But today, as word of Aaron Pena's announcement that he will not seek re-election spreads, I'd like to focus on the lessons that Texas Democrats can -- actually, make that have to -- learn from his betrayal in order to move forward:
1. If you smell a rat, there probably is one.
Aaron Pena was a half-assed Democrat but he was our half-assed Democrat. The truth is that Democrats should have removed Aaron Pena from office with a better candidate long before he had the option to switch parties or perch atop his pension. Instead, Pena was left to grow rotten, and by the time the smell got unbearable, it was too late to do anything about it.
2. One bad Democrat negates all of the good ones.
Pena's party switch helped give the Republican Party the supermajority in the house, all but insuring that only those policies authorized by God whispering in Rick Perry's ear would get passed during the last session. The argument for supporting bad Democrats is that an East Texas Democrat can't be like a West Texas Democrat, who is a little like a Travis County Democrat but he wears boots. If Democrats cannot begin to see the problem with having 254-flavors of what it means to be a Democrat, then we are no longer a Party -- we're an all-you-can-eat buffet, like the Golden Corral of political concessions. And who likes to eat at the Golden Corral?
3. It's time to lose the phrase "moderate Democrat."
Calling someone a moderate Democrat instantly defines all other Democrats as a bunch of hairy-armpit liberals who want to tax the sale of mood crystals to earn additional state revenues. A moderate Democrat is a hiding place for weakness, fear and cowardliness. Moderate Democrats switch parties, lose elections, alienate base voters and make the rest of the Democrats on the ballot look "radical" when they should look like good Democrats. From now on, we are either Democrats or Bad Democrats. We need to vote for the good ones and boot the bad ones out of office.
4. We need more fighters.
Time and time again, when the going got tough, Aaron Pena gave up. But it's not just Aaron Pena. We see examples of people unwilling to fight for things that Democrats should be fighting for all too often and make no real effort to replace them with people who are willing to fight. We saw an instance of it just last week in the SDEC's prioritization of protecting Democratic incumbents over civil rights; a decision so short-sighted that it makes one wonder what value there is in a committee that is more concerned about the state of the Democratic Party today than the state of Texas for future generations.
So, it's up to us, Texas Democrats. We can vote for good Democrats who fight or suffer bad Democrats who run. We can demand more or we can accept less. We can learn from Aaron Pena or we can keep electing people just like him.