...what in the name of Rush Limbaugh was White thinking last week, when he reacted to Barack Obama's upcoming visit to Texas by taking a page straight out of Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin's playbook?
But wait, you say: Perhaps White is wise to avoid giving the Perry campaign the gift of a photo of the candidate grinning next to the Socialist Satan of the Potomac. There might be something to that—if, that is, White's people hadn't already given them that gift by running an ad in the Houston Defender around Juneteenth 2009, photoshopping White in between images of Martin Luther King Jr. and Obama (caption: "The Dream, The Hope, The Change"). If you haven't seen it, you will—again and again and again, with messages approved by Rick Perry.
What this whole sad episode of Obamaphobia seems to have revealed about White, as much as anything else, is his wrong-headed notion of what it's going to take for a Democrat to win statewide in Texas.
"It seems to me that White is using an outdated playbook on this one," says Ari Berman, political writer for The Nation and author of the forthcoming book, Herding Donkeys, which details the rise of grassroots politics in the Democratic Party—and the struggles of old-school Democrats to squash that effort.
"Perry is going to tie him to Obama anyway, so White might as well use Obama to try to take advantage of the changing demographics of the state," Berman adds. "It's true that White can't win without getting a substantial share of the swing white vote—independents, moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans—but he also can't win without a big Hispanic and black turnout and I'm assuming the president still has some juice left with those constituencies."
He does indeed. And the way Democrats have made breakthroughs in conservative "red" states like Texas in recent election cycles is to set aside the old "Republican Lite" strategy of Bill Clinton (and the late Sen. Lloyd Bentsen)—"I'm just like a Republican, but slightly less extreme"—and work like the dickens to expand the turnout of Latino, African-American and working-class voters who've been sitting home on Election Day.