The Jeffersonian: Politicks, Sports, and Culture

Monday, July 11, 2005

Chris Bell

So everyone's raving about Chris Bell's speech to the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC). Here's an excerpt:

The people in this room don’t need a pollster to tell them that the Democratic Party needs to do a better job, a much better job, of articulating what I think should be the core Democratic message: that education is the best investment in individual achievement ever made, and that a truly moral government is one that demands excellence not only from our kids but from our Governor as well. It’s one that tells parents that if they do their part, then we’ll make sure that teachers have the freedom and the resources that they need to teach our kids something more than how to take yet another standardized test. And if we are going to make teaching our kids the highest purpose of government, then we need to give greater rewards for doing the teaching.

Succeeding generations teach us over and over again that to achieve the American Dream, you have to go through the front door of the schoolhouse and work hard for yourself.

Sadly, as everyone in this room knows, far too many kids in this day and age, when going through the schoolhouse door, are heading in the wrong direction. They’re going out, not in, and the dropout rate is around 40 percent in this state – the worst in the country.


With college tuition rising faster than anywhere else in the country, Texas Democrats must show people that Rick Perry’s “deregulation” scheme has failed, and we must put and end to runaway tuition increases—what amounts to a tax on education for the middle class.

And with corporate cash infecting our elections, and 10 lobbyists for every state lawmaker in Austin, Texas Democrats need to demand political reforms that make our campaigns and our government more transparent and accountable.

And with more than 500 kids dead of child abuse and 150,000 kicked off health insurance, Texas Democrats need to get up every day and tell Republicans that budgets are moral documents that should reflect our priorities, and not a wish list for wealthy campaign contributors.

For too long, we have assumed that all we really need to do is wait for people to realize just how bad Republicans are before they started voting for Democrats again.

It is not enough to be right about them being wrong. We have to start defining a future not just for the Texas Democratic Party but for Texas as a whole.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for finding common ground, but when you have to choose between your conscience and compromise, you’ve got what I think is an easy choice. After all, Jesus didn’t need a dial-tested focus group to convince him to kick the moneychangers out of the temple. And David didn’t use third-party surrogates to attack Goliath. He picked up the five smooth stones and did the slinging himself.

With a Republican in his second term in the White House, Republican majorities in the House and Senate both in Washington and in Austin, and a Texas Republican Governor who wants to parlay six years of incompetence into yet another term in the Governor’s Mansion, maybe, just maybe it’s time to try something new. Maybe—borrowing here from the accidental wisdom of Rick Perry as he sought to avoid a traffic ticket—it is time to “get on down the road.”


There is a disaffected majority of Texans in the state who are waiting, just waiting to find the basic moral courage to talk about the world the way it is and not the way it polls. They are waiting for us to stop pandering to the issue of the day and to start offering visionary solutions to create a tomorrow that they can get excited about.

The New Mainstream is waiting for the Democratic Party to start getting serious about solutions.

You know any other Dem who wants to hop in the Guv'nahs race better start making a move quick. Because soon there ain't gonna be any more undecided Democrats to woo.

Update, 7:15 pm: In other Gov. news, Carol Keeton Rylander Strayhorn is reporting $7 million in the bank and touting that she raised $1.5 million in 10 days. Unfortunately, a recent poll shows her down to Perry by a 2 to 1 margin.

- Via Nate and the BOR.