After Wendy Davis rose to near stardom when she staged an 11-hour filibuster to block a pro-life bill in the Texas Senate, the Texas Democratic Party tried to use her candidacy in the Texas gubernatorial election to rebuild party infrastructure that had dissipated during their nearly-two-decades-long absence from statewide office. She was subsequently held up as a new paradigm of a supposed abortion consensus though it was apparent that she stood in direct opposition to the actual consensus of the people of Texas.
Battleground Texas, a Democratic group that has spent a year and a half trying to make Texas more hospitable to Democrats, hoped to prove a point by Davis capture a larger percentage of the vote than in the 2010 contest, when Democrat Bill White lost with 43% of the vote. Senator Davis lost last night with a little less than 39% of the vote.
This places her somewhere between Bill White and the 2006 Democratic candidate, Chris Bell, when there were 4 gubernatorial candidates on the ballot who each took more than 12% of the vote.
If these campaigns were trying to prove a point, they certainly proved two important ones: that running a pro-abortion candidate is not a winning formula in the Lone Star State, and that the Latino vote is neither sympathetic to the pro-abortion message nor is it monolithic.
The difficulty of running a pro-abortion candidate was evident early on, when Wendy Davis failed to win several heavily Hispanic counties in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
In Webb County, which has a 95% Hispanic population, Davis lost with only 44% of the vote. The Democratic County Chair there chalked it up to ignorance of the electorate, saying: “To be honest, I think it was the name of the other individual…Madrigal is Mexican-American and [Davis] is white. A lot of voters in Webb County are uninformed and not educated about the issues. We’re trying to change that.”
The Chair might want to rethink this politely-phrased slight to the people of Webb County considering these “uninformed and not educated” people have reliably voted for the Democratic Presidential candidate in every election since 1916. Furthermore, a sample Webb County ballot lists 11 Democratic candidates, 3 Green Party candidates, and zero Republicans for any county-level race. It has even been ranked as the most Democratic county in the state.
Contrary to his assessment of the matter, the pro-life people of Webb County knew and know that Wendy Davis stands for abortion. Her visits to the county have been met with protest by local pro-lifers.
Even a major Democratic donor from South Texas expressed concern about David’s image as an abortion champion: “There’s a perception that Wendy Davis is pro-abortion, and that’s hard to overcome with us Latinos…It’s been hard for her to get away from that.” Nor would pro-lifers in the state allow her to.
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Before she had even announced her candidacy, Texas Right to Life had already set the tone with a 60-second radio ad explaining how “Wendy Davis puts late-term abortion ahead of our faith, our families and our Texas values.” And the ads continued through her campaign, airing in both English and Spanish.
The result? Despite vigorous and expensive voter registration and get-out-the-vote programs by Battleground Texas, Wendy Davis’s support among Latino voters dropped by 6% compared to the 2010 governor’s race. In all border counties, support for her dropped an average of 5%.
Earlier this year, an image of a baby born 3 months premature and wearing a tiny San Antonio Spurs jersey was posted to Facebook and reached more than a million people. The caption read: “Baby Christian might only be 2lbs and 2 oz but he’s still cheering on the @Spurs from the NICU! #GoSpursGo and stay strong Christian!”
The story was so popular that the people of San Antonio could follow baby Christian Soto’s progress through local news outlets, eventually learning that he had not only survived his time in the neonatal intensive care unit and was able to go home. The moment that he was released and finally got to meet his siblings was captured by a local videographer.
While following this story, I couldn’t help remembering images of Wendy Davis portrayed in the media as a singular act of epic bravery: standing up for the right to kill babies the size of little Christian….or older.
The reason baby Christian’s story was so popular is that the shared experience of the fear and uncertainty of preterm birth is so prevalent. Who hasn’t experienced either first- or second-hand the preterm birth where a tiny baby who is treated as a tiny patient.
That might explain why Davis’s support among female voters remained utterly stagnant compared to the 2010 race (both she and Bill White received 45% support). Women did not turn to her in droves despite being repeatedly told by the media and the Democratic Party that they should.
While Davis may not have strengthened the Democratic brand among women and Hispanics, she certainly strengthened the Planned Parenthood brand in Texas.
In an August email communication from the Wendy Davis campaign signed by Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, she said: “The day Wendy laced up a pair of pink sneakers and filibustered restrictions on women’s health care access, thousands of people flooded the Capitol from all over the state. We knew we were witnessing something special: leadership in action.”
Abortion advocates have insisted that pro-lifers, and Greg Abbott in particular, are the enemies of women’s health and well-being. Yet abortion advocates would rather close their doors and deprive women of health services than stop aborting unborn babies. And while they argue that abortions represent only a small percentage of their overall services, clinic closures serve as evidence to the contrary.
All the while Planned Parenthood, Davis’s biggest promoter, has been cornering the Texas abortion market. With all the news of clinic closures in Texas, Planned Parenthood has opened or plans to open several mega-clinics, one of them in San Antonio which is part of Planned Parenthood of South Texas.
Pair that with the fact that Planned Parenthood has begun to require all of its affiliates to have at least one abortion-performing clinic, and you begin to see the damage. When this announcement was made in late 2010, it prompted the resignation of the leader of Planned Parenthood of South Texas who had been with the group for 16 years. In that time, the affiliate operated no clinics that performed abortions. By 2011, this same affiliate reported having performed 1,765 abortions. They reported 1,804 abortions in 2012. And their mega-clinic had yet to open its doors.
What has Wendy Davis’s gubernatorial campaign in conjunction with Battleground Texas produced? Certainly it has resulted in an increased number of registered voters, especially among Hispanics. This did not appear to have the positive effect the Democratic Party presumed it would.
We should also consider Wayne Thorburn’s theory that Democrats won’t be able to make Texas competitive by sheer force of racial velocity. After all, people are free to think and decide for themselves, and there is no way to predict the long-term voting habits of a single ethnicity.
The fact that Hispanic Texans identify as more pro-life than their Anglo counterparts further complicates this. In fact, most Texans of all backgrounds understand that we cannot live in a world of unrestricted abortion where unborn human beings can be discarded if they are unwanted enough. A majority of Texans support the ban on abortions after 20 weeks which Wendy Davis opposed to gain her current fame.
So it seems that the only way Texas will turn blue or even purple will be if Democrats collectively hold their breath, and I wouldn’t suggest it.