Page 5


Nobody expected Rick Perry to accuse their candidate of murder, on television, as often as every half hour some nights. Unlike Sanchez, Perry had surrogates do the job, providing a thin insulation around the governor. The com mercial accusing Sanchez of being an accom plice in the death of a federal agent featured Hispanic ex-DEA agents as spokesmen. launched into the morning’s sermon, entitled “In God We Trust.” These are heady days for Hagee, an author whose bookstitles like The Beginning of the End and Final Dawn Over Jerusalemare fixtures in Christian “pre-apocalyptic literature.” Hagee told the Los Angeles Times that “I believe World War III actually began on September 11, 2001.” As Sharp stood listening along with the congregation, the reverend gave voice to a political worldview perfectly in tune with Republican hardliners Tom Delay and Trent Lott. Democracy in America is being hijacked by activist federal judges. Politicians robbed the nation’s brave soldiers of a win in Vietnam. Israel is America’s only friend in the Middle East. Our God is not Allah! The ACLU is un-American.The “military” is going to crush terrorism in these United States. Hagee asked, “Do you remember when welfare was a state of being, not just a check to a deadbeat?” The congregation applauded every punchline, but it was Hagee’s impassioned plea to ban abortion that drove them to their feet. “Forty million innocent lives have been lost,” he thundered. “Pay day will come!” As the crowd cheered lustily, standing among them, clapping in the front pew was John Sharp. Outside the chapel, anyone could read on their handy Christian Coalition guide that this particular candidate opposed a ban on abortion. Just how ironic Sharp’s Faustian bargain would prove to be, became clear Tuesday night.The carnage was readily apparent by 10:00 p.m., when the bar serving the Sanchez victory party at the Austin Hyatt ceased to be free. Sanchez likely spent upward of $100 million of his own money this election season. Nonetheless, Republicans in Texas won every statewide office and control of every branch of government. The Democrats relinquished a reign over the house of representatives that dates to the 13th Legislature in 1873. Worse, the size of the loss-88 seats to the Republicansensured the election of radical right favorite Tom Craddick as speaker.The once evenly split senate became solidly Republican, helmed by the new lite gov, David Dewhurst, an odd social conservative loathed by senators on both sides of the aisle. Apologists for the Texas Democratic establishment point out that losses in the Lone Star State mirror those across the country. They talk about how recent eventsinsecurity from 9/11, the Iraq debate, and the sniper killingskept the electorate distracted from their core economic issues. They note that Anglos across the South have deserted the Democratic Party. The boldest among them blame the malaise on the party’s rudderless leadership in Washington, D.C. Locally, their initial plan to market Tony Sanchez as a centrist businessman who would rescue the state from politicians fell apart in a post-Enron environment. Suddenly politicians were called on to save the country from businessmen. The more ungrateful privately grouse at the baggage first-time candidate Sanchez brought with him into the race, from money laundering charges to a scant history of voting. Others begrudgingly admit the Republicans played a near perfect gamefrom registering new voters to grassroots turnout behind a popular president from Texas. Some even blame the rain that soaked the state during early voting. Finally, nobody expected Rick Perry to accuse their candidate of murder, on television, as often as every half hour some nights. While all of the above is undeniably true, the scale of the thrashing Texas Democrats received at the polls exposes a campaign whose defeat was in part self-inflicted. At its root was a strategy that had more to do with calculation than principle, based on faulty ethnic assumptions, in an operation where the quantity of money magnified rather than minimized errors. In particular, the Sanchez campaign earned a deserved reputation as the Waterworld of the 2002 political season, an expensive debacle that capsized an already leaky Texas Democratic Party. “The Republicans were on a crusade,” observes Andy Hernandez, a political science professor at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. “The Democrats were on a campaign.” In his campaign office a month before the election, State Rep. Garnet Coleman showed off the latest mailer he helped put together. Coleman ran what proved to be the in Harris County. For weeks, he subsisted on coffee and cigarettes, which he consumed between answering phone calls, e-mails, and faxes. Piled on a table were the mailers. “Fighting for Fairness, Fighting for Families,” proclaimed one. The Democrats were counting on efforts like Coleman’s to produce high turnout in urban areas, especially among minorities. The debate over how many Latinos came to the polls and for exactly whom they voted, as of press time, has yet to be resolved. A lack of exit-polling data keeps the picture somewhat blurry. Clarity will come from a more detailed and time consuming analysis of heavily populated Latino vot 11/22/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5