Operation Think Swing Texas

As Emily Cadik noted in a recent Burnt Orange Report article, Texas doesn’t vote. For the 2010 mid-term elections, the state of Texas had voter turnout of 36.1 percent… dead last in the nation. 2008 was better at 56.1 percent (as is expected for a Presidential election), but that still only ranked at 45th out of 50 in the US.

This isn’t exclusively a “big state” problem. Voter turnout in California is soaring, while New York in 2010 was one of the states lower than Texas. All three states also had Gubernatorial elections at the same time.

This also isn’t exclusively a “red state” problem. Some reliably Conservative states like Mississippi have consistently higher turnout than Texas, though it’s still below the national average.

Voter turnout is a Texas problem. Our voters are disengaged, and misinformed. As long as state campaigns and interest groups practice “uncertainty politics” it will continue to be this way. Besides voter apathy, Texans are plagued by signs that misdirect people to false voting locations, and incorrect times and dates of where to vote. And yes the current legal brawl over voter suppression makes the confusion this year higher than ever.

But just imagine if those voters were more informed and more engaged? Texas would easily be a swing state the like of which the US hasn’t seen. As Nathan Pippenger states in his recent article from The New Republic, Texas isn’t on the radar as a swing state. But Democrats, with all of their challenges can make this happen in 2012. Here’s my plan of how to turn Texas into a swing state.

Go micro.

Texas is huge, but when it comes to elections, it’s not as big as you think. 8 million Texans voted in the 2008 election, representing all 254 of the state’s counties. But as of the 2010 census, over half of all Texans live in just 13 of these counties, concentrated around the major urban areas. 12 of the 13 were “in play” for Democrats in 2008.

Prioritize.

2008 also saw a huge sea change in the state. Some counties went so heavily for Obama that they can now be considered “reliably Democrat-leaning”… El Paso, Travis (Austin), Dallas, Webb, Hidalgo and Cameron… along with other portions of the Rio Grande Valley. Let’s consider these counties as Tier 1 targets for Texas Democrats. Gains made in the 2008 election should be kept and defended. We should be making sure democratic candidates are well-represented in the local media markets, signs and volunteers. It’s critical that these counties remain in the blue category not only for 2012, but to strengthen current networking for future elections.

Tier 2 we’ll consider these “swing” counties. These flipped to vote for Obama by a smaller margin such as Harris (Houston), Jefferson (Beaumont) or Bexar (San Antonio). But you can also consider other counties that held for McCain, but by a rapidly decreasing margin… Hays, Fort Bend, Williamson and Nueces (Corpus Christi). Texas Democrats should work hard to keep Harris county in the blue and try to flip Hays, Williamson or Fort Bend. If one of those were to flip in 2012, it would mark the first time a substantial suburban county went blue. The impact of this could not be understated because it would show that Texas follows the same model as any other swing state… The cities become heavily Democratic, rural areas lean Republican, and the election battle is fought and won in the suburban counties.

So now we’ve taken the vast 254, and narrowed it down to just 12 counties. These also happen to be the state’s most populous areas. If Texas Democrats ever win all 12 of these counties, we are swing state, and possibly a BLUE state.

Turnout, turnout, turnout.

This is the really super hard part, but it can be done. The one thing we also know from 2008… Democrats like to vote early. If voters are well informed of the early and absentee voting practices of each county, they’ll be more likely to vote, and Democrats will have higher turnout. Here’s where the confusion and misinformation part becomes crucial. Certain political forces are hard at work in the state to make sure that lies persist about voting practices. Democrats should be waging all-scale war on these phonies, and getting into neighborhoods to correct and inform. If we push and publicize early voting, it gives people more options and better ability to get to the poles. Keep in mind that early voting is a relatively recent practice… elderly citizens may not understand what it is. They see the one election day, and think that’s the only time they can vote. We have to change this.

Rankings don’t lie. The non-voting population in Texas is staggering…

Fort Bend county… 300,403 registered; 205,931 voted; 94,472 didn’t vote

Travis county… 609,230 registered, 402,832 voted, 206,398 didn’t vote

Dallas county… 1,206,797 registered, 742,980 voted, 463,817 didn’t vote

Harris county… 1,892,656 registered; 1,188,731 voted; 703,925 didn’t vote

Seriously, the main game is moving to these 12 counties. In the 4 largest listed above, we know that 1.4 million people didn’t vote. Obama lost Texas by 940,000 votes. If Democrats focus on registration and information, this problem can be solved, and we can eradicate GOP majorities in these counties. As red as the state may look on paper, the real population and political power centers around the major urban areas. If we can maximize voter turnout in the 12 target counties, Democrats will win the state.

So fellow Leftists… who’s ready to Think SWING?

Mass Shooting: The Cloud Over Aurora

This morning in Aurora, Colorado, there are far more questions than answers. Last night’s shooting at an area movie theater has left at least 12 dead, and over 50 injured. The theater-goers were there for a premiere showing of Batman’s The Dark Night Rises. And they had no idea just how dark that night would become.

The suspected is named James Holmes… a 24 year-old man from the area. The latest reports show that he had a semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and two hand guns. He was able to fire over 70 shots in just over 1 minute. According to Fox News, Holmes did not have a permit for these weapons. This is a whirlwind of damage that was done, presumably by this “lone wolf” killer.

Among all of the questions and analysis that is sure to come over the next months, we should remember an important discussion on guns, and in particular semi-automatic weapons. Even for those that support open carry laws, we can hopefully all agree that there are certain types of guns that just shouldn’t be manufactured, sold, encouraged or licensed. Yet information on how to obtain these weapons is easily available on sites like GunsAndAmmo.com. They go through painstaking detail to help people purchase and sale weapons, along with discussing various topics related to gun ownership. As American citizens, it’s their right to do this, but it’s also the right of others to be concerned about why certain types of weapons are needed. Self-defense is one thing, but does a semi-automatic weapon that fires 50 rounds a minute going to be used to save lives? Or would it be used by those that are trying to take them?

More developments will be posted as this story unfolds.

11:15AM CST– James Holmes was a PhD student at CU medical school, and recently withdrew from the PhD program. He is under police custody. ABC news has confirmed a photo of the suspect

A little more research on Colorado Gun Laws…

8:23pm
The suspect James Holmes purchased and owned all of the firearms legally… that includes the semi-automatic weapons. It is legal in to have and purchase automatic weapons in some parts of Colorado. According to Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, Colorado’s most prominent pro-gun advocate, it’s relatively easy to purchase and possess these weapons in the state of Colorado.

At this point we don’t know how or where Holmes may have procured his weapons, but it appears that they are relatively easy to find in Aurora. According to Google Maps, the town has several gun shops. Apparently, you are not required to hold an open carry license to purchase a gun, but you must submit a background check.

Again, if your need for a gun is self-defense or hunting, why would you ever need to fire 70 rounds a minute? Should these weapons even be available for purchase? A simple handgun can’t cause massive tragedies like the one today.

Will Mitt Romney “Get Worse” on GLBT rights?

Even if Mitt Romney wants to be silent about his time as Governor of Massachusetts, pretty soon he’s going to have to speak out. Mitt Gets Worse… a new coalition initiative between the American Bridge and Courage Campaign Super-PaCs, is taking a very in-depth look at Romney’s record on GLBT equality in the Bay State. So far, it’s not looking very good for those that support full equality. Romney tried to aggressively roll back GLBT rights during his time as Governor.

An Ode to Bipartisanship

Things are so divisive in the 2012 election cycle, we forget that it wasn’t always this way. Even if Democrats really REALLY disliked George W. Bush, they did try to work with him at times, and did not sabotage every initiative he launched. A bill would pass, and Democrats would disagree, they would even run against it, but they didn’t filibuster every major piece of legislation in existence.

Take a look at this clip of President George W. Bush signing bipartisan legislation into law… the Obama-Coburn act. Judging from the campaign trail assaults, you would have thought these men never knew each other. But there they are.

Also what happened to the GOP’s vehement defense and support of disclosure measures? You sure wouldn’t know it from today.

Mayor Annise Parker on the Colbert Report!

According to Chis Moran of the Houston Chronicle, Houston Mayor Annise Parker will be on tonight’s episode of the Colbert Report. She’s slated to talk about Houston, and about being one of the nation’s most prominent openly gay politicians.

Though not at the national level, Houston Mayor Annise Parker presently serves the largest single electorate of any openly gay US politician. Though US House Representatives like Tammy Baldwin, Barney Frank and Jared Polis are on the national stage, their electorate is much smaller… approximately 700,000 people. The city of Houston is over 2 million people, and has now elected mayor Parker twice. That’s a huge share of the population, especially when you consider that her electorate is in the Conservative “stronghold” of Texas.

Mayor Parker’s record could be broken this fall, as Rep. Baldwin is running for a Senate seat in Wisconsin. It’s already hotly-contested by anti-gay forces in the GOP.

But for tonight, I will definitely be watching Stephen Colbert give the fair mayor a few good laughs. I wonder if he’ll ask her about running for the US House or Senate?

(Annise Parker and her Partner Kathy Hubbard. David J. Phillip/AP)

Please DON’T Release the Returns!

To say that Mitt Romney is having a “tough week” would be a GROSS understatement. The one question on the mind of America this week has been the following… Will Romney release his tax returns? He’s being pressured from both prominent Democrats and Republicans. So much so that the National Review posted a scathing editorial calling on him to “Release The Returns”. Yeah this is a true catch 22 for Mr. Romney.

But no one wants to discuss why he should NOT release his tax returns. I’m willing to go there.

Despite what may be hiding in the depths of Mr. Romney’s wealth, there is one aspect of his campaign that could receive even further scrutiny… His courage.

Does this man ever think for himself, or is he content to forever be a mindless puppet of the Right Wing? So far he has sacrificed his greatest legislative accomplishment as Governor Massachusetts and now has run against “Romneycare”. He had to reverse positions on the individual mandate and proclaim it is a tax so that he could himself around the latest GOP fetish talking point. The man can’t been hire the people he prefers for his staff! Foreign Policy staffer was forced out of his position with the Romney campaign because because he was openly gay.

But finally, Mitt Romney has taken TRUE stand against the GOP and decided that he will not release any further tax returns. Could this be the one glimmer of hope? Is this the issue that Mr. Romney has chosen to finally show that he can think for himself and make his own decisions? Is this the moment that Mr. Romney shows the American people that he has the personal conviction and strength to be President of the United States? Or is it yet another moment where he will submit to the whims of the Republican mantra? Only time will tell, but make no mistake about this… If Romney releases the returns, he becomes a weaker candidate.

If he stands his ground? Let’s not kid ourselves… he’ll still be a weak candidate. But the question remains… Will Romney be a real candidate, or will he just be “Puppet Mitt”?

What are your thoughts??

#PuppetMitt

He’s a Bainiac… Why Romney’s record matters

One thing is for sure about this election… It’s all going to come down to the economy. This November, Americans will be asked to go to the polls and for the candidates that they perceive as most capable of “fixing” and improving our stagnating unemployment rate. Short of some utterly catastrophic event, the economy is where the buck (and the VOTE) stops.

Yet as of late, the Obama campaign wants to shift the conversation to Romney’s time at Bain Capital. Clearly their latest memo shows that this is a subject they intend to keep in laser focus. But even the most avid supporters of the President have to step back and wonder… is this nagging really worth it? None of this changes the fact that Mitt Romney is a successful businessman.

But here’s what it does change… Romney’s reputation (or lack thereof) for telling the truth. He’s on record now for so many lies that it’s just going to be very difficult for Americans to take him at his word. There are virtually no reliable trends in his record… he’s claimed to be everything from “severely Conservative” to Progressive. To be put simply… he’s a liar.

Taken by itself, the situation with Romney’s time at Bain is one article of shiftiness. For most politicians, it would be miniscule and par for the course. But with Romney, it’s yet another bit of uncertainty to add to his rapidly-growing cloud. This is a serious problem for the Romney campaign… eventually he will have to start clarifying his political positions.

-Is he Pro-Life or Pro-Choice? Why did he switch sides?

-Is he for or against gun control laws?

-Was he or was he not at Bain Capital between 1999 and 2003?

-If he had a “Retroactive Retirement” from Bain after 1999, why did he continue to take a $100,000 salary? That’s a whole lot of money to be doing nothing. -Did he oversee any restructuring of companies that involved outsourcing?

-If he’s really against the Affordable Care Act, why did he enact the progenitor of it in Massachusetts?

-If he’s running on a record of fiscal responsibility, then why did he leave Massachusetts $1 billion dollars in debt after his term as governor?

-Why didn’t he run for a 2nd term? What would cause the American people to elect him as President if he didn’t even have the initiative to get re-elected in his home state?

-Why only release 2 years of tax returns? What could be hiding in them?

The election is ultimately about the economy. But it’s also about a choice between two individuals. Obama’s record, good and bad, is there for us to evaluate. The history of record obstruction and deception within the GOP Congress is also there to evaluate. But with Romney, we’re still as clueless as we were before the first primary vote was cast. None of these questions have been answered clearly by him or his campaign. If he wants to be President of the United States, he’s going to have come clean about all of these questions. To go on simply flagellating from one ideology to the other is manic behavior at best, and not fit for what is at stake in this election. The nation’s challenges are too great for us to bet on someone shrouded in uncertainty.

So tell us Governor… Which Mitt are we going to get?

A Voice for the Rest of Texas