|THE EYES OF TEXAS|
August 16, 2000
Kwame Holman reports on the Texas delegation at the Democratic National Convention.
KWAME HOLMAN: Texans are well known for bravado and swagger. But at this convention they're showing they also can be realists.
RODNEY ELLIS: I'm not going to make any predictions that Texas will end up in the Democratic column for Al Gore, nor would I advise the Vice President of the United States to spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on that.
MOLLY BETH MALCOLM: We realize it is an uphill battle. Any time you have someone from your state running for president certainly they are going to be the favorite son in that state.
KWAME HOLMAN: Texas' 231 delegates and 32 alternates are staying at one of the convention's outermost hotels, the Marriott hard by the Los Angeles Airport, a 45-minute ride to the downtown convention site. Some Texans speculate party leaders who assigned the hotels determined their state was irrelevant at this convention because it almost certainly will swing in favor of its Republican governor in the November election. And just minutes after their shuttle bus left the Marriott, it pulled into the Airport Holiday Inn to collect delegates from Virginia, another state considered a lock for George W. Bush.
DELEGATE: Oh, Texas. Oh, I'm from Virginia.
SPOKESPERSON: Well, welcome to the Texas bus.
DELEGATE: Well, all right now. Glad to be here.
SPOKESPERSON: Is this bus big enough for Texas?
KWAME HOLMAN: Perhaps recognizing that Texas Democrats might feel a bit ignored at this convention, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson stopped by the Marriott yesterday to give delegates a breakfast pep talk.
BILL RICHARDSON: I'm here to tell you that the national party and the Democratic Party and all of us in leadership positions have to recognize that your state is key for the future, you're important. We cannot neglect you. We've got to recognize also that we have the diversity of our party running so strong in Texas, and I see around the room, I see the faces of America, I see the African-American, I see the Hispanic American, I see the Anglo, I see the whole diversity of our party. We don't have to be like the Republicans. They scrounge everybody up. They put them on stage but you look at their delegates... Their ain't too much diversity there.
KWAME HOLMAN: State Senator Rodney Ellis represents the Houston area.
|A diverse microcosm|
RODNEY ELLIS: I think far more than probably any other state other than California. Texas and California -- Florida to some extent -- are very diverse microcosms, I think, of what politics in America will be like in the next ten years. I mean, clearly when we reach the next century... If the state of medicine is such that it will keep you and I alive, we may be around in wheelchairs to look at it, but clearly in the not-to-distant future people who are considered minorities in America today will be in the majority.
KWAME HOLMAN: The delegation Texas Democrats sent here is about 25 percent Hispanic and 25 percent African American. Most likely would call themselves progressive Democrats. But about half the delegation is white and many of them probably would say conservative Democrat is their ideology. Delegate Terri Moore is an assistant U.S. Attorney from Fort Worth.
KWAME HOLMAN: Is there conflict between the two poles within the Democratic Party?
TERRI MOORE: No, there's not conflict. That's the Democratic Party. That is the big tent party. It does and always has had lots of room for different opinions. And that's very different from the Republican Party where everything is scripted and they all have the same ideas.
KWAME HOLMAN: State chair Molly Beth Malcolm says the party draws energy from its diversity.
MOLLY BETH MALCOLM: It's just like whether it's our marriage or any other relationship that we have, we don't agree with each other 100 percent of the time. And again, what I think is important is when you bring people to the table and they actually sit down and they develop relationships with each other and they listen to each other and where they stand, then people are able to come together and find some common ground to work on, and that's what goes on in the Democratic Party.
KWAME HOLMAN: So everyone is comfortable philosophically under the Democratic Party tent?
RODNEY ELLIS: Oh, hell no. There's a lot of discomfort in the Democratic tent. And that's the beauty of this party. We fight it out. The bases are always fighting, but somehow we always manage to come together. But I mean, I think that's the nature of good public policy. Who'd want to be in a room where everyone acts alike, looks alike? You just pop up a few diverse faces on the stage, but in reality, it's more of the same old same old. That's not the case in the Democratic Party. It's good to have a good fight. I mean, as much as I feel passionately about the issues that I believe in, I always realize there's always a possibility that my perspective may be wrong.
KWAME HOLMAN: Midday traffic on the freeways to the convention site was unusually light yesterday and the Texas delegation bus with its smattering of Virginians aboard broke into song.
PEOPLE SINGING: The eyes of Texas are upon you, all the live-long day...
KWAME HOLMAN: Despite any perceived slight, these delegates believe they can play a role this election year. For instance, State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos plans to lobby Latinos outside the state.
STATE SENATOR GONZALO BARRIENTOS: We Latinos, specifically in Texas, can make an impact by telling the accurate record in Texas of what has occurred and showing New Mexico, California, Colorado the record exactly as it is.
KWAME HOLMAN: Does George W. Bush deserve no credit for some of the achievements in education and other programs that have assisted lower income people who oftentimes are largely minority in Texas?
STATE SENATOR GONZALO BARRIENTOS: What people should understand is that the governor of Texas is a weak position. The power is in the senate and in the house. We have, for 15 years, been working on education, on programs to assist the low income, and Bush can take credit for maybe one thing that he did in terms of social promotion in schools but the rest... The Democrats.
KWAME HOLMAN: And building the party's strength on the state level has become the primary mission of Texas Democrats.
MOLLY BETH MALCOLM: What we intend to do in the 2000 election is keep the Texas House, take back the Texas Senate, and we're only one seat away, and then in 2002 we're going to be ready to run a good statewide ticket. Now as far as the national ticket goes, we're still going to be out fighting hard for Al Gore, and even though he might not carry Texas, we know he is going to carry the nation and he's going to be the next President. So we're looking forward to that.
PEOPLE SINGING: The eyes of Texas are upon you...