Texas had waited decades to have a deciding role in a presidential primary. But when our state finally took the national stage last week, the Texas Democratic Party bungled its chance to be a political power broker.
A convoluted system of voting and then voting again undercut the state’s influence and left the rest of the country wondering: What on earth is Texas doing?
While the Democrats’ original goal of using precinct conventions to increase party activism was laudable, last week’s debacle should leave no doubt that this primary-caucus combination is unworkable. Instead of capitalizing on an energized electorate, the Democratic Party managed to quash enthusiasm with a chaotic, hours-long process that rattled voters’ confidence in the system.
Those who stayed up late on election night seeking definitive results no doubt were perplexed to learn that the wait would continue — perhaps until June. Now, more than a week later, the confusion persists, with both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton claiming victory in Texas.
Tales of missing results, unprepared precinct chairmen and general disorder still are trickling out in the post-election aftermath. And if party leaders had any lingering uncertainty about the urgent need to simplify this process, the almost-too-strange-to-be-true Sandra Crenshaw saga should convince them to start rewriting their rules. The former Dallas City Council member ran a caucus that nearly turned violent and eventually ended in a standoff at a police substation after Ms. Crenshaw told Obama supporters that she planned to alter voting totals to bolster Mrs. Clinton.
To their credit, state Democratic leaders have begun to discuss the system’s failings. But some have shirked responsibility, describing this as an “inherited” process and shifting blame to their predecessors. They conveniently fail to mention that the party has had 20 years to recognize that the Texas Two-Step is more of an awkward shuffle that leaves voters with stubbed toes.
The party’s challenge now is to move quickly to enact reforms. While the next presidential primary is a distant prospect, Democrats have no reason to wait. This election revealed Democratic caucuses as onerous and unnecessarily complicated.
Describing this as a two-step process was wildly optimistic — as voters who were stuck in overcrowded caucuses late into the evening can attest.
Now, the state’s Democrats must dispense with all this talk of dancing. Texans just want the chance to vote.
THE THIRD STEP
You’ve voted. You’ve survived the caucus. Now write a letter to the state Democratic Party to get the complicated system changed.
Boyd L. Richie, chairman
Texas Democratic Party
505 W. 12th St., Suite 200
Austin, TX 78701