What Texas Democrats Can Learn from Aaron Pena

When Aaron Pena switched to the Republican party last November, just weeks after being elected as a Democrat, the insult was palpable. Democrats in Texas had just suffered major losses across the state and the salt in the wound was a turncoat from the Valley who was more interested in saving himself than the people who elected him. There wasn't much good to come out of Aaron Pena's party switch.

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.


4 Response to "What Texas Democrats Can Learn from Aaron Pena"

  • Annie (LuAnne Leonard) Says:

    Excellent. Pena is a royal douche. And, he is NO LONGER our royal Douche. But a douche none the less.

  • Tim Sullivan Says:

    Love the Golden Corral comparison. The one and only time I ate there, their rolls were barely baked through. They were really soft and doughy. But there actually was a time when Mr. Doughy did fight. Pena was one of the 52 “Killer D’s” who crossed the Red River in an effort to stop the mid-census redistricting plot masterminded by Tom DeLay. That was a couple of years after I first got to know Aaron as a respected trial attorney in the Rio Grande Valley, who fought for the rights of consumers and workers and realized the purpose of labor unions. But that was then. Not sure what prompted the transformation in the years following that led Pena to deceive and desert his constituents. Your lesson #3 is right on. Democrats should be proud to be called liberal or progressive. That’s why they’re Democrats. They provide alternate viewpoints and solutions to those of Republicans. We all know Texas needs to improve its educational system, create affordable health insurance, expand access to health care and reduce the amount of toxic chemicals spewed into the air and poured into the water. Progressives do these things. Progressives move things forward for the better, unlike conservatives who seem to favor the status quo, as undesirable as it is, or tea partiers, who would prefer to take the state and country back several decades. But moderate Democrats aren’t really any better. Being wishy-washy helps no one.

  • Lee Says:

    My East Texas relatives love Golden Corral.

  • Don Bankston Says:

    Well said.I was ashamed to be a member of SDEC last Saturday.We must stand for something besides elections. I wish my fellow members of SDEC had your wisdom and courage to fight for our convictions.