Reveille . . . from page 2 The local situation is not the same, either. Single-member districts have brought neighborhood democracy, diminishing the power of the anglo majorities in the big cities. These districts have also created a more complex situation for a coalition, but the difficulty can be overcome. Watching the Houston, San Antonio, and statewide coalitions, listening to those who ran them, I have concluded that there are five rules, or elements of compact, without which a coalition cannot work. If the time has come for a revival of the Texas progressive coalition, these five rules have to be, in my opinion, the basis for it. Each group has to come in with good faith about having and trying to maintain a coalition. Since in some situations each group has a power to block the whole coalition, the critical question is whether, when possible, each group will decide to exercise restraint in using its veto power. You have to make sure that each group in the coalition has an equal share of the decision-making and a part of the action. “It is very important,” Billie Carr says, “that everybody feels that no one part of the coalition is just using other parts of the coalition.” Are the whites using the blacks and browns? Are the browns using the others? Is labor using the white liberals? Is the coalition using labor? For a coalition to work, each group makes, and submits to, friendly use of the others in the coalition’s search for the majority, but no one group makes cynical use of the others. Bob Eckhardt, an important figure in the early Harris County coalition, once best stated what is here presented as the third rule of coalition: on matters of vital interest to any one group in the coalition, that group has a blocking power to prevent the coalition from acting contrary to that group’s interest. “When we are screening candidates or issues we would endorse,” says Billie Carr concerning the Harris County Democrats, “if any one of the coalition group opposes, then there is no endorsement. It only takes one group to say no. It is a way to say, ‘If we are really all in this together, then the coalition is more important than us getting into a fight . . . . We’re going to work together very hard on those things on which we have agreement; but we agree to disagree, and yet continue.’ ” Because of single-member districts, there must be, on a coalition’s screening committee, people from every single-member district. As a practical matter the coalition cannot endorse candidates from a district contrary to the wishes of the representatives from the district. Everything comes out of these processes into general meetings at which everyone speaks and the group decides by majority vote, simply keeping in mind the first four elements of their compact. No group in the coalition loses any of its identity. It is always free to function just as before, at its maximum influence and volume. Only the coalition can be muted, so that it may continue. With a coalition, people of like mind, but different groupings, are no longer at the mercy of planted rumors or the newspapers’ ways of seeing things. Distrust can be confronted, resentment vented, the intolerable corrected, and leaders can be developed who are trusted and who can bridge the groups’ legitimately different interests toward their common purposes. In the previous coalition, Mrs. R. D. Randolph was the leader everyone trusted. She gave her money, she worked, she turned on anyone who sold out, and she stood by everyone who didn’t. She judged people by their integrity and their devotion to human welfare. Whenever she rose in a meeting to speak, she said about the same thing. “Work in your precincts,” she would say, and then she would sit down. Learning from her, attending precinct meetings with or for her, sitting with others around a long table stuffing envelopes with her, was Billie Carr. Mrs. Randolph perceived that Billie Carr had integrity, that she would never sell out, and that she would work all the time. All these years Billie has gone on working, organizing her precincts. During one period, from 1964 to a point three months into 1967, she attended 1,000 meetings at the precinct level. When she attended a recent meeting of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, President Carter came in down the center of the meeting hall, walked up to her, and kissed her. “Billie,” he said, “tell me how I’m doing.” “It’s tough to be for you,” she said. “I know that,” he said, “but just trust me.” “Oh, Mr. President,” she said, “if you say that to me one more time I’m going to die!” That’s Billie Can -. And it’s Mrs. Randolph, too. Though Mrs. Randolph is gone, they have together kept the Harris County Democrats alive through the long depression in Texas politics that began on November 22, 1963. In San Antonio, however, the Bexar County Coalition has ceased to exist. There are various progressive organizations, including the Mexican-American Democrats and the Democratic League, but there is no coalition. There is a lot of bitterness, and some hate, among people of similar purposes in politics. Many of them seem to be separated by deep, wide chasmsethnic, geographical, emotional chasmsacross which they halloo to each other, occasionally, like people remembering lost friendships. In 1980 and 1982, San Antonio is the key to Texas. If this state is to have a progressive impact on the presidential nomination process, if progressive candidates are to be elected at levels higher than the single-member district, the Bexar County Coalition has to be rebuilt. Then, and only then, can Houston and San Antonio face off Dallas and Fort Worth so the people of the state can once again express their historical tendency toward populism and a decent respect for everyone’s welfare. Without a statewide coalition, progressive people of good faith and good hope are confined to their neighborhoods and sections, fighting within their own groups’ enclosing walls. With it, we can go to town again in Texas politics. R.D. 001-h ivi lkt THE BRAZOS BOOK SHOP 803 Red River Austin, Texas Literature and the Fine Arts new and used books Monday through Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Featuring Local Presses and Authors: Including Thorp Springs Press, Prickly Pear Press. Texas Circuit. Encino Press. Shoal Creek Publishers. Jenkins Publishing, Place Iof Herons Press, and many others 22 SEPTEMBER 7, 1979 1000 West Lynn, Austin, Texas 478-3001 Store hours: Mon-Sat 9:30-7, Sun 12-6
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