Lynda Johnson Robb, left, seen in a 2014 photo with her husband, former Virginia Sen. Chuck Robb and Donna Brazile, joined in celebrations marking a court decision against Texas' voter ID law. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Texas Democrats Do a Two-Step Over Voting Rights Victory

Jul 26, 2016

Originally published July 25, 2016
Originally appeared in the Roll Call

 

PHILADELPHIA — Texas Democrats did a victory lap Monday at their delegation’s “Texadelphia” kickoff event for the Democratic National Convention, celebrating a recent court victory that found the Lone Star State’s voter identification law discriminatory while paying tribute to their own political legacy. 

“He wanted you, all of you, to vote,” said Lynda Johnson Robb, the oldest daughter of President Lyndon Baines Johnson and a former first lady of Virginia. (She is married to former Gov. and Sen. Chuck Robb.) 

Her presence here at a time when her famously hard-charging father is being lionized with the play and movie version of “All the Way” — about his efforts to pass the Voting Rights Act — lent the event an iconic air usually absent from the typical rah-rah convention delegate events.

Topic A at the event was the July 20 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that Texas’ voter identification law discriminated against Hispanics and blacks. The court sent the case back to the district court to come up with a remedy. 

The court did not strike down the statute entirely, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has vowed to fight for the law. 

But the mood among Texas Democrats, here at the city’s venerable Bookbinders Restaurant and Olde Bar, was ebullient. 

“As many of you know, last week we had a big victory,” said Matt Angle, head of the Texas Justice and Education Fund, which helped spearhead the challenge. The law required photo identification to vote, among other requirements Democrats and minority rights groups said were designed to prevent them from participating at the polls. 

Robb was on hand, amid requests for selfies and introductions to delegates, to present Texas Democratic Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Gene Green with the LBJ Lone Star Legacy Award, which Angle’s group awards. (Angle is also the founder of the Lone Star Project, a Democratic policy group, and is a longtime Texas political hand with close ties to former Rep. Martin Frost.) 

“I would not be standing here today if Lyndon Johnson had not been president,” Johnson said, referring to passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. “From Lyndon Johnson’s work, I have been able to see the first African-American president. From Lyndon Johnson’s work, we will be able to see the first woman president, Hillary Clinton.”  

Green desribed LBJ as “the ultimate legislator.” 

“To this day, Eddie B. and I fight every day for those laws,” Green said, referring not just to the Voting Rights Act but also to other Great Society legacy programs such Medicare and Medicaid. 

Green expressed optimism that the Democrats’ court victory would hold. After all, he said, it was handed down by the Fifth Circuit, among the most, if not the most, conservative appeals courts. 

“It was amazing,” that the decision came from there, he said. 

As the delegates made their way into the heat, weather not unfamiliar to those from places like Houston, Dallas and other sweaty climes this time of year, Robb reminded them that Texans have a special bond. 

“I’m a former first lady of Virginia, but Texas …,” she said, and paused for dramatic effect, “Is a state of mind.”