Members Only | August 2, 2019 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
On Texas, Should Republicans Freak?
One of the parties is in true disarray. It's not the Democrats.
The Times ran Friday a story on DISARRAYED DEMOCRATS!
Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns said they are a “torn party” lacking “clarity” on its presidential nominee. The debates exposed “divisions over ideology and identity” in a party that’s “united only in its desire to defeat President Trump” (my italics).
The Democrats are “plainly torn,” they wrote, “over how best to take on Mr. Trump and how aggressive a program they should embrace.” Moreover, they said, the Democrats are “sharply divided over what kind of standard-bearer would best bridge the larger generational, gender and racial differences shaping the party” in 2020.
You might start feeling doom by the time you get to the sixth paragraph, as if the Times is describing a party on the brink of collapse—until you come to your senses.
Parties are more or less always in a state of flux. They are complex social organisms containing lots of moving parts with no one in perfect control. Fighting is how they sort things out. Fighting is the process. It’s—what’s the word? Ah, yes, politics.
There’s nothing abnormal about what the Democratic Party is doing. That goes for being united “only in its desire to defeat” Trump. Don’t let anyone tell you it needs to stand for something other than victory. Voters saying that are probably rationalizing what they want, which is unseating an unpopular authoritarian criminal president.
Turns out an unpopular authoritarian criminal president is a galactic agent of chaos.
Moreover, the Democrats are—you know—liberal. They disagree. They disagree about everything, and they disagree about everything because they are liberal. Liberals believe in freedom of thought and individualism, and they take a dim view of hierarchies of power. Conservatives, on the other hand—they just love authority. That’s why they’re conservative, and why the GOP always looks more organized than the Democrats.
But even when the Republicans are disorganized, that doesn’t spell doom. The campaign press tends to encourage the view that if a party is in disarray, it can’t win. Again, look at the Republicans. Trump’s candidacy barreled through more traditional candidates, scattering party actors left and right. Yet he prevailed. Maybe that’s to Trump’s credit. More likely, it’s a sign of the complexities of national elections.
The campaign press does something else. It gives the impression that power creates order—that the party in power is more organized than the party out of party, otherwise it wouldn’t be in power. Not so. It would appear, if the state of Texas is any indication, that an unpopular authoritarian criminal president is also a galactic agent of chaos.
What’s going on in Texas?
Nate Cohn, of the Times, said last year that it’s “an anti-Trump rebellion.” The Lone Star State has a lot of cities with lots of suburbs with lots of college-educated white voters souring on the president if they ever liked him. Cohn said these voters formed the base that pushed Beto O’Rourke to nearly knocking off Ted Cruz. Cruz is quite popular there, but evidently the president is inspiring a search for alternatives.
That was last year. This year, three House Republicans from Texas have announced they won’t fight for their seats. That makes a total of nine Republican incumbents nationally—so far—who have said they won’t run again. This could be nothing, but it could mean something given a Republican exodus prefaced last year the biggest Democratic gains in the House since the Watergate backlash of the late 1970s.
One of those is Will Hurd. He told the Post last night that he won’t be returning to Washington. His retirement is major news, because he’s from a swing district; he has stood up to Trump; and he’s the only black member of the House GOP conference. (South Carolina Senator Tim Scott will be the last black Republican in Congress.)
After news broke of Hurd’s imminent departure, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes tweeted: “Time for the GOP to start fully freaking out about Texas.” Is that accurate?
Let’s say it’s wishing thinking given the last Democrat to win Texas was Jimmy Carter. Still, there’s a reason to be wishful. The UT Tyler Center for Opinion Research released a new poll showing all but one Democrat tying or beating Trump in Texas.
Something is going on in Texas. It’s not clear what, but one thing is clear.
One of the parties is in true disarray.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.