50 years on

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the US Senate passage of the Civil Rights Act. Arguably the crown jewel of President Lyndon Johnson’s administration, the act prohibited discrimination based on race, religion or sex at the workplace or in places of public accommodation (this should sound familiar because many of the same provisions were codified into last month’s local non-discrimination ordinance).

The US House had already passed the proposed bill in February of 1964 but it was not until June 19th of that year that the US Senate did the same, 73-27. The wide margin of victory was invaluable for avoiding a filibuster, which before the 1970s could only be ended by a cloture vote of 2/3rds (67 votes). Filibusters had previously been lodged against the 1957 and 1960 proposals, respectively, causing them to be watered down to a point of almost uselessness. Johnson, emboldened with massive public support following the death of his predecessor, sought to pass a comprehensive bill that would truly have come teeth. It also built upon nearly a decade of court rulings by endorsing the complete end of segregation in schools. For what it’s worth, Houston ISD did not finally integrate until 1970.

Click here to read more!

VRA could get fixed (in Texas)

The Dallas Morning News reports that a new bipartisan bill introduced in Congress to resurrect the floundering Voting Rights Act would include strong new protections against racial meddling in Texas. As the sagacious may recall, back in June the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to gut Section 5 of the Voting Right Act, which required the States of Jim Crow to get any election updates precleared by the Federal Government. The Court declared that the world had changed since the advent of this act in the 1960s, and that racism had been vanquished, thus exclaiming that such an antiquated formula was unconstitutional. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the dean of the Court’s liberal minority and the author of a scathing dissent in this case, compared it “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

The Court’s blow to the Voting Rights Act was all the more harmful because it expected Congress to simply pick up the slack and fix the law by provided a new coverage formula for the aforementioned preclearence based on modern statistics. However, getting Congress to do anything is easier said than done. Accordingly, it was a very good sign yesterday when Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced a bill that would revive the coverage formula based on those States with recent VRA violations (i.e., Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi & Texas).

Click here to read more!

Reality Check

Immediately following Wendy Davis’ epic filibuster, the dominant buzz throughout the State revolved around her gubernatorial intentions. Unfortunately, she will probably do just as poorly as every other Democrat. Public Policy Polling, which is affiliated with Democratic groups but usually is somewhat accurate, has put out a sobering poll for the Democrats’ prospects, irrespective of if Rick Perry will choose to run for re-election. The results were as follows:

1. Rick Perry approval
45% Approve
50% Disapprove

7. Perry v. Julian Castro
50% Perry
43% Castro

8. Perry v. Wendy Davis
53% Perry
39% Davis

9. Perry v. Annise Parker
52% Perry
35% Parker

10. Perry v. Bill White
50% Perry
40% White

11. Greg Abbott v. Castro
48% Abbott

34% Castro

12. Abbott v. Davis
48% Abbott
40% Davis

13. Abbott v. Parker
50% Abbott
31% Parker

14. Abbott v. White
48% Abbott
36% White

15. Second Special Session approval
43% Approve
44% Disapprove

16. Filibuster approval
45% Approve
40% Disapprove

17. SB5/HB2/SB1 approval
20% Approve
28% Disapprove

The poll does not include a question about a Republican Primary or a Democratic Primary. That bugs me to no end, though in the past Perry has outdone Abbott in these polls. When it comes to these eight races, they are the identical candidates that PPP discussed in a January poll. In that poll, White had a 3 point lead over Perry. Now he has a 10 point deficit. In fact, in all eight races, the margins shifted heavily to the Republicans.

Perry v. Castro, January +5% R
Perry v. Castro, July +7% R
Abbott v. Castro, January +10% R
Abbott v. Castro, July +14% R

Perry v. Davis, January +6% R
Perry v. Davis, July +14% R
Abbott v. Davis, January +12% R
Abbott v. Davis, July +8% R
Perry v. Parker, January +7% R
Perry v. Parker, July +17% R
Abbott v. Parker, January +12% R
Abbott v. Parker, July +19% R
Perry v. White, January +3% D
Perry v. White, July +10% R
Abbott v. White, January +7% R
Abbott v. White, July +12%

The Democrats did worse in all of these polls except one: the Abbott/Davis campaign. Davis actually does 4 points better in July. Interestingly, Davis is also the only candidate who does better against the Attorney General than the incumbent Governor. Bill White suffered the biggest drop, by far, in his race against Perry.

One excuse that I immediately thought of in an attempt to spin the poll results was that it was started before the filibuster took place. Sadly, this is not the case. Polling did not begin until last Friday. Accordingly, when one digs deeper into the number, it becomes apparently obvious what has happened. Because of all this SB5 stuff, Perry has revitalized his base. The Religious Right, which rode him back into office in 2010, is coming to the rescue again.

Off the Kuff and Texas Leftist both have more on the poll itself, and what not. This is making me a little bit to upset to write coherently, but I would like to discuss some of the implications of Wendy Davis’ candidacy that still exist. Bear with me, I might get a little bogged down in the minutia.

At a certain point in the 1960s, the Republican Party realized that they could not keep nominating liberals in the style of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt for President. You see, while the traditional liberal who would fight for the marginalized was originally a Republican, at some point following the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt convinced the American people that the Democratic Party was the party of liberals. Following the Great Depression and World War II, most Americans were liberals, so the Democrats won most Presidential elections and had a lockjaw on Congress. The GOP, wanting to get in on this, would nominate liberals like Thomas Dewey. Nelson Rockefeller also ran a painful number of times. But here’s the thing, when the American people wanted to vote for a liberal, they would vote for a Democratic liberal. Accordingly, the Republican Party was stuck in a rut until they started trying to change peoples’ opinions. Enter Barry Goldwater. Goldwater lost in a landslide, but he changed the conversation and ultimately set the stage for this ugly right-turn the country has been on since 1980. Simply put, the Texas Democratic Party needs their Goldwater.

Once upon a time, the Texas Democratic Party was the party of the average, rural Texan would identify with. John Tower, Bill Clements and George Bush changed all of that. However, much like the Deweys and Rockefellers of the past, the Texas Democratic Party continues to nominate people like Bill White, Paul Sadler and Hank Gilbert. Don’t get me wrong, I liked all of these politicians personally and believe they would have been great officeholders. But, simply put, they did not have the chutzpah to run for office as open Democrats. When Sadler had a chance to correct this, he ran away like a scared little poodle. If we concede that the Texas electorate wants conservatives, they will vote for the conservative candidate.

Wendy Davis could be our Goldwater. Even if she doesn’t win, she shifts the conversation. That way, two or three elections down the road, we win. The great landslide of 2026 or what not will look back at 2014 the way the Reaganphiles look at Goldwater. But I digress.

The other upside to Wendy Davis running for Governor would be what I call the “Obama effect.” Having Davis at the top of the ticket, even if she can’t win Statewide, will be sure to help the downballot Democrats in Bexar and Harris counties, respectively, in what will be sure to be competitive county elections.