Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It's only been a week ...

... and I'm still not as happy as everybody else about the election results in Deep-in-the-Hearta.

I believe the elation some feel comes from their proximity to Dallas County, or Hays County, or how much work they did in Ellen Cohen's or Juan Garcia's or Valinda Bolton's campaign. And to be clear, the following is not at all meant to rain on their victory parade. Those wins are certainly sweet, and those candidates and their campaigns deserves congratulations for their hard work.

But I believe the overabundance of enthusiasm for last Tuesday's election returns in some quarters simply comes from having met an extremely low set of expectations:

"We made a practical decision," said Matt Angle, a Democratic strategist who is helping rebuild the state party. "It was the most efficient way to spread the resources. It wouldn't have been a rational decision to do otherwise."

Mr. Angle said the party focused its resources in 17 House districts, half of those in which Democrats mounted a challenge against Republican opponents.

I just don't recall Matt Angle being elected by anyone to develop and execute the Texas Democratic Party's election strategy. I also don't believe that anybody at the SDEC level of governance approved or even consented to a plan of focusing all of the party resources on just 17 statehouse races.

Furthermore, I have it on good authority that the party officials at the highest level repeatedly assured candidates who were NOT in one of the afore-mentioned 17 contests that the words Matt Angle is quoted above speaking -- about concentrating on just a few selected races -- was absolutely NOT the case; that there would be no narrowly-targeted strategy in 2006.

In other words, somebody lied. And in any event, their deeds spoke louder than their words.

The Texas Democratic Party, such as it is, long ago chose a minimalist strategy for 2006. Big-dog contributors like Walter Umphrey and John Eddie Williams sent six-figure checks early on to Carole Strayhorn, apparently thinking she was the only Democrat capable of defeating Governor MoFo. Potential Democratic candidates stayed away from filing for office in droves. It took a late leap by three members of the Dirty Thirty -- Bob Gammage, Ben Grant, and Fred Head -- to make things interesting. But none of the members of the "Dream Team" from 2002 stepped up to support anyone or anything on the Democratic slate. The only thing John Sharp ultimately did, after having his name published repeatedly as the only Dem with a snowball's chance of being elected Governor, was to join Rick Perry in a bipartisan education funding initiative. Charles Soechting abruptly abandoned the chairmanship in the middle of the campaign season, setting up a protracted fight at the convention between old-guard and new-school factions. The most positive message conveyed to the media all during this time was: well, we're going to have to lower our sights somewhat. And guess what? The media picked up on the defeatist attitude of the bigwigs who call themselves Democrats and ran with it. Over and over.

The state party -- the tattered shards of it, anyway -- was so impotent that it gave up on all of the statewide races long before the party's convention in June of this year. All of the enthusiasm generated by the grassroots in Fort Worth for the slate of populist candidates was wasted on the small band of elitists and insiders pulling the strings and moving the money around, who had long since determined -- and telegraphed to the media -- that there was no hope this year.

They didn't even do a good job of going through the motions. Their overt acts of capitulation contradicted their mealy-mouthed expressions of support. Well, most of the time that was the case, though I frequently heard the following:

"We have limited resources." "We can't concentrate on every race." "This is a rebuilding year." "We need more staff and better databases in order to rebuild our infrastructure so we can be competitive in (pick one: 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014)."

In that respect, the men in charge of the Texas Democratic Party -- that would be Fred Baron and Matt Angle -- did exactly what they said they would do.

Performance met expectations. I suppose congratulations are in order. What do you think, Boyd?

"There's enough credit for everyone involved in the effort," state Democratic Party chairman Boyd Richie said. "But certainly the (Texas Democratic) trust created an atmosphere where we could organize, plan and execute."

Can't wait to see the game plan for 2008, fellas. Here's a question for Freddy Bosshog: do you think John Edwards can carry Texas as the presidential nominee? Can he at least win the Texas primary in March of year-after-next, or will he be an Iowa-only kinda guy (he IS lookin' good in the Hawkeye State, for whatever that's worth)?

Hey Matty All-the-Angles: who are you recruiting to run against Senator Box Turtle? Oh wait; that's Boyd's job -- allegedly. Can Nick Lampson hold that seat in 22, ya think? And who's gonna challenge Ralph Hall, Boyd? Got anybody in mind besides you?

Boy, I'm stoked. *belch* *fart*

Update: Burka says ...

Opportunities like 2006 only come along once in a generation, and Democrats failed to make the most of this one.

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