Fight or Flight: Aaron Peña's Party Switch

As rumors began to swirl about his switching parties, State Representative Aaron Peña tweeted a blog post that I wrote a few weeks ago about the "Crisis of Character in the Democratic Party."

Peña's tweet of the post long after it had been pushed into the archives of my blog made me realize that the wound is still there.  To play off of Harold Cook's excellent metaphor of Peña leaving one party for the come-hither look of another, it's as though Democratic activists and their establishment players have been sleeping on opposite sides of the bed for quite some time now.

It's a messy marriage.  Peña's likely party switch didn't surprise me, but it did disappoint me.  Peña has always made himself available to me, and most bloggers, so in the process of writing this post, I decided to ask him if he had any comments for me.  This is what he wrote:

"I've been a Dem. since I first worked for Hubert Humphrey at the age of 5.  Was Pres. of Hidalgo County Young Democrats, State Pres. of Tejano Dems. Twice national delegate and one time national platform committee.  Was one of Clinton's top Texas donors.  Ran for state party chair.  Texas party took for granted Hispanic community and ostracizes moderate and conservatives.  I have spent my life trying to break the direction of the shortsighted cabal in charge."

My follow-up question was easy: "So why give up now?"

His answer?  Not so simple.  "Still thinking.  Go get em."

Whether you agree with Peña's ideologies or political choices he's made as a Democrat, one thing has always been fairly evident: he's not afraid of confrontation.  He's ready to fight for what he believes in.  On a personal level, his potential party switch makes me wonder what I could have done differently.  On a Party level, though, it makes me wonder how weak a party must become in order for it to no longer be worth fighting for.

Horses, and many prey animals, have a biological response caused by acute stress known as "fight or flight."  In times of great peril, their heart rate will go up, their peripheral vision narrows to focus soley on the threat facing them and they experience "auditory exclusion," the inability to hear anything around them.  There is a moment -- sometimes a split-second of time -- where all of these physical reactions enable them to either have the speed and agility to run away, or the strength and focus to stay and fight.

And maybe that's where Peña and I must go our separate ways.  Because while the Party has consistently disappointed me, since age 13 when I learned what a blow job was from Bill Clinton; since the first time I ever voted and my mom announced to a bunch of pot-bellied Republicans in line in front of us that I was there to vote for "Tony Sanchez, even if he is going to lose;" since our Gubernatorial candidate refused to be seen with our President; even after all of this, there is still so much worth fighting for in the Texas Democratic Party.  There is a woman whose body is controlled by a man.  There is someone on death row who will be killed for a crime he didn't commit.  There is an immigrant whose plight is the cultural makeup of this country.  There is a child across the street who doesn't have health insurance.  And there are two people who love each other who deserve equal rights.

There is struggle ahead and difficult change.  It is the moment of deciding whether we choose fight or flight, and I say we fight.  And while he's well-equipped to do either, I wish Peña would do the same.

6 Response to "Fight or Flight: Aaron Peña's Party Switch"

  • el_longhorn Says:

    Hard to fault the Dems for switching. If there was a hint of activity on the Democratic side, some indication that the leadership understands it needs to change and that the party understands it needs fresh ideas and new thinking, that it understands it needs to foucs on what its message and core issues will be, some signs of life, I would tell Ritter and Peña to stay. But I am not seeing that. And session is right around the corner.

    The reality is that if you want to be relevant in Texas politics, you have to be a Republican. The debate is between the conservative and moderate Republicans. The Democrats are not even in the picture.

  • Daniel R. Lucio Says:

    It was disappointing to hear. Here was our take on it:

    Keep up the good fight!

  • Austin Stout Says:

    Thanks for the motivation. It's unfortunate that we that don't hear more battle-crying and less crying from our party's leadership. You're the first person of significance who's made me feel good about being a Texas Democrat since the election.

  • Mean Rachel Says:

    Thanks y'all. @Austin, I'm glad I was able to offer some motivation in an otherwise dismal time.

  • Cyrus Says:

    Texas party took for granted Hispanic community and ostracizes moderate and conservatives.

    He's certainly right about the first part. The second part is absolutely stupid, and shows exactly where his head really is (hint: it's not in the clouds).
    To say this party has "ostracized moderates and conservatives" - when we've done nothing but snuggle up to them, beg and plead and cave to them for the last two decades - is nothing short of ignorant. We've done nothing but give and give to the Sharps, Whites, Roses and Hopsons, while they continually concede the battlefield of ideas to conservatives and run as Republican-lite. What does Aaron Pena think we need to be more "moderate" about? Pena is a self-serving sycophant with nothing to offer any party or constituency. If he crosses the aisle, he not only won't be missed, he'll get his ass kicked in 2012. The GOP in Texas isn't gonna be able to carve out a Repub seat for him in anycase. They'll use him for whatever they can get out of him (which won't be much), then toss him on the garbage heap. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Take a look at the infamous memo from Van De Putte and Gallegos to Schumer after the 08 election. Schumer's conference with Lou Dobbs also spoke volumes about where Latinos stand with national party -- either they don't know or don't care. GOP is racist is about the only reason Democrats give Latinos to support them. That has run thin over decades and I understand why some switch or stay home. Su voto es su voz expects someone will listen to your voz. Democratic leadership has let us know that our voz no vale madre. Raza Unida happened in Texas for a reason, the Dems did not do enough to incorporate Mexican Americans. Same sorry story now. Sad to see racist comments against Pena show up now that he is GOP. Some still think there is only one way to be a "good, obedient Latino".