Sunday, March 2, 2008

Fort Worthians really turn out

By Jim Lane

One of my union buddies called me to brag about the amazing early voter turnout in Tarrant County, which is just West of Dallas and includes the City of Fort Worth. Tarrant County is nearly as big as Dallas, but they have remained mostly Republican while Dallas went overwhelmingly Democratic in 2006, and they are still a bit sour about it and hoping to change.

An estimated 123,352 Tarrant County voters voted during the early voting week. Seventy percent of them were Democrats, my friend told me excitedly. For the same period in the 2004 presidential race, only 17,543 voted in total. That's a 700 percent increase, and most of those 2004 voters were supporting George W. Bush. My friend was justifiably proud of his county, and especially pleased to have been politically active with the union through bad times and, now, pretty good times.

I was glad for my friend but, being from Dallas, I checked some of the figures on the Secretary of State's page. Truly, Tarrant County had done well, with 7.7 percent of the electorate having voted Democrat before the final day of early voting. The Republicans only got 3.2 percent in Tarrant. The final day, incidentally, was a blockbuster. Some of the Texas polling stations had to stay open more than an hour after closing time, because of the lines.

But, Dallas had beat Tarrant, as I suspected, with 8.9 percent of more than 1.1 million voters going Democrat before that final day. The Republicans only got 2.5 percent.

It's pretty much the same statewide. The Secretary of State has predicted a record 30 percent turnout for the primary election. He expects another record in November. The Texas AFL-CIO has revealed that Democrats are beating Republicans 3 to 1 in this ostensibly "red" state, and that Democrats invariably improve their totals in the general elections. Republican office holders are noting that they got into office with fewer general election votes than the Democrats are now turning out in the primaries!

There seems to be no news about the oddball candidates. Gene Kelly, the political weirdo not the dancer and movie star, is using his name recognition again, as he has for decades, to force Texas Democrats into expensive runoff elections. This time, his victim is labor's choice for U.S. Senate, Rick Noriega. I only had one friend, a peace activist, call me to comment on Cynthia McKinney's race in the Green Party. I worry about my idealistic peace friends, whose single-minded and very courageous devotion to abstract ideals often leads them dangerously toward isolation.

No mention of Ralph Nader has come to my ears except for a satire on Garrison Keillor's radio program. Keillor's cowboy character, Lefty, asked the Nader character why he was running for president. Nader replied, "Why, because it irritates people. That's what I do, I irritate people" Lefty made his position clear: "I guess I ought to think more highly of chiggers and mosquitoes then." Dusty, Lefty's irascible cowboy partner, gets the Nader character to look at horse's tail until he falls into a hypnotic trance, then says, "He's been in one for the last ten years." Lefty ends by singing a yodeling cowboy song with the punch line, "Ralph Nader, get away from me!"

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