We Texans who revel in the sport of politics have much to be thankful for this year. For the first time in two decades, Texas matters in presidential primary politics. Big time.
Everyone, especially Texans, had become used to Texas’ being ignored when it came to presidential politics.
Briefly, during the last session of the Texas Legislature, the powers that be under the pink cast-iron dome flirted with becoming relevant in the presidential selection process. The House voted overwhelmingly (in a rare, truly bipartisan effort) to move up our primaries from March 4th to February 5th, joining 24 other states vying for status and influence just in case the races were not yet over by Super Tuesday.
Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock)-and 10 of his colleagues who chose to impose the Senate’s rule requiring two-thirds of the 31-member body to bring up any bill-blocked a similar measure approved in committee. At the time, Duncan said he opposed the change mainly because it would “be a severe hardship” on county election officials.
He also told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal last spring: “I think you are going to see five or six people in both primaries, and hopefully by next March it should be down to one or two. Texas will have a real opportunity to make a real choice at that point in time and have some influence, as opposed to this cluster of candidates that is out there on both sides of both parties.”
What is that about blind pigs and acorns?
Who knew that, defying the conventional wisdom of the moment, Sen. Duncan gave Texas the first opportunity in a generation to be a player in selecting at least the Democratic nominee, through a complicated and arcane process that involves a combination of a primary, caucuses, and free-agent powerbrokers called superdelegates?
In this issue, we report on the process and provide a forum for Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to make their personal, first-person pitches to Texas Democratic primary voters.
We also have an analysis by our sometimes-critic, Republican activist Royal Masset, of the likely scenario for the Republican primary and the impact a McCain era may have on the Texas GOP.
The presidential primary/caucus process was obviously conceived by the party that Will Rogers referred to when he said, “I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.”
Regardless of who wins the Democratic presidential primary here, it is almost certain to be close, distributing a good share of delegates to each candidate and probably assuring that neither has-nor will obtain-the 2,025 delegates required for the nomination in Denver this summer.
It is those powerbrokers, the superdelegates, who warrant our special attention. They are free agents, able to commit to whomever they want, regardless of the vote in their district or state. They can switch their allegiance on a whim or in response to fear or favor.
Although there are those who will argue that the 796 superdelegates-Democratic members of the U.S. House and Senate, governors, members of the Democratic National Committee, and other ex-officio party leaders-exist to moderate the “ideological activists,” the fact of the matter is that they constitute the most undemocratic aspect of the nomination process.
Yet those superdelegates could decide for all of us who the next president of the United States will be.
Superdelegate Donna Brazile, who ran Al Gore’s campaign in 2000, has said, “If 795 of my colleagues decide this election, I will quit the Democratic Party.”
We agree. Let the people speak…and let their votes count in 2008, as unfortunately they did not in 2000.