After wrapping up official state party business earlier, another round of fiery speeches by several state political leaders brought the Texas Democratic Convention to a close late Saturday afternoon.
Like a number of speakers on Friday, some of Saturday’s speakers minced no words about what presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and his controversial rhetoric represent to them.
Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert (P4) excoriated Trump’s campaign, which he said advocates “beating down protesters.” Because of that, Calvert said, Trump opposes the First Amendment right and people who have fought for civil rights of all kinds.
“If you’re gonna be for the Constitution and for America, you gotta be against Trump,” Calvert said. “I trust Flint (Michigan) drinking water more than I trust Donald Trump.”
Calvert said all Democrats must rise together to support Clinton against Trump.
“My leader to help us rise to this challenge and battle is the most prepared person to run for president. I’m with her, I’m with Hillary Clinton to fight,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-30) complimented Sanders’ campaign, saying he inspired a surge of participation in Democratic politics and voter registration. But she called herself a “super delegate” in favor of Hillary Clinton.
“But the majority has spoken. It’s time for all of us to get behind Hillary Clinton,” she said as dozens of Sanders supporters stood up and yelled “Bernie!” with yard signs in hand.
As the afternoon drew on, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders supporters let their voices be heard.
Former Commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture Jim Hightower has actively supported Sanders’ campaign and criticized Democrats such as Clinton for cozying up to big business interests.
Since he was attending a progressive conference in Chicago Saturday, Hightower provided a pre-recorded audio message as his speech where he extended an olive branch by rallying all Democrats against Trump.
“Being for Bernie doesn’t make me against Hillary,” Hightower said, maintaining a wry hit that has made him popular in liberal circles. He implored Democrats to unite and “keep that Republican freak show from turning the White House into another Trump casino.”
State Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-29) was sharp in his criticism of Trump and the GOP, calling them fearmongers who want to win elections by dividing the electorate.
“That’s what Republicans have – fear – and that’s all they have. Now they’ve created their own Frankenstein who wants control,” Rodriguez said.
State Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-13) joined in the anti-Trump chorus.
“Can you really believe they nominated Donald Trump? Do you think they’re smoking something?” Ellis said to a round of laughter. He described Trump’s political ascendancy as a “golden opportunity” for the Democratic Party to further distinguish itself from the GOP.
The Houston lawmaker said Sanders’ opposition made for a spirited primary campaign.
“And I am so proud we’re going to be unified to nominate the first woman president of the United States,” he added.
Speakers such as Rodriguez and Liana Wang, a Texas high school Democrat representative, spoke about the importance of voter participation and raising a new generation of Democrats.
Rodriguez referenced two initiatives he started in his constituency in the El Paso area, one program aimed at encouraging civic engagement among high school students, and another designed to improve voter turnout overall.
Because of his efforts engaging student voters, Rodriguez said, about 2,000 local high school grads have been registered to vote.
Wang just turned 18 and will take part in her first presidential election this year. Her parents emigrated from China nearly 20 years ago so that they and their family could enjoy the benefits of living in a free, democratic country, she said. Growing up in the U.S. has taught Wang the value of diversity, she added.
“There’s nothing great in insulting people and pushing others down. There’s nothing brave in fearing something that’s different,” she said. “No matter where we come from or what we believe, we are all people.”
Democratic candidate for Texas’ 23rd Congressional District Pete Gallego, who’s in a closely watched rematch with San Antonio Republican Will Hurd for the seat, talked about how his parents fought to leave a better life for their children.
Social progress achieved in America over the last 30 to 40 years has opened up opportunities for all people, regardless of gender or race, Gallego said. He contested Trump questioning the heritage of a Mexican-American federal judge overseeing the Trump University lawsuit.
“Somehow, Mr. Trump seems to think all people are equal, but some are more equal than others,” he said. “Or maybe some of us are less American than others.”
Gallego did not say much about his race with Hurd, and only expressed disappointment that Hurd has not denounced Trump’s racially charged statements. He encouraged Republicans to challenge Trump’s political stances.
“It takes courage to do what’s right, but a lot of our friends on the other side lack that courage,” he said.
At the convention’s end, Clinton and Sanders supporters went back and forth over procedural parts – mainly when it came to resolutions and the substitution of one of Sanders delegates with another by the nominating committee. The latter issue was settled when the originally substituted delegate withdrew his name from consideration for the sake of what he called “party unity.”
But there was unanimity over the state party platform, a 40-page document that placed importance on equality, education, the economy and jobs. To view the Texas Democratic Party platform, click here.
The document includes a brief preamble that says government should work to ensure equality and freedom, smart government and a healthy environment.
State Rep. Celia Israel read the preamble aloud to the crowd.
“Texas Democrats believe government exists to achieve together what we cannot achieve as individuals and government must serve all people,” she read. “A representative democracy is only truly representative if every single citizen is guaranteed the inalienable right to vote in fair and open elections.”
Lupe Valdez, who is seeking a fourth term as Dallas County Sheriff, expressed pride that she belongs to a party that embraces her identity as an openly gay Latina holding a high-ranking public office.
Democrats will always have differences, she said, but when the tough gets going politically, they must unite.
“We are Democrats. We often disagree with each other, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work together,” she said. “We want to give as many folks as possible a fighting chance.”
Top image: Thousands gather for the 2016 Texas Democratic Convention. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.