The Dallas Observer Q&A with Congressional Candidate Colin Allred

Colin Allread at White Rock Lake
Colin Allread at White Rock Lake Colin Allred for Congress
Earlier this year, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced that it's targeting the seat of U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, in Texas Congressional District 32. Sessions has drawn two competitive Democratic challengers, former Hillary Clinton adviser Ed Meier and civil rights attorney and former NFL linebacker Colin Allred.

Last week, the Observer sat down for a lengthy chat with Allred about his ambitions, politics in Dallas and the rest of Texas, and President Donald Trump. Here's a transcript of that conversation, lightly edited for length, content and clarity.

Dallas Observer: What was it like for you growing up in Dallas? What's your relationship with the city?

Colin Allred: I was literally born and raised in this district [District 32]. I went to public schools here from pre-K to 12th grade. My mom taught in DISD schools for a long time. I'm really a product of DISD. Before Town North Y got to be pretty nice, which it is now, I basically lived there. If I wasn't in school, I would be at the YMCA.

Whether it was a day camp or Camp Grady Spruce, which was one of their overnight camps, or if it was any day we had off school since my mom had to work, I would always be at one of their day camps.

I really love this area. I feel like people here gave me the chance that I needed. Even though I was raised by a single mom here, didn't have a lot of money, I got a lot of support from my schools, my peers and friends at Hillcrest, from teachers, from coaches. I was a lifeguard at Town North Y during the summers. I used to teach swim lessons for 3- to 5-year-olds. I just really loved the area. It gave me a chance to go to the NFL, become an attorney and work for the president of the United States. I'm worried that that kind of social mobility is decreasing here. I feel like we can do better than what we're doing now.

What was it like transitioning out of football and then into your kind of life of public service?

I think any football player always has a hard time coming out of it. The longer you're in, the harder it is. Even people who play high school football, I think, have a hard time when they get to college and they can't play anymore. Especially if you go to college and especially NFL because your life is so structured around it. Football required 100 percent of my attention, my energy to play at that level. It took everything I had. Once you pull out of that, it's like you're suddenly pulling the plug on something.

All of a sudden there's no 6 a.m. workouts anymore. There's no daily ritual that you've got to do every day to get ready for the next game. The biggest change for me was, number one, losing that sense of structure. Number two, in football you're all on the same side. You're all working towards a common goal. Then you get out in the rest of the world, and everybody is pulling in different directions. In a lot of ways it can feel very isolating and lonely because you're not surrounded by this brotherhood of people who are all working for the same thing. The transition for all of us it was difficult. It was difficult for me, too.

I got interested in public service because I really felt like "there but for the grace of God go I" in a lot of different cases, whether it was somebody getting in trouble with the law or not being able to become whatever they wanted to become. I knew that I had been lucky to have a lot of help at each step of the way to let me roll with the pitfalls. I felt like I'd been given so much by public institutions, by public schools, by community institutions like the YMCA that I really wanted to strengthen those and make sure they were strong. Not all of us have ideal home lives or have the resources to move forward and give access to exclusive places. We rely on public and community-based things throughout our lives to help us become what we want to become.

In law school and then during your time as an attorney, was it always the plan to run for public office at some point? Was that something you were always interested in, or was running for congress a more recent decision.

Yeah, it's more recent. I got into civil rights law because I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to impact obviously the law and the ways that it was being applied. I wanted to make sure it applied equally. I really felt like going into politics was the extension of that.

I guess it's basically the same thing: trying to make sure that everybody gets an equal shot. It became clear to me that, like Robert Kennedy said, "If we're gonna change our politics, we're gonna have to change our politicians." It was voting rights actively being gutted, for example. Some of our best efforts in the legal system end up being stymied or take years and years to get results. They're important and we gotta keep going on them, but we really need to have legislators first. And, like a lot of folks, I was shocked by the election. I was shocked by the outcome.

I thought a lot about the kids I grew up with here going to Dallas schools here, thought a lot about things that I felt like Trump was targeting them and talking about them and their families, and I really felt like that wasn't who we are. It's not who we are as people. I feel like it's a very dangerous time for the country. I feel like in 20 or 30 years our kids and our grandkids will ask us, "Well, what did you do when all this stuff was going on? When the constitution was being questioned. When people were being pitted against each other. How did you get involved?" I want to be able to have a good answer.

Why take on Pete Sessions? You could have run another race. You could have run for the state House or something locally. Why jump in in 32?

Well, like I said, it's where I was born and raised, so it's important to me that I have a deep connection to this area. It's a really personal race for me. Obviously it's political, but it's also personal because I have such deep roots here, and I felt like, particularly in the Congress, the direction that it's been going in is one that we need to change and we need to be challenging at every single one of these levels. My experience is at the federal level. I've worked in the Obama administration for three different stints. My experience is federal, and so I think I should try to apply myself there.

"Whatever you want to say about this area now, I don't think it's as conservative as Pete Sessions has been voting and has been acting." – Colin Allred

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Do you feel like there's a disconnect between the voters and residents of District 32 and their current representation at the federal level?

I do. I mean, whatever you want to say about this area now, I don't think it's as conservative as Pete Sessions has been voting and has been acting. Whether you want to say that it's a center-right or a center district, I think it's completely out of step with where he is. I think one of the things that we have to do in this campaign is educate the electorate about just how conservative he's been.

Just the other day, there was a vote in the House to discriminate against some of our transgender troops, and the vote went down because some Republicans joined Democrats to vote against it, but Pete was right there with the really conservative members voting for that. I think that's out of step with who we are.

You talk about it as being a center district or a center-right district. Do you view yourself as a candidate of the center?

I'm just saying, I don't think ... I'm not sure it is the center. I'm saying that even if you want to concede that, which I'm not really willing to, even if you took that view, that he's not that. Pete Sessions is not that. Now, for me, I don't see myself necessarily central on all things. I think that I consider myself to be a progressive, and I'm certainly willing to be reasonable and to look at ways to work with people on the other side. In the end, though, there are certain principles that I believe in deeply that probably classify me as a progressive. I think that's the best way to describe myself.

What are some of those principles? What are the most important things for you that you feel are maybe being neglected right now?

I mean, I think today is a great example with this health care bill and with what's going on in Austin right now, the bathroom bill. I think this is a shameful day in American politics. It's a shameful day in Texas politics. Our representatives are down in Austin right now trying to find a way to police our bathrooms here, and in D.C., trying to find a way to take away the health care from 20 to 30 million people — an enormous amount of people. So, getting back to what I strongly believe, I think we have to have the universal health care. I think everybody needs to have health care. I grew up with a lot of kids that didn't have health care, and I know what their options were. It was either the school nurse or the emergency room, and I don't think we ever want to have that be the case in this country.

I don't think we want families going bankrupt getting the care they need. When you get sick, it's not your fault. You haven't done anything wrong, and in this country, the richest, most powerful country in the world, we can afford to make sure everybody in our communities can get the health care they need.

The other thing is we have to make sure the economy is working for everybody here. The mayor's talked about it; we have a barbell economy. We have an economy that's doing really well on one end, got some struggles on the other end and the middle class is being squeezed, and I think the recovery from the recession hasn't reached most of our population. It's mostly gone to the very top, and that's dangerous for our democracy. It's dangerous for our country going forward if we have such mass concentration of wealth in so few hands and so many other people struggling and some of the ladders of opportunity disappearing.

That really worries me because the American dream is not just a slogan. I think it really is the heart of who we are. We need to have that social mobility. We need to have it where if you work hard, do the right things here in this country, that you can get ahead, and right now I think you'd be hard-pressed to say that that's really true.

And then the last thing is education. I'm a big believer in public education; obviously I'm a product of public education. My mom taught in our public schools here. If you really look at some of the research that's out there right now, we really should be lighting our hair on fire, running around and talking about our public education and how it's not working for all of our students. This is probably the biggest issue we face as a country that is, for whatever reason, not getting much attention.

We do have some great schools, but we have too much inequity in our schools. We have too many of our students who don't get the education they need. In this global economy that we're in, the service economy that we have, in order to compete you have to get an education. We're falling behind the rest of the world, but more importantly, we're having too much potential in our own schools going unrealized. I've seen it myself. I knew a kid, Saul, who I was in a math group with in sixth grade and Saul ... we used to do math competitions and Saul was a natural. He walked in and he was excellent. He was the best at our really hard math stuff that I couldn't do, and over the next few years I saw Saul drifting away. I think he eventually ended up dropping out when he got to high school so he could go work and support his family.

Saul should be at MIT. He should be helping us invent new and creative ways to use renewable energy or something like that. We need Saul to become what he can become, and we really need to make sure all of our potential here is getting tapped because we're in the fight of our lives against the rest of the world to keep up, and it's not guaranteed that it's going to be the American century. We have to make it that. I'm worried that we're not doing that.

You talk about the need for universal health care and that being one of the most important things. Do you think the Affordable Care Act is a workable model for universal healthcare moving forward, or do you think that there are some fixes that need to happen? What's your view for the best way to achieve universal health care?

You know, that's a good question. I think that the Affordable Care Act moved the ball forward. Twenty-something million folks who didn't have health insurance before do. Pre-existing conditions are now covered. Those are great things, but I think we're going to probably have to have more government interaction with our health care to make sure that we close the final 9 [percent] or 10 percent of our population that doesn't have health insurance, so I'd love to see us have a public option introduced so a lot of folks can have an affordable, quality option for their health insurance. I think that would help keep costs down on the individual market. I also think that we consider lowering the Medicare age and allowing, if you're 55 or even 50, folks to get into the Medicare system. That would put more healthy folks into Medicare, but it would also help our older, less healthy people out of the employer markets to help keep costs down.

What do you think the federal government's role should be in public education?

At the very beginning, I think we need to have universal pre-K. The Head Start program. I think we use federal funds to have universal pre-K. It's an issue for the kids. It helps them get their early brain development and get into school and do things that are going to help them develop down the road, but it's also really important for the parents to have somewhere to take their kids and not have to pay for child care. I think that's an area the federal government can step into.

Our biggest issue in our schools as I see it is recruiting and retaining really high-quality teachers, and so to do that I think we're going to have to have probably a federal response to be part of — whether it's offering scholarships, loan forgiveness for people who are teaching — to encourage people to go into the teaching profession but also helping states pay for higher salaries for teachers, make sure that our best and our brightest consider teaching as a profession for themselves, and there's a lot government can do to spread best practices around to try and make sure that you're not getting an entirely different education in Alabama than you are in Texas. Those are some things I think we should look at right away to make sure to try and help boost and retain our teacher pool but also to really help with early education.

I think that we have to always make sure that we are imposing testing requirements, that we are not encouraging just teaching for a test, and that we're allowing critical learning and critical thinking to be taught.

How do you view the role of the opposition party when you have such a polarizing president?

There's a role here for which we're holding the administration accountable, and it's not a partisan thing about going after the other party. They're in the White House. It really is important that the Congress make sure that the funds that are being — our tax dollars are being appropriated for use by all these agencies, are being appropriately used and they're not being wasted. I think that's a big part of it. A lot of Trump's appointees are being appointed to agencies where they are entirely against the entire purpose of that agency. We have to make sure that they're not undermining the mission of those agencies, that the work the people need is still going on.

On the legislative front, I think we have to move forward with what we believe in whether it becomes law immediately or not. It's really important to inject those things into the American political bloodstream. I mean, look at some of the ideas that Bernie Sanders had injected into our political system. Not very long ago, we weren't talking about health care for all. We were talking about trying to get more people insured, and now I think that almost everybody in the Democratic party seems to be pretty on the same page that we need to get healthcare for all.

Whether it's health care or trying to reform a corrupt campaign finance system, these are things that I think Bernie had helped highlight and I think that we need to push for, and so it's important to pass legislation. It's important to get the people's work done. I think it's also important to fight for what you believe in whether or not it gets signed or not; that doesn't mean that you don't try your best to get it through.

And the last thing I'll say on Trump and whether he were to be the president that we're working with, I'm not entirely sure that he is ideological. I'm not entirely sure that he has a strict ideology. I think he might even be looking for wins or looking for something he can take credit for. I think you might actually end up being surprised at what he will agree to. Certainly some things he said on the campaign weren't traditional Republican lines, and I've been disappointed by decisions he's taken while he's been president so far, but I'm not entirely sure that if we put a progressive education bill in front of him, for example, that he wouldn't sign it. We have to wait and see, but I think the goal would be to stand up for your principles and try and make sure that you're doing everything you can to represent the people that sent you to Washington.

As a believer in campaign finance reform, how do you compete with the amount of money that Pete Sessions is going to raise, especially if whoever comes out of the primary between you and Ed Meier looks competitive? Pete is going to get as much money as he wants, basically, if that's the case.

Yeah. And I think that's part of the problem with our system. A lot of people talk about having term limits, and I think the underlying principle there is that incumbency shouldn't mean that you're automatically re-elected. You should still have to do the work of the people, and one of the biggest benefits of incumbency is what you just mentioned. It's how much money you either already have or can raise.

"Talk to those who maybe haven't voted and get them registered and get them out to vote, and I think that has to be the goal of this campaign." – Colin Allred

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That's a corrupt campaign finance system, and so I think we have to change that. We need to have public financing of elections, but to go back to how you win despite that, I think there's two things I'll say. Number one, you cannot really buy grassroots energy and you cannot — there's only so many TV ads that you can run, only so much money you can spend — I don't think is as strong as the best thing in our country, real grassroots, a real program that will reach the voters. Talk to those who maybe haven't voted and get them registered and get them out to vote, and I think that has to be the goal of this campaign. I think it has to be the goal for the Texas Democratic party, and it has to be the goal for the national Democratic party.

We had 48 percent turnout in 2016 for this presidential election, and you know 2014 turnout was even worse. We have a voting crisis in this country and the only — I think our entire focus politically needs to be on reactivating voters and helping people vote and providing as much assistance as we can to make sure that everybody is able to vote and then doing the hard work of getting them to vote for us, and I think that requires being on the ground and knocking on every door, making as many phone calls as possible. We're not really a red state here in Texas. We're a nonvoting state, and I think we have to fix that and it won't be a Democratic victory if we do that. I really believe it will be an American victory because when both parties have to compete for the votes, it'll be good for all of us because we actually need a functioning Republican party. We need a functioning two-party system, and right now we don't have that.

In part because we don't really have the voter engagement that we need and so the second thing I'll say, though, I think we've seen whether it's the Obama model from 2008 or Bernie in this last election that you can do pretty well with a lot of low-dollar donors who are giving what they can and having a broad base of support of people, and I'm really proud that in our first quarter we had over 1,000 individual contributors and we had a median contribution of $32. I think that that's the kind of thing I want. I want to have a broad base that people believe in, and I hope that even though we're not going to raise as much as Pete Sessions, we're going to be able to raise enough to have that robust field operation so that we can get out the vote because I think that our voters are out there. We've just got to go find them.

You talked about creating grassroots support, and one of the initial criticisms of the Democratic midterm rollout is that it's been more about being against Trump rather than having its own agenda. But it's got to be an tempting line of attack, presenting Pete Sessions as being complicit with the Trump administration's agenda.

There's always an element of running on the record of the incumbent, so you have to be able to tell people what's happening, but I think it would be a huge mistake not only for this race but for all the Democratic races across the country if we were only talking about what we're against. We have to put forward a positive vision for the future of what we want to do instead. That's what I've been trying to do. I have an opportunity agenda. It revolves around what we've already talked about, the economy, public education, healthcare and some other things, but basically the main point is that if you work hard and do the right things you should be able to get ahead. We need to be talking about that. We need to be talking about how we want to do it.

We need to give people a vision of what they're going to vote for. It's a much stronger impulse to go out and support something than it is to vote against something — and I don't think that it's enough to reach the number of voters that we need to get to. We're going to have to go out and get the other voters who need to know we're going to help them when they sit around the kitchen table. How are we going to help them? Whether they're concerned about sending their kid to college and providing affordable college, or whether it's how they're going to replace that car that needs replacing or what are they going to do about their health care? We need to have answers for that so they know that we're on their side. I think it's a really big mistake to focus solely on resistance.

"What Trump has done will have repercussions, but we won't be able to fully capitalize on it unless we're presenting an alternate vision, too." – Colin Allred

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Also, the other thing I'll say is that Trump is, in my opinion, ever present. I don't think you have to spend a lot of time talking about him. People know what's going on in a lot of ways. Every week we'll have Coffee with Colin, we'll have 40 to 60 people come out, and every week I don't get very many questions about Trump and I think that's because he's already so front of mind for people. He's already part of the atmosphere so much; what they want to know is how we're going to cut through it. What Trump has done will have repercussions, but we won't be able to fully capitalize on it unless we're presenting an alternate vision, too.

So you're not in the camp that believes that nothing Trump does matters to his voters?

No, I'm really not. I mean, I think our problem in the last election is that we didn't get enough people out to vote. I mean, it certainly did matter. His opponent got 3 million more votes, number one, but we also didn't give people enough reason to vote for her. So we didn't get enough people out and that's basically it. I think we as a party need to take a very hard look at how we're going to activate people to get them out to vote. What are we doing wrong, that we're not getting enough people out to vote?

There's a certain element of this that's due to voter suppression and I've been a voting rights attorney. I've worked on this. But it's not entirely that. There's also an element that we're not generating the excitement that we need to be generating. That our candidates aren't saying the things that are speaking to people. We're not talking to their issues, which is very clear. I think until we do that, then we're going to have a hard time in this election, but I agree with Bernie — the idea of getting thousands and hundreds of thousands and millions of people who haven't been in our political system to get involved. In fact, I think that for our democracy to stay healthy we're going to have to do that. We cannot get by with under 50 percent voting.

We need to have enough people coming out to vote to do what we can to help you do that, and I think Election Day should be a national holiday. I think we should have automatic voter registration. I think we should get rid of any of these voter ID laws that's meant to restrict the vote. I think we should have independent commissions for drawing our lines because I don't think the representatives should pick their voters. I think voters should pick their representatives, but all of that can only be done if you start winning some of these seats and we can make those reforms, but we're going to have to win first and we're going to actually win first.

What do you do to change the culture of voting? Is it just about more exciting candidates? Or should we be Australia and have compulsory voting?

I don't think that's really the American solution. For us, I think we always want to make it incentive-based and people making their own decision. I don't think we really want to mandate something like that, but we obviously need to take drastic steps, so I think it really is going to have to start in our schools, to be very honest with you. I think we're going to have to go back and make sure that civics are being taught in our schools, that people understand what their city council member does, what their county commissioner does, what their county judge does and how that affects their lives. It doesn't have to be political. I'm not saying that. I'm saying what the function of it is, and I think we need to make sure that the people are voting at a young age because if you vote young, it often will become a lifetime habit. We've spent decades now suppressing and making it harder for young people to vote, so then as they get older they continue not to vote.

It's not a habit for them, and so we have all these efforts to put in place to try and catch up and try and introduce things, and this is something that really should have been happening over time, and so I think some of the things I mentioned, having fair districts, removing barriers at the ballot box like voter ID, having automatic registration, it would increase turnout, but I really think that we also have to — people think that our political system is rigged and that it's a corrupt system. I think we got to get away from politics being the providence of the rich and the wealthy, too.

I think part of that is campaign finance. I really do believe some people don't get involved in the process because they think it's all a corrupt system, so I think we need to have public financing at the elections. Spend less time fundraising. Spend more time getting the message out and talking to people. Why did we really get into this whole system? It's to have the consent of the governed and to have a democracy where you have an engaged electorate, and if we don't have that, then we start ending up with some of the systemic issues that we have right now. The bathroom bill that nobody wants. None of the businesses here want it. None of the people here really want it. It's just that small slice of the Republican primary electorate that wants it. That's the only reason it's being pushed.

Or whether it's this health care bill where they're trying to take health care away from tens of millions of people based on purely a political promise because they're worried that they'll be primaried if they don't do it. It's not because they think it's the right policy. I think if you gave a lot of those senators a truth serum, they would tell you it's not a very good policy. They're doing it anyway because they don't want to get primaried. We have to put the incentives on doing the right thing for your people instead of the incentives on pleasing your donors and pleasing a small portion of the primary electorate.

Texas and the rest of the country seem to be developing a split between cities, suburbs and rural areas. What do you think about bridging that divide?

The best answer I can give you is I don't think this has happened organically. I think in a lot of ways we've been led into this. I think people running in rural areas have used cities as a bogeyman and said — Sarah Palin talking about "real America." Where's real America? It's not on the coast. It's not in the cities. It's out here in the fields. When you pit people against each other and say they're coming for you or they're going to take things away from you, that's powerful.

What leaders say matters and what people who are in leadership positions say matters, and I think you know, in a lot of ways, this has been used as a political wedge issue to get more votes in some of these areas and it's been used as a way to amass power for key politicians in pitting us against each other. We need to look at things that are national projects that we can work on together. We don't have the space race anymore. Most of our generation hasn't been a part of a draft. There's no Vietnam. There's no World War II. There's been very few uniting events that we all as a country, rural or urban, have all interacted with on the same level.

One of the things I would love to work on as a member of Congress is increasing public service and finding more ways for people to serve their country, whether it's expanding AmeriCorps or Peace Corps or whether it's volunteer opportunities that people can get involved and help out their areas, because if we don't know each other, then we can become susceptible to these malicious attempts to pit us against each other. I think that's part of it. Part of it, of course, is that we've moved from entirely an agrarian society to more industrialized over the course of the last 250 years.

"I think we need to have leaders that ... talk about unity more and less about dividing us up and pitting us against each other." – Colin Allred

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It's a gradual process, but I really do think the more we can tamp down some of this rhetoric, the more we can start talking about our commonly held American values, our commonly held Texas values, the better. It's not surprising to me when people say, "Well I don't want to live where they're talking like that," or that's the case, even if it's not true. I think we would be shocked at how much we have in common than what separates us.
In football, I played with a lot of guys who were from inner cities, a lot of guys who were from very rural areas. We got along very well. We'd always be shocked at who's friends on our football team because in the end we all had these common things, so I think we may be surprised at how similar we are to somebody we think is different from us. I think we were able to get past that initial surface reaction, so I don't know. I think we need to have leaders that talk about that more, talk about unity more and less about dividing us up and pitting us against each other.

I'm running against Pete Sessions, and I'm not going to be demonizing Republicans, his voters or demonizing him, even. I'm against his agenda. I'm not against him as an American or a human being, you know. I think we got to have more of that or it's going to get worse. This hyperpartisanship is going to get worse.

How do you feel about the current relationship between Dallas and the state and federal government?

I think in a lot of ways cities around the country and in red states especially are dealing with a lack of local control. I think the Republican party used to be really big on local control, and I think in some ways that was a euphemism.

We're using local control to discriminate. They'd say, "Oh, we don't want people coming around here telling us how to live." A lot of that meant so we're going to be discriminating. Now we're in the inverse situation where the cities are metropolitan. They're multicultural. They got a lot of different types of people in them and they're saying, "OK, this is something we want to do," and now you're having the state of Texas over here. Now with the federal government being Trump's hands and he's saying, "Oh, you cannot do that. This is the way we're going to do it. We're going to do it like this," and so I think it's funny how flimsy that rationale was and how quickly it got exposed and the situation was. I think our future as a country is that we are going to be a increasingly diverse country.

In 2020 when Trump or Pence whoever it might be runs for re-election, the majority of the kids in this country will be nonwhite. We have to recognize that. We're going to have to have coalition voting. There's not going to be any majority group. We're going to have to build coalitions and be able to work together, or the whole project of ours isn't going to work out.

I think the cities are used to that and they've been dealing with that for a while. In a lot of ways they're modeling where the future of the country is going to be at.

In Texas specifically, your fastest growing minority population is Latinos, obviously. You've got one of the biggest bills of the last state legislative session that Latinos view as directly hostile to them. How do you bring everybody back from the edge?

I mean, to a certain extent, this is the same story that's occurred throughout American history. We've had this for lots of different groups, large minority groups that started gaining political power, whether it was the Irish or the Italians or certainly African Americans — all of them are different, and I don't want to say they're all the same. All the situations are very different. I think in a lot of ways, one of the stories of the American adventure is that we start off with this, first ignoring the group and then in a lot of ways trying to suppress their burgeoning interaction in our government, and then finally we find a way to welcome them in.

You know, I think that whether you build a wall around the entire country or not and no one ever came in or left the country again, our destiny is still going to be an increasingly diverse country, so if not another person ever enters Texas, we're still going to be an increasingly diverse state and an increasingly diverse country, and so passing these shortsighted laws against the poor or show-me-your-papers law, I think it's going to look back on historical mistakes and historical wrongdoing and I think that it's also weird because it's not who we are in Texas.

We've always had a large Latino population here. Obviously we used to be part of another country, and I think it's amazing to me the party of George W. Bush who used to talk about — he speaks in Spanish in some of his speeches — he would get 50 percent of the Latino vote or more, to now, or even Rick Perry where he was talking about on a Republican debate stage [that] you have to be heartless not to offer in-state tuition to an undocumented kid. You'd never hear that right now in this version of the Republican party, and to a certain extent, they are in the grips of upheaval and the only way to break it is to have some electoral event that knocks us out of that. Saying this isn't who we are isn't enough. We're going to have to actually have electoral consequences for having discriminated against our Latino brothers and sisters and against other parties, too.

That's why I think 2018 is probably the most important election of our lifetime. I think if there's not a message sent that banning an entire religion, the Muslim ban or talking about building a wall isn't OK, then I think we're going to get more of that. I think there has to be a rejection of it and it has to start here in 2018.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young

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