Everyday on this planet, people experience a defining moment in their life… a marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, starting college, a new job… these events are significant to that individual, and the close family and friends around them. Then there are even rarer occasions where we experience a defining moment as a collective, like the tragedy of 9-11 or Barack Obama’s election in 2008. Once the moment happens, things as we know them are different.
That defining moment in recent Texas politics was not an election or a tragedy, but was generated from one state legislator taking a stand. One year ago, State Senator Wendy Davis stood on the floor of the Senate for 11 hours in an epic filibuster against SB 5… a bill to severely limit access to women’s healthcare. In a pair of pink Mizuno sneakers, she stood and talked while the world watched the dastardly GOP senators did everything they could to take her down. That in fact is how Davis’ filibuster ended… claiming that she had failed to stand up properly 2 hours short of running out the clock on Texas’ legislative session. But rather than give up, Texas’ Democratic Senators unleashed a slew of tactics to keep the delay going. Finally at the end of the night, with 15 minutes left on the clock, one insult to Senator Leticia Van de Putte unleashed a fire from the gallery… Hundreds of women’s rights supporters cheered, and stomped and clapped until the Legislative Session ran out. Davis’ original Filibuster was completed by the people of Texas. To the Republican plans to harm women’s rights, the people said NO.
Like typical Texas Republicans, Governor Perry called a Special Session and they passed their heinous bill anyway. But even as the GOP won a fierce battle, they simultaneously started a war with Texas voters on both sides, flooded Democratic coffers with new money sources, and elevated Senators Davis and Van de Putte to national stardom. That’s the main way that Texas politics has changed since June 25th, 2013. Democrats now have real press power. Gone are the days when a Democratic candidate would be wholly ignored by statewide media, or when someone like Rick Perry could laugh off the notion of a general election debate. Republicans may still control Texas politics, but the sense of Absolute Monarchy has been “Magna-Carted” off to the ol’ dusty trail. Now, at the very least in Texas, Democrats MUST be heard.
So the question remains… can Democrats use that bully pulpit effectively? On this front, the results have so far been mixed. Certainly not an indictment of Top-Tier candidates, but a clear sign that they’re still much newer to the statewide game than their GOP counterparts. Much to the dismay of her supporters, Davis has run into trouble about how to immortalize this moment’s history herself, running away from the abortion issue almost as fast as her opponent runs from all the legal cases he files and then forgets about in public. (By the way… whatever happened to the safe, legal and rare argument that BOTH parties used to support? Seems pretty reasonable to me.)
Ultimately, this new position of strength for Democrats must be utilized for one primary directive… turning out voters. That is more important than anything the Davis or Van de Putte could yell from the rooftops. Has Texas changed enough to swing some statewide offices blue? Check the Senate clock… it’s still tickin’.