You know that old scene of students rushing to check the bulletin board to see if their name is on the list, for the school play or tennis team, scanning line by line and realizing their name had been left off. My feelings exactly when I saw the speakers list posted for this year’s Democrative National Convention: Bernie, Nevada Senator, New York Governor, Michigan Governor, South Carolina House Majority Whip, Mississippi US Representative, Wisconsin US Representative…name by name, day by day ending with our nominee, Joe Biden. But wait, I don’t see Beto O’Rourke or MJ Hager or Julian Castro or any other Texas representative, for that matter, set to speak on the national stage.
I immediately thought, oh wait, maybe this isn’t the full list. Maybe this is a work in progress. Maybe I’m missing part of the schedule. Surely, Texas, the second biggest and most populated state in the country, will have some spokesperson to represent us. Though many continue to debate whether the great state of Texas is a battleground state, let me resolve that dispute with a resounding yes. While on the surface, Texas may continue to look red, there is a gushing blue surge. From 2009 to 2019, the population of registered voters in Texas has grown from 12.9 million to 15.8 million, with four of the largest cities in Texas trending Democrat.
On November 6, 2018, I drove straight from the Fiesta polling location on I-35 to our Austin HQ watch party to see the results come in. After running the largest grassroots campaign and receiving the most votes for a Democrat in Texas history, Beto O’Rourke closed the margin to 2.6%, equating to around 223,000 votes, while also helping Texas Democrats secure two US House seats, two state Senate seats, and 12 state House seats. In 2012, Ted Cruz won by 16%. In 2016, Trump won by 9%. In 2018, the margin was less than 3%. As we said on the Beto campaign, Texas is not a red state, it is a non voting state. One of the worst voter turnout states in the country, right down there with Hawaii and West Virginia. But if we show up and make our votes count, we can flip this state.
That brings me back to scanning and rescanning the list of speakers at the national convention. With 38 electoral votes in play, Texas makes up 14% of the country’s electoral college. We are huge contenders with a voice to be heard, not just in a statewide pre-show, but in the national arena. But I refuse to hang my head or kick the dirt in discouragement. If we look at a list, and our name is not on it, that gives us fuel to work harder and be better. Texas has a blue flame just under the surface, and all we need to do is give it air. We don’t need a pep talk or rally cry. We are Texans. We need to band together and show up. Register those around us who have been forgotten or silenced, those who are just coming of age, those who have lost hope. Encourage each other to vote by mail if you can, vote early, and vote safely.
Liza Binkley is a former Beto for Texas organizer who, after ten years in film/tv production and political theatre in NYC, is now based in Austin working in politics and continuing her role as a film producer in documentaries, independent features and theatre. Follow her on LinkedIn, or Instagram.
Editors Note: Occasionally, Onward Texas brings in contributors to help shape conversation, bring in alternative perspectives and elevate Progressive dialogue.This article was written by an Onward Texas contributor and all opinions and expressions are their own.