Kinky Friedman was in Houston last week. I had the day off and I went Downtown to see Friedman and to have a nice lunch. Both plans worked out well.
Friedman appeared outside the county administration building. People could come up and speak to him. Friedman talked about his distaste for lobbyists and for both main political parties. He talked about being tough on immigration. Many people wanted a picture taken with Kinky.
I asked Friedman if he supported an income tax for Texas. He said no. He said, wrongly, casino gambling and an already existing budget surplus would suffice for Texas. I told him if he really wanted to help little people in Texas, he would support shifting some of the money around with an income tax.
15 minutes after our first exchange, Friedman and I talked some more. I told him that while he has a picture of Gandhi up on his wall at home, he was acting against the spirit of Gandhi. I said Gandhi would not embrace casino gambling, engage in immigrant-bashing and make nasty comments about Hurricane Katrina victims still in Houston.
Friedman did not agree. He said I was a “liberal Democrat” and “politically correct.” I said he was labeling me just like he did Katrina survivors. I told him he often resorts in his campaign to what I called “the dark side.” By this point, Friedman had had enough of me. He said I’d called him an immigrant-basher and that “Not even Hispanic people I‘ve talked to have called me that.”
Friedman does not deserve your vote. He could use his candidacy to speak up for Texans who need a voice. Instead, he plays to people’s fears on immigration and makes lousy comments about Katrina evacuees. Most Katrina folks are plenty honest.
While he will at times say something that has appeal, Friedman lacks the discipline to avoid repeatedly saying rotten things and the compassion needed to help Texans who could most use his help.
A satisfying midterm election was held in 1982. In 1982, House Speaker Tip O’Neill got the better of Ronald Reagan. Democrats gained 26 House seats. This enabled more-liberal Democrats to take effective control of the House back from the coalition of Republicans and Southern Democrats boosted by the Reagan landslide in 1980.
Speaker O’Neill was maybe the only politician who often got the better of Reagan. People did not worry if O’Neill was a liberal. He said over and over that he was a liberal. He put forth a clear vision of a government that should help people. In the recession year of 1982 this was a message people were willing to hear.
It is a message people are always willing to hear if they feel they need help.
Another reason things went well in ‘82 was clever redistricting by Democrats after the 1980 census. People complain today about Republican redistricting strangling the process. I don’t agree. What I want is for people I agree with to control the process. Many on the left who complain now would’ve been happy enough to take the gains back in ’82.
The victories of 1982 helped maintain a firm Democratic House majority for the remainder of the Reagan years. Tip O’Neill’s leadership and coherent worldview was an important foundation of Democratic strength in the House in the 1980’s.
A rotten Nick Lampson TV ad about immigration policy strongly suggests Lampson won’t tell the truth to Texas workers about why their wages and economic prospects often stink.
Lampson is running for the seat once held by Tom DeLay. This is Texas U.S House District 22. The Republican candidate is right-wing Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. Nobody should vote for her. Because of the timing of DeLay’s cowardly exit and because of Texas election law, Sekula-Gibbs is running as a write-in. Lampson is the favorite.
In his depressing ad, Lampson attacks Sekula-Gibbs’ votes on Houston City Council for various aspects of Houston’s sanctuary stance towards illegal immigrants. As a general rule, Houston police don’t ask about immigration status during an arrest. With this policy and others like it, Houston recognizes that it lacks the resources to handle federal immigration matters. It also reflects the fact that immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere are in Houston to stay.
With his ad, Lampson conveys that it is illegals causing poor labor conditions in Texas. He says nothing about union-busting profit-crazed employers. He says nothing about reforming a Democratic Party that, so far, has often been only slightly less-willing than Republicans to sell working people down the river.
Someone must level with working people. If it won’t be Democrats—Who will it be? Someone must tell working folks that their children must study as hard as Asian kids study. Someone must tell them that they must decide if they care more about gay marriage or about their futures.
This someone apparently won’t be Nick Lampson. Lampson seems content to feed Texas working people a lying load of crap that distracts them from what really needs to be done.
A recent front page photo essay in the Galveston County Daily News showed Galveston Muslims celebrating Eid to mark the end of Ramadan. As part of the celebration, Muslim kids busted a piñata and went after the candy. This all took place at the Galveston Islamic Center which can be found not far from the sunny shores of the Gulf of Mexico.
Seeing a photo of Muslim children celebrating an Islamic holiday with a Mexican custom at an Islamic center in a smallish Texas city is likely to elicit a reaction of one kind or another from many Americans.
Many conservatives are telling us Muslims and Mexicans are trouble.
In my view, the message is that these folks are here to stay and we can either welcome them or fight them. My choice is to welcome them. Galveston’s Muslims seem to get the idea of America just right. They add to their own celebration by embracing a tradition from another culture.
America is its’ people—Whoever they may be or wherever they may come from. America is not a specific religion or skin color.
Immigration policy and the willingness of new arrivals to take part in American life are legitimate issues. However, we cannot address these issues in any hopeful way until we see the people we are discussing as human beings.
Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota died four years ago today Senator Wellstone was a great American and a great liberal. He connected with average people. His successful focus on economic fairness is echoed, though not really equaled, in the Senate campaigns today of Jon Tester in Montana and Sherrod Brown in Ohio.
From my perspective as a liberal, Wellstone had a unique ability to appeal to both old and new left. He worked hard and hit a wide range of issues satisfying many liberal constituencies. It never seemed like grandstanding or pandering. Wellstone knew, and we realized as well, that in many cases if he did not speak, nobody would. Unifying the left and appealing to the general public at the same time is quite a feat. Wellstone pulled it off.
Wellstone had a commitment to social justice in all forms. His advocacy of mental health issues took on an affliction many are embarrassed or afraid to talk about or acknowledge. He saw that pain suffered alone in a quiet room needed to be addressed no different than the more public pain of poverty or racial injustice Wellstone was an academic with a commitment to action. He was a natural in a classroom or in a union hall. Wellstone was, as Huey Long said a good politician should be, both of us and above us.
At the bottom line, Wellstone was hopeful that politics could be used to make life better. One way to continue the work of Paul Wellstone is to take an active part in liberal politics. Another is to donate to Wellstone Action. Wellstone Action trains liberal activists to carry on the fight.
Today I visited campaign headquarters of the Galveston County Democratic Party. A very nice lady was staffing the office. She was smart and knew politics.
Though I live in Houston, Harris County, Texas, I donated some money to the Galveston Democrats. Many Galveston residents have yard signs for Democratic candidates on their lawns. I wanted to help those good people out. I’ve already contributed to Harris County Democrats.
At headquarters I found a great bumper sticker. It reads as follows—“Register & Vote—Everyone Counts In Galveston County” What a perfect message!
While I’m a firm believer in partisanship, this bumper sticker was better for not suggesting a party preference. It was inclusive of all and struck to the heart of matter. It asks us to “Register & Vote.” That’s right. That is what we all should do.
It then says—“Everyone Counts In Galveston County.” Right again. This is the heart of the liberal idea. Everyone counts. That’s why it says “All People Matter” at the top of this blog. Everyone does count in Galveston County, Texas. Everyone counts no matter where they are. All people matter.
Many Liberals and Democrats are concerned, with good reason, that Republicans will use electronic voting machines to steal votes or to fix the vote. Valid issues have been raised about Diebold as a manufacturer of these machines.
An additional concern Democrats have is that voters of color will be harassed at the polls. Such is always possible.
A mistake, however, is to assume this behavior is somehow limited to conservatives and Republicans. Our side has been plenty guilty of these types of frauds.
The era of great liberal victories from the New Deal Era to the Great Society were won in a time when the overwhelming number of blacks were not allowed to vote. Most liberals did little about this until black people started marching and forcing the issue. Many Democrats also gained through vote-fixing urban political machines.
The point is here is that our crap stinks as well. Election fraud and voter suppression are symptoms of the fight for power. This is a fight that liberals and Democrats, for better and for worse, have fully been a part of in American history.
Texas State House District 134, where I live, Is going to be won by Democratic challenger Ellen Cohen. The Republican incumbent, Martha Wong, often says one thing while doing another. I’m confident the people have had enough of Wong.
I’m disappointed though by a TV ad Ms. Cohen is running. Ms. Cohen makes an appeal to voters who consider themselves fiscal conservatives and social liberals. This idea has some resonance in District 134 because we have many educated and prosperous voters here. These are people used to having things their own way.
Fiscal conservatism and social liberalism is libertarianism-lite. It is the idea that people can do whatever they want while paying as little taxes as possible. I don’t mind people doing pretty much what they want within the law. But we must have a government strong enough and with enough resources to protect our freedoms and fight for all people. By all people I mean the poor and working class as well as the wealthy.
Libertarianism is a far-right ideology of raw power and going it alone. Libertarianism-lite is the essentially the same—Except in one way it is even more obnoxious.
Libertarianism-lite lacks the honesty that comes with the brutality of pure libertarianism. Libertarianism-lite wraps the sell-out of the many by the few in a package that even some good Democrats find appealing.
Analysis of demographic trends suggests that by 2040 the population of Texas will be between 53% and 59% Hispanic. Whites will comprise between 25% and 33% of the population in that year.
So far, Hispanics lag behind the population as a whole in education and are more likely than Anglos to be poor. Despite protests earlier this year against mean-spirited immigration legislation, Hispanics are seemingly failing to exert themselves in the 2006 Election.
Conservative Anglos have run Texas since Statehood. You could argue they have run Texas into the ground. Conservative Anglo politics have often been based on maintaining white power at the expense of Blacks and Mexicans. The result of this emphasis is a poor and under-uneducated state.
What will the future look like in Texas? Will the coming demographic majority find the leadership needed to prepare itself for political rule? Or will a reactionary Anglo minority find a way to hold power?
The 1974 midterm election was a Democratic triumph in a time of Republican ascendancy. The Congressional Class of ’74 made a long-term impact on Washington. But as it turned out, ‘74 was just a warm-up for the Reagan years.
In 1974 Democrats picked-up 43 House seats and 4 Senate seats. Many of the newly-elected Democrats considered themselves liberals. Two years later Democrat Jimmy Carter took the White House. Yet it was the unique circumstance of Watergate combined with a deep recession that propelled Democrats. Richard Nixon’s big win over George McGovern in 1972 was more telling of the future.
The impact of Watergate on Republicans in 1974 is funny because Congressional Republicans really had nothing to do with Watergate. It shows how you can get nailed sometimes just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I wish I was old enough to recall Election Day 1974. It must have been a lot of fun.
Less fun is that ‘74 and Carter’s win in ‘76 were not indicative of the political times. Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. He brought with him a Republican Senate. Reagan dominated the 80’s.
If possible Democratic gains in 2006 are to be sustained, it will require hard work from all of us. Winning one election is just the beginning of what needs to be done.
Houston Mayor Bill White has in recent days taken two steps that will benefit the people of Houston. These two positive actions involve asserting and expanding the place of government in Houston.
Mayor White signed an agreement that will assist low and middle income persons in buying a house. This will impact one Houston community in particular that has seen property values go up in recent years. Here is a clear case where government works better than private for-profit developers. Residents in this one area had fought off the developers.
Also, Mayor White approved five new operators for Houston’s 311 system. Houston residents can call 311 with questions about city responsibilities. I have used 311 to report street lights that are out. Not long after I’ve called the lights have been fixed.
Government can be a beautiful word. A word that conveys shared responsibilities, fair distribution of resources and care for one another. Let’s work as loyal Americans to enhance our freedom and prosperity by supporting an active and decent government.
An Electoral Urban Legend Is That Bush Would Have Defeated Clinton in 1992 If Perot Had Not Been A Candidate. This is Not So
An electoral urban legend is that George H.W. Bush would have defeated Bill Clinton in 1992 if Ross Perot had not been a candidate. This is not so.
In ’92 Bill Clinton won 43.0% of the popular vote. Bush took 37.4% and Perot 18.9 %. The popular vote was not very close. In the Electoral College, Clinton won 33 states in addition to D.C for a total of 370 Electoral Votes. 270 are needed for election. The Electoral count was not close either.
If you look at the state-by-state breakdown of the ‘92 election, you won’t find 101 Electoral Votes where Perot made the difference in favor of Bush. You can look at the ’92 results here. Perot may have cost Bush Ohio, Georgia, Colorado, Montana and a small number of other states. But when all the votes are accounted for you see that Bush lost it on his own.
The impact of Perot in ’92 is still sometimes asserted by the right as yet another way to try and delegitmize the Clinton Presidency. Don’t believe it. Clinton won that election any way you measure it.
I support Chris Bell for Governor of Texas. That’s why I’m frustrated Bell asked Kinky Friedman to quit the Governor’s race.
Friedman should quit. He should quit because all he does is block discussion of real issues. His campaign is a series of silly quips to go along with the distraction of borderline racist comments.
What’s frustrating is how badly Bell misread Friedman’s candidacy. Friedman opposes the two-party system. His joint appearances with former independent Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, along with consistent bashing of both Republicans and Democrats, make his point clear. Friedman is not going to go away to clear the path for a Democrat or a Republican.
Bell is steamed because some rank-and-file Democrats are leaning towards Friedman. In my view this is because, at times, some so-called liberals and progressives have lost their way. Some of our friends value a notion of personal autonomy and independence more than they value the idea of society working together to make life better.
Friedman strikes a chord with voters who view liberalism or progressivism as rooted in individuality and personal expression instead of in a conception of a better society.
Friedman is not going to just quit. Bell will have to win voters with a strong campaign and good ideas. He needs to remind Democrats that the core of worthwhile politics is helping others.
1910 Midterms Put Both Woodrow Wilson & F.D.R In Office For First Time—Will 2006 Produce Such Leaders?
Big Democratic gains in the 1910 midterm elections were part of a 12 year period of consistent progressive victories. Democrats gained 56 House seats and 10 Senate seats in 1910. Among those swept into office as first-time officeholders were Woodrow Wilson as Governor of New Jersey, and Franklin Roosevelt as a State Senator from a normally Republican district in the Hudson River Valley of New York.
The election of Wilson and F.D.R in 1910 is worth thinking about. In a Republican year both men might have lost. Instead, benefiting from the strength of their own candidacies and from the national trend, Wilson and F.D.R were elected. Each would go on to win the White House for Democrats.
If the the hopeful forecasts are true, maybe the national trend of 2006 will bring many new Democratic officeholders to all levels of government. Maybe this group will produce a new liberal or progressive leader for our nation. However, this happy result will only occur if average people like you and I do something to help make it happen.
Mississippi Senator Trent Lott is angry because insurers won’t pay for property damage Lott sustained in Hurricane Katrina. Lott accuses the insurance industry of “outright meanness.”
As a prominent Republican Senator and former Senate Majority Leader, outright meanness is something Lott knows all about. It’s something he’s routinely practiced as a leading Republican since the Reagan years.
Lott is proposing legislation to investigate the insurance industry. No doubt the investigation is warranted. Still, the idea of the Southern conservative Lott using the federal government to go after private industry is ironic.
Lott may even end up doing other hurricane victims some good. Sometimes even lousy people can’t avoid helping others.
Lott’s concern about the conduct of the insurance industry mirrors Nancy Reagan’s work for stem-cell research after President Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Lott and Mrs. Reagan are two conservatives who did not care much about the misery of others until they each personally suffered a calamity.