New York magazineJuly 6-19, 2020
LATE IN THE AFTERNOON on the last Monday in June, 430 Democrats, who had paid up to $100,000 each, clicked into a private, Texas-themed Zoom call organized by Joe Biden’s campaign. They were greeted by former Planned Parenthood chief Cecile Richards, whose mother, Ann, was the state’s last Democratic governor. They heard from Julián Castro and Beto O’Rourke, and they were treated to a performance by Willie Nelson, who sang a song with his son Lukas called “Vote ’Em Out.” It began, “If you don’t like who’s in there, vote ’em out. / That’s what Election Day is all about. / The biggest gun we’ve got is called the ballot box.” And they heard from Biden, who—just four days after a Fox News poll showed him narrowly ahead of Donald Trump in the state no Democratic nominee has carried since Jimmy Carter—told them, “I think we can turn Texas blue.”
From Amarillo to Brownsville to Beaumont to El Paso, you could practically hear the sighs: Here we go again. Texas Democrats hear a version of this overture in every election cycle as outsiders swoop in citing statistics about demographic shifts. The national party has long regarded the Lone Star State’s 38 electoral votes as the just-out of-reach golden key to perpetual success.
Still, the ex-VP is now basking in a double-digit lead nationwide, and we’re improbably entering month 17 of close polling between Biden and the president in Texas, which Trump won by nine points in 2016. The state’s Republican senators are warning that Texas will be “hotly contested” (Ted Cruz) and “at risk of turning purple” (John Cornyn). And after months of bluster from its GOP leaders—in March, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said seniors like him would be willing to die to restart the economy—Texas is under assault from COVID-19, and frustrations are turning into fury. Governor Greg Abbott has backtracked on plans for reopening as more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases flood in each day, while Houston hospitals are at capacity and millions remain out of work.
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July 6-19, 2020