As I write this, we’re in the middle of a news cycle where the President of the United States pretty much committed treason on live television standing next to the brutal dictator who attacked our 2016 election. So I totally understand if the national crisis has taken eyeballs off the 2018 midterms. However, Texans need to not lose focus.
The biggest story in election news across the country now is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the young woman who took the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th District by storm to oust longtime representative Joe Crowley. It was a shocker, and it made Ocasio-Cortez a celebrity overnight. For many on the left, she is the vindication of a socialist uprising coming to take back the progressive movement from entrenched powermongers. For the right — actually, it’s the same thing, but they think making the powermongers contribute to national healthcare, housing and the like is a bad thing because the right lost its damned mind some time ago.
My question is: Why on Earth does any Texan care about what Ocasio-Cortez says or does?
I get that for the frustrated Bernie Sanders supporters Ocasio-Cortez feels like the vindication of a stolen primary. I hesitate to call a single win in a heavily-minority district over a white dude who phoned in his primary campaign a movement, but I can understand how her victory makes people feel, even if I don’t agree with the assessment of its meaning or with the idea that the primary was ever stolen.
Interest in what Ocasio-Cortez means for the map in 2020, though, is putting the cart way before the horse. Houstonians in particular have got way more important things to be doing than wondering about the tweets of some Yankee who has virtually no chance of impacting our city or state.
Texas liberals have an abysmal tendency to sit out our midterms, and that’s very dangerous in 2018 because we have a governor race. Even people I know who are politically knowledgeable seem to forget that we have our own Latinx superstar gunning for the top executive job in the state. Lupe Valdez is the single greatest hope we have to undo a generation of Republican rule in Texas and return us to some semblance of sanity last seen under Ann Richards. She hasn’t captured the popular attention of the far left thanks to her ties to law enforcement, but how anyone can fail to look at her and see progress writ large is beyond me.
We have Beto O’Rourke running for Senate, and at least he is getting enough spotlight that I see signs in yards when I drive through the medical center. That might have to do with O’Rourke’s Sanders-like pledge to not take PAC money and habit of calling for term limits, things I wish he’d stop saying because it’s going to be very awkward when he breaks both of those promises. The one thing I can applaud Ocasio-Cortez for is her needling Ted Cruz on Twitter, which riles up our least-competent Senator without O’Rourke having to get his hands dirty.
Having a Democratic senator is arguably a bigger deal for Texas than even taking the governor mansion back. And, it’s an exciting race. The fall of Ted Cruz, who failed in his bid to save the Republican Party from nominating an inept fascist and now-obvious traitor, has been the latest example of a career that encompasses the worst of the Tea Party buffoonery. O’Rourke is hopefully sanity re-establishing itself in the upper house, and that seems way more exciting for Texas than whatever Ocasio-Cortez is doing in New York.
Did you remember that Texas District 7 is on the verge of flipping? It’s long-been listed as one of the chinks in the red armor, and now Lizzie Fletcher is out-raising John Culberson. With a little luck and a lot of local work, a segment of Houston badly in need of reform could get a representative who might make that happen. At the very least, we’d remove someone who inexplicably blocks the expansion of the rail out into the west of the city.
Here’s a thing to remember about the Russian hacking and social media propaganda campaigns: They work by reducing large questions to basic binaries on a large scale. It was easy enough to use sock puppet accounts and hashtags to divide the country between Trump and Clinton because everyone was focused on these two towering figures. Those campaigns cannot work the same way among hundreds of smaller, local races. They make poor breeding ground for mass disinformation campaigns.
But what those campaigns CAN do is laser-focus on a minority woman as the harbinger of a socialist battle royale to the point we’re talking about her instead of who might be our governor or control what we do about the next inevitable flood. The Republicans would much rather have us fighting over something we can’t change than something we can.
So congrats to Ocasio-Cortez, and my hat’s off to anyone she inspires. But Texans need to get their eyes off New York and their feet in our own streets.