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Texas Observer VOLUME 96, NO. 14 A Journal of Free Voices Since 1954 Founding Editor Ronnie Dugger Executive Editor Jake Bernstein Editor Barbara Belejack Associate Editor Dave Mann Publisher Charlotte McCann Managing Publisher Jim Ball Circulation Manager Rosie Bamberger Chavez and Lara George Art Direction Buds Design Kitchen Poetry Editor Naomi Shihab Nye Copy Editor Roxanne Bogucka Webmaster Adrian Quesada Interns Kris Bronstad, Jeremy Brown, Megan Giller, Joe Munch, Sofia Resnick Contributing Writers Nate Blakeslee, Gabriela Bocagrande, Robert Bryce, Michael Erard, James K. Galbraith, Dagoberto Gilb, Steven G. Kellman, Lucius Lomax, James McWilliams, Char Miller, Debbie Nathan, Karen Olsson, John Ross Staff Photographers Alan Pogue, Jana Birchum. Contributing Artists Sam Hurt, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Gary Oliver, Doug Potter, Penny Van Horn, Gail Woods. Editorial Advisory Board David Anderson, Chandler Davidson, Dave Denison, Sissy Farenthold, John Kenneth Galbraith, Lawrence Goodwyn, Jim Hightower, Kaye Northcott, Susan Reid. In Memoriam Bob Eckhardt, 1913-2001, Cliff Olofson, 1931-1995 Texas Democracy Foundation Board Lou Dubose, Ronnie Dugger, Marc Grossberg, Molly Ivins, D’Ann Johnson, Jim Marston, Gilberto Ocarias, Bernard Rapoport, Geoffrey Rips. tents copyrighted 2004, is published biweekly except every by the Texas Democracy 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 Texas 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: The Texas Observer, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. The Books 6the Culture section is partially funded through grants from the City of Austin 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. Fl verywhere at the Texas Democratic Party’s convention in Houston in June the buzz was all about John Kerry and, a fortuitous guest of honor, John Edwards. But behind the scenes, conversations long overdue were taking place. Texas Democrats have finally started to look past November and beyond 2006. The topic was always the same: How to get off the mat and learn to counterpunch. One such discussion took place in a small room tucked away in the cavernous maze of the George P. Brown convention center. Houston state Senator Rodney Ellis hosted the meeting and most of the other senate Democrats attended. Their participation signaled yet again that the leadership of the Texas Democratic Party, such as it is, now comes from its elected state legislators, who through their losing battles in the 78th Legislature have redefined themselves in opposition to the Republican majority. Remarkably for a group of men and women accustomed to speechifying, the senators came to listen. University of Houston political science professor Richard Murray was the featured speaker. Murray presented a paper that detailed why Democrats find themselves shut out from state government and what needs to be changed to win again. His motivation, he explained, was less partisanship than a sense that Texas would be a better place with a healthy two-party system rather than the traditional one-party dominance. Murray traced the Dems’ present straits to the 1970s and 1980s when the Reagan-religious fundamentalist axis took over the Republican Party, expanding its fundraising, assembling a network of lobbyists, consultants and think tanks, and honing poll-tested messages like parental notification for teen abortions. The 1994 election proved to be a turning point, a shift that would carry over for years to come. Democrats cannot simply count on changing demographics to lift them out of their present hole. Anglos will continue to be the voting majority in Texas for the next 15 to 20 years. Universal messages that don’t appeal to all races and ethnic groups will fail. At the same time, Democrats must be sensitive to the “different histories, barriers, and problems that have denied equal opportunity to all Texans,” wrote Murray. He proposed a think tank, outside of the already unwieldy and heavily regulated official party structure, that would work on several areas where Democrats are lacking. First and foremost is data collection. The next census data won’t come until 2011 and the current batch of statistics is already outdated. Texas is in demographic flux and in many areas of the state fast-changing districts and counties do present opportunities for Democrats. An essential part of any talk on Democratic revitalisation these days has to have an Internet component. Glenn Smith offered his perspective on how building online communities can help. Smith, who has started a Texas-based MoveOn. org spin-off called Drive , talked about the power of the Internet to help Democrats in Texas to network. Smith shared a number of stories about the meet-ups organized on the Internet by the Dean campaign and others in which Democrats in places like Midland and Burleson discovered that they are not as isolated as they once thought. But it is in the area of ideas that Democrats truly need help. Several of the participants at the meeting were devotees of the Berkeley linguist George Lakoff. It is Lakoff’s work on framing issues that could help lead Democrats away from the wilderness of disparate coalitions to the promised land of a cohesive political movement \(more on this in future issues of the For now, as Texas is largely relegated to political spectator status in November, it’s a perfect time to start rebuilding. JB EDITORIAL Counterpunching 7/16/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3