1.Progressives are being elected
While Democrats have lost ground across the nation , they made major gains in Texas over the past 8 years. This is especially surprising as many of these recent wins were not by the traditional moderate Democrats that dominate the state party, but by progressives.Two notable examples are Julie Nitsch, who won her race for ACC Board of Trustees Place 9 after being endorsed by Our Revolution, and District Attorney Kim Ogg who received widespread and bipartisan praise for promptly decriminalizing marijuana possession in Harris county.
2. Marijuana Reform
Republican and moderate Democrats have largely fought against marijuana reform despite widespread support across the state for these policies . Meanwhile, Progressives have generated excitement and name recognition for their pro-marijuana stances that play well with voters across the political spectrum. Moreover, the debate over marijuana reform may be a game changer in rural Texas, which typically has been dominated by the hard right as rural Texans have the most to gain from commercial production. Commercial marijuana production could both reinvigorate these struggling communities’ economies which have been devastated by the decline in agricultural sectors and create the tax revenue needed to meet the needs of rural Texans.
3.Republicans in Texas Keep Enraging Their Base
Texans have long been known for their affinity for property rights and opposition to eminent domain. Despite this, prominent Texas Republicans have came out in support of land seizures of private property to build Donald Trump’s border wall. This contentious issue has left Republican voters in the Lone Stars state questioning if their long time representatives really are the best people to serve their interests. After all,Texas Republicans have often rationalized their refusal to take part in programs such as the Medicaid expansion by pointing to Texans independence from the federal government, an argument that does not hold water now that the party’s leadership has agreed to work with them on this issue.
4. Democrats in Texas Keep Enraging Their Base
While Democrats need to entice young, energetic, and exciting people to its party – it continues to rally around establishment candidates that seem incapable of generating organic excitement. In addition to this, the party consistently loses the moral high ground that supposedly distinguishes them from Republicans as Democrats like Eddie Lucio Jr., who supported the controversial bathroom bill to the chagrin of Democratic voters, still receive the benefits and resources from the local, state, and national levels of the Democratic Party while truly progressive candidates are ignored or pushed out.
5. Texas and Populism
Texans have a unique sense of identity and pride in their state and a history of populism rooted in revolt against the establishment, whomever that may. Right now that means Republicans. This resistance against the status quo has intensified as the GOP has no scapegoat since they hold the majority at every level of government and have largely been supported in major legislative moves by moderate Texas Democrats. So while it is apparent to every Republican voter that the power is in the hands of their party, they already made crucial missteps like failing to protect private property rights and allowing the federal government to override states rights. On top of this, a number of congressmen have also began to back down from campaign promises including a party-wide promise to voters to stop raising taxes.
6.Chaos Creates Opportunity
Let’s face it, the Democratic Party is in shambles. While that may be bad for the party’s establishment, it could be good for Progressives. Like the “Republican Revolution” in 1994, which was born out of devastating losses by the Republican Party and resulted in fresh faces filling roles that had been treated like lifetime appointments, Progressives many have a front row seat to a power grab that will determine the future for Democrats. Moreover, a number of large dollar donors have opted out of footing the DNC’s bill, which may force Democrats to rely more heavily on the kind of small dollar donations that Bernie Sanders and other progressives have had such great success at generating. On top of this, the power to push candidates over the edge and movements out of the margins on the left has traditionally lied with the youth in the United States. From the 1960’s Anti-war movement to Occupy Wall Street, the success and visibility of left leaning movements depends on young people . Young people in 2016 voted for Sanders over Hillary Clinton at a ratio of 3 to 1 and consider themselves more progressive than the Democratic Party as it stands today.
7.Right VS Alt Right
The beef between the Ted Cruz and the Donald Trump wings of the Republican Party has created tension that has only amped up after 2016 election. While Donald Trump’s strongest supporters in Texas may feel empowered by Trump’s win, they ultimately live in a state Ted Cruz won. This is highlighted by Texas House Speaker Joe Straus statements which disavowed the bathroom bill, a move that has drawn criticism from far right activists and politicians. This escalating ideological battle between the party’s traditional, “business-minded base” and “further-right grassroots activists” is laying bare a party that is deeply divided and is in many way unprepared for the damage public awareness of their policy goals will cause.
While both the Republican and establishment Democratic wings of the Texas state parties have churned out status quo candidates, Texans want change. A slate of progressive candidates running in across the state just might be able to deliver that change. In many cases these progressive candidate, unlike their challengers, started their campaign months ago and are armed with connections from the grassroots network established during Bernie Sanders’ 2016 primary campaign. For example, Danielle Pellet announced her bid before the presidential race had even ended and has already been endorsed by progressive groups and leaders across the state.
Before Bernie Sanders bid for the Democratic nomination, Texas had only a few left leaning organizations working toward more progressive policy goals than the Democratic Party. However, since this time groups like Democratic Socialists of America and Socialist Alternative have opened up chapters all over the state who are seeing an abundance of new members. On top of this, older progressive organizations and news outlets in the state like Common Cause, The Pacifica Foundation, and Jim Hightower’s Hightower Lowdown have received outpourings of support in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election.
10. Our Revolution
While Progressives all over the United States have waited for the state level roll out of Bernie Sanders’ Organization, Our Revolution – which aims to change local and state politics, the first state chapter was established in Texas. This signals that the Sanders’ campaign, who collected data across the state, may see trends in Texas that are favorable to Progressives. In addition to this, the group has already had success pushing Democrats to the left in the lone state through endorsing candidates that challenge moderate Democrats as well as the party’s moderate agenda and platform.
By:Alexandra Catherine Hunter