Austin at Large: A Pre-November Pep Talk

Reasons for optimism as we ride this circus train into Election Station

Austin at Large: A Pre-November Pep Talk

Thought I'd take a break from Cop Talk this week (don't worry, there's plenty more to come) to pause and reflect on the upcoming elections, the silliest of silly seasons. Things normally don't get real in campaign years until after Labor Day, but as we live in our endless demi-quarantine, what is time anyway? (We haven't even had the conventions yet, and nobody seems to care, not even their bereft hosts, Milwaukee and Charlotte. Will we ever have them again?)

Mostly, I wanted to skip ahead in our 2020 timeline to tell y'all to lighten up about November and beyond. You need to pace yourself; don't waste your energy on preemptive outrage at the debased clownery to come. (Trump will continue to say, and attempt to do, dumb things.) Stay focused. We should feel good about our chances of getting off this circus train at Election Station, and onto a train that can at least turn the proverbial corner without falling off the tracks.

There is very real pain, violence, misery, and rage afflicting our city, state, nation, and world. Our ne'er-do-well neighbors from Clown Town deny, dismiss, and disrespect this as they spout nonsense – masks make you sick, people want to live under bridges, only crooks don't love the cops. That's what we're fighting against, but we are not hopeless, and we know our problems are not insoluble, and we should never let ourselves become too grim or fretful or fearful to remember this. Not at any time, really, but certainly not now.

Doing the Wrong Thing

This paper has been pushing back against GOP policy and politics since Reagan's first year in office, but the magnitude of failure wrought by President Apesh*t, his sub-D-list crew of flunkies and hustlers, and the corrupt barons of his decadent and depraved Republican Party is truly remarkable. Any fool can screw up once or twice, but to be this incompetent for this long at this scale without interruption takes a real knack for doing the wrong thing every time.

The pandemic has laid this bare for all to see, and thus Texas is a battleground state, and an amiable bumbler like Joe Biden looks Churchillian in comparison, and the left is on the ascent because the right is failing at every turn and falling apart at its seams. Like a parasite that takes over its host, MAGA has infested the GOP regime and destroyed its legitimacy; it is simply no longer competent to rule, and certainly not competent enough to successfully use the many tools of state power at its disposal to act out its authoritarian fantasies. It may make a lot of scary noises, but even the hardest-core attempts to project power are mostly just theatre to please The Base.

A year ago, we made Greg Abbott our Halloween mask after he threw just such a fit and went after Austin's unhoused poor, but now he just looks impotent and maybe even a little tragic. If he were on the ballot in November, he would surely lose to a credible Democrat, of which we now have a few. As it stands, the rump of his declining party has now decided Allen West, an insane Florida Man whom they saw on TV, is just who they need to lead them into battle, and that Abbott deserves to be primaried in 2022 (perhaps by West himself) because he caved on the mask mandate.

The Texas Democrats' biggest goal this year remains to flip the House – to win the nine seats that will give them control of the west side of the Capitol. Even if they don't get all nine, they will still choose the next speaker, as the GOP's internal conflicts that felled Dennis Bonnen have only gotten more intense and ridiculous. But if Joe Biden actually carries Texas by one or two points, as current polling suggests, we should expect a lot of downballot gains for Democrats as well, even in districts nobody thinks are in play.

Everything’s Gone Blue

The big prize for the national party here is redistricting. Texas will gain three congressional seats in the next census, and a divided Lege means federal judges will likely draw the new map. Those new seats will be in the big urban areas where the new Texans are, which should finally wipe away the last vestiges of Tom DeLay's 2003 re-redistricting gerrymanders. Any Democrat who flips a congressional seat this year (hello, Wendy Davis) will probably run in 2022 in a much bluer, more compact district, as the current ones are simply too large and need to be broken up.

More broadly, that explains why Texas Dems are so bullish on their 2020 chances. While the GOP has locked itself in a rubber room with Fox News, the actual state they govern, and more specifically the districts they represent in the Lege and in Congress, have changed in fundamental ways. We've seen how moving to a 10-1 district council (and moving local elections to November) has pushed Austin's City Hall to the left. That same dynamic is true all over Texas; now that Democrats have the money and momentum to get out their voters, and the GOP can't even manage a Zoom meeting properly, the decades of solid-red rule are coming to a rather abrupt end. And you can help! Keep cool, don't take the Red Team's bait, stay organized, and vote.

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