Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of Wendy Davis’s famous filibuster against abortion restrictions. While the 11-hour protest made her a national darling of the Democratic Party, you won’t find language about abortion anywhere on her campaign site. And unless she’s directly responding to an attack or a question, Davis rarely brings it up herself.
It was always well known that Davis didn’t stand a chance in the race for governor, but there was a glimmer of hope she could shed light upon the archaic views of Texas’s Republican Party by attacking them head on. Unfortunately, the Davis campaign hasn’t played it that way. Instead of embracing her inevitable loss and using her national spotlight to do real battle, she balked. She’s backed away from abortion (that nasty “A” word) almost completely, and progressive issues like immigration, gay rights and universal healthcare have taken a back seat to the standard, run-of-the-mill campaign topics.
Take a look at her “about” page. It doesn’t mention her filibuster against abortion clinic restrictions at all, despite that being the biggest reason why she is the Democratic nominee.
Take a look at her “issues” page, which should theoretically contain more hard-hitting policy talk on abortion, immigration reform and gay marriage. None of those are mentioned. Instead, she lays out a three-part plan for education reform, a plan for the economy that is weak at best, some fluffy stuff about government accountability and an obligatory piece on veterans.
There is not a single controversial word on the entire page. Nothing that would scare the Republican Party.
While the economy is important, Texas’s economy is doing fine. And while veterans are certainly important, most of those issues are federal — not state. It’s time for her to look beyond the humdrum issues that everyone has always talked about and start talking about things no one is talking about — the things that got her here in the first place.
Davis needs to come to terms with the fact that her campaign was never going to be successful, and instead start hitting the Republicans where it hurts. She needs to bring the hammer down on abortion, gay rights and immigration reform just like she did in that 11-hour filibuster that rocketed her to national stardom. But she hasn’t, and she probably won’t. She’s too focused on winning a campaign that was a loss from the beginning.
So instead of talking about issues that matter — issues that will be the future of the state of Texas — she’s moved to the middle, and her campaign is suffering for it, with her Republican opponent Greg Abbott beating her more severely than I originally thought possible.
Take a look at this poll, recently published by the Texas Tribune:
The poll shows Abbott leading in every single category. The strongest wins for Abbott are on fiscal issues, with 49 percent saying he would perform better on the economy and only 28 percent saying Davis would do better — a 21-percent difference. Similarly, on taxes and the state budget, Abbott had a 19-point advantage over Davis.
The only two issues Davis even comes remotely close to Abbott on are public and higher education. There, Abbott only has a 5 and 7-point advantages, respectively.
I have written since the beginning that a Wendy Davis win was very unlikely, but that this could be a turning point for Texas politics. But at this point, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I was probably wrong. The longer Davis spends attempting to appeal to middle-of-the-road voters, the less time she spends highlighting the utter insanity of Abbott’s platform.
While she’s recently taken on his support of reparative therapy for gays in a successful social media campaign, it might be too late to have any real impact. She’s always expressed her support gay marriage, but it’s never been a central focus of her campaign, and she’s never spent time talking about it until now.
Dallas Voice, a newspaper for the gay community in Dallas, interviewed Davis two weeks ago and asked her why it had taken her this long to speak out on issues facing the LGBT community. Her response? That she “wanted to focus on education,” but that’s disingenuous at best. She was trying not to alienate people so she could win more votes.
And what about abortion? What about Abbott’s support of the law that Davis filibustered, which as now successfully passed and shut down almost half of the abortion clinics in the state of Texas, including every single rural clinic? She’s said nothing. Her campaign has been carefully avoiding the “A” word, choosing instead to focus on vague terms like “healthcare” and the “war on women.”
And what about guns? I guess it was a pipe dream Davis would ever attempt to hit back on the vitriolic rhetoric of gun rights advocates in Texas. Instead, she’s publicly supported an open-carry law in Texas since February, despite the outcry of her own party — again, another attempt to smooth over differences in order to attract votes at the expense of real conversations.
Her campaign is still clawing at this absurd idea that she could actually win the race, instead of talking about real issues that highlight how boldly the Texas Republican Party ignores the wants and needs of young Texans, women and minorities. Davis’s campaign, at least from my point of view, was never about winning. It was about changing minds. To the extent she could have won now and changed minds later, her foray into the middle seems reasonable. But she was never going to win, so what’s the point? Where are the conversations we were supposed to be having this entire time?
If we never talk about these things, they will never change. Davis has wasted months in the national spotlight attempting to get votes Texas wasn’t ready to give her instead of engaging Texas progressives and having real conversations with her opponent. Texas will go blue eventually, and those conversations will be had eventually — Davis just won’t be the knight in shining armor we all thought she would be.