There are a few sayings about Texas’ traditional voting habits — Texas is beet red, or Austin is the “blueberry in the tomato soup” that is Texas (I’m not kidding, Gov. Rick Perry used that exact, albeit kind of gross, metaphor at a Tribfest interview last fall).
But a guy from President Barack Obama’s campaign staff, who reminds me somewhat of Leslie Knope’s dorky but adorable campaign manager and life partner Ben Wyatt in Parks and Recreation, wants to change all that. His name is Jeremy Bird. And he wants to turn Texas blue.
Bird is an unassuming guy who helped get President Obama elected not once, but twice. That’s kind of a big deal, my friends. As Obama’s national field officer in the 2008 and 2012 elections, Bird and his nationwide army of staff and volunteers artfully tapped into various demographic groups — minorities, young people, women and others — and got them to vote for our now president.
During his work on the campaign, Bird recognized that if Texas were actually competitive in a presidential race, the national conversation and strategy to become Commander in Chief would be different. Texas has 38 electoral votes — that means if more Texas voters cast their ballot for the Democratic candidate, those electoral votes wouldn’t necessarily default to the Republican candidate like they do now.
Enter Battleground Texas. With a recent victory behind them, Bird and a handful of D.C. staffers have descended upon our Lone Star State to turn out the vote over the next four years. Texas may be red, but all of its citizen and potential voters aren’t, and Bird’s mission is to get those Texans to the polls.
“We're going to try to do one of the hardest things in politics, which is to work with people who don't believe their voice matters and tell them that it does matter, and see that ripple,” Bird said at Battleground Texas’ first Austin meeting last week.
Battleground Texas is a grassroots voter turnout and voter engagement effort, relying heavily on volunteers, true blue Texans, and donors to help get their fellow Texans to register to vote, and vote Democrat. Bird believes that that has to start with local elections, and then slowly build to statewide offices.
Once Texans are voting Democrat in those races, and those candidates have a chance at winning their races, Texas will start to turn a shade of purple. Then, hopefully, blue. With Texas’ growing Hispanic and young adult populations, the time feels right.
Battleground Texas will be holding meetings across the state over the next several weeks, gathering input, feedback and support from Texans of all walks of life. The possibility of Texas turning blue, which Gov. Perry recently called a “pipedream," just got a bit more possible with Bird and Battleground Texas.
“This is a long battle, but… we're not going to win in the long haul if we don't start now. We won't get where we need to be at the end of this marathon if we don't start running this first mile at the beginning of the race.”
To borrow a phrase from Battleground Texas’ own campaign… Game On, Texas!