DALLAS – In the nation’s second most populous state, Democratic candidates withered and burned under an offensive blitz led by President George W. Bush of Crawford. However, organized labor’s performance surpassed all previous efforts. On the eve of the election, Texas AFL-CIO Communications Director Ed Sills wrote to all labor activists, “In the elections I have worked from this perch, we have never had this many labor reps in the field, we have never placed as many fliers into union member hands, we have never made as many phone calls, we have never sent as many targeted pieces of mail and we have never done as well in listening to our members’ wishes to hear primarily from local union officers in comparing COPE-backed candidates to their opposition. If there is a targeted union member in the state who has not received at least a half-dozen get-out-the-vote contacts, I would be surprised. This was a state-of-the-art grassroots campaign.”

Republicans swept all statewide races, including the U.S. Senate seat, the governorship, both houses of the legislature, the Court of Civil Appeals, and the Supreme Court. Only in a few local races did the Democrats triumph. For their part, the candidates worked hard and spent unprecedented millions of dollars. The trump card in the election was Bush himself. Neither his leadership nor any of his major policies, such as military aggression, virulent anti-unionism, or the curtailment of American freedom, was challenged by Democratic candidates. Most candidates did not mention the Bush turn in American politics; several did all they could to align themselves with it. Completely free from attacks, Bush was left with a clear offensive field that he used to full advantage.

Texas labor, with 6 percent or less of the workforce organized, did not set the political agenda nor the politicians’ choice of issues. Labor did what it could, and its efforts to turn out a big vote were rewarded with record numbers, particularly in the early vote and particularly among the state’s Latino voters.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org

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