Point Austin: Endorsed!

Take a long look at the 'Chronicle' opinions – and then leap

Point Austin
I've spent the last week hip-deep in election endorsements, by which I mean other members of the News staff and I have been researching the Nov. 7 Travis Co. ballot, putting together dossiers on the candidates, making recommendations to each other, and drafting the endorsements that you're reading elsewhere in this week's print edition or, at greater length, online. It was a more daunting task than usual this time, which either means democracy in Texas is slowly having a resurgence, or I'm older than I thought I was.

I'll assume it's some combination of the two. It is indeed comforting to see that this fall's ballot will be somewhat more substantive than it has been in recent years and that there are quite a number of races and candidates worthy of the engagement and interest of an adult voting population. Much of the attention has been focused, inevitably, on the governor's race, where the most unpopular governor in my memory is still favored to win because he's rolling in campaign cash and because the opposition is so thoroughly divided. Despite the relative prominence of independents Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman, I've been telling folks my guess is that, come Election Day, most Texans will still split Republican vs. Democrat. In this red state, that would also seem to favor Perry – although the counter-trend this year is that Democrats are mad and motivated, while Republicans are disillusioned and demoralized.

Moreover, the recent rejuvenation of Chris Bell – emotionally and financially – is a welcome addition to an otherwise lackluster season. I've seen Bell speak three times this year: once during the primary campaign, about a month ago at a generic campaign event, and last week for the state convention of the NAACP. The most recent apparition was remarkable – as though a previously diligent but bloodless policy wonk had suddenly had a charisma transfusion. At least some of that jolt was no doubt due to Houston lawyer John O'Quinn's manna from heaven – but afterward Bell was also eager to note that Perry was now coming after him directly, "which means he's seeing the same tracking polls that we are – that this is increasingly becoming a two-person race, and I'm the one that's gaining on him."

The Possibility of Community

Elsewhere we note that at the Chronicle we're not accustomed to issuing straight-ticket endorsements, yet this year's batch comes perilously close to that apotheosis. We held fire on a few races but found ourselves coming down again and again on the Dem side, even in some statewide races in which the Republican is at least tolerable and the Democratic challenger is effectively without experience or, arguably, qualification. As Louis Black points out, that's largely because Republican governance has become so rankly partisan, nationwide and in Texas, that the only way we can hope to make a dent in the rightward juggernaut is to draw a line in the sand and say, "no more." But, on the other hand, the state Democratic Party disarray remains such that quite a few of the listed candidates are merely placeholders waiting for the world (and the party) to change. Bell is still too solitary, without an experienced phalanx of potential officeholders, at the top of the ballot.

Beyond this conundrum, I know that there are plenty of our readers who have long since abandoned electoral politics as hopelessly corrupt or pointless – indeed, to judge from diminishing turnouts, a majority of the state's eligible voters no longer can be bothered to go to the polls. I seldom try to argue with cynicism – which says more about the self-absorption of the cynic than the importance of the subject at hand – but to the angrily skeptical or merely disillusioned, I would suggest that none of us really has the right to turn our backs on the possibility of community, which is really what elections are about. Each vote is a small token of belief that we can work collectively together to address problems and issues that we cannot solve alone – should we throw in that towel, there's nowhere else to go.

Twopenny Papers

So, like each of you, every election season we trundle into our data banks and Web sites and reporters' notebooks and try to figure out which name on the ballot gives us all the relatively best chance of making some progress at governing or judging or comptrolling or just keeping our collective finger in the dike. And we don't worship at the altar of "Issues," like too many good-government types who think that politics should primly be above such messy human qualities as personality or emotion or effectiveness or just plain gumption. We also don't presume that our recommendations are anything more than an informed 2 cents' worth. Part of our personal mandate when composing these things is to conceive them as minipieces of reporting, so even if you think our opinions are not worth the free paper they're distributed on, at least you can learn something factual about the particular candidates in these particular races.

That's my 2 cents' worth. Now it's your turn. end story

For more election coverage, see the Chronicle "Endorsements" and "Election News."

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