afternoon, there was a convincing energy in the atmosphere that was not only convention fever, and would not have seemed possible a year ago. On Friday night featured guest Hillary Clinton \(cribbing demise of the Texas Democratic Party are quite premature,” and the crowd, all ten thousand or so, happily roared in celebration of itself. Whence this surprising resurrection, and could it turn out to be more than just gossamer and moonshine? At least part of the answer to the first question was not in Dallas, and not even Democrat. The apotheosis of Newt Gingrich and the solemn anointment of Bob Dole as the Republican versions of national leadership had certainly been more than enough to goose the American electorate into a chorus of Christine Lavin’s “What Was I Thinking?” Speaker after speaker noted Clinton’s double-digit lead over Dole in virtually all the national polls. The Dems were gingerly with their windfall, counseling the faithful against overconfidence, as though afraid if they handled the gift too roughly it would blow up in their faces. That caution might have seemed obvious in Texas, where Clinton’s early lead was surprising but still very narrow. But for once, it wasn’t only the Republicans the Democrats had to thank for their good fortune. Inside the hall were two menBill White and Victor Moraleswho could claim a good deal of credit for the Texas Democratic revival, and though they did not dominate the proceedings, they were everywhere present in the details and atmosphere. Between them White and Morales gave the convention visible bursts of focus and enthusiasm, and the rest of the cast, headliners and hangers-on alike, rode that wave throughout. White’s selection as party chairman was formalized on Saturday A Attorney General Dan Morales Alan Pogue afternoon, but the Convention clearly reflected his assumption of the party administration several months ago. Even the caucuses ran on time, for which White got the credit, as well as for: a renewal of organizational energy, modernization and streamlining of proceflux of new money. The most cited statistic of the weekend, beginning with White himself on Friday, was that “we have more than doubled the number of sustaining memberships in the Texas Democratic Party.” \(On the convention floor, the emphasis was on KEEPING THE FAITH Saturday morning among the Dems, while the various executive committees polished up delegate slates and platform resrest of us wandered through a host of workshops covering everything from fundraising to marketing \(“Campaigning is like selling pects of party organizing; the most important exception was led by Cecile Richards of the Texas Freedom Network and called “A Faith-Based Response to the Radical Right.” Several hundred delegates crowded into a conference room to hear Richards and others discuss the Network’s attempts to build community opposition to radical right politics across the state, especially the right-wing inroads in local and state education. Richards’ primarily secular efforts have generated a surprisingly strong positive response from progressive churchpeople, many of whom attended the workshop. The session amounted to the debut of the “Texas Faith Network,” an independent group of primarily religious leaders aimed at working for progressive change from within Texas congregations. Several participants, including a few ministers, recounted their efforts to make certain that conservative fundamentalists did not impose their own definitions of Christianity and “family values” upon their local church groups. Richards hopes to use the state workshop as a springboard for further local organizing efforts. As interesting as the workshop itself was the Democratic Party’s response. On Friday night, Bob Bullock had excoriated the Republicans for staking an exclusive claim to Christianity, and Chairman Bill White made a point of attending and enthusiastically endorsing the Freedom Network event. On Saturday afternoon, at Richards’ instigation, the party invited several clergymenChristian, Jewish, Moslemto address the audience on the relation of political action to religious belief. The Texas Freedom Network is officially non-partisan, and Richards says she has asked the Republicans to organize a similar workshop during their upcoming convention in San Antonio, but a week before the event had received no reply. She noted that Pat Buchanan is the keynote speaker, and that Ralph Reed and his Christian Coalition will be prominently featured. Her group and the Texas Faith Network intend to be in San Antonio, however, in or outside the convention hall. “We do have Republican members,” Richards said, “and there are a lot of Republicans who are very frustrated by the direction the party has been taking.” “Folks are very hungry to have this kind of discussion,” she continued, “about the true role of faith in politics… and about deeper and more comprehensive answers to political problems.” M.K. JUNE 28, 1996 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5
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