This is something I’ve never done before, or even imagined doing, to be frank. Keep in mind, I’m a journalist who primarily covers books and authors. When I’m feeling especially relevant, I write about a movie. And yet here I am participating in a fundraising campaign for Wendy Davis, and asking other people to participate too—by donating here, and by reposting and tweeting this with the hashtag #GiveToWendy.
Miss that link? Oh, don’t worry, you’ll see it again. Read this first:
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The nice thing about living in a state where you’re always losing—where the majority of lawmakers want to trample on your rights so badly that they will actively look for ways to turn minority, college-age, and other Democratic voters away from the polls on election day to do it—and they can do it, too, thanks, SCOTUS!—the nice thing, in short, about living in my favorite state, Texas, is that you never have to try to win.
After all, a female, pro-choice Democrat running for governor has about as much chance in Texas as a snowball in . . . Texas. And I never dreamed I’d be raising money for a snowball.
Then again, I never dreamed that I would be sitting in the Capitol wearing the same orange t-shirt for days in a row, eyes riveted on the Senate floor, watching a woman in neon tennies stand up for women’s rights against Rick Perry’s stooges and win.
And she did win, folks, no matter what happened afterward. I was there. That’s me in the hoodie, surrounded by my friends Frank, Kaci, Kareem, and Val.
WE were there!
That night, Wendy Davis won. They had to lie and cheat and bend the rules and finally call a rematch to undo the victory. But that doesn’t erase the fact that that night, against tremendous odds, Wendy won.
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Every one of them contains the word “longshot.” Every one of them also contains the words “Ann Richards.”
In 1990, the stars aligned for Ann Richards, and she won an impossible election in an overwhelmingly red state. When people talk about how she did it, they use the word “fluke” a lot. After all, it was a race without an incumbent, and GOP candidate Clayton Williams made that gruesome rape joke just in time, and a third-party candidate drew off a small but crucial number of votes. Total and complete fluke.
Leaving aside the fact that the state has inched blue-ward slowly but steadily over the past two decades, and that over the past year Republicans at the state level have become infamous for their rape gaffes, and that Wendy Davis is just the kind of misogyny magnet to bring out the very worst in the most bigoted Republicans—including, already, likely opponent Greg Abbott—and leaving aside the fact that most Americans blame the GOP for the expensive government shutdown—leaving aside all those things, let’s just take a look at the phrase “the stars aligned.”
When the stars align, we call it a “fluke.” But it wasn’t Clayton Williams along who got Ann Richards elected. It was my Nia instructor, who went door to door in the hot Texas summer, and my friend’s mom, who did fundraising, and all the women and men who campaigned tirelessly when Ann Richards looked like a poofy-haired and very melty snowball. It was the foundation of support that allowed her campaign to capitalize on that fluke and bring it home. It was everyone who had contributed to the campaign with their time and their dollars up until that point.
Dollars are important. Abbott’s already got 20 million of them socked away in his campaign fund, and there’s plenty more funneling into state groups like Texas Right to Life, which is already flooding the airwaves of South Texas with bilingual attack ads calling Wendy an “abortion zealot.” (Mattel must have started demanding royalties for the use of their other favorite term. Guess I’ll have to stop production on my “Furlough Ken” Ted Cruz t-shirts.)
Early money improves a candidate’s chances by making them look viable. All of the national media sources about Wendy’s campaign mention she was able to raise $1 million before even confirming her plans to run. They also say she’ll need a whole, whole lot more. If you know you’re going to vote for her in the election, and you want her to be a strong enough candidate to keep attracting support later in the race, go ahead and throw a dollar or two in the bucket right now. I hate to return to this snowball metaphor one more time, so I won’t mention how snowballs get bigger. You get the point.
If you checked out the Texas Observer piece I linked to up above, you may have noticed that in addition to listing the reasons why Wendy Davis can win, it also lists three reasons she can’t. The most important and daunting one? “Democratic Defeatism“: “Democrats aren’t just lacking party infrastructure. In some areas, they lack hope. Losing has become acceptable, even expected, among Texas Democrats.”
Why try to win? We keep hearing that Wendy Davis’s “star power” may not be enough. We fear it, in our sad little defeatist Texas Democrat hearts. But Wendy Davis’s star power, prodigious as it is, does not lie in her enviable hairdo. It lies in us. The stars aligned for Wendy in June, and the stars were the thousands of orange-t-shirted folks at the Capitol who risked losing their jobs to show up day after day in orange; the ones who got de-tamponized at the door, arrested, tased; the ones who watched the live feed and re-tweeted updates coming out of the Capitol when national news wasn’t covering the story; finally, the ones who helped her stand upright during the final moments of the filibuster, just before midnight, by standing with her and making our voices heard.
We’re the stars that aligned, y’all. And you know what the stars at night do in Texas.
Here’s the secure link. Give ’em hell.