NPR: Wendy Davis' Filibuster A 'Ray of Light' for Texas Democrats; Touts Efforts to Turn State Blue

On Wednesday's Morning Edition, NPR's Wade Goodwyn trumpeted Wendy Davis' pro-abortion filibuster in the Texas State Senate as a "tiny ray of hope" for Democrats in the Lone Star State. Goodwyn ballyhooed how "Davis took to the floor in a desperate filibuster" against a pro-life bill, which he labeled "one of the nation's most restrictive abortion bills." He later added that it was "as good a moment as Texas Democrats have had in 20 years."

The correspondent, a former leftist community organizer, also spotlighted the Battleground Texas effort, headed by former Obama campaign staffers, aimed at increasing Hispanic voter turnout in Texas. He underlined that getting higher turnout amongst this growing minority group was "the pot at the end of the Democratic rainbow – the donkey holy grail."

Goodwyn led his report by likening the Texas Democratic Party repeated losses to the state GOP to an armadillo being slain by a tractor trailer. He continued with his slanted language about Davis' filibuster:

Wade Goodwyn, NPR Correspondent; Screen Cap From PBS NewsHour Video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_eiwwfAnF8WADE GOODWYN: It's not easy being a Democrat in Texas. You're like an armadillo crossing a six-lane superhighway, running as fast as you can from the Republican 18-wheelers coming at 70 miles an hour. Most of the time, you're road kill. But last week, a tiny ray of hope peeked from behind the curtain of political irrelevancy: an attempt to derail one of the nation's most restrictive abortion bills. Democratic Senator Wendy Davis took to the floor in a desperate filibuster, and as she spoke hour after hour, thousands of women from around the state began to fill up the capitol to stand with Wendy Davis. (clip of protesters chanting, "Wendy!")

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst tried in vain to get control of the chamber, but it was like trying to legislate inside a tornado. As the last seconds of the legislative special session wound down to midnight, thousands of women inside the capitol took up the count. (clip of protesters counting down to midnight, then cheering) It was as good a moment as Texas Democrats have had in 20 years.

After playing a clip of one of Davis' Democratic colleagues in the state senate, the NPR journalist spent the rest of the segment on Battleground Texas. He played four straight soundbites from the Houston Mayor Annise Parker, a Democrat, and a final clip from liberal columnist Jason Stanford.

Near the end of his report, Goodwyn trumpeted how his featured Democrats were "heir to a political heritage that traces from Governor Ann Richards, through U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough, back to Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn – not to mention a lanky, backwater politician known for his arm-twisting savoir faire called LBJ." He concluded, "These young Democrats say they're ready to fight. They better be, because they're going to get one."

Back in May 2013, NPR correspondent Scott Horsley also played up the Battleground Texas effort, and like his colleague Goodwyn, turned exclusively to liberal/Democratic talking heads during his report. During a September 2011 report for Morning Edition, Goodwyn himself carried water for pro-abortion activists who were targeting Texas Governor Rick Perry and other state Republicans for cutting the funding of "women's health clinics" in the Lone Star State.

The full transcript of Wade Goodwyn's report from Wednesday's Morning Edition on NPR:


RENEE MONTAGNE: We've got a series going this week, 'Texas 20/20', bringing into focus the politics and demographics of a state where the Latino population is growing fast. Texas is a Republican stronghold, and has been for years. Still, the rising number of Latinos offers Democrats an opening.

This morning, NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports on the current state of the Democratic Party.

WADE GOODWYN: It's not easy being a Democrat in Texas. You're like an armadillo crossing a six-lane superhighway, running as fast as you can from the Republican 18-wheelers coming at 70 miles an hour. Most of the time, you're road kill. But last week, a tiny ray of hope peeked from behind the curtain of political irrelevancy: an attempt to derail one of the nation's most restrictive abortion bills. Democratic Senator Wendy Davis took to the floor in a desperate filibuster, and as she spoke hour after hour, thousands of women from around the state began to fill up the capitol to stand with Wendy Davis. (clip of protesters chanting, "Wendy!")

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst tried in vain to get control of the chamber, but it was like trying to legislate inside a tornado. As the last seconds of the legislative special session wound down to midnight, thousands of women inside the capitol took up the count. (clip of protesters counting down to midnight, then cheering) It was as good a moment as Texas Democrats have had in 20 years.

San Antonio State Senator Leticia Van de Putte played a key role that day.

LETICIA VAN DE PUTTE, TEXAS STATE SENATOR: Continuing that fight was a symbol of –  we're not buried; we're not going down. And it was the public that came to Wendy's rescue.

GOODWYN: But what happened next is emblematic of the Democrat's situation in Texas. Just when you think you've crossed the highway, here comes another GOP truck. The next day, while Democrats were celebrating their modest win, Governor Rick Perry simply called another special session. This time, the Republican legislature will pass their abortion bill, and splat will go the Democrats again. Still, there are objective reasons for them to have hope long term, and their names are Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, and Mayor Annise Parker's city of Houston.

ANNISE PARKER, HOUSTON, TEXAS MAYOR: The big cities in Texas are Democratic islands in the big red sea, and those Democratic islands are growing. Yes, we've had a long walk in the wilderness, and I don't think we're out of the wilderness yet.

GOODWYN: But now, the Democratic organizing effort called Battleground Texas is proposing to change all that, using the same kind of organizing effort that twice elected President Barack Obama. Former Obama organizers are coming to Texas for the long haul. Mayor Parker wants to believe.

PARKER: Battleground Texas is saying they will bring the resources into Texas to do the work that needs to be done. Show me the money.

GOODWYN: Parker is a political realist. Nearly 40 percent of Houston's population is Hispanic, but they currently comprise just 12 percent of the vote. Solving this Latino turnout problem is the pot at the end of the Democratic rainbow – the donkey holy grail. Parker says nothing's going to change unless the Democrats organize Hispanics full time – not just around elections.

PARKER: Part of that is age – the Latino population here is very young – part of it is citizenship; and part of it is simply generational.

GOODWYN: But Parker says the Democrats are advancing on the Texas GOP.

PARKER: The gains by Democrats are not because we are doing such an amazing job of organizing. It's because the Republicans charge farther and farther and farther to the right until they drive themselves off the edge of the cliff.

GOODWYN: A study of Texas demographics and voting patterns by the Houston Chronicle concluded the state will be a toss-up by 2024. But that's 11 years from now, a lifetime in politics. Anything could happen.

Jason Stanford is a Democratic political consultant and liberal columnist. Stanford says no way are Texas Democrats going to wait that long before making it competitive.

JASON STANFORD: It's just work. Good Lord – you know, when someone went to the moon, they called Texas. I'm not daunted by the size of the task. I'm daunted by an endemic sense of pessimism among Texas Democrats. We think we can't because we haven't.

GOODWYN: Jason Stanford, Wendy Davis and the Castro brothers from San Antonio; Leticia Van de Putte and Annise Parker – they are the next generation of Texas Democrats. They're heir to a political heritage that traces from Governor Ann Richards, through U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough, back to Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn – not to mention a lanky, backwater politician known for his arm-twisting savoir faire called LBJ. These young Democrats say they're ready to fight. They better be, because they're going to get one. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center