This week, a couple of prominent Democrats write about how they see things after Ted Cruz's upset win over David Dewhurst in the race for U.S. Senate. Next week, we'll feature a couple of Republicans on the same subject.
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When David Dewhurst is not conservative enough for Republican primary voters, then Republican primary voters are no longer conservatives — they’re cannibals. I say this not as a Democrat (though I am one), but rather as a political strategist who is seeing a very changed landscape from the one we’ve grown accustomed to. Without the moderating influence of a healthy political minority, the political majority can chase its imagination down any number of rabbit holes. Don’t believe me? Just ask David Dewhurst, Jeff Wentworth, or even Kay Bailey Hutchison.
The Texas Senate District 10 race is arguably the most important race in this state this coming November. As it stands today, two thirds of the Texas House of Representatives is controlled by the Republican majority. With the recent additions to the Tea Party wing coming from Ted Cruz’s coattails, the House is likely to produce an extreme social agenda that will either delight or terrify, depending on your politics.
The Texas Senate is no bastion of liberalism and it isn’t moderate by any measure. And yet, for some reason, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst was just accused of being somewhere to the left of John Kerry. So the upper chamber of our state Legislature — ordinarily tasked with reigning in the impulses of the lower house — will shift further to the right should SD-10 flip, replacing Davis with Republican Mark Shelton as the senator from Fort Worth.
What makes this more than just another numerical win is what happens when there is virtually a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House. Republican leadership will lose control of the agenda and the only bills moving forward through the 83rd Session will be those favored by social conservatives. Issues near and dear to any other type of conservative or Republican will bow before those dictated by the newly energized, newly elected, Tea Party wing. Sounds like Shangri-La for the Republicans, yes? Well, not necessarily.
If Republicans win in SD-10, there will only be 11 Democrats in the Texas Senate. That means that in order for the majority to pass anything it wants, all they need to do is peel off one member of the opposition (or just wait for a day when one of them is running late, or steps out to use the bathroom) and they can pass anything they like. Think about that for a moment: All that’s standing between Texas and an absolute one-party rule is a traffic jam or a sick day. I don’t care what your politics are — that’s not good.
Suppose you are a large homebuilder with strong ties to the Republican Party establishment. Suppose you embrace many of the same principles as the new Tea Party members of the Legislature. But what happens when say, a sanctuary cities bill gets introduced? Will your opposition even be heard? Or will you simply be denounced as a conservative apostate or worse yet, a RINO, and dismissed from the conversation?
Let’s say you’re a member of a well-moneyed group of business people who firmly believe that dismantling the trial bar in Texas is the only way to secure economic growth. What will you do if the female, minority, or gay members of your group are threatened from separate corners of the political spheres in, for instance, the realm of marriage, voting rights, or reproductive medicine? It wouldn’t take too many dust-ups like these before the vaunted “Three-Legged-Stool” is over turned completely. This is not a hypothetical struggle. This is truly about how big a tent the Republican Party is able to hold up while it is being driven further and further to the right.
Essentially, with the Senate held by a virtual supermajority, the same folks who so ardently supported Ted Cruz would be running the show in Austin this coming January. Like I said: terror or delight.
The Wendy Davis race in SD-10 should be a rallying point for Democrats and for Republicans. It should be a moment to reflect on the larger picture, and not on any one individual issue. After all, this is a fight for their survival and, strangely enough, it depends on a Democrat winning.
Mustafa Tameez is the founder and Managing Director of Outreach Strategists, a Houston-based Public Affairs and Communications firm.