Op-Ed: What Texas Democrats Can Learn From Alabama

Last Tuesday, the nation celebrated a 1.5 percent difference that put Democrat Doug Jones into office over Republican Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race. The tiny sliver of hope was enough to make people across the nation, especially in red states, see hope for their local elections. 

Beto O’Rourke is the lead democratic candidate for Texas’ state senator election against incumbent, Republican Ted Cruz. O’Rourke said that the Alabama race is telling that he can win in Texas.

“Only 13 months after Donald Trump won Alabama by 28 points, Democrat Doug Jones has been elected to the U.S. Senate after running a campaign that was not only keenly focused on the issues but on dignity and speaking openly with the people he wanted to represent. That’s exactly what we’ve been doing in Texas these past eight months – already visiting 160 counties, holding nearly 100 public events across the state, and focusing on putting the people of Texas over PACs, corporations and special interests. That’s why we’re livestreaming this entire campaign, talking to Texans living in parts of the state that a Democrat hasn’t campaigned in for decades, and not accepting a dime in PAC money. Putting our faith in the people of Texas is how we’ve out raised the sitting junior Senator Ted Cruz, whose favorability in Texas is actually lower than what Roy Moore’s was in Alabama. This race is more than winnable. It’s our turn, our time, our moment to make the case to Texans across the state that we can lead on jobs, healthcare, immigration, the environment, and treating our neighbors right. We can restore civility and dignity to public life and put the interests of the country ahead of personal ambition or partisan calculation,” said O’Rourke on Alabama in an email from his press team to The Dentonite

So far, O’Rourke has been taking good steps to making his win possible. And, we need to ride out this Alabama-hope to help him out. 

O’Rourke seems to be at a disadvantage in our red state. The last time Texas had a Democratic senator was in 1993. And, every time we have tried to get a Democrat in high profile offices since, it has failed, or had shortcomings. But, momentum is picking up and if we model after Alabama’s lead, we can do something special.

Those who claim to be “realistic” will say the lines aren’t as defined as Alabama’s “pedophile v. non-pedophile” but even taking that into account, Cruz is increasingly becoming more and more unpopular and we can use that. Remind people Cruz endorsed Moore in late Oct. and did not retract it until the Monday before Alabama’s election. To which he said if the allegations were untrue Moore needs to come forward with a “strong, persuasive rebuttal” and that he could not support his candidacy as long as the allegations remain “unrefuted.”

O’Rourke has raised more money for his campaign than Ted Cruz and is appealing to places candidates seldom take into account. Instead of going to places he knows will vote for him, he is going into red counties and also trying to wake up sleeping populations. 

96 percent of black voters turned up for Jones in Alabama and significantly 98 percent of Black women. According to journalist Al Giordano, the state N.A.A.C.P. told its local chapters to call every registered voter who had not voted in the 2016 election. A graph from FiveThirtyEight posted by Aaron Bycoffe shows that counties where turnout was closer to 2016s Presidential Election gave Jones most of its votes. Moreover, the Jones campaign bought billboards in African-American neighborhoods, the N.A.A.C.P. constantly organized in communities and local grassroots organizations worked to give rides to the polls and registering people. 

According to the New Yorker, five Alabama Indivisible chapters mainly focused on six counties, three of which flipped from having a majority vote for Trump in 2016, had a majority vote for Jones. Indivisible is an activist organization that has 6,000 chapters throughout the U.S. to resist the Trump Agenda. Texas has 111 Indivisible groups and sub-groups, I counted. The organizing we could do is unthinkable.

But, we need strategy. Texas Organizing Project does urban organizing and talks to people at the level of local politics they feel immediately. This means helping communities understand the impact of local politics, even non-partisan elections. It goes without saying that poorer communities, which happen to be largely Hispanic or African-American, do not receive as well of an education and because of it may not understand the complete impact of politics or have a small understanding of their local officials.

So, instead of trying to get white, affluent voters to turn up and vote on behalf of people of color we should actually go straight to the source and let them do it for themselves instead of patting ourselves on the back for helping them out. Also, the more we get people voting in lower level elections, the more they can see people in office who understand their struggles. 

If people of color need to turnout in record numbers for a white candidate they have to be for someone who is actively fighting for economic justice and progressive ideals and doesn’t straddle sides to be favorable to both. Alabama taught us that if we organize correctly the voters will turn up.

Texas has a large Hispanic population. How do we tell them a vote for Beto O’Rourke or a vote for a Representative or a vote for even a Justice of the Peace is going to benefit them? My whole life I have heard my Latinx family and friends say their vote doesn’t matter, because it hasn’t before. It’s going to take a lot more than “get us in so we can help you,” it’s showing they have the power within their own communities help themselves. 

As an article from Mother Jones said best, “’It’s not a Republican state, it’s a nonvoting state’ may as well be the official Democratic Party mantra.” We have to teach people to work a system that sets them up for failure. Gerrymandering and other economic issues put many at a disadvantage. But, do like Beto – do like Alabama and come to them. Organize like hell in unlikely and forgotten places.