Nothing says pep rally more than a political convention. Basically imagine your high school gymnasium before the “big game,” only at a school where the colors are red, white, and blue, and the student body consists of old people, always with an inexplicably high percentage in hats. The problem, if you’re a Democrat: in non-presdential election cycles (like this one) yours is the team without school spirit. Only to sound smarter, the politically inclined call it an “enthusiasm gap.”
Nationally, the lack of Democratic excitement for the November elections is one of the big reasons reason everyone’s expecting big Republican gains. But in Texas, the Ds spent this week gaining momentum—first through polling good news, then by embarrassing reveals about the Republican connection to the Green Party ballot efforts. If this stuff isn’t enough to get a base electrified, then the race is all but over. As they head into their state convention today, Democrats must seize this opportunity for excitement.
Alone, Tuesday’s poll numbers, which showed Perry and White tied, would have been the best news the White people have heard since this campaign started. But that was only the beginning. For a few weeks, bits of news of trickled out about an alleged GOP-Green Party connection. The Green Party filed their petition to get on the ballot with almost 100,000 signatures (they only need around 44,000), but questions about who had paid for the effort abounded.
Turns out the petition drive cost over half a million dollars and was bankrollled through an out-of-state corporation with Republican ties. If that didn’t look bad enough, a previous, albeit failed, effort to get the signatures came from Rick Perry’s former chief of staff, Mike Toomey.
By the time the Dems had their press conference, only a half an hour before their first convention event, a judge had ruled that the Green Party candidates could be kept off the ballot. It seems those corporate contributions to get the signatures were, um, illegal. “It is incumbent upon Rick Perry and his campaign to come clean,” said state Democratic Party chair Boyd Richie.
I don’t think I can really establish just how high that made spirits at last night’s kickoff parties. At the main event, held inside the state aquarium in Corpus, I lost track of the “did-you-hear”s and “Mike-Toomey-I-knew-it”s. Wordplay about piranhas, sharks, and “something smells fishy” quickly got out of hand. Which reminds me, we were crammed into the place like a bunch of sardines.
The news, apparently, made up for the rather lame silent auction. Seriously people, a t-shirt quilt with a minimum bid of $150? The only thing that even looked cool was a West Teas white tail deer hunt (min. bid of $600) but you had to “bring your knife, gun, good and ice chest.” Much better than some book called Home Light Burning which would cost you at least 30 bucks. (In fairness, it was apparently “based on actual events.”)
If unexpectedly good poll numbers and Rick Perry misfortune can get the Ds excited about books and aquariums, it may mean they can also get excited about their candidates. After all, stranger things have happened.