If you ever doubted that the Democratic Party has become utterly irrelevant in the state of Texas, take a look at the website of leading gubernatorial contender Bill White and see if you can find any mention of the fact that he's running as a Democrat.
You can find him espousing some moderate policies and criticizing Rick Perry while faintly praising Kay Bailey Hutcheson, but good luck finding a mention in his bio or his position statements on the main page or even the header of what party he belongs to. It's like he's embarrassed to be a Democrat. He doesn't want to be associated with a brand which has become tainted with economic disaster, unemployment and socialism.
Like hundreds of other Democrat politicians in Texas who have chosen to run as if they were independents or even switched to the Republican party, White clearly realizes that hitching himself too clearly to the Democrat brand would be the kiss of death for his campaign. In Texas and around the country, association with the Democrats in Congress or with the Obama administration is a fatal liability going into 2010. It leaves candidates like White in the awkward situation of trying to essentially trick voters into voting for them by selling themselves on their own merits and then letting the voters discover what party they are in for the first time when they get to the voting booth.
The bottom line is that candidates want to be elected, and there are only a few ultra-blue areas of the country where they can do it solely on the votes of die-hard Democrat loyalists. Most of them need some independent votes to win. Independents are growing in numbers and now make up almost a third of the electorate. In the recent elections and in current polls independents are voting for Republicans over Democrats by a 2 to 1 margin. That's very scary for anyone planning to run as a Democrat.
Going into the election season I wouldn't expect to see Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid getting any invitations to campaign for candidates around the country, and candidates are likely to be looking for diplomatic ways to tell the president "thanks, but no thanks" when it comes to the traditional round of back patting and hollow praise expected from a party leader. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Obama White House take on some of the bunker atmosphere of the last days of the Nixon administration by next summer, with a president shunned like a pariah by his own party.
I did eventually find a reference to the Democratic party on Bill White's campaign website. In the blog section there's a cartoon which shows a donkey in it, though the party still isn't mentioned by name.
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