Tag Archives: texas politics

God Damned Texas


Well, hell!  God must have, considering the gallery of lunatics the Lone Star State has put into public office in recent years!  I can honestly say I’ve never been more embarrassed to be a Texan (or an American, if you look at the current presidential race) than I am now.  I opined two years ago that I hope Ted Cruz runs for president and gets his ass slaughtered in the process.  So far, he’s one of only three survivors in the Republican field.  I eagerly await the political bloodbath at the GOP convention in Cleveland this summer.  I have a perverted fascination with seeing arrogance publicly butchered.  Cruz has made a number of incendiary comments, including that the United States will collapse into the fires of Satan’s lair because gay marriage is now legal – as opposed to the centuries of European-induced Indian genocide and Negro slavery where nothing so calamitous occurred.  There are too many idiocies that came from his mouth to highlight here.  I mean, I wouldn’t know where to begin!  But one recent revelation is that he tried to uphold a state law banning the sale of sex toys, which he said safeguards “public morals”; adding that “police-power interests” are a tool (pun intended) in “discouraging prurient interests in sexual gratification, combating the commercial sale of sex, and protecting minors.”  That’s right.  Cruz believes police have the power to invade your home and yank a dildo out of your ass or vagina!  All in the name of protecting children, of course.  Like so many right-wingers here in Texas, Cruz is willing to move heaven and Earth to protect children from wayward sexuality, while ignoring the fact most of those children are uninsured.  Priorities, people!  Priorities!

Canadian-born, Cuban-Italian Cruz certainly isn’t the first Texas official to spout out such twisted logic.  This state has a long history of generating some colorful characters.  During the 1990 governor’s race, Republican oilman Clayton Williams said, among other gaffes, that bad weather was like rape; it’s inevitable, so you might as well lay back and enjoy it.  As you might expect, the old bastard also insulted Blacks and Hispanics.  But here’s the sad part: he garnered nearly 40% of the votes.  Fortunately State Treasurer Ann Richards won.  Unfortunately, she lost four years later to the grandest of all Texas political goofballs: George W. Bush.  It’s around that time when Texas politics began sliding into the surreal – enough to make Salvador Dalí jealous.

But the past decade alone has seen the dramatic rise of Texas’ quirkiest politics stars.  I now present the following three jewels of cluelessness.

Ken Paxton – The state Attorney General has been in legal trouble almost from the moment he was sworn into office.  In July 2015, Paxton was indicted on felony charges for repeatedly breaking state securities laws during his tenure as a state lawmaker.  Then a new charge that he deliberately misled investors in a technology company arose.  Amid raising thousands of dollars from the investors, Paxton supposedly also received commissions – something he didn’t reveal and something that’s, you know, kind of illegal.  His attorneys tried to get all the charges dropped, but the judge handling the matter refused and ordered Paxton to be arrested in Collin County, just north of Dallas.  Paxton had to undergo the usual rigmarole of fingerprints and mug shots.  Whenever people in Collin County, Texas are arrested, officials wrap a white towel around their necks before taking the requisite glory shot.  But, because Paxton is a high-ranking state figure, he got the anticipated special treatment and was photographed sans towel.  (Trying to be discreet, Paxton had met with William Mapp, one of the energy company’s co-founders at a Dairy Queen in McKinney, which is in Collin County, in the summer of 2011.  According to most Texans, Dairy Queen is a step above Burger King.)  While Paxton is currently trying to stop a group called Exxotica from staging a sexually-oriented exposition in Dallas this summer, news reports now reveal that Paxton is still paying top aides who left the attorney general’s office more than a month ago.  The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating the investment deal, and Exxotica is threatening to sue the city of Dallas, if it violates their contract to proceed with the exposition.  I truly hope the SEC wins, and then, I’ll join them at the Exxotica convention.

Louie GohmertThe East Texas congressman takes outlandishness to a new level.  As with most right-wing political figures, Gohmert doesn’t want anyone telling him what to do with their guns, but he feels the urge to tell people what to do in their own bedrooms.  Aside from his staunch opposition to abortion (a given trait among conservatives), he’s compared limiting the size of ammunition magazines to bestiality and opposes gays from serving in the military because they’d spend more time giving each other massages on the front lines than fighting.  (What the hell’s wrong with massages?!)  In light of President Obama’s election wins, Gohmert has co-sponsored a “birther” bill that would require presidential candidates to submit their birth certificates as proof of eligibility to run for the White House.  Recently he opposed a bill that would have directed education funding to recruiter more women in the sciences by claiming it’s gender-biased and that even Martin Luther King would have opposed it.  Not knowing when to shut the hell up, Gohmert went on to add that such a bill would have distracted Marie Curie’s research and put “millions and millions of lives” in jeopardy.

Sid Miller – Like most politicians, the state’s Agriculture Commissioner has a penchant for travel.  And, like most politicians, he claims it’s all done in the name of state business, and therefore, he’s justified in charging taxpayers for his expenses.  But the $2,000 he spent on a 2015 trip to Mississippi to compete in a rodeo for prize money probably doesn’t fall into the business category.  He engaged in calf-roping events and won $880.  He tried to explain the trip’s importance by claiming he had set up a “work meeting” with Mississippi’s agriculture commissioner and other business people.  But wait!  It gets weirder.  Miller also may have charged Texas taxpayers the $1,000 it cost to fly to Oklahoma to visit an old friend, Michael Lonergan, a discredited Ohio doctor, for a “Jesus shot.”  Yes, Miller – who apparently suffers from chronic back pain – needed the spirit of the Lord pumped into his tired body via a concoction of unknown ingredients that’s injected into the upper arm.  Lonergan served prison time in Ohio for tax evasion and mail fraud, before relocating to Edmond, Oklahoma.  Miller is reimbursing the state of Texas for the trip “out of an abundance of caution,” according to his spokeswoman.  But the Texas Rangers, a state police agency, is still investigating.  My idea of a “Jesus shot” is a heavy duty screwdriver made with Smirnoff citron vodka and a bottle of baby oil; then shouting, “Jesus!” as I wipe my face.  I have videos in exchange for contributions to a charity of my choice – mainly my freelance writing fund.

Miller spent $55,000 decorating his office.

Miller spent $55,000 decorating his office.

Mary Lou Bruner – The 69-year-old retired teacher is seeking to be the next president of the Texas State School Board, the entity that has made all of Texas the literal laughingstock of the nation.  Bruner subscribes to the usual right-wing ideology: the Earth is only about 6,000 years old; there was a man named Noah who built a massive ark and that dinosaurs were among its passengers; climate change science is leftist bullshit; and 20th century liberals rewrote the history of the Civil War only to make it look like slavery was the root cause.

But, among her myriad Facebook rants is this lovely tidbit: “Obama has a soft spot for homosexuals because of the years he spent as a male prostitute in his twenties. That is how he paid for his drugs. He has admitted he was addicted to drugs when he was young, and he is sympathetic to homosexuals; but he hasn’t come out of the closet about his own homosexual / bisexual background. He hasn’t quite evolved that much! Since he supports gay marriage, he should be proud of his background as a homosexual/bisexual. He is against everything else Christians stand for, he might as well be for infidelity.”

Facebook forcibly deleted that post, and even some of Obama’s most ardent critics here and across the country thought that went too far.  Of all the disrespectful crap lodged at our first biracial president, that’s the most slanderous.  As far as I can tell, though, she’s never apologized for it.  A spokeswoman for the Cherokee County, Texas Republican Party dismissed the response to Bruner as excessive; describing her as “a nice older lady who doesn’t understand social media and the impact that it can have.”

No one has to “understand social media” to realize calling somebody a prostitute and a drug addict is offensive and just plain stupid.  Do you need a PhD in astronomy to understand that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west?  What’s worst, however, is that – given Texas’ dismal voting record – Bruner stands a good chance of actually winning that coveted seat on the school board.

There’s also a good chance Paxton and Miller will both remain in office.  In the U.S., a true double standard exists when it comes to elected officials facing criminal charges.  People are routinely thrown in jail for possessing a pinch of marijuana or talking back to a police officer.  Sandra Bland, anyone?  But use your official power to skirt the system?  Well… that’s up for discussion.  I have no hope for the future, but will keep writing to avoid a visit from the FBI.

Although Texas gave the nation – and the world – Dick Cheney and Enron, it also produced the U.S. space program, Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin, ZZ Top, Beyoncé, Eva Longoria, frozen margaritas, Shiner Bock, Whole Foods Market, silicone breast implants and, of course, Chief Writing Wolf.  So, things aren’t that bad down here!

On a side note, I really do plan to patronize Exxotica and display my version of the “Jesus shot”: a bathtub filled with Mike’s HARD Lemonade; a liter of Red Bull; a sounding rod; heated Vaseline and a high-definition video camera.  I’ll email copies to Bruner and Cruz to show what they’re missing while campaigning.  After all, politics is bad for both body and soul.  Yee-hah!

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Mud Sliding


The mid-term elections are upon us here in the U.S.  That means – as has been the practice for the past quarter century – that candidates shout at the voters in declaring why the other person is so much worse than they are.  This trend gained momentum during the 2000 presidential campaign in which then-Texas Governor George W. Bush narrowly triumphed over Vice-President Al Gore.  It was the closest presidential elections in U.S. history, and Bush couldn’t have won if his campaign staff hadn’t demonized Gore and ultimately convince the Supreme Court to circumvent the electoral process and proclaim Bush the winner.  Under the direction of Karl Rove, Bush’s campaign apparently had to besmirch Gore’s reputation, since Bush had no other redeeming qualities.  He was a failed businessman, a one-time failed congressional candidate and a former part-time owner of the Texas Rangers.  His years as Texas governor were pretty much uneventful and marked by only three notable highlights: an increase of the speed limit on Texas highways; a law legalizing the right to carry firearms; and the execution of a woman for the first time in over 130 years.  That was it; that was the extent of his professional resume.  If he’d tried to run on that legacy alone – and if voters had actually paid attention to it – Bush probably would have lost to Gore.

The Rove sludge machine didn’t stop with the 2000 presidential elections though.  They went on to denounce the reputations of other political candidates, such as Max Cleland, a military veteran who lost three limbs in the Vietnam War.  Cleland, a Democrat, had served as a U.S. senator from Georgia from 1997 – 2003.  But, during the 2002 mid-term elections, his patriotism was questioned – and he subsequently lost amidst a wave of hysteria following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  That a combat war veteran who nearly lost his life should have his patriotism and thereby, his credibility questioned against a president and vice-president who used just about every excuse imaginable to avoid military service during the same period is obscene and hypocritical.  But, that’s how the Rove gang operated; they couldn’t run a decent campaign to highlight their candidate’s accomplishments.

The same questions of patriotism befell U.S. Senator John Kerry when he ran for the presidency in 2004.  Also a military veteran who had served in Vietnam, Kerry came under attack from a group called “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.”  The group of former Vietnam War veterans was convened strictly to help Bush defeat Kerry.  Financed by wealthy political donors, SBVT questioned Kerry’s credentials as a combat sailor during the Vietnam conflict and thereby insinuated that he wasn’t worthy of the Navy medals he’d received.  Among their benefactors was Texas billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens who added dirt to the mud pool by offering $1 million to anyone who could disavow the SBVT allegations.  When another group of Vietnam veterans finally proved that Kerry’s military credentials were impeccable, Pickens reneged on his challenge, saying the information wasn’t verifiable; thus proving no one is too old to be a punk.

Kerry, of course, made things bad for himself with his varied verbal fumbles – not nearly as bad as Bush, though.  At least Kerry knows how to pronounce the word “nuclear.”  Kerry initially didn’t authorize release of his military records to the public, even though it may have helped his campaign.  He finally released them in 2005.

There was a time that even I remember when a military veteran’s credibility was not something you questioned.  I also recall that politicians used to debate the issues and not each other’s reputations.  Things rarely got personal in high-profile political elections.  When they did, whoever made the unsavory accusation or dredged up some dirt from the past was pretty much shamed into obscurity.  Now, that seems to be the standard for running a campaign.

I still think the average American’s distaste for all things political began with the Watergate fiasco.  But, it reached its putrid zenith in the mid-1990s, when Republicans took over both houses of the U.S. Congress.  Already filled with vile against Bill Clinton, they did everything they could remove him from office; a scheme that culminated in Clinton’s 1998 impeachment over a tawdry sex affair.

As the political season got underway here in Texas late last year, the state Republican Party quickly found itself in a curious state of division.  In 2002, Republicans gained control over the Texas legislature for the first time since Reconstruction.  If you listened to the state GOP, they sounded like a group of impoverished Jews who’d finally defeated the Nazis in post-World War II Europe after a century of oppression and brutality.  But, the traditional Republican Party is now under attack from the “Tea Party,” a pack of extremists who formed in 2009 – conveniently – when Barack Obama took office.  The “Tea Party” clan has denounced all elected Republican officials as RINOs (Republicans in Name Only).  In other words, the standard GOP isn’t right-wing enough.  It’s like Stalin calling Hitler a pot-smoking, tree hugger.  To me, the only different is that “Tea Party” Republicans haven’t gotten their required rabies shots yet and keep forgetting to wipe their asses.

It was interesting to watch Texas Republicans try so hard to out-conservative one another.  Each one (a White male) running for a statewide office lambasted his opponent as a (gasp!) Washington liberal who doesn’t support traditional (Christian) values.  Ironically, they all had two things in common: they hate Obama and love the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Televised campaign ads showed many of them on hunting trips, waving guns like they were their penises.  As a writer and left-of-center blogger, I have a fetish for the First Amendment, which guarantees free speech and the right to vote.  But hey, I’m just kind of queer like that.

Last year I lamented how voter turnouts were lower in 2012 than in 2004 and 2008.  More importantly, on average, only about a third of eligible Texas voters make a concerted effort to get to the polls.  That explains why Texas appears to be a bastion of right-wing lunacy.  The lone Democrat running for Texas governor, Wendy Davis, has already been labeled a one-issue candidate (because of her filibuster last year of a restrictive abortion bill), but questions arose recently about the veracity of her life story.  Some were upset that she had said she was 21, not 19, when she and her husband divorced.  In fact, Davis and her husband separated when she was 19; their divorce became final two years later.  Do little things really mean a lot?  That she lifted herself out of poverty by forging ahead with a college education apparently says nothing about her personal fortitude.

Ben Sargent 012414

Image courtesy Ben Sargent.

But, instead of talking bad about their opponent, why don’t candidates promote what’s good about themselves?  Tell us voters what good things you’ve done for your community.  Although Texas has recovered more quickly from the recent economic downturn, what ideas does each candidate have to maintain that level of productivity?  The Republican candidates despise the Affordable Care Act, but what solutions do they have for ensuring that all Texans have access to health care beyond a hospital emergency room or Band-Aids from Wal-Mart?

Is it really too much to ask that these people show some level of professionalism and focus on the issues?  I guess so.

“Ugliness creates bitterness,” former First Lady Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, a Texas native, once said.  “Ugliness is an eroding force on the people of our land. We are all here to try to change that.”

I truly wish that would happen.

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Black and White in a World of Color


“We are a backwards-ass state in a fast-forward world.  Texas is a land of contradictions.  We are creating some of the planet’s most advanced technology while teaching our children that archaeology proves the Bible to be factual.”

– Author and political analyst James Moore, in the Huffington Post.

It would be easy for me to pack up my stuff and run to the nearest place of common sense – say, Hawaii or New Zealand.  Politics here in Texas has taken a woefully right-wing turn, especially with the election of such extremists as Sen. Ted Cruz and the ongoing reelection of Rick Perry.  I honestly believe it’s not that Texans lose their brains when they head to the voting booth, but rather, that too many of the decent, logical ones stay home come election season.  Who can blame them?  If you look at any crop of candidates, it’s like you’ve arrived at a going-out-of-business sale just moments before the store closes.  There’s not much left.

Alas, I can’t afford to move and I certainly don’t want to leave my aging parents to the mercy of such scoundrels as Cruz and Perry.  I can only hope that, in the ensuing years, more of my moderate fellow Texans will drag themselves to the polls each election and start bouncing the extremists back under the rocks from whence they came.


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Define “Like”


“And, believe me, being from Texas, I can tell you that nobody jumps up in Congress to help Texas.  They don’t like us at all.”

– Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, reflecting on her nearly 20-year career in the U.S. Senate as a Republican from Texas.

No one in Congress wants to help Texas?  Really?!  I guess when you have a redneck governor who threatens secession, you shouldn’t expect much help from your constituents in Washington.  But, there are other reasons why Texas isn’t too popular at the national level.  For one, it helped to elect one of the worst presidents in U.S. history, George W. Bush.  He actually managed to push Jimmy Carter down into third place!  Last week Hutchison and fellow Texas Senator John Cornyn voted against support of the United Nations Disability Rights Treaty.  Cornyn also supported senate candidate Todd (“legitimate rape”) Akin of Missouri.  In his final days as Texas Attorney General, Cornyn forcibly shut down the Tigua Indian casino on the grounds gambling is illegal in Texas, which effectively forced the Tiguas back onto the welfare dole that most White Republicans hate because it seems to attract too many Indians, Negroes and other undesirables.  Hutchison and Cornyn also voted against Sonia Sotomayor for a position on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Now, “Tea Party” Republican Ted Cruz will replace Hutchison next month.

I don’t know why the Lone Star State keeps putting these clowns into office.  I voted for Cornyn in 2008, but I won’t make that same mistake again.  I’ll never be embarrassed to be a Texan, but I am embarrassed by people like Hutchison whose idiotic antics keep a negative light on this otherwise incredible state.  Believe me!  There’s more to Texas than Rick Perry and gunslinging!

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Cruising for Trouble

Okay, I know the title of this essay is a bad play on the name of Ted Cruz, the former Solicitor General of Texas, who hopes to replace Kay Bailey-Hutchison in the U.S. Senate this year.  He’s a Republican, of course, and since I’m not too fond of Republican politicians – especially the species creeping out of Texas – I have to criticize him.  Cruz isn’t just a Republican; he’s a “Tea Party” Republican – that wacky band of closet Nazis who emerged after our biracial president took office.  The “Tea Party” clan has grabbed the GOP by the throat and wants to send America back to the good old days of the 19th century, when only White heterosexual Christian males had power.

Cruz has been playing right into the gnarly hands of the far right; placating them with a variety of outrageous claims and blatant lies.  For example, he thinks billionaire businessman George Soros and the United Nations are conspiring to eliminate golf in the U.S.  As if that would be a bad thing.  Cruz also apparently adheres to the growing reemergence of nullification; a 19th century philosophy that states can invalidate any federal laws they don’t like.  The Affordable Health Care Act has become their favorite target.  In his first campaign ad, Cruz states, in his role as Solicitor General, he made it easier for Texas to kill an “illegal alien.”  It’s a reference to a 2008 case, Medellin vs. Texas, in which the state argued that it shouldn’t have to comply with the Vienna Convention.  The Vienna Convention is a 1969 treaty requiring countries to inform foreign nationals who are arrested that they have the right to legal counsel from their home country.  As of 2010, 112 states had signed it, including North Korea, which even honored it when it captured 2 American journalists in 2009.

Cruz has an apparent disdain for illegal immigrants – which I do, as well, to some extent.  But, from a cultural standpoint, you have to understand where this could lead.  Cruz hopes to appeal to Texas’ growing Hispanic population – most of whom are of Mexican or Central American extraction.  Most of them – despite what you may hear on FOX News – are either native born residents or legal immigrants who don’t commit crimes.  Here’s where it gets really interesting and personal.  Cruz is only half-Hispanic; his father was born and raised in Cuba where he had fought against and been tortured under the brutal regime of Fulgencio Batista.  Batista had come to power in 1933 and ruled Cuba until Fidel Castro led a successful coup in 1959.  Batista was an anti-communist ideologue, which endeared him to the U.S.  But, he revoked many personal liberties, such as the right to strike.  His secret police force allegedly killed thousands of people on the island nation.  Under his command, only a handful of families owned most of the land and therefore, held the bulk of the wealth and power.  As in most Latin American nations at the time, a wide gap existed between the wealthy and the poor; kind of like how the U.S. is becoming now.  Cruz’s father fled to the U.S. in 1957, arriving in Austin, Texas with $100.  But, Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada, that bastion of socialist anxiety right-wing extremists generally hate so much.  The “Tea Party” crowd frequently compares the Affordable Health Care Act to Canada’s universal health care policies – e.g. socialism.

Back to the Hispanic thing.  While most Hispanics trend Democratic when voting, Cuban-Americans, in particular, lean Republican.  And, as a group, Cubans seem to despise other Hispanics, mainly Mexicans and Puerto Ricans.  I don’t know why, but I’ve seen it and felt in the overall Hispanic community in Dallas.  I think it’s because Cuba is such a devoutly communist country; one of the last remaining bastions of Marxist theology in the world and the only one in the Western Hemisphere.  Therefore, when its residents flee to the United States, they are truly running for their lives.  But, no such compassion lands upon the shoulders of refugees from war-torn nations elsewhere in Latin America.  To paraphrase comedian Paul Rodriguez, ‘when Mexicans come here illegally, they take them to jail; when Cubans come here illegally, they take them to Disney World.’

Like any good Republican extremist, Cruz despises Barack Obama; believing the President is collaborating with Soros and others to turn the U.S. into a “European socialist union.”  He wants to gut both Social Security and Medicaid, feeling they have already pushed the U.S. towards that dreaded socialist state.  It doesn’t seem to matter that those programs have prevented millions of elderly and / or disabled people from slipping into poverty.  Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan feels the same way.  Neither will probably get much of the Hispanic vote and will have a tough time sweet-talking senior citizens.

Cruz is facing Democrat Paul Sadler, an attorney and member of the Texas House of Representatives.  Surprisingly, the Dallas Morning News endorsed Sadler for the U.S. Senate; amazing in that the paper has almost always recommended the Republican candidate.  That’s why I scratch my head in confusion every time some local right-winger hollers like a cow going into labor that the News has a leftist agenda.

Alas, I’m afraid Ted Cruz will win that coveted Senate seat next month.  When many Texans go to the polls, they seem to leave their brains in their vehicles, while making sure they have their guns.  It’s getting dangerous even for us moderates here in Texas.  And, the fact that a far-right fundamentalist like Ted Cruz could end up in such a powerful position doesn’t bode well for the United States as a whole.

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Why Have the Democrats Abandoned Texas?

Immediately after he signed the Voting Rights Act into law on August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson turned to his staff and said, “I’m afraid we’ve just handed the South over to the Republican Party.”  He didn’t realize how prescient a statement that was.  Many White southerners and their elected officials were appalled.  How dare Johnson, a fellow southerner, wreak such havoc on a system that – in their minds – had worked just fine for nearly 200 years.  After the tumultuous 1964 election season, in which people were beaten and sometimes killed for helping people register to vote or marching in favor of comprehensive voting rights, the 1965 Voting Rights Act ensured that every eligible U.S. citizen could cast a ballot, as promised by the U.S. Constitution.  It struck down two key stumbling blocks: the poll tax and the so-called “grandfather clause.”  It’s tough to imagine now, but until 1965, people actually had to pay a special tax to vote.  In the Southeast, the “grandfather clause” was designed by Whites primarily to keep non-Whites from voting; if a person’s grandfather could vote, it declared, then that person could vote as well.  But, since many people – mostly Blacks, Hispanics and Indians – were forbidden to vote in years past, their grandchildren couldn’t vote.  It was a deliberately vicious cycle that prevented the most oppressed members of society from having an impact on elections.

Southern Democrats weren’t quite like their New England and West coast counterparts.  The southerners referred to themselves as “Dixiecrats,” once the name of an actual political party.  They associated the Republican Party with those pesky northerners who had destroyed southern society and trampled on their precious “state’s rights.”  But, as the Democratic Party became more progressive in the 1960’s and 1970’s, many southerners found it distasteful.  It mostly centered on race; some older Whites simply didn’t consider Blacks and other non-Whites as equals and couldn’t stand the thought of an integrated society.  It went against their cultural values and how they viewed America.  The Democratic Party had lost its way, as far as they were concerned.  And, the Voting Rights Act pushed many over the edge and into the Republican camp.

Slowly but surely, however, southern Democrats began abandoning the Democratic Party.  Some of the most famous Republican leaders actually had started out as Democrats: Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and even Ronald Reagan.  Current Texas Governor Rick Perry first ran for public office in 1984 as a Democrat, but switched to the Republican Party in the 1990’s.  The great southern Democratic exodus actually didn’t begin, however, until after Reagan won the 1980 presidential election.  Reagan had surprised the nation when he won the 1966 California governor’s race.  California already had become a bastion of liberalism and progressive ideology, so it was shocking that a conservative Republican – even if he was a former actor – could actually take the mantle of the state’s highest office.  Reagan won reelection four years later and sought the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 1976.  But, incumbent President Gerald Ford wouldn’t relinquish the helm of the GOP to Reagan.  The Republican Party fractured over that trite battle and lost the presidency to Jimmy Carter, a Democrat.  Besides, after the disastrous Watergate affair, political pundits declared the GOP practically dead; claiming it wouldn’t recover any time soon.  When Richard Nixon departed the White House in 1974, he didn’t just leave his career in tatters; he left the entire GOP in the same state.  Or, so it seemed.

The Carter administration proved disappointing.  Even with Democrats controlling both houses of Congress, Carter couldn’t seem to get a grasp on national issues.  The various energy predicaments, coupled with the Iranian hostage crisis that erupted in 1979, only solidified Carter’s ineptness in the minds of many Americans.  In fact, the entire decade of the 1970’s seemed like an utter and dismal failure; a massive stain on our nation’s history.

But, Ronald Reagan almost single-handedly changed the national mood.  He brought a sense of renewed optimism and an infectious degree of patriotism.  Using his charm and personal wit, he made Americans feel proud; a sentiment that had been absent for years.  But, Reagan also reinvigorated faith in the Republican Party – a faith that spread like the evangelical fervor to which it was often linked.  Reagan often told southern Democrats they were really Republicans at heart; “they just hadn’t figured it out yet.”  Thus, commenced that mass pilgrimage into Republican arms, especially in the Southeast.  And, just as Lyndon Johnson had insinuated, much of it was due to race.

In January of 1999, when George W. Bush was sworn in to his second term as Texas governor, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said that the state was becoming “increasingly conservative.”  I looked at my TV screen and asked, ‘When was it ever liberal?’  But, as I muse over Texas politics, I have to ask an even more important question: why has the Democratic Party abandoned us?

When he first ran for president in 2000, George W. Bush took 59% of the Texas vote; not surprising since he was then governor and had a somewhat stable management record in the state.  Four years later, he took 61.1% of the Texas vote; again not necessarily surprising.  Bush was so certain he’d take Texas, he didn’t even campaign here in 2004.  By then, the Texas political landscape had turned crimson red.  Yes, pockets of blue stubbornly persist, mainly in the far southern and far western regions.  But, without a doubt, the Republican Party dominates.

Yet, while Johnson felt that signing the 1965 Voting Rights Act practically handed the South over to the Republican Party, it looks now like the Democrats have done much the same thing with Texas.  It seems they’ve practically ceded the state to the GOP.  People like me who’ve voted mostly Democrat our entire lives feel equally forsaken.  Recent events, though, might explain why.

When he sought the Texas governorship two years ago, Bill White, the former mayor of Houston, not only failed to invite President Obama to campaign for him here, he refused to accept an offer from the White House for the President to visit the state on his behalf.  White didn’t even want Joe Biden to drop by – which, in some ways, I can actually understand.  But then, White criticized Governor Rick Perry for referring to President Obama as only “Barack Obama” in a campaign ad, noting that the term “President of the United States” was a special designation and commanded the proper respect.  So, while White openly respected the Office of the President of the United States, he still didn’t want President Obama down here.  Therefore, Obama stayed away.  White lost with 42% to Perry’s 55%.  Not that Obama’s presence would have helped White.  But, it’s always the thought that counts.

Texas has always played a pivotal role in presidential elections.  For every election from 1872 to 1924, and from 1928 to 1948, Texas voted mostly for the Democratic candidate.  Dwight D. Eisenhower won Texas during his two presidential runs, but that may have been, in part, because he was a native son and a World War II hero.  Texas returned to its Democratic obsession throughout the 1960’s.  But, in 1976, Carter became the last Democrat to win Texas in a presidential race.

When he became chairman of the Democratic National Party in 2005, Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, launched his “50 State Strategy” to get more Democrats elected to office, starting with the 2006 mid-term elections.  Critics dismissed Dean – whose 2004 presidential run was known for a primal scream amidst a speech following the Iowa caucuses – and denounced his plan as crazy.  But, it worked; the Democrats gained control of both houses of Congress in 2006 and, of course, the White House two years later.  But, the premise of the “50 State Strategy” was to broaden the DNC’s reach across the nation, instead of concentrating its resources and energy on the East and West coasts.  It was a noble and ambitious effort to rebuild the party that had let itself be defined by the more radical voices of their Republican counterparts.  The DNC had gone too far to the left; even shutting out moderates and alienating independents.  Now, just the opposite is happening with the Republicans; they’ve moved so far to the right that the “Party of Lincoln” has made compromise a proverbial four-letter word.

But, as I – a technical writer, not a political scientist – analyze both the Democratic and Republican parties, I understand that ideology is the principal factor.  Galvanized by George W. Bush’s defeat of Ann Richards in the 1994 governor’s race, Republicans in Texas launched concerted efforts to inject more of their ilk into the state legislature.  With a reconfiguration of district lines in 2001, they succeeded; the 2002 elections allowed Republicans to take command of the state legislature for the first time in 130 years.  Texas Republicans now like to proclaim they booted out the Democrats after decades of quasi-authoritarian rule.  They make it sound as if Texas had been in the vice grip of extremist liberals; a barren wasteland where feminists, homosexuals, abortion doctors and other miscreants ruled fearlessly and ruthlessly, until a handful of brave Reagan disciples dared to stand up to them.  But, when I look at those ancient “Dixiecrats,” I realize the Republicans of today are the Democrats of yesterday.  There’s no real difference.  The name has changed, but the conservative dogma remains.  And, remember: it all goes back to race, or more importantly, the Democrats’ philosophy that race or ethnicity shouldn’t matter in a person’s success in this country.  It’s really as simple as that; race is the central element of that change.  And, from that, extends other issues, such as gender and religion.

Amidst the chaos, I ask again: why has the Democratic Party abandoned Texas?  Several years ago, a cousin of mine noted that many Hispanics had forsaken their Roman Catholic roots and turned to Protestant denominations for spiritual guidance.  Some had even switched to Baptist or Pentecostal churches, which – if you knew Roman Catholics, especially Hispanics – you’d understand how heretical that is.  But, my cousin pointed out that the Roman Catholic Church apparently hadn’t addressed the needs of the Hispanic community, particularly its immigrant members.  She claimed the Church just wanted their money and unmitigated loyalty.  That, of course, is true of most any religious outfit.  But, in reflecting how passionate people can feel about politics, the same scenario applies to Democrats and their glaring willingness to accept that Texas is a Republican stronghold.  The late former House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, a Democrat, once said that “all politics is local.”  That’s certainly true.  But, when your national leaders don’t pay attention to the locals, they shouldn’t get upset when those votes end up holding hands with the opposition.

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Quote of the Day

“Confederate apologists have spent almost 150 years trying to change the Civil War into something that it was not.  Here’s what it was: an insurrection against the United States government with the main goal of maintaining the institution of African slavery.”

– A group of 12 Texas lawmakers, in a letter opposing a proposed marker on the Texas Capitol campus recognizing the Confederacy.

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