The Election Day Ended; What is Next Texas?

We did it. We survived Election Day--Texas survived Election Day.

 

Given the tremendous amount of voter participation in the 2018 Texas midterm and the huge upswing in Democratic campaigning efforts, it was inevitable that there was going to be a big upset, whether Democrats up and down the ballot won or lost.

 

While both parties eagerly awaited the election results on Tuesday night, both parties also had tremendous confidence that the political climate in Texas has shifted.

 

Subjectively, talking to hundreds of Texans in person, on phone calls, and through texts yielded a far larger number of conservatives rather than liberals who were concerned about Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke and the increase in liberal political involvement in Texas.

 

Yet, liberals throughout Austin and Texas as a whole were also proud of the new political energy leading up to Tuesday night.

 

“And believe me, regardless of tonight’s outcome, Texas has changed. Forever,” I read Tuesday morning on a Facebook post from a liberal student at the University of Texas at Austin.

 

Has Texas really changed, though?

 

There’s no use arguing with the numbers. The Texas 2018 midterms broke many turnout records across numerous counties. A tremendous 36 million people voted early in the United States, and in Texas, the numbers look even better.

 

According to the Texas Tribune, the percentage of voters in Texas who voted early surpassed the turnout numbers of the 2012 presidential election.

 

"Turnout in the 2018 midterms surpassed turnout from the 2012 presidential election in the 30 counties where most registered voters in Texas live. That means more than 4,884,528 Texans voted early."

 

Another narrative that seems to get lost in the media is that the amount of registered voters has increased in Texas, too, meaning that a marginal increase in the percentage point for voter turnout means a lot more when so many more people are registered to vote.

 

Take this graph of Travis County turnout as of 2 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 6.

 

 

As indicated by the percentages on the right side of the bars, only 55.1% of Travis County registered voters had turned out to vote. However, 55.1% turnout equals 434,659 people who had casted a ballot. The 2018 midterm turnout at 2 p.m. greatly surpassed the 2008 turnout number, even though 66.1% of registered voters casted a ballot in 2008.

 

Again, the numbers don’t lie--people turned out. I’m not arguing with the numbers.

 

What the numbers don’t reflect is why Texans are getting involved, and how local governments, communities, and civic engagement enthusiasts can keep them involved beyond November 6th.

 

Texans were very responsive to their candidates on the ballot this year. Excitement and worries over Beto O’Rourke and many other Democrats exploded in Texas over the past six months. In truth, much of the excitement is contributed to discontent with the President Trump. According to a preliminary exit poll, about two-thirds of Americans who voted in the 2018 election voted the way they did because of Donald Trump.

However, talking to Beto’s supporters and field organizers yielded many interesting conversations about what people thought about the Democratic candidate. “I haven’t felt this way about a candidate since Obama. He’s going to be in the White House next. I can feel it,” an Austin-based Beto campaign field-organizer told me at a voter registration drive in August 2018.

 

This sentiment was not unique to him alone. As I write this very sentence I can overhear the following statement in the halls of the University of Texas at Austin about Beto: “Look how many people are excited to turn out.”

 

After all, when Beto returned to Austin on Sunday, Nov. 4th to speak to a crowd at Pan American Neighborhood Park in East Austin, roughly 5,000 people showed up, many last-minute, to support their candidate.

 

 

If the crowds alone weren’t not representative of Texans’ idolization of Beto O’Rourke, then maybe this giant Houston Mural depicting Beto as a superman for Texas might be convincing.

Image result for beto superman

 

Many Texans--many Americans--voted in the 2018 midterm election because of their love or hatred for a candidate and their affiliated parties.

 

Even eligible voters who did not vote, or at least did not plan to vote, played into this phenomenon.

 

When asked if he would vote and why or why not, Aaron, a 25-year-old from Georgia, replied, “There are people that are exciting. Bernie was exciting, Cynthia [Nixon] was exciting, and Alexandria [Ocasio-Cortez] is exciting. So would I vote in the future? I don’t know. If somebody came along that was exciting like that? Yeah. Probably.”

 

On Friday night , November 2, Lawrence O’Donnell asked Michael Moore to respond to voters like Aaron. He asked,“Can you talk to voters who don't think their candidates are exciting? Is there a reason to vote even if you don’t find your candidate exciting?”

 

Bluntly, this is the wrong question to ask. O’Donnell’s question presupposes that voting because a candidate is exciting is a good reason to vote. Let’s be clear; no sustainable democracy will exist if people ever only vote because a candidate is exciting. Americans should not vote because a candidate is exciting.

 

American democracy was not organized with the intention of propping up incredible, exciting candidates. It was hardly crafted to give any individual candidate enough power to warrant being individually effective alone. American democracy and governmental forces are tedious in terms of achieving anything. To believe that a candidate can alone cause great change is erroneous.

 

Exciting candidates come and go all the time. Grand empires flourished under exciting, inspiring leadership of a single leader. However, exciting candidates are singular. They don’t last. People, acting in collective units, cause change, not exciting candidates. Incredible amounts of people inspired by a single candidate can cause change, but not a single exciting candidate.

 

Relying on a single candidate to inspire Texans to vote and cause change in their communities is futile. It works in the short-term, but it does not inspire revolutionary, sustainable epistemological shifts for political beings. Citizens need a better reason to be political active.

 

If Texas has truly changed politically, then we should expect that people remain involved after Nov. 6th. While I am hopeful that this state’s people will continue to be politically active and contribute to their local communities, we should also remain realistic.

 

I would like to congratulate Texans for voting in such high numbers. What we do next to sustain that energy matters even more.