The Texas Presidential Primary: It’s Upon Us

As I write this, a juggernaut is fast approaching, like a runaway train set to knock the D/FW Metroplex (and incidentally, the rest of the state) utterly flat. It’s not just a light at the end of the tunnel anymore; it’s a blazing mechanical behemoth that’s impossible to avoid. It’s the Texas presidential primary, and it’s happening (gulp) tomorrow.

I’d normally refrain from discussing politics in this blog; like religion, it’s one of those topics that can get a writer into the metaphorical quicksand in no time at all. In fact, for today’s entry I was planning to cover a quiet little Hispanic music festival I attended this past weekend. But that’ll have to wait til next time. After quiet reflection (and a little prodding), I’ve realized that the primary is probably the biggest and, quite possibly, the most important event that’s going to happen to us here for years. Only the willfully ignorant or hermits living in caves are unaware of its impending approach, and even they know how significant this year’s contest will be.  

I’ll be straightforward with you: I’m a Democrat, which I know is a dying breed in this state. That’s how I’ll vote. I could personally handle either Obama or Clinton as my presidential candidate, though I prefer Obama. I like his politics, OK? I think it’s a foregone conclusion that the Democratic ticket will be either Obama/Clinton or Clinton/Obama. It’s hard to say which of the two will win here, because they’re neck-and-neck, and we have a lot of minority voters. My perception is that Obama appeals more to blacks and Hispanics, but Ms. Clinton will probably get a good section of the female and older vote.

As far as the Republicans go, I’m hoping for a McCain victory. I don’t see eye-to-eye with his politics, but I respect him a great deal for his unwavering service to our country, both in the Senate and in the military. I could live with John McCain as president. If that unrepentant fundamentalist Mike Huckabee gains the presidency, I may have to move to Canada. And I’m sure many of my fellow Texans would be happy to see my unrepentant Democratic rear go! I don’t mean to denigrate Mr. Huckabee — I’m sure he’s a nice guy, and he even plays bass in his own rock band (which is cool), but I happen to think it’s dangerous to have an ordained minister at the helm of the most powerful country in the history of the world. I am very much a supporter of the separation of church and state.

Texas is the third most populous state in the Union, so it offers up a lot of delegates in both the Democratic and Republican primaries: 161 for Democrats, 140 for the GOP. It’s doubtful that’s going to put either of the top Democratic candidates over the top, since there’s such a narrow margin between the two (53% for Obama, 46% for Clinton). And frankly, McCain is so far ahead of Huckabee, at 63% to 17%, that it’s impossible for Huckabee to catch up even if he wins in Texas and every other state remaining.  

Does that mean that the Texas primary is inconsequential? Certainly not, especially for us Democrats. The Republican presidential candidate may be all but decided, but ours isn’t — it’s still too close to call, though the pundits tell us that Clinton’s leading, and has been for some time. Campaign groups are out there stumping right up to the last minute, including a lot of high school kids who can’t even vote.  There are a heckuva lot of Hispanics present in both camps, and I’m thinking that that sector of the electorate is going to have a major impact on the outcome, not just in the Metroplex but all around the state. 

And here’s another thing:  many of us Democrats see this primary as an opportunity to loosen the stranglehold the Republican Party has maintained on our state since the 1980s. I’m afraid that many of us aren’t very proud of the fact that our current President is a Texan, because he hasn’t really done a decent job for quite some time, and frankly, most of us believe he doesn’t care much for us common folk. He gained a lot of political currency after 9/11, and just as he promised, he’s spent it — every last dime.

And in the wise words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

One thing we’ve seen as the primary approaches is negative press about the candidates, especially Barack Obama. Before, it was relatively distant (like the “I was Barack’s gay lover!” flap in the supermarket rags), but now that the primary is barreling down on us, it’s being given more play. It’s not exactly smear-campaign stuff, just press that shows the candidates in an unflattering light. I think the most obvious example was a story in the liberal Dallas Observer which basically painted Obama as a political lightweight who was lifted to power by an African-American “good ol’ boy” network in his home state of Illinois. I happen to know several people who were less enthusiastic about Obama after reading that article.

Here’s something else I’ve found odd: during the run-up to the primary, I haven’t heard a peep from a single Republican campaign, though I’ve been contacted by the Democrats several times now. Okay, so I keep a relatively low profile, and I hardly ever use my home phone; but I would think I’d hear from the GOP anyhow. I usually do during an election year.  Maybe it’s just because I’m a registered Democrat, and there are two charismatic candidates to choose from this time in my party. But you know, I’m not sure that the Republicans are trying too hard for Texas, I suspect because they’ve think they have it sewn up in November.  I hope they’re wrong; we’ve been a red state too long.