This story is enough to warm the cockles of this poor Liberal's heart. Anything that tweaks the Shrub Administration puts a little extra pep in my step, but the news of a Texas Democrat doing it leaves me positively light-headed with excitement. It's either that or my pacemaker needs to have a battery changed....
Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk has a legitimate shot at taking Phil Gramm's Senate seat out from under the GOP, and Shrub's minions are none too happy about it (queue the chorus from "Celebration" right about now, wouldya??).
If Republicans have one sure thing, it ought to be Texas. In Bush country they hold all 27 statewide offices. It has been nearly 30 years since a Democrat has won an open Senate seat. When three-term Senator Phil Gramm announced his retirement last year, who thought Republicans didn't have a lock on his replacement? Just to make sure, the President's political strategist, Karl Rove, mineswept the primary field to ensure that attorney general John Cornyn, a stately, snowy-haired vote getter with a huge political bankroll, would have a straight shot at the job.
So how come the crowd attending a convention of rural electric cooperatives in a Dallas hotel last week — men whose weathered faces spoke of long days riding tractors and branding cattle — was getting such a kick out of the afternoon's speaker, the African-American Democratic nominee for Senator? Ron Kirk had them applauding from the moment he told them, "I sure wish Enron ran their business the way y'all run yours." By the time he had finished up with his line about giving the capital a dose of "what it's like to be on the front lines of problem solving," some were ready to pledge their votes. "If there is an honest person in politics," declared Billy Gillespie, manager of an electric co-op in Corsicana, "Ron Kirk is an honest person."
....The 48-year-old Democrat made a sparkling career by forging alliances across ideological and racial lines, from his election as senior class president at a largely white Austin high school through two runaway victories as mayor of Dallas, a Republican citadel. When George W. was a Governor toying with the idea of a run for the White House, his nickname for Kirk, then an ally, was "Vice President."
Not now. Kirk's candidacy poses a real threat of Election Day humiliation for the President on his home turf. Some polls this summer have given Kirk an edge, and all show an extremely tight race. He has mobilized heavy political backing from Dallas' conservative business elite and raised more money than Cornyn in Bush's old Dallas zip code. One contributor is Bush's own media consultant, Mark McKinnon, who counts Kirk among his former clients.
It's refreshing to see a Democrat with a legitimate chance in Texas. Most Conservative Republicans have become so complacent that they've forgotten that there was a time when Texas was heavily Democratic- and it wasn't all that long ago. Looking down one's nose at your political opponents is not a recipe for long term success. Perhaps Ron Kirk will provide the impetus that the moribund Texas Democratic Party has long needed. Even if it doesn't, I'm still going to enjoy watching the Republicans fret over a possible Election Day embarrassment.
The problem with the Texas Republican Party is that they are for the most part all hat and no cattle. Their success at the ballot box is largely due to Ronald Reagan, George Bush (older and younger), Liberal-bashing, and a truckload of fear-mongering. It's surprising how successful you can be when you discover how to pander to the fear and gullibility of the electorate. In Texas, all you really need to do is to use the word "Liberal" as a pejorative, and you're golden. Unfortunately, that practice only exposes Conservative Republicans as shallow and devoid of substance. Of course, when you can successfully paint your opponent as the spawn of Satan, who needs ideas or substance?