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Texas Observer VOLUME 94, NO. 13 A Journal of Free Voices Since 1954 Founding Editor: Ronnie Dugger Editor: Nate Blakeslee Managing Editor: Barbara Belejack Associate Editor: Jake Bernstein Managing Publisher: Jim Ball Circulation Manager: Candace Carpenter Art Director: Julia Austin Poetry Editor: Naomi Shihab Nye Copy Editor: Roxanne Bogucka Development Director: Charlotte McCann Interns: Emily DePrang, Rachel Proctor, Emily Pyle, Emily Rapp Seitz Contributing Writers: Gabriela Bocagrande, Robert Bryce, Louis Dubose, Michael Erard, James K. Galbraith, Dagoberto Gilb, Steven G. Kellman, Lucius Lomax, Char Miller, Debbie Nathan, Karen Olsson, John Ross, Brad Tyer. Staff Photographers: Alan Pogue, Jana Birchum. Contributing Artists: Sam Hurt, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Gary Oliver, Ben Sargent, Penny Van Horn, Gail Woods. Editorial Advisory Board: David Anderson, Chandler Davidson, Dave Denison, Sissy Farenthold, John Kenneth Galbraith, Lawrence Goodwyn, Jim Hightower, Maury Maverick Jr., Kaye Northcott, Susan Reid. In Memoriam: Bob Eckhardt, 1913-2001 Cliff Olofion, 1931-1995 Texas Democracy Foundation Board: Ronnie Dugger, Marc Grossberg, Molly Ivins, D’Ann Johnson, Jim Marston, Bernard Rapoport, Geoffrey Rips, Gilberto Ocafias. The Texas Observer entire contents copyrighted 2002, is published biweekly except every three weeks during January and August \(24 issues profit foundation, 307 West 7th Street, Austin,Texas 78701. Telephone: E-mail: [email protected] World Wide Web DownHome page: . Periodicals Postage Paid at Austin,Texas. Subscriptions: One year $32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year; add $13/year for foreign subs. Back issues $3 prepaid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Indexes: The T e xas Observer is indexed in Access:The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 1981, The Texas Observer Index. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: 71te Texas Observer, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. The Books & the Culture section is partially .fitnded through grants from the City nfAustin under the auspices of the Austin Arts Commission and the Writer’s League of Texas, both in cooperation with the Texas Commission on the Arts. The state political conventions may not mean as much as they used to in the old days, when a slate of candidates was actually selected by delegates, over a weekend of horsetrading, boozing, and brawling. There’s very little brawling these days, and in the case of the Republicans at least, virtually no boozing. Now the conventions are about squeezing as much publicity out of an utterly predictable two-day event as possible, and firing up the troops for the fall campaigns. But they still mark the traditional kickoff to the campaign season, and they offer a chance to reflect on where electoral politics is headed in this state. As Jake Bernstein reports from Dallas in this issue, for once it is the R’s who are in serious disarray. Partly it’s the usual infighting, as the conservative Christians chafe under the more moderate Republican leadership and candidates. And partly it’s brain drainthe R cadre of consultants seem to be feeling the absence of their guru Karl Rove, maybe more than anyone could have predicted. But what really has them shaken up is what used to be called the Democrats’ Dream Team, until that phrase was canned: Tony Sanchez for Governor, Ron Kirk for U.S. Senator, and John Sharp for Lieutenant Governor, the most ethnically diverse ticket the state has ever seen. In recent weeks, after both outgoing U.S. Senator Phil Gramm and his would-be Republican successor John Cornyn called the slate a racially divisive “quota” ticket, some Democrats, who convened in El Paso last month, have sought to downplay how premeditated this diverse ticket really was. But it’s widely known that Sharp began recruiting both Kirk and Sanchez shortly after he narrowly lost the Lieutenant Governor’s race to Rick Perry in 1998. And where is the shame in that? For the first time, the top of a major party ticket looks like Texas. Hispanics will soon be the largest ethnic group in the stateboth parties should be courting them like crazy. And even if Sharp was motivated, as some have whispered, by political expediency more than anything elsehigher minority turnout may wind up getting him elected, but not Kirk or Sanchezthe genie is now out of the bottle, and there may be no putting him back in.Which is to say, even if the strategy doesn’t work this time around, the Democrats may never be able to step back from this momentous leap into the future, even if they wanted to. It’s a question that must have occurred to Sharp and company when the plan was first hatched: If we do this now, will there always have to be at least one candidate from the Hispanic community at the top of the Democratic ticket, from now on? \(The corollary question, whether the Dems will always have to have a millionaire oilman on the tickIf the answer is yes, then Texas has turned a corner in its political history; one which by all rights should have been turned a long time ago. And the implications are weighty. The Democrats could lock up, once and for all, Hispanic allegiance to the party, and probably ensure Democratic hegemony for the foreseeable future. Of course, it might be a different Democratic party, with different priorities. It could mean, among other things, that the long-neglected border’s time has finally arrived. That could become the real story of this election, how that strip of Texas \(which, were it a state of its own, would rank dead last in just about every per capita spending category from public health to highway infrastructure to from a state government that simply ignored it for generations. continued on page 15 EDITORIAL A New Texas, at Last? 715102 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3