A few weeks ago, the Maddow Blog asked its readers: “How about it, blue dots in red states? Do you ever wonder if you’d be better off somewhere else? Do you get worn out by being in the political minority, or is it inspiring?” As a progressive, liberal, Muslim, feminist, Democrat living in yhe Lone Star State, this line of questions resonated with me.
Sure, I’ve had to deal with frustrating education and health care policies, and the blatant attempts to limit the reproductive rights of women in this state. I’ve heard ridiculous accusations by state legislators about American Muslims that have made me want to pull my hair out. I’ve cringed in embarrassment when Senator Ted Cruz has called our president a Commie on the national stage. But truly, the thought never occurred to me that I’d be better off someplace else.
Texas absolutely has a conservative majority, but I have never felt that I didn’t belong here. Texans are by in large friendly folks. We have a sense of independence and self-sufficiency, and anyone—regardless of their politics—who has a backbone and a sense of purpose usually gets respect. There’s plenty of space here in Texas, and as long as you’re not stepping on your neighbor’s boots, you’re usually free to do your own thing.
When it gets to Texas politics, it’s true that things can get a little rough. As a result, Texas Democrats are some of the steeliest Democrats in the country, mainly because we have to be. We’re used to fighting for what we want, but that’s not really a problem. (Anything worth having is worth fighting for anyway, right?)
In fact, because we produce fighters, Texas state politics has given some of the greatest liberal luminaries in this country’s history: Lyndon B. Johnson and his lovely wife Lady Bird who blew into Washington D.C. and brought liberal policies to almost ever aspect of the government with Texas toughness. Barbara Jordan, the first African-American woman elected post-reconstruction to the Texas state senate and the first black southern woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives; and our beloved former governor Ann Richards under whom the state enjoyed economic and social prosperity. Today we have folks like Julian Castro, Lon Burnam, Donna Howard and Kirk Watson fighting the good fight for progressives on all levels of government in Texas.
What’s more, Texas is quickly becoming a battleground for the progressive movement nationally. Democrats showed record gains in the 2012 elections, and under the direction of party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, we are organizing in a serious effort to give Governor Rick Perry a run for his money in 2016. Groups like Battleground Texas and Turning Texas Blue are making use of new media to connect disparate groups of progressives across our huge state for legislative advocacy.
Bottom line: This is a really, really exciting time to be a progressive in Texas. No one expects a wild swing to the left any time soon, but we thrill to ever political and social victory that brings our state politics closer to the center.