For Texas Democrats Looking at 2018, Anti-Trumpism Is a Vast Nothingness

These people are French. We need to do more than this.
These people are French. We need to do more than this.
Guillaume Destombes via Shutterstock

I’m a Democrat. I’m anti-Trump. The only things more depressing to me than President Donald Trump are Democrats. If it’s still like this in 2018, I may have to vote for the vegan, even though I have never really been totally sure what that is.

Maybe for a change and just to spare us all some brain-freezing boredom, I won’t tell you why I’m anti-Trump. It’s because of blah-blah and blah-blah. You know. All that stuff that leaks out of your TV if you don’t hit mute fast enough, like the so-called analysis that’s worse than a drug ad warning. If what you’re talking about could even faintly ever happen to me, why on earth would I take your drug? If you’re really going to tell me again what you don’t know yet about the meeting, why on earth would I listen to you? MUTE!

No, my anti-Trump sentiments are entirely unoriginal and redundant of everything already said. I just want to talk about Democrats. And, if you don’t mind, I’d like to hold it to Texas Democrats because I don’t know much beyond the state line.

Texas Democrats can always be forgiven for giving up. Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994. Older Texans, set in their ways, vote at two to three times the turnout rate of younger, new voters. Gov. Greg Abbott beat Wendy Davis by almost 20 points in 2014. Two years later, Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Texas by nine points.

Too often when Democrats try to sound positive, they make us want to cry. Like, “Look how much better nine points is than 20 points.” No, it’s not. One sucks. The other one sucks. Discussions of relative sucking are worse than pharmaceutical warnings. MUTE!

What we need is an idea. A vision. A plan to carry us forward, something worth fighting for. And that’s not, “Look how much less we suck than Trump.” Really? If that’s our best shot at hope, we might as well just curl up under our beds in the fetal position and watch cat videos on our phones until we die.

But where to look for that vision? What kind of vision could arouse a new spirit of Texas big enough and powerful enough to change the state’s political direction? The ethnic formulas never seem to get there, maybe because ethnicity is too much where we come from, not enough where we’re headed.

What about the cities? Hasn’t Texas become an overwhelmingly less rural, more urban state? Not so much. The U.S. census found the state’s fastest population growth between 2010 and 2015 in 10 suburban and West Texas counties, in keeping with a five-year trend. In spite of West Texas, we are becoming a much more suburban state rather than more urban. Our big growth in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, for example, has been in the northeast suburban belt counties of Denton, Collin and Rockwall. Denton County voted Trump at 57.7 percent, Collin at 56.2 and Rockwall at 71.8 percent.

Somehow our geographic arrangements, urban versus rural, urban versus suburban, look less than promising as the basis for a Democratic revolution. If there is some way to make the physical map work for Democrats, I sure cannot imagine what it would be, especially when the map of all Texas political districts still looks like a sonogram of Tom DeLay’s gut.

But isn’t there another map, a mental map of functionality? By that I refer to metastasizing urban/suburban problems that are important in our lives — pressing, in fact — but are never even distantly referenced in the whacko bathroom-bill ravings of the Abbott/Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick witch-doctor right wing.

In case nobody has noticed, flood control is increasingly out of control, especially in the fast-growth suburban areas. Every rainy season in the Dallas area, some hapless person or family gets blown out of a normally placid suburban intersection by a wall of water in a place where no river, stream or even good-sized ditch is anywhere in sight — the harbinger of far worse problems to come.

There are solutions to the storm-water runoff issue, but they require thinking, engineering and work, and specifically, they require land-use policy, a concept that cannot enter the minds, let alone leave the lips, of the bathroom-billies. Since land-use policy is the only conceivable answer to flooding and a host of related urban/suburban issues — since its day must come anyway, one way or the other — Democrats could at least consider it as part of a program of pragmatic solutions to real-life problems.

We tend to think of impacted poverty as occurring at the urban center of things, but really, that’s only because of where it winds up. An evolved and developed infrastructure of social services at the center is always going to act as a kind of social heat sink, drawing poor people closer to the only help they can get. The least productive approach to that problem will be nagging or trying to compel the outer counties to do more or pay more, unless somebody finds a way to go out there with a gun and make them do it (which would be wrong, I guess).

The interesting thing is this: All of the most promising approaches to dealing with poverty are also promising as approaches to a host of issues that directly affect the outer reaches, especially labor shortages. Why not do things that will help lift people up out of poverty and into the productive working mainstream?

We spend billions of dollars on mass transit in Texas, notably on the part I call light-rail abuse, without the slightest effort at a central rationale, goal or purpose. Are we trying to clean the air? Are we trying to facilitate sprawl? Or is it my favorite nominee for a real reason? We want trains because Yankees have them. Hey, I have another idea: Why not spend the billions trying to help people get to work?

Housing is another big part of the same issue. I realize that the suburban expanse and the urban center are never going to see eye-to-eye on affordable housing issues, but there are smart approaches that don’t involve holding a gun to anybody’s head, tempting as that may sound.

Some of the new, younger elected officials in Dallas have been looking around the country at various models of inclusionary zoning, in which a rights-granting entity like a city or county trades additional development rights to a developer in exchange for an agreement to build some affordable units. It’s voluntary, and it doesn’t happen unless everybody wins.

Some younger Dallas leaders also have been looking at a more comprehensive approach to development incentives in which some of the incentive money is used to stabilize, beef up and protect residential communities that abut big, new commercial developments. Yes, that idea came about first as a means of defending poor communities threatened by gentrification, but that doesn’t mean it would not also work for middle-class and even affluent communities. Everybody needs infrastructure someday, and everybody needs protection from soaring property taxes.

U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Democrat of El Paso
U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Democrat of El Paso
113th Congress

Some issues that everybody thinks of as deeply liberal and ideological really are not. They’re a combination of social pragmatism with faith in human potential. For example, getting ex-cons back into the mainstream. Our society continues to churn out kids who never learn to read, quit school as soon as possible, sell drugs, get caught and go to the pen a couple of times before they turn 25.

When they wake up — and we all know that doesn’t happen before age 25 for males in particular — they are already illiterate ex-cons, out-prisoned from productive lives forever, no matter how desperately they may want to lead decent, happy lives. Instead, they live in a walking hell of hopelessness forever, and sooner or later that hell reaches us and finds the rest of us in the form of crime and sheer social maintenance cost.

We can figure that out. We can find a way to open doors for people so that they can earn their own ways back into the part of the world the rest of us inhabit every day of our lives. Maybe they can even catch a bus.

I don’t mean to act as if I just invented any of this myself and no Democrat has ever had the snap to think of it. I am aware that some of this kind of thinking is coming already from Beto O’Rourke, the U.S representative from El Paso who is the putative challenger for Ted Cruz’s Senate seat in 2018.

But look, The Washington Post just published a national poll in which only 37 percent of adults say they think the Democratic Party stands for anything. On the other hand, 52 percent say the party is anti-Trump and that’s it.

Even when you divvy it up by party, only 61 percent of Democrats say their party stands for anything other than non-Trumpism. Someone may try to tell me that 61 percent is better than 52 percent. No, it’s not! Both numbers suck! MUTE!

The bathroom-billies dominate statewide political office in Texas. Their issues and worldviews have almost no meaningful relevance to the important issues that really affect our lives.

But being against Trump, and this is the only thing I am going to say about him here, is like being against nothing. It isn’t anything. It’s certainly not a vision or a platform.

There is so much to work with in Texas, but Texas Democrats had better get cracking. Meanwhile, if you know of a good vegan candidate, please write. (Please include brief explanation veganism.)


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