Monday, March 06, 2006

Dallas Democratic Soap Opera, Conclusion

"It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it's God's own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared."
--Sherlock Holmes, "His Last Bow"
Part 3. Statistics: The Last Grasp Of Good Old Boys

County Court at Law # 3 (and some other races) -- Once Texas was a one-party state. Only Democrats ever won elections. The conservatives all voted in the one-party primary, and kept poor whites and almost all black and brown folk from voting by devices like a poll tax. Then the Civil Rights revolution happened. Suddenly *shudder* liberals began winning some Democratic primaries. A Democratic President from Texas ended the old regime with new laws and programs. The racists, the corporatists, and the fearful fled to the Republicans. They began working with turncoat Democrats to elect Republicans whenever liberals did win the Democratic primary. This began to grow like a snowball. When Reagan threw open the doors to the theocrats, the reactionary effort peaked. By 1999 frightened Texans had replaced every single statewide elected official with Republicans. In the big cities, nouveau suburban voters marched to the tunes spun by their reactionary ministers and did the same outside of minority-packed districts. Dallas County reelected its last countywide Republican in 1992. It was a one-party state again, run by the same kinds of people as before. Only the label had changed.

It wasn't enough. When power is used just to exploit people, it has to keep growing and showing momentum, or it collapses like a house of cards. The reason for the national Republican insistence on voting machines which are hackable and have no printed receipts, the reason for the intensity of the hatred they direct at anyone who questions the slightest part of their program (see the right-wing's attacks this week on their own Bill Buckley now that he has said Iraq can't be won), the reason for the unprecedented and gross midterm gerrymandering in Texas and other states, is that Delay, Rove, and their co-looters know they must never give up a single inch. If anyone points out that the Emperor is not wearing a glove, someone will get up the courage to question his entire wardrobe.

Part of the way these political monopolies work is by controlling the selection of judges. With every judge beholden to the Republican primary, the party got to insist on decisions which their big backers found agreeable. Sometimes this was to help a favored company, and sometimes it was to help some old friend. When there is no real challenge beyond the one-party primary, the judges who go along get along -- and serve a long time on the bench, until they collect their pensions. The network of abuse grows, from a slight nudge to the scale of justice, to an open fist on it, until real objective law is only a dream. The good old boys (and they are mostly boys, even with a few token women and minorities) are in total control, and even brag about it at their country clubs.

The crack in the wall these corporate enablers erected was their own exclusivity. The tokens were not enough to hide the truth. Black voters almost universally, and Hispanic voters by a huge margin, could smell the patronizing attitude and know they were not really welcome with the Republicans, unless they were willing to turn on their brothers and be trustees in the economic lockup. Unfortunately for the white good old boys, their birth rate was declining with prosperity, while the minorities were still increasing their numbers at a higher rate. This began catching up to the immigrant-bashing hate-mongers in California a decade ago. Now the numbers are catching up in Dallas County as well, as the frightened racists flee to outlying counties, thus accelerating the demographic demise of the Republican machine. In 2004 Democrats elected a Sheriff and some Judges, putting the writing on the wall.

Some of the old clique are still trying to hang on, by running Republicans in the Democratic primary. You've all seen the pictures of George Bush embracing a certain Democratic Congressman from south Texas who supports his whole program (likewise a Democratic Senator from Connecticut, but he's another state's problem). They notably used such a stalking horse to beat the President's most scathing Congressional critic in her own Democratic primary in Georgia, by getting Republicans to cross over there. (It didn't last -- Cynthia McKinney's back in the House again now, and still unbowed -- but it worked once.) They would love to work the same game in Dallas County, to stretch out their dying grasp on power by donning donkey's clothing over their dulling claws.

The most notable target of the vengeful Republicans dreaming of political Parthian shots is the first judge to break their monopoly, four years ago. Foolishly, they shot themselves in the foot in their own mouths in that case. In the late nineties their monopoly was rolling right along, but then someone started getting greedy. ("Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power....") It wasn't enough to get most of the rulings their way, they wanted judges to be totally under their thumb. When a few differed just a little from the desired outcomes, the party ran a serious campaign against them in the primary. They clobbered the designated sacrificial lambs with their army of little old ladies in tennis shoes and on phone banks. The others slunk away to private practice, but they underestimated one of those they had allowed on the bench as a token. They were to pay for it later.

According to later testimony, a party leader called the husband of one Republican judge and urged her to rule one way. Outraged, she refused. They ganged up on her and threw her out in their primary. Two years later, she switched parties, ran as a Democrat, and with help from a lot of Republicans (especially women) angry over the party's bullying of her, she became the first person to be elected countywide as a Democrat in ten years. That was the first crack in the wall. Once that momentum falters, once that sense that victory by the machine is inevitable fails, then people are no longer afraid of the naked Emperor. So it was: two years later the Democrats elected several people. That first person to put a break in the dam was Judge Sally Montgomery. She is the one person vengeful Republicans would most like to see beaten this year, when she runs for reelection.

They have a tool to use, if they want to crossover vote this year (but they may not get a lot of support for that, since they have a fierce battle for District Attorney on their own side). Judge Montgomery was challenged in the primary by a man who had voted in Republican primaries, but never on the Democratic side. He had the gall or cluelessness to claim -- falsely -- there was no contested judicial primary on the Democratic side in 2004, when he still voted in the GOP primary, and went even further to denounce Judge Montgomery for being an ex-Republican. This goes beyond mere chutzpah. It turned out he has a personal antipathy to her, for an incident in her courtroom where he claimed (to no result) an opposing attorney grabbed him. So he has run across the county, calling the kettle black from deep in a mine shaft of his own.

One of his big claims was that other lawyers don't think she is a good judge. That is denied by her own defenders (including former Democratic Chair Ken Molberg, a signer of a fact-filled letter at this page). Strangely enough, when the Dallas Bar Association did their poll this year in contested primaries, with attorneys able to vote for the best contender of either party, she was the only Democratic candidate to win a plurality, against two Republicans and her "Democratic" opponent (who finished in an embarrassing last place, beaten by her six to one). You can read the results at this page. Yes, those mostly Republican lawyers may still vote for one of their own candidates this fall -- but they like Judge Montgomery's opponent even less. That probably doesn't bother him, since his attitude seems to be that defeating her is more important to him than becoming a judge himself (since there were several other unopposed Republicans he could have run against).

This is not the only race where Republicans have decided to switch sides while they can; at least two more with GOP voting histories are running this year against longtime Democrats. We have no evidence (yet) that this is an organized effort by the other party -- these may just be the first rats to flee down the ropes to the dock as the rotten ship sinks. Not having all their voting records in front of me (I am taking the word of others who did the research), I shall not point specific fingers at those candidates whose Democratic credentials are curiously new compared to their opponents. I will say that you won't go wrong on that score if you follow the local endorsements of the Dallas County Young Democrats, which can be found at their website. Those are:
State House District 107: Andy Smith

195th Criminal District Court: Heath Harris

District Attorney: Larry Jarrett

County Court at Law #3: Judge Sally Montgomery

County Criminal Court #6: Alan Barr

County Court of Criminal Appeals #2: Jeff Rosenfield

County Clerk: Greg Allbright

County Commissioner, District 4: Scott Chase

Constable, Precinct 5 : Constable Mike Dupree

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