The Good Fight
It was a goat rodeo, and if you try to tell me that yours was any better organized, you’re a liar and you know it. The Texas Two-Step presidential delegate selection process works just fine-so long as there aren’t actual candidates. Truth be told, four-year-olds with finger paints would have made less of a mess than Democrats did during the senatorial conventions. This was the second step in our dandy dance that for a few weeks this spring entertained the nation. While the big-time media may have moved on, Texans kept on dancing. Across the state, it wasn’t so much a caucus as it was a fit pitchin’.
Still, I might be the only soul in Texas who thinks the hybrid Texas delegate selection-voting, then caucusing-is a great thing. A lot of folks think the caucus part of the Texas Two-Step is as worthless as cornflake recipes and we should all be ashamed of ourselves for the disorganization, fighting, and all-purpose carrying-on. I disagree.
There are people threatening to quit the Democratic Party over the system, but not me. I’m of the opinion, “Goodness sake, that was fun. When can we do it again?”
My friends from foreign states don’t understand why I’m so impressed with a voting system in which you don’t know the outcome for a month and a half, and the caucuses end in fights with lawyers getting called (which, in my opinion, is far scarier than calling the police).
My answer is that you don’t finish a good book in a day, but a blockbuster ending is so worth it. Maybe it’s a female thing, but I like a little tease before my results.
And even the fighting isn’t so bad.
We like to fight in Texas. Philadelphia has Independence Hall; we have the Alamo. Oregon has Lewis and Clark; we have William B. Travis and Sam Houston. It is common knowledge that honky-tonks were created so people could fight to music.
In Texas, the hybrid system suits us fine because we Texans like a little of this and a little of that. Why opt for just voting or for just a caucus when you can have both? We like to sample a little of each, which, in case you were wondering, explains the popularity of Mexican food and barbecue in Texas. Any Mexican restaurant that doesn’t have a different combination platter named for every city on both sides of the border and a couple of suburbs of San Antonio isn’t going to stay open for more than a month. If you order barbecue in North Carolina, you get a plate heaped with a gray mound of something horrible they did to pork. Then, as if to rectify it, they pour pure, unadulterated vinegar all over it. In Texas, you get a choice of at least six meats and seven sides, not to mention four kinds of cobbler and three pies for desert. The best barbecue joints in Texas have two sauces, for those fool enough to ruin perfectly good meat with ’em-the sweet one and the other one.
We are a fighting, hybrid bunch of people.
Folks who complain that Democrats won’t win if we keep fighting just might have caught themselves some memory problems. Texas Democrats are at our most powerful when we fight like the dickens. There were bitter, name-calling, biting, and hair-pulling battles between Lloyd Bentsen and Ralph Yarborough. Ann Richards and Jim Mattox fought each other mean and propelled us to the governor’s mansion. Compared with those battles, this is vacation Bible school.
I live in the belly of the beast. Fort Bend is the county Tom DeLay built before he went to DeeCee to become the federal government. His minions still reign here.
One of our Republican state representatives once made a speech proclaiming that women shouldn’t hold positions of authority in business, government, or the home. When I questioned him about it, he replied, “It’s Biblical. Susan, you aren’t disagreeing with me, you’re disagreeing with God.”
We’ve got a Republican county commissioner who spent the better part of a week trying to close down a local mother-and-daughter bakery because somehow, by accident I am sure, some of their cakes turned out looking like enormous ta-tas. Again by accident, I am certain, people started buying them faster than a six-legged jackrabbit and telling their friends about them and … well, you know how word of ta-tas spreads. Anyway, our county commissioner contended that kind of confectionery activity made the bakery a sexually oriented business, and he was outraged-outraged I tell you. There is no accounting of the money and time he spent trying to rid our county of the perverted blight of flour, sugar, and eggs.
There’s only so much of that kind of stuff a person can put up with. So after 15 years of Republican rule in Texas, it was yee-haw time at local Democratic county conventions. We were primed and ready for a fight, and boy howdy did we get it.
There were so many fights at my county convention that we needed a scoreboard and corporate sponsors. Two more conventions and we can get the city to build us a stadium.
It was grand!
From tales I hear from around the state, my convention went pretty darned well, considering nobody had to go to the hospital and we only had one challenge filed. Come about 2:30 in the afternoon, when a nap sounded more productive than listening to another speech, I stood up and stretched. I looked around the full auditorium, and my eyes feasted on one of the prettiest sights I’d seen in a long while: no consultants. There were no paid political consultants in the whole danged room. Not one. I counted.
These were just real people, fighting for real causes. They were my neighbors, coming out from a long hibernation, standing up, feistier than heck and demanding to be heard. You can’t buy that. Nor does it come from out of state, make a total mess, then leave and expect you to clean up after it.
In the era of anonymous bloggers and corporate-controlled media, I saw real live people, hollerin’ and yelpin’ and taking free speech out for a little exercise. They were representing their neighborhood, and they took it seriously, bless ’em.
What I saw in that room were 750 ward healers: people willing to toil to carry the message in a personalized fashion-and we now have their names, addresses, and phone numbers. We have an army, and we know how to find them. In the three conventions held in Fort Bend County, we now have a list of 2,000 people willing to spend a day making it happen for Democrats. In my mind, that’s better than that purple finger they showed from Iraq. It’s commitment. It’s excitement.
Outside of no consultants and a good-sized army of people gnawing at the gate for November, the last best thing about the caucus system is that you can change your mind. If the candidate you supported in March does something dumber than bean dip before August, you can change your vote. At any time in the process, you can say, “Hold up there, I might be wrong.” That is crazy wonderful.
The caucus system proves one thing: Democrats want to do more than simply vote-they want to organize, show up, be counted, strut their courage, and have their say. In an era where we don’t trust the validity of voting on machines that can’t even recount, a caucus can provide a true head count and restore faith in the system and in each other. Sure, it needs tweaking, and some of the rules are pretty silly, but we made history, and that should never be done in a quiet, organized, and polite way. Making history is messy.
Here’s what I have to say to the whiners: Quit it. No, really, quit it right now. Quit being such sissies. Stand up and fight. It’s great practice for November. If you wanted rules and nice, join the danged country club and leave the Democratic Party to those willing to tussle a little. I will freely admit that I left my caucus smelling of Eau d’ Bellyaching and carrying 40 pounds of grief, and, by gawd, I can’t wait to do it again.
I’m guessing I’ll get that chance June 5 to June 7 in Austin.
The state convention is your county convention times 50, except without enough chairs. The state party says about 5,000 delegates won’t get a place to sit down at the convention because the Austin Convention Center only has 12,000 chairs. They’ve asked for donations of loaned chairs, but personally, I think they don’t want them. Five thousand people playing musical chairs while 12,000 others point and giggle will be a sight to behold.
Susan DuQuesnay Bankston lives in a Richmond empty nest with her husband Don and her dog, Truman. She plays at her nonblog, kissmybigbluebutt.com.