Tag Archives: Yellow Dog Democrats

Castro clears the decks for Beto O’Rourke

I swear I thought I could hear the faint chants way off in the distance.

“BE-TO, BE-TO, BE-TO … “

And on it goes.

They could be coming from breathless Texas Democrats who have worked themselves into a tizzy over news that U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro has decided to forgo a challenge to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in next year’s mid-term election.

Thus, the way is cleared among Democratic Party loyalists to rally behind the candidacy of U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who’s been barnstorming our massive state of late, acquainting himself with Democrats who want little better than to oust Cruz, the fiery Republican senator who I’ve dubbed — in not-so-friendly terms — the Cruz Missile.

O’Rourke, who hails from El Paso, stopped in Amarillo over the weekend for a meet-and-greet at a local restaurant. From what I have heard, the crowd to meet him was enormous, meaning that O’Rourke’s advance team — with a lot of social media help from a group called Indivisible Amarillo — did a good job of filling the room.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and let’s heed a dose of sobering reality — if you’re a loyal Democrat we used to refer to in this state as “Yellow Dogs,” meaning they’d rather vote for a yellow dog than vote for a Republican.

Texas flips from D to R.

Texas is a seriously Republican state. It has flipped just in the span of a few years from being reliably Democratic. The Cruz Missile represents the colossal strength of the state GOP. He is one of a complete slate of statewide elected officials who wear the Republican label.

Cruz will be difficult to beat, so let’s not believe that just because there might be an attractive and articulate challenger from the other party that it guarantees a neck-and-neck race. Do you remember another Democrat who was thought to be a serious challenger to the GOP vise grip in Texas? Her name is Wendy Davis, the former state senator from Fort Worth. She was supposed to present a serious challenge to then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in the 2014 race for governor; she lost by 20 points.

I am not crazy about one-party control at any level. I prefer a competitive two-party system. A healthy minority party puts the majority party on notice to defend its positions; a competitive environment makes incumbents accountable for the statements and the decisions they make on our behalf.

Maybe we can restore some level of competitiveness to the Texas political battleground. For the sake of those anxious Democrats around the state — and in the Texas Panhandle — I hope it’s O’Rourke who can make Cruz answer for his grandstanding and his transparent self-centeredness.

Come back, Republican Party


I share Barack Obama’s concern for the Republican Party.

Yes, the president of the United States — the nation’s leading Democrat, at least until January — is concerned that the GOP is fading away, it is morphing into something that cannot join in the act of governing.

That’s what he told late-night comic Jimmy Fallon in an interview to be broadcast tonight.


Spoiler alert: The interview is a scream.

Obama said his party is delighted at the prospect of facing Donald J. Trump in this year’s presidential election. Trump’s fellow Republicans, though, aren’t so thrilled.

The president said the Republican presidential nominee should be someone who can do the job, understands the issues at hand, and “ultimately can still move the country forward.”

Does that sound like Donald Trump?

I’ve seen dominant political parties here in Texas. Both of them — Democrats and Republicans — have at times abused their dominance over the other side.

I came to Texas in the spring of 1984 and settled in the Golden Triangle region, which at the time remained a strong “yellow dog Democrat” stronghold. Local Republicans felt disrespected and dismissed by Democrats who held tightly onto virtually every office in three counties — Jefferson, Orange and Hardin.

The political landscape has shifted dramatically in Texas. Republicans now are the top dogs. They have clamped vise grips on every statewide office in Texas.

I moved to the Panhandle in January 1995 — and into the heart of GOP Country.

The Democratic Party virtually doesn’t even exist here, no matter what the few of them around the Panhandle would say.

Has it been good to have one party so dominant? No.

The president’s point, though, is that the national GOP has become something unrecognizable from the party that used to take pride in being able to govern.

As the president told Fallon: “But what’s happened in that party culminating in this current nomination, I think is not actually good for the country as a whole. It’s not something Democrats should wish for. And my hope is, is that maybe once you get through this cycle, there’s some corrective action and they get back to being a center-right party. And Democratic Party being a center-left party. And we start figuring how to work together.”

Work together. I believe that’s how government works best.


Texas may prove to be Trump GOP testing ground


If Donald J. Trump is having trouble wooing Texas Republicans into his embrace, then he might be having even more trouble everywhere else.

Ross Ramsey’s excellent analysis in the Texas Tribune lays out the problem that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee is having as he tightens the grip on his quest for the White House.


Ramsey hold up Ted Cruz as an example of Trump’s Texas dilemma.

A lot of Texas politicians backed the junior U.S. senator’s bid for the White House. Cruz backed out of the race after the Indiana primary. He’s been mainly silent about Trump’s campaign ever since. Cruz has returned to work in the Senate.

His friends and allies, though, aren’t any more eager to attach themselves to Trump’s train than Cruz has been.

Trump said some pretty spiteful things about Cruz during the campaign. And, no, they didn’t gin up much sympathy from me … as I didn’t want Cruz to be the next president of the United States. If you’re Cruz, though, you should take some of these epithets personally.

And then there was that hideous attack on Heidi Cruz, for crying out loud!

Gov. Greg Abbott is kinda/sorta backing Trump. Ramsey noted that recently Abbott made a speech backing Trump without ever mentioning the candidate’s name. How do you do that?

Then again, Abbott has his own Trump burden to bear, given the state’s investigation into the defunct Trump University and the campaign contribution that showed up immediately after Abbott — while he was Texas attorney general — dropped the state’s legal action.


Let’s not forget former Gov. Rick Perry, who once called Trump a “cancer on conservatism.” He’s now backing him out loud and proudly. As Ramsey points out, Perry also said he’d accept a vice-presidential invitation if it came from Trump.

Many actual Republicans in Texas accuse Trump of being one of them in name only. You know, a RINO.

But as Texas Republicans have demonstrated time and again since ascending to power in this state, they are willing to put actual qualifications and fitness aside when selecting candidates for high political office. Party labels matter more than anything else.

To be fair, Democrats did much the same thing when they ran the show. We still actually have a smattering of those “Yellow Dog Democrats” out there who’d vote for a yellow dog before they’d vote for a Republican.

Trump’s fight for the love of Texas Republicans remains a daunting task. As Ramsey notes:

“Many others in the GOP seem stuck on the road between their original choices for the Republican presidential nomination and Trump, the apparent winner.  Some will convert. Some will get out and proselytize for the nominee.

“But not yet. That first sale is the hardest one to close.”

Restrict judges' fundraising

Restricting Texas judges’ ability to raise money from campaign contributors is a smashing, capital idea.

Let’s do it.

Oh, I almost forgot. Texas is the place that doesn’t like restricting political activity even among judges who are supposed to remain impartial and fair to all who appear before them in court. The big-donor lawyer isn’t supposed to be treated differently than, say, the lawyer who gives to another candidate who happened to run against the judge before whom he or she is appearing.


Ross Ramsey’s analysis in the Texas Tribune speaks to possible changes, though, in state law that might mimic a Florida restriction. Florida elects its judges, too, but judges cannot go around asking for money; that’s left to campaign committees.

It’s not nearly a perfect solution. My preferred reform would be to appoint judges initially and then have them stand for retention; if they’ve done a good job, voters can keep them in office, but if they mess up, voters have the option of kicking them out.

That won’t happen in my lifetime in Texas.

According to the Texas Tribune: “If you are an incumbent judge and you call a lawyer and ask for money, what is that lawyer going to say? No?” asks Wallace Jefferson, a former chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court who now practices law in Austin. “That incumbent judge is going to raise more money. But no one should feel pressured to contribute.”

Jefferson is one of my favorite Texas judges. He always makes sense and I wish he still sat on the state’s highest civil appeals court. But … I digress.

One interesting ploy that many well-heeled lawyers use is to contribute to both candidates running for the same judgeship. Walter Umphrey is a high-octane plaintiff’s mega-lawyer in Beaumont, where I used to live and work. He is known as a Yellow Dog Democrat, but he would give big money to Republicans, just to cover his bets in case the Republican won a seat in Jefferson County, which at one time — but no longer — was one of the state’s last bastions of Democratic Party loyalty.

The whole notion of judges collecting campaign money from lawyers who might represent clients before those very judges is anathema to me.

Ramsey writes that a lot of Texas lawyers and judges feel the same way. They want to change the system.

The problem, as I see it, lies with the many other lawyers and judges who like the system just the way it is.