EL PASO, Tx. – Texas Democrats were exuberant at their convention, held here June 13-15, about their chances to sweep state offices in November. Their senior U.S. Congressman, Martin Frost, told delegates, “If George Bush gets beaten badly in his home state in 2002, that will send a message across the land.”

If the ultra-right loses in Texas, their ability to carry out broad reactionary policies will be severely diminished. More importantly, their chances of reelection would be mortally wounded.

The Texas Democrats have good reasons to be hopeful. In the March primaries, significantly more Democrats voted than Republicans. Texas’ 11-percent African-American population delivered almost 40 percent of the Democratic vote, and the Democrats are running an African American at the top of their ticket – U.S. Senate candidate Ron Kirk. When Bush ran for president, the state where he received the lowest percentage of African-American votes was Texas, according to Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tx.).

In fact, Bush’s overall success in his home state during the presidential race was nothing to brag about. Statewide, he received 59 percent of the vote, and only 52 percent in his home base of Dallas. This meager showing took place against an opponent who did not campaign in Texas at all.

Most pundits consider the “gorilla in the parlor” in 2002 Texas politics to be the growing Latino vote, and the Democrats are running a Latino, Tony Sanchez, for governor. When Bush ran for governor, he claimed to have garnered a tremendous Latino vote, but subsequent statistics showed that he had greatly overstated his success – he received no more than 37 percent.

Another factor that bodes poorly for the ultra right is the growing influence of union-member families in elections, in Texas and across the nation. The Texas AFL-CIO caucus of the Democratic Convention was attended by over 200 enthusiastic union delegates.

In 2002, all Republican candidates will be greatly burdened with their party’s disastrous national policies, and Texas Republicans will have even more onerous baggage because of developments in the state since Republicans took over. Convention speakers pointed out that the Texas treasury had gone from a $6.3 billion surplus three years ago to a $5.7 billion shortfall today.

Texas continues to be the execution champ of the Western Hemisphere, and the Republican governor vetoed a bill that would have prohibited continued executions of juveniles and the mentally retarded.

Medical practitioners and people who emphasize health care problems are voting Democratic, according to the polls. The governor sided with insurance companies against doctors on a “prompt pay” bill. The Republican-appointed Texas Workers Compensation Commission has recently lowered the ceiling on payments for worker injuries so low that many Texas doctors will no longer consider taking such cases.

Governor Rick Perry continued the trends set by Governor Bush in destroying the environment. The Enron scandal also hits close to Bush and his Republican supporters in Texas.

The only thing in current Texas politics that looks worse than Bush and his party’s past is their future. According to the Texas AFL-CIO, the Republican convention in Dallas, the week before the Democratic convention in El Paso, passed a string of stone-age resolutions and planks that included:

* Abolishing the minimum wage

* Abolishing all taxes

* Privatizing most government services

* Returning to the gold standard

* Withdrawing from the United Nations

* Abolishing the IRS

* Ending bilingual education

* Passing “Paycheck Deception” legislation to effectively drive unions out of politics

* Expanding Texas’ awful

“Right-to-Work-for-Less” law into a constitutional amendment and a national statute

* Opposing funds for teacher health insurance

* Privatizing Social Security

* Destroying public education through a “voucher” program

* Prohibiting state regulation of private and parochial schools

The Republican platform reeked so foully that their own top candidate, U.S. Senate candidate John Cornyn, publicly disassociated himself from it before the convention ended! If he wants to be reelected, G.W. Bush will have to pray for very short memories in Texas.

Jim Lane is a labor activist in Texas. He can be reached at pww@pww.org