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Texas Democrats are lost

Memo to Texas Democrats: Drop national talking points or lose elections.

Beto O’Rourke
Beto O’Rourke lost his third election in a row, this time for Texas governor.(Luis Torres / Special Contributor)

By Dallas Morning News Editorial

Democrats in Texas have not won a statewide race since the mid-1990s and, in all likelihood, will face another four years on the outside looking in, playing defense against a hard conservative agenda.

That’s a political reality. Demographic changes have lifted Democratic Party wins in Texas’ major cities, but partisan redistricting and tone-deaf progressive agendas have shut out Democrats statewide.

Waiting for demographic change statewide to bolster Democratic fortunes is not a winning strategy. This is Texas, and verbatim talking points from the national party platform on border security, crime, abortion and other key issues are non-starters, too.

All politics is local, and Texas Democrats have to play a different strategy than the ultra-progressive one that the national party is playing. Just as we urge Republicans to avoid overreaching and to deal with issues that will move the state forward, Democrats must acknowledge what makes Texas successful and unique.

Acknowledge that crime and border security are problems. Embrace a more balanced assessment of the oil and gas industry’s critical role in the state economy. Look to West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin as an example of a Democrat who can survive in a red state by backing low taxes, fiscal responsibility and respecting the state’s energy economy and gun culture. Or look to moderate Democrat Henry Cuellar’s victory in a South Texas congressional district. He rejected the far-left wing, knew his constituents and didn’t sound like a coastal progressive.

As Democratic state Sen. Royce West of Dallas told Dallas Morning News political writer Gromer Jeffers Jr.: “It’s really clear that we are not talking to the people and providing the message that they need to hear from Democrats. Until such time as we do that, and that means not being tied to an ultra-progressive strategy, we’re gonna continue to have the same type of issues.”

Ah, a little introspection. Will Democrats listen?

In an ongoing series, The Dallas Morning News Editorial Board is writing about The American Middle, how we can fight extremism and build up common ground. Democrats in Texas must moderate their agendas to win statewide office.

We welcome your thoughts in a letter to the editor. See the guidelines and submit your letter here.

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