Saturday, March 01, 2008

A Season of Change in Texas

Mary Mapes in The Nation:
Disappointment with the Bush Administration helped create a voting blowback in Dallas in November 2006, when Democrats swept forty-two judicial races and won the County Judge and District Attorney spots.

The abrupt switch from red to blue caught veteran political watchers off guard. "It sure took me by surprise," says Cal Jillson, Southern Methodist University political science professor. "I thought it would roll slowly to the Democrats in Dallas, not overnight."

Jillson credits the growing Hispanic vote and the change in atmosphere with convincing the "closeted Democrats to come out."

The language used here is instructive. Only in Texas could publicly supporting Democrats be compared to announcing the secrets of your sexual identity. But that is changing, too.

"For years, the Anglo Democrats down here were so beaten down, they just quit. They gave up. Now there is a bandwagon effect that is bringing them out again," Jillson says.

A Texas Republican strategist agrees. "The Democratic groundswell here is so deep and so energized," says the consultant, who didn't want to be identified. He says he believes the Republicans have made poor tactical choices in recent state races and that the party's split over religious issues is costing it voters.

"The right wing of the Republican party, the ultra-conservative religious right taking hold is turning people off," he says.

Among those turned off by the strength of the religious bent in the GOP? This consultant.

"So I am volunteering for Obama, delivering yard signs, making calls, whatever I can," he says. "I told them I am not doing this to look for business. I just want to help the campaign. I believe in his message for change."

In this season of change, it seems all eyes are on the Texas Democrats. And many here feel they are finally getting the attention they deserve. After all, they'll tell you, they were smart enough to reject George W. Bush long before the rest of the country.

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