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A Sylvester Turner Alan Pogue the Dallas Cowboys’ games proclaimed, from somewhere on high, the beginning of yet another celebration on stage. Wasn’t it wonderful?” Senator Shapiro asked in the Four Seasons’ bar after the second session ended. The program, the speakers, the music, Shapiro said. “Come on, wasn’t it wonderful?” From where the Senator sat in the bar and from where she stood on stage as Party Chair Susan Weddington called down “every current candidate for election in November” it was wonderful, even if George W. didn’t show. To stand on that stage, with music boom ing and Weddington doing a candidates’ altar call as Mylar confetti and streamers exploded from the ceiling, was as good as it gets for the Party that now owns the state. Of course it all was scripted, choreographed, stage-directed, and almost lacking in news content. But what major Party convention isn’t? The Christians behaved. No one embarrassed the Governor. There was Congressman Joe Barton’s Ice Cream Social for the fundamentalist Christians and the Four Seasons’ bar for mainstream Christians and Jews. The whole affair was a triumphalist roar and a Grand Old Prayer Session of a Party that knows it is absolutely at the top of its game. Wonderful. 0 Looking for Dems in Fort Worth BY NATE BLAKESLEE You cannot have two Republican parties and prevail. Representative Sylvester Turner If you were accused of being a Democrat today, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Delegate Sharon Teal 1″I he 2000 Democratic convention, held at the Tarrant County Convention Center the weekend of June 9, played less like an exercise in small “d” democracy than it did a two-day workshop on building self-esteem. To be sure, with all twenty-nine statewide elected offices held by the opposition, the Party has never needed it more. Thus we read on page three of the convention program: “A Few Good Reasons to be Proud You’re a Democrat.” The list, which gives the Party credit for everything from the women’s suffrage amendment to putting a man on the moon, is notably short on recent accomplishments. Throughout the convention, few speakers leave the stage without reciting some version of Party chairperson Molly Beth Malcolm’s signature affirmation: “I’m proud to be a Texas Democrat.” By the end of the convention, some in the crowd of delegates may have silently added “…whatever that means.” It seems that even as the Party fights to retain its slim majority in the House and to retake the state Senate, it is suffering not only from an inferiority complex, but also an identity crisis. Identity became an unofficial theme in Fort Worth. “We have to make sure we are who we say we are,” Representative Sylvester Turner of Houston warned the assembled delegates. For the Democrats, that has always been easier said than done. When the Republicans convene, they caucus in groups divided by senate district. They don’t split along identity lines, as the Democrats have always done, with their black, Hispanic, women’s, gay and lesbian, labor, non-urban and, since 1994, motorcycle caucuses each meeting separately to discuss their own issues. \(Although it’s worth noting that the Republican “identity” remains pretty uniform no matter how you diIn this crucial election year, however, the Party finds itself fighting not to speak with one voice, but to distinguish that voice from the message of the Republicans. “What’s happened in the last several years is that Democrats have gotten very skittish about delivering our message. We’ve tried in too many ways to emulate Republicans,” Turner said in a post-convention interview. And given a choice between a real Republican and a Democratic version, “Republicans vote for themselves,” he said. This year they won’t even have that choice, at least in statewide elections, where the official Democratic strategy, for the first ,time in modern state history, is to field no candidates \(one candidate, Gene Kelly, is running against Kay Bailey Most of the Party’s energy is focused on David Fisher’s senate race in East Texas, where an open seat will determine which party will hold a sixteen-to-fifteen advantage. That will be more crucial than ever next session, which will feature the all-important and fiercely partisan redistricting process. By determining in part who will get to select the lieutenant governor \(the Senate’s presiding Republican succession derby, should Bush ascend to the White House in January. The Democrat’s identity crisis hasn’t been diminished by having Bush at the top of the state ticket the last six years. The most powerful state Democrat, House Speaker Pete Laney, refused to endorse Al Gore’s presidential candidacy at the convention. Laney \(who often tells reporters, “I’m not endorsing JULY 7, 2000 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13