Sunday, April 29, 2012

That old black magic

As practiced by Republicans on Democrats in Harris County. Some background likely is in order unless you are an HCDP insider.

An occasionally harsh muckraker myself, I admit that I often admire John Coby's wit, and certainly his self-deprecating admission of being full of it.

He let his outrage get the better of him here, however. Elaine Hubbard-Palmer used an excerpt from that post in an e-mail circulated through the D-MARS listserv, as well as Carl Whitmarsh's, with the headline "you people have five positions already", emphasizing some of the most undesirable responses to her candidacy against incumbent Judge Steven Kirkland (a close family friend, in the interests of full disclosure). Perhaps, Dear Reader, you have also read the story written by the Chronicle's Patti Kilday Hart I excerpted in this post which detailed the curious circumstances surrounding the recruitment efforts by Republicans of a primary opponent to Kirkland.

This contentiousness, and the instigators behind it, is mirrored in the contested primary for Harris County Chair between Lane Lewis (like Kirkland, a gay man) and Keryl Douglas (like Hubbard-Palmer, an African American woman). Forget the kerfuffle over the e-mail's digital autopsy; when you're a Democrat and a Kubosh shows up at your press conference to stand beside you in support, you know something is amiss.

In my recent Democratic Party experience, as well as my humble O, this is a recurring problem: oily Republican operatives mucking around in Democratic primaries -- as they are in the CD-07 primary between James Cargas and Lissa Squiers, as they did when Chris Bell ran for the Texas Senate 17th seat (remember Stephanie Simmons?), as they have done often in elections past.

Let's first establish that Judge Kirkland is a fine judge worthy of re-election. Let's also note that Ms. Hubbard-Palmer is certainly entitled to challenge him -- or anyone else -- in this or any other contest. It's the barely cloaked agendas of the puppeteers off stage that must be examined.

Driving wedges -- racial, sexual, what have you -- among Democrats is a successful strategy as long as Democrats allow Republicans to make it one. To be clear: differences of ideology are discussions that are vigorous, worthwhile, and worth having; the direction of the party, so to speak. Liberal and progressive Democrats and conservative ones -- so-called Blue Dogs, but they were also called Boll Weevils in another time -- are continually striving for control of the national agenda. Competition of ideologies are likewise part of the history of the TDP. As I am sure I have mentioned here a time or two before, one of the reasons John F. Kennedy came to Texas in November of 1963 was to mend a rift between Texas liberals (led by Sen. Ralph Yarborough) and Texas conservatives (led by Gov. John Connally).

So for Democratic fortunes, it's not that there are differences of opinion so much as what is at the heart of those differences. The truth is that Democrats just don't have the luxury of dividing into warring factions and still get themselves elected like Republicans can in Texas.

If Democrats refuse to acknowledge (or if they just don't care) that they are once again being -- indeed, have long been -- manipulated in this fashion, then that's certainly their prerogative. While there have been several prominent leaders, Rodney Ellis and Garnet Coleman among them, who have publicly decried these most recent efforts to divide, the sad history is that whoever prevails in primaries like these winds up being damaged goods in November. And that takes place in a county where it is difficult enough as it is for Democrats to get elected and re-elected.

The GOP seems on every level -- national, state, and local -- to be exploiting the worst of human instincts for political gain, from their non-stop racist diatribes against President Obama to the unrelenting assault on women's reproductive choices to this "let's start a fight between the blacks and the gays" business we are seeing in Harris County this cycle. I'm hoping Democrats can rise above the hate being fomented by outside agitators and nominate the most qualified individuals who best represent the values of the Democratic Party. And, most importantly, unite behind those nominees for the general election. Because if they can't, 2012 might wind up just as grim as 2010 was.

And that would be unspeakably bad for the county, bad for the state of Texas, and bad for the nation.

I simply have diminishing confidence with every passing day that this outcome is possible, however. So if I'm going to lose anyway, I'm going to lose with my progressive principles intact, which is why I'm actively supporting candidates of the Texas Green Party in 2012.

Because they don't allow themselves to be compromised by either money or bigotry.

Update: Neil has also posted about the Kirkland/Hubbard-Palmer unpleasantry.


Gary said...

The email is racist and unacceptable. The blog post is frustration by John at some black women allowing themselves to be used by big Republican donors to divide local Democratic elections by running against gay white males.

Demeur said...

I wouldn't put anything passed the Republicans of Texas. We've seen the same tactics in Wisconsin.