one of the nation’s largest states, but also because it is among the most representative demographically; it has a wide rural/ urban mix and a multifarious electorate of blacks, Hispanics, whites, farmers, and white-collar and blue-collar labor. Bob Beckel, head of the Carter-Mondale campaign in Texas, said he considers it “the biggest bellwether state in the country.” Thus, like the sum of any equation, Democratic unity in Texas would have to emerge from several elements. The question of whether it would or not was perhaps no clearer, nor more important, nor more unsettled. The Fight On Monday afternoon, just as the Texas delegation was about to meet for its last caucus before the convention’s opening session, a group of Kennedy people were sitting around one end of a large table in an adjoining room. They had just ended a meeting. Lane Denton was there, so was Bill Carrick, head of the Kennedy campaign in Texas, and there were three or four others. They looked grave and deliberative, as if having just gone through some draining negotiation. The crucial and controversial rules fight, Kennedy’s last hope of wresting the presidential nomination from Carter’s grasp, would be taken up on the floor of the convention in a few hours. There had been intense speculation about the rules outcome in the last few days, and Kennedy had seemed to be gaining momentum behind the movement for an “open convention” that would have released delegates from their pledges on the first ballot and breathed new life into his campaign. Kennedy operatives had been working hard to pry loose every vote they could, while at the same time holding their own blocs together. When asked what had just happened in their meeting, Denton and Carrick were guarded nothing much, they said. But there had been a series of drawn out negotiations, lasting well into the night before, over the seating plan for the Texas delegation at Madison Square Garden. An original plan had been delivered, drawn up by Carter people and accepted by the leaders of the Texas delegation, most of them Carter supporters themselves. In that plan there had been no aisle seats assigned to any of the Kennedy people, whips or delegates, who would have been boxed in on the inside of the rows. As a matter of logistical tactics during a fast moving floor-fight, communication in the Kennedy camp would have been severely hampered. This was the nitty-gritty of shrewd politics, the kind of hardball that makes Carter’s operatives known for their toughness in a campaign very ungenteel. There seemed to be no deep acrimony between the two camps resulting from the turn of events, though, for in the early hours of the morning, after five seating plans had been discussed, one was finally agreed on. “It was no problem really,” said Carrick, “just some inconvenience it would have cut down our mobility. They’re trying to inconvenience us in any way they can. Why did Kennedy people have to wait two hours to get credentials? The convention’s run by the White House.” In the final plan the Kennedy camp was assigned nine aisle seats. “They just wanted their whips in the right place,” said Beckel. “Carrick asked me to change I changed. It’s all worked out fine, no problem.” After the delegation’s caucus, Carter and Kennedy delegates split into separate meetings to make final preparations and whip themselves up for the rules fight. “We feel like we’re in pretty good shape as far as the vote on the rule is concerned,” Bob Armstrong, state land commissioner, told the Carter assembly. He said that the demeanor of the Carter people would be important during the controversy. “Everyone should be treated equitably, fairly in debate,” he said. “There may be the impulse to boo but don’t do it. We have enough problems in the fall without making them obvious here.” If the Carter camp held together they would cast 105 votes “no” on the “open conven 4 SEPTEMBER 5, 1980 tion.” There had been a rumor floating that Dr. Jesse Jones of Dallas, a leader in the black caucus, was considering voting against the Carter position on the rule, though he was a Carter delegate; when I found him later, he said, “Absolutely not it’s a matter of principle. I do not switch.” Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby took the podium and said to the Carter people, “Is there anybody in this room who believes that if Sen. Kennedy had a majority of the delegates to this convention he’d want to change this rule?” The assembly responded with a vehement, “No!” In the Kennedy caucus next door Denton and Carrick were taking great pains to make sure that all of their people were accounted for and would be present for the rules vote. The vote, of course, failed for Kennedy, and late that night he withdrew his candidacy, conceding graciously to Carter. There was little he could do under the circumstances, though many people seemed shocked by his concession. Yet as one person said, “You can’t have it just by wanting it” the numbers were clear. In fact, Kennedy lost on the rule by a wider margin than anyone had expected, roughly 300 votes; earlier it had been thought that he was as close as 75 votes from victory. John White of Texas, chairman of the Democratic National Committee and probable candidate for the governor’s office in Texas in 1982, when asked if the vote had been wider than he expected, said, “No, not really.” The mood in the Carter camp was one of relief. Bob Strauss, another prominent Texan in the Democratic hierarchy, now serving as Carter’s campaign chairman, said the immediate task would be to “get together to unify the party. We will move very strongly. You wait and see how we do it.” But the rule fight had driven a clear wedge between Carter and Kennedy supporters, who had become, by the following morning, embittered and despondent over the loss. Tuesday morning, there were a lot of disgruntled, dispirited Kennedy supporters in the Texas delegation. Paul Moreno of El Paso was among several people in the corridor outside the caucus room at the Hilton talking about the fallout from the night before. “Some folks are thinking of going home today,” he said. “We really and truly want to be around and continue to be part of the Democratic Party.” But he said a boycott was possible. “The remaining issue is with the platform, but we don’t know quite what it will be. There’s been no approach by the Carter people. I think if you leave it the way it is and Carter people expect Kennedy’s support, it ain’t gonna happen. Carter has to come around.” Asked if he thought Mexican-American leaders in Texas would work for the Carter-Mondale campaign, Moreno said, “They have to invite you in, make you part of the leadership.” On policy matters, he said, there would have to be “signals” indicating “how willing to compromise” Carter would be. On the question of whether Carter could pull the MexicanAmerican vote in the fall Moreno said, “It’s too early.” From more than one person there were signs that the Kennedy people were feeling they had been roughed up. “There’s an awful lot of bitterness after last night,” said Billie Carr, a strong Kennedy backer from Houston and a member of the Democratic National Committee. “It’s obvious they had the votes; they didn’t need to do that. It was more of that ‘We’llwhip-their-ass’ syndrome.” She said a number of Kennedy people felt there had been some “vindictiveness” on the part of Carter’s supporters. “Last night people were crying, they were upset, they were saying ‘We’re not going to support him,’ ” she said. “I feel the rule was enforced before the vote. Kennedy people were intimidated.” Can went on to say, “I’m gonna support the Democratic nominee. But I’m gonna decide how enthusiastic I’ll be, how much time I’m gonna put in. People that are progressive, liberal people, people that are bitter if they aren’t out work
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