The high-minded Lincoln-Douglas debates of the 19th century aren’t coming back anytime soon.
But the political debate style of our modern era — more Broadway performance for TV and Facebook — remains important. Debates will, hopefully, help whittle down the 20+ candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.
The Democratic National Committee has announced 12 presidential primary debates. The first two are in June and July of this year, in Florida and Michigan, respectively. No Texas city is currently on the list.
Plenty of politicos want to change that.
“I want to have a Democratic sanctioned debate in the primary and a Democratic-sanctioned debate in the general, right here in Houston, Texas,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee at an event last month in the nation’s third largest city.
The Texas Democratic Party is gunning for Texas, too.
“With the second largest national convention delegation and as the biggest battleground state, Texas voters are critical to the future of our Party and nation,” TDP Executive Director Manny Garcia told the Texas Signal. “We look forward to a Democratic debate in Texas. We remain in ongoing conversations with the Democratic National Committee.”
Top 5 reasons Texas should host a presidential debate
- Economy. The state’s big cities of Dallas and Houston have the hotel and restaurant capacity for large events. Each is an arts, cultural, and culinary mecca in their own right.
- Politics. Texas is a newly minted swing state and is the Big Prize for Dems nationally with 38 electoral votes. The president is under water here – in so-called red Texas.
- Diversity. Texas is a microcosm for the country, given our diverse population and culture. Houston is the most diverse city in the United States.
- Issue portfolio. There’s no better signal that Democrats are serious about tackling health care, climate change, and immigration than to come to the Lone Star State, which is struggling with all three.
- Everything is bigger in Texas. We know how to put on a big show, full of pomp and circumstance. We do the spectacular and can broadcast it across all 20 of our media markets.
Texas is changing
In his still-talked-about 2017 essay, “America’s Future is Texas,” Lawrence Wright illustrates how politically divided Texas is, like the rest of the country.
“One can drive across [the state] and be in two different states at the same time: FM Texas and AM Texas,” he wrote in the New Yorker. “FM Texas is the silky voice of city dwellers, the kingdom of NPR. It is progressive, blue, reasonable, secular, and smug—almost like California. AM Texas speaks to the suburbs and the rural areas: Trumpland. It’s endless bluster and endless ads. Paranoia and piety are the main items on the menu.”
[Editor’s note: We take issue with “smug–almost like California,” but that’s a digression.]
FM Texas made historic gains in the 2018 midterm elections and, ultimately, many observers believe will dwarf AM Texas. Demographics and expected population growth in and around Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin are in Democrats’ favor.