A Little Courage and a Little Racially Polarized Voting

It feels rude to suggest racism — excuse me, racially polarized voting — played even a teensy role in John Courage’s shocking victory in District 9 on Saturday. It’s the kind of thing Squidward would say.

Nevertheless, racism, or RPV, did play at least a teensy role in Saturday’s outcome.

What I feel like when saying racism played a role in John Courage’s election in Council District 9

The reason writing that feels so douche-baggy is because progressives want it so badly to be true that District 9 is different now. They want it to be a new electoral front for their kind of candidates. Just check their Facebook and Twitter posts. To say RPV had a hand in the result is like telling your kid the tooth fairy died of complications from a venereal disease.

But, post-Hillary and post-post-Bernie, who can blame them for being so happy to have something to be happy about?

Progressives’ head rush is justified in that the most conservative district in San Antonio elected one of the most liberal candidates running this year for any City Council seat. To say Courage’s win was unexpected would be a big understatement.

Democrats and independents strongly suspect it came down to President Trump and the way he’s warped our politics top to bottom. To easily excited lefties, Courage’s victory feels transformational. Jeez, Bernie Sanders gave Courage a shout-out before Election Day — and he won!

I suspect the less caffeinated Courage voters are like my friend Felix Culpa, a SanAntoniomizer contributor who is fake-named for the famous Roman Republic stripper. Felix listed his reasons for voting for Courage in a text message: “1. Fuck you, Donald Trump.”

Anger at a sleazy, historically ineffective and disliked president doesn’t sound to me like the makings of a real realignment on San Antonio’s North Side.

Apart from the Trump factor, I’m sure Courage’s campaign team would say they ran a masterful ground game, and maybe they did. Just like all winning campaigns, and a surprising number of losing campaigns, ran masterful ground games. (Side note: I was the spokesman for Mayor Ivy Taylor’s re-election campaign, which was flawless, the 10-point loss notwithstanding.)

All of that said, I’d like to make a few observations.

  1. I worked in the City Council District 9 office for nearly two years, until April 30. Please trust me when I tell you that, judging from the email and phone calls the office received from constituents, the district did not become any less conservative during my time there. Many of them worried about the onslaught of undocumented immigrants and whether San Antonio was really a “sanctuary city” but was just being low-key about it. These preoccupations only intensified with the show-me-your-papers S.B. 4 in the recent Legislature.
  2. Marco Barros made no bones about his conservatism. He said all the right things to get elected in District 9, and his campaign had the money to make sure voters heard every word.
  3. Look at the “under vote” in the District 9 election — 799. That means nearly 800 voters walked into their polling sites, voted for mayor, and then, when it came time to choose a councilman, they said, “No thanks.”

Bear with me here.

So, Barros was the clearly identified, lone conservative in this race. And it’s not like Courage ran a Trojan Horse campaign. He focused on the basics — city services, streets, drainage, etc. — but he never hid the fact that he’d run as a Democrat against Republican incumbents in the Texas Senate and Congress. In fact, other Democrats look at Courage and whisper admiringly among themselves, “Wow, kinda libby, right?”

So given the unmistakable choice between a liberal and a conservative, 800 voters said nah, and 8,489 others picked Courage (52.65 percent) over Barros (47.35 percent, or 7,633).

The limb I’m about to go out on is wide enough for a pup tent, a couple of folding chairs, and a gas grill.

With everybody still sweaty from the S.B. 4 fight — coupled with District 9 voters having elected only one minority candidate in our city’s modern history (Elisa Chan, not Elise Sanchez) — Barros was running in part against his surname. And he lost.



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