Monday, March 06, 2006

Dallas Democratic Soap Opera, Continued

Let me explain -- No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
--Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride
Part 2. Damned Lies: Gay -- It's The New Black!

Constable Precinct 5 -- Amidst the gleaming skyscrapers with jets passing overhead it is easy to forget that Dallas is part of the old South. People still living today were here when open Klansmen ran the county government. The power of the reactionary racists only began to crumble with the end of the poll tax, single-member districts, and the Voting Rights Act in the late 1960's. More than a decade later a candidate for judge was still winning his primary by circulating a flyer showing his opponent's black face. Of course, by then, that racist effort was in the Republican party. But as Kristofferson sang, "Everybody's got to have somebody to look down on." The forces of bigotry have only changed their target, not their method. If the charge of "n-word lover" is no longer socially acceptable, they have found a new bugaboo to scare the timid with: homosexuality. Hence campaigns against gay marriage, gay adoption, or even against gay candidates as such.

A few years ago the Dallas County Commissioners were forced, by lawsuits under the Voting Rights Act that Delay & Co., Inc., are trying to kill, to redraw districts for Justice of the Peace and Constable so that minorities could win. This precinct was designed to be heavily Hispanic. Unfortunately, Hispanics in Dallas County have a very low percentage of registration or voting. When one Aurelio Castillo finally won the office, he turned out to be a debit to his constituency -- so much so that one new Hispanic JP refused to let his office serve her orders, since he was accused by many of being incompetent or worse. Next time out, awaiting possible trial, he drew several opponents in the Democratic primary in this very un-Republican district.

An early front-runner was a former deputy named Mike Dupree. Seeking to bump him out of the expected runoff, a less well known opponent went over to the dark side. Vile campaign literature, much like the old racist garbage, appeared attacking Dupree because he was gay -- and reminding folk that gay sex was still -- horrors! -- illegal in Texas. (This was before the U.S. Supreme Court finally struck down that absurd law.) Unfortunately for the old demagogic methods, the worst of the bigots had defected to the Republicans. Local Democratic elected and party officials denounced those filthy tactics, the backlash may have helped guarantee Dupree was one of the top two finishers, and he won the office.

The open manure spreader went away (and failed to win anywhere else either). Next time the hate-mongers were more covert. Nobody put their name on the gay-bashing stuff this time, and most of it was spoken, not printed. Dupree still won. You might think that would demonstrate that such tactics don't work in the Democratic primary in this millenium. Unfortunately, just about the time he was winning nomination to his second term, Dupree has a lover's spat with a man who decided to hurt him by calling the police and accusing the Constable of sexual assault on him, with lurid descriptions. The Dallas police hauled him in, but dropped the never-credible charges. The false accuser has since repented.

Four years later, the campaign of fear and prejudice is being tried again, with a personal twist. The first anonymous flyers were mailed out to Democratic voters even before the filing deadline, all quoting from the discredited incident report. Verbal denunciations of Dupree are being made again out in the precincts. The Constable is running for his third term, facing opposition from the brother-in-law of the embarrassment he had first defeated. It is a family feud writ large. Their standard-bearer in their campaign of revenge against their old enemy denies having anything to do with hate literature, but he is the only other one in the race. Qui bono?

You can read part of this in an article in the Dallas Observer, but it should be taken with a large grain of salt. They seriously underestimate the level of bigotry being fomented out there. After all, this is just some silly fight over in that poor brown part of town, so nobody they know would do anything nasty like that. The only thing needed for the triumph of evil....

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