Opinion: Wendy Davis’ campaign takes a nose dive

Posted by Jimmy Minnish on February 19, 2014 under Links | Be the First to Comment

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Texas Governor candidate Wendy Davis

Voting Democratic in Texas really ought to come with a disclaimer. The side effects include masochism, an overwhelming feeling of isolation and recurring seasonal depression every November.

But there was also a cautious measure of hope rippling through the wings of the state’s Democratic Party over the rise of Democratic state senator Wendy Davis following her filibuster against abortion rights restrictions in the Texas Senate last July. She later announced in October that she intended to run against Greg Abbott for governor in 2014.

She also should have announced that her supporters would be wise not to get their hopes up, because this year Davis has made an admirable effort to launch her fragile campaign directly into the sun.

First came the questions on whether Davis’ narrative of overcoming hardship as a single mother, attending Harvard Law and eventually becoming a state senator was entirely genuine. She managed to deflect most of the criticism and move on.

Not even a month later she expressed support of expanded gun rights in Texas, including the open carry of firearms in public spaces — tentpole issues for most Texas Republicans, but widely opposed by Democrats. Her statements drew ire from gun control groups and even the spokespeople of her own party, but Davis, it seems, was just getting started.

Last Tuesday, less than a week after her comments on gun control, Davis said she would have supported a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy — a major provision of the abortion rights bill she filibustered to disrupt — if only the law had been written with more “deference” to women and their doctors.

The response from her supporters is mixed so far, but it’s hard to believe that they aren’t disappointed. And they should be.

Taking these nuanced approaches to sensitive issues is the kind of garden-variety political maneuvering used by Democratic candidates to score votes from moderate Republicans, but for Davis, the strategy is unequivocally a terrible plan. To see why, you have to understand how Texas Democrats came to love Davis in the first place.

Considering her domination of state and national media following the filibuster, it came as only a mild surprise when Davis announced her intent to run for governor in 2014 — depending on your cynicism, it’s difficult not to think this was her plan the whole time.

Democrats were drawn not only by her support for abortion rights, but because she represented the human embodiment of a dream they were already chasing: breaking the Republican domination of Texas politics.

The idea of Texas eventually transforming into a swing state was being thinkpieced less than a month after President Obama entered his second term, but before Davis came into the national spotlight, state democratic organizers and progressive groups like the Battleground Texas PAC didn’t have a big-name candidate to stand for.

Keeping this in mind, to many Texas Democrats the sudden rise of Davis as a household name must have felt like the fulfillment of some kind of prophecy. This is why they should feel betrayed by her seemingly unstoppable insistence on either watering down the positions she’s taken or making cheap appeals to the other side for votes she probably won’t receive.

It’s one thing to vote with this nuance once you’re elected, but publicly appearing to sabotage your own image and distancing yourself from aspects of the filibuster that made you famous in the first place is cringe-worthy political suicide. Davis isn’t just alienating her supporters — she’s playing directly into the hands of her opponents, who are already gleefully promoting a narrative of Davis as a flip-flopping political opportunist who rose to prominence through lies.

And really, why wouldn’t they?

James Rambin is an English junior. He can be reached at jamesrambin@my.unt.edu

Feature photo: Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, a candidate for Texas governor, speaks with reporters following  an education roundtable in Arlington, Texas, on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. Photo courtesy of Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT

http://ntdaily.com/opinion-wendy-davis-campaign-takes-nose-dive/

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