A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Friday, July 05, 2013

Texas Is More Liberal Than Some Think




The general thinking these days is that Texas is an extremely conservative state. That's because Texas has not elected a Democrat to statewide office in more than 20 years, both houses of the state legislature are dominated by Republicans, and the state has sent to Washington some of the looniest right-wing Republicans of any state (Ted Cruz, Louie Gohmert, Steve Stockman, Joe Barton, etc.). This gives the impression that most Texans support the right-wing agenda of the Republican Party.

But that may not be as true as some would think. A new survey by Public Policy Polling (done between June 28th and July 1st of 500 registered voters in the state -- with a margin of error of 4.4 points) shows that at least some "liberal" ideas are popular with the majority of voters.

Take the idea that Texans are willing to discriminate against homosexuals for example. That is really not true. While a majority say they are opposed to same-sex marriage, it turns out that many are just getting hung-up on the word "marriage". They do not believe homosexual couples should have less rights than heterosexual couples, and when asked if same-sex couples should have those same rights through legal civil unions majorities in all groups say yes (even 51% of Republicans). And all political groups in Texas are opposed to allowing employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

And it doesn't stop there. While Texas is a strong gun rights state, Texans do not believe that the right to own a gun should be granted to just anyone. Significant majorities of all political groups, including Republicans, still support a strong law that would require a background check on anyone wanting to buy a gun -- including sales at gun shows or on the internet. Texans would have supported the background checks law that Republicans killed in the U.S. Senate.

In addition, Texans of all political persuasions were not happy with the Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act -- in spite of the fact that Texas was one of the states required by that act to have "pre-clearance" before redistricting or changing voting laws. Texans know that discrimination still exists, and they want the voting rights of all groups to be protected.

The fact is that Texans don't support everything the right-winger want to do, and they don't oppose everything the liberals would like to do. So why have Democrats had such a hard time getting elected in statewide elections? There are a couple of reasons for that. First, the state party has written off large areas of the state as being unreachable in the past (because they are strong Republican areas). That is changing with new leadership. The party is now conducting a statewide registration effort.

The second reason is that the party has run too many weak candidates -- candidates that were unknown to most Texans, and who were unable (or unwilling) to proclaim those liberal ideas that most Texans would support. Hopefully, newly emerging Democratic candidates like Joaquin Castro and Wendy Davis can change that.

With better candidates, a newly energized base, a statewide registration effort, the state's changing demographics, and the realization that some liberal ideas appeal to Texas voters, the prospect of flipping the state from red to blue is not so unreasonable. It will not be easy, but it is not impossible either.

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