February 2015 Newsletter
This month’s program may be one of the most important of the year: it will give each of you a chance to meet three of the men vying to become the next Chair of the Republican Party of Texas. Hopefully you’ll have an opportunity to ask them the questions that you feel will reveal their abilities, their plans and maybe even their prejudices – all important information to have.
Why is the next RPT Chair so important? Because the single most important job they will do is to turn out Republican voters so that we elect Republican candidates. Texas is so red that it shouldn’t be much of an issue, right? Any monkey could do it, right?
Not only no, but h*ll no. Voter turnout had been so low that it is no wonder that the other group thought that there was a way to get into Texas and turn her blue. Let’s look at the facts:
After the 1994 gubernatorial race between George W Bush and Ann Richards, turnout was at 50%. In 2014, voter turnout was merely 33%, and has never been over 38% in a mid-term year since that 1994 race. Another study shows that mid-term election turnout hasn’t been this low since 1950. The only time in charted history when voter turnout was so low was 1942, but most adults had a pretty good excuse that year: they were involved in fighting a world war.
I’ve found a few studies where the numbers vary slightly, but all show the same disturbing trend: Texas continues to be in the bottom 10 states for voter turnout when expressed as a percentage of registered voters. I find that bewildering.
It’s not just voter turnout rates that bother me; political and civic engagement has me deeply concerned. In 2010, UT released a national study on voter and civic engagement and Texas fared poorly by every measure. We ranked 42nd in voter registration, 49th in the number of citizens who contact elected officials, and 44th on the number of people who even discuss politics on a weekly basis. Sadly, the numbers haven’t changed in the last 4 years.
It points out that engagement as well as increasing voter registration and turnout is mission critical if we want to keep Texas red. We need a party chair that will focus on getting to and engaging those that we have not reached and refuse bow to the pressure of those who would divide the Republicans of Texas with rhetoric and litmus tests. We need a party chair that will welcome all Republicans and treat them all with sincerity and integrity. We need a party chair that will keep the RPT on sound financial ground. We need a party chair with vision and a solid management team; cronies may stay home, please. We need a chair that will make Texans want to become involved.
Chairman Steve Munisteri has been outstanding as the leader of the RPT. He inherited an organization deeply in debt and put it in the black, where it has stayed, in his first year. He has put an organizational structure in place that is designed to reach segments of our party that have been historically ignored. He has worked and sacrificed to make the RPT an organization that we can be proud of.
If the good work of Chairman Munisteri is undone, and voter apathy is allowed to climb, it is entirely possible that purple in on our horizon. Maybe even blue. Voter apathy and lack of civic engagement is precisely what will crack the door open and allow “them” to slip in. Teach your children well and make sure that your SREC people know how you feel about our next chair – it is that important.