Emails (excerpted), Ed Sills, director of communications, Texas AFL-CIO, March 24, 2014
As Ken Herman noted in his March 20 column, we do not have party registration in Texas, only declared allegiance based on whether you choose to vote in a primary. To some extent, it’s self-identifying, but there’s a deeper test somewhere. There are many Texans whom you or I would consider to be clearly Democrats and Republicans who do not vote in their party primaries, so they are never officially registered. And in some cases, we have seen crossover voting. Marc Veasey was never a Republican just because he decided to vote against Phil Gramm in a GOP primary, and there are probably many other examples of folks who pledged allegiance to a party with their fingers crossed.
I think it follows that just because someone runs for a party’s nomination or even gains it, that doesn’t automatically make him or her a bona fide member of the party. It’s pretty clear that a Gene Kelly was not wedded to the Democratic Party in any serious way, and you and I could probably pick out a few more candidates over the years that were opportunists at best. Kelly, I think, ran in both parties’ primaries in the course of his career, likely for sport.
In the same self-identifying context, go to Rogers’s web site. She refers to Michael Steger as a “fellow LaRouche Democrat,” not as a Democrat. She refers to “Texas Democratic Party hacks.” For Rogers, discussion of her political party involves the use of the name “LaRouche” as a modifier. I would submit that “LaRouche Democrat” is an oxymoron. Rogers has called for President Obama’s impeachment and run around with Obama posters that have Hitler mustaches. She is a disciple of Lyndon LaRouche, who himself has been associated much of his career with 3rd-party movements that seek to infiltrate the Democratic Party. Her allegiance is more to a unique LaRouche Party – carrying a separate platform from the Democratic Party – than to any branch of what most people would consider to be the Democratic Party.
Since there are no official designations in Texas, this may ultimately come down to where one’s heart is. I think Chairman Hinojosa’s call may fall into the “I know it when I see it” category. Compare and contrast with Kinky Friedman, who has been all over the map but whose values are not out of whack with Democratic Party values. Some have suggested Friedman is not a Democrat based on his independent run for governor or friendship with Rick Perry, but he has done some things this year to make amends. Recently, Friedman said he would support the Democratic ticket. I don’t think you can say the same for Kesha Rogers. Again, supporting the ticket may not be the be-all, end-all, but have you ever seen a Democrat or a Republican march around with his party’s president portrayed with a Hitler mustache?
Last, can a party Chairman declare someone not to be a member of the party? That is not be a specific power, but this isn’t about some piece of petty political revenge or a surface statement of fact; it’s about an honest assessment of someone’s behavior within politics. I think Gilberto Hinojosa may be an “expert observer” on the subject. For what it’s worth, Kesha Rogers was not allowed to speak at the Texas AFL-CIO Labor Caucus at the State Democratic Convention in 2012, and there are no plans to let her speak in 2014. Whatever the label, we know trouble when we see it.
My argument is that the totality of one’s beliefs, platform and behavior need to be considered in evaluating whether someone is really part of a political party or not. We’re not talking Shivers vs. Yarborough here, but instead about someone who is so far out of the mainstream of the party that there is legitimate doubt. I believe Chairman Hinojosa’s remark was intended to go beyond the box that is checked and into the candidate’s profile. I used the Gene Kelly example decidedly. He never campaigned to any significant degree. To my knowledge, he never did anything to help the Democratic ticket. He flipped to a GOP candidacy without so much as a goodbye. He was an opportunist, pure and simple. He also got the Democratic nomination. In the literal sense, he ran as a Democrat; in the deeper sense, he was not a Democrat.
I’m not sure what you mean by “experts” in this case. Who would be better to judge whether someone is a Democrat in the deeper sense than Democrats who support the party? That said, I’m glad I can’t think of anyone who gets to make the official call. As I suggested, there is no silver bullet. But I ask you to scour Rogers’s web site and find any place where she declares, plain and simple, “I am a Democrat.” If it’s there, I missed it, and I strongly believe “LaRouche Democrat” is something very different.
You can confirm with professors that the formal party designation doesn’t exist in Texas, I suppose. Rogers, in my view, was a Democratic nominee who is not really a Democrat, based on her political views and her refusal to pick up the mantle of party membership.