really good things for Texas, but I went sideways a lot of the time, not because of my votes but because of the votes that were influenced by ideologues and purity police.”

Ultimately, Villalba decided it was worth it and to seek another term. He faces Ryan on March 6, and, if he prevails, a serious Democratic challenge in the swing district in the fall.

I asked Villalba last night whether he had ever heard anything back from the Big Three about his call for a study commission on gun violence.

“No,” he replied. “Nothing.”