With the exception of a few runoffs the election now turns to November, and messaging changes out of necessity. Sometimes election cycles are characterized by dueling issue sets. That’s not the case this cycle. We have very distinct issues that are going to establish the election. Rather than look at the issues and how they are impacting people directly we are better served by seeing how the issues resonate within the context of happiness and hope.
The closest we have to preexisting conditions are the 2018 and 2020 Senate races compared to the HISD runoff election. I’m limiting this to HISD Position Six since it was the only competitive race and likely the only race that reflects the current political conditions rather than a candidate set which was a fairly certain outcome that could have modified voter turnout in the runoff election. Looking at the election results we see a bit of a change from 2018 and 2020.
In HISD Precinct Six precincts the 2018 and 2020 aggregate election results were strikingly similar for the two Senate elections. Excluding third party candidates, Republicans saw a 1.2% increase in the vote in 2020 compared to 2018 levels. In the HISD Runoff election Republicans saw another 9.0% increase in the vote total. This nine percent is composed some degree of a change in underlying political sentiment and some degree of increased GOTV efforts by HCRP for the race.
We have one other data point of interest. The 2018 and 2020 general election percentage of vote compared to the primary percentage of vote. That, too, is remarkably consistent with a 0.1% change in the split between the two years. With the splits remarkably similar we have no reason to doubt the change in the 2021 HISD runoff election is a genuine change in the overall political sentiment.
Who is Happy?
While the academics argue the why, polling shows conservatives are happier than liberals. Rather than look at why political belief blocks have a difference in happiness we can see opportunity if we look at what the disparity in happiness means for party affiliation. If a person is unhappy, all things being equal, they will gravitate to what brings them hope. Doesn’t matter if it’s the poor playing the lottery in a disproportionate amount or the forlorn going to church for comfort. They bring hope and comfort to the unhappy.
Fear and Hope
Fear is a strong motivating factor and pushes people off a position. This is different than hope which is a draw. Simply being afraid enough to be pushed into being open to a different voting path doesn’t help Republicans if we don’t have a corresponding message of hope to draw the disenchanted and scared voter to us. Harris County has an opportunity where prudent messaging engages both fear and hope at the same time giving the possibility for a significant shift in voting this cycle. Inflation and crime are out of control in the County, and that message is resonating in the overall political climate. This is an opportunity to have a unified message all the way down the ballot. The message needs to be one of hope though.
Bail isn’t supposed to be an instrument of oppression, but the current lax bail policies are making us horribly less safe. Once a week I hear gunshots either at the office or at home. It wasn’t like that even a year ago. This is a message of both fear and hope. From a County Judge and Commissioner’s Court position the argument can be crime is out of control, and we are going to do what we can in order to make sure the situation becomes controlled. This will happen both from the standpoint of making sure that our law enforcement entities are fully funded, recite how the democrat majority tried to reduce funding to law enforcement, and then point out that the Commissioner’s Court can use the power of the purse strings to make sure the District Attorney’s office is making full use of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure to act as a check and balance against the current permissive bond judges.
Texas Code of Criminal Procedure
Art. 16.16. IF INSUFFICIENT BAIL HAS BEEN TAKEN. Where it is made to appear by affidavit to a judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals, a justice of a court of appeals, or to a judge of the district or county court, that the bail taken in any case is insufficient in amount, or that the sureties are not good for the amount, or that the bond is for any reason defective or insufficient, such judge shall issue a warrant of arrest, and require of the defendant sufficient bond and security, according to the nature of the case.
This message carries through all the way down ballot. While the Court of Appeals judges can’t indicate how they will rule on the issues they can indicate they would be open to considering such a request from the District Attorney’s office. The County Judge and Commissioner’s Court candidates can discuss applying pressure to have the District Attorney’s office make such requests if they believe bond is insufficient to protect public safety. The criminal court judge candidates can talk about how they will give due consideration to the public safety prong of the bond assessment factors. Repeating public safety over and over taps into the fear of out of control crime in the county and provides the hope of solving the problem by making sure the public safety factors are given due consideration.
Inflation and Social Services
Inflation is at a 40+ year high and we all suffer because of the extra cost it imposes. A message of hope and solution for inflation helps bring candidates to our side in November. Again, this has to be a message of hope not one of fear. Just as with crime, this can be a unifying message all the way down ballot. Change the focus from flooding and social issues to one of this isn’t the time for new taxes from taxing entities – like the upcoming HISD bond rumblings – and focus on how we can spend Covid and flood relief funds for measures that help every day needs.
Instead of using Covid funds to pay for abortion like Judge Hidalgo wants use Covid funds to increase WIC allowances. That directly contrasts our vision of appropriate social spending to that of the democrats on Commissioner’s Court as well as belies the Democrat’s message that Republicans don’t care about babies after they are born. We become the party of hope rather than special interest, and not only gain from the message of hope but also move the public sentiment against any new taxation measures that may be raised. We benefit by bringing hope to answer the fear caused by inflation.
Resist Conservative Primary Messaging Issues
This isn’t the time to be talking in terms of conservative focused messaging that plays well in the primaries. If we focus on Critical Race Theory we lose. That’s a message of fear and is counterproductive to the opportunity we have before us. Focusing on property tax reform – while a good idea – is a bad message this cycle. The transition from a property tax to a consumption tax just heightens the fear of the struggling middle of the road voter who is more concerned about inflation and meeting their family’s immediate needs.
Solving crime, redirecting spending to core services and prudent social relief efforts, and no new taxes either in the form of sales tax or governmental bonds is where we move hearts and minds this cycle. Social program spending should ebb and flow, and right now it needs to flow in the form of more targeted spending. By contrasting socially constructive spending to the Democrat’s social engineering and pet priorities we draw a contrast between our value system and their value system. We look like problem solvers while they look ever more extreme.
By intentionally choosing to be unifying and giving people hope we have a chance to win. Not only the criminal courts, but on any proposed bonds and the County Judge/Commissioner’s Court seats. The time is ours, but are we wise enough to see the opportunity and seize it?