Today, a variety of caucuses met at the Democratic state convention in Austin to discuss issues, strategy, and hear a little politicking from candidates up and down the ballot. You’ve got your Gun Owners Caucus and your Progressive Populist Caucus, Texas Stonewall Caucus and Motorcycle Caucus, Native American Caucus and Tejano Democrats Caucus. That’s the Democratic Party in all its messy glory – diverse interests trying to fit under a Big Tent.
One of the more interesting active Dem organizations here is the Texas Muslim Democratic Caucus, the first of its kind in the nation, according to one of the organizers. The caucus started about four years ago and represents Muslim Ds across the state. It has at least 70 delegates attending the convention – 60 from Dallas alone as well as folks from Beaumont, San Antonio, Houston, and even unlikely locales like Marshall and East Bernard.
Caucus president Sarwat Husain said the caucus is important in encouraging Muslims, still reeling from the post-9/11 backlash, to come out of the shadows and become politically engaged. Muslim women, in particular, are fearful of speaking out. “I cannot tell you what courage wearing this [hijab] takes in the United States after 9/11,” Husain said. “The stares that go right through you.”
Husain rattled off the statistics: 7-10.5 million Muslims in the U.S. with close to two million registered voters, 83 percent of which are Democrats. There are some half-a-million Muslims in Texas. That’s not an insignificant cache of potential voters but Democrats need to do more to reach out, she said.
“This is one market you’re losing,” Husain said, addressing the gathered pols. “They are waiting for you out there.” The caucus heard from about ten candidates for offices ranging from the State Board of Education to Congress. In courting votes, the candidates pledged to support freedom of religion, tolerance, and to push back against the zealotry of the religious right in Texas.
State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) asked the caucus members to come educate the not-terribly enlightened members of the Texas Legislature. “The way we are approaching things is very exclusive, not inclusive,” Howard said, referring to the Bible class bill passed in the Texas Legislature this year. (MORE)