What Made Texas Go Politically Wacko?
I have a quick question.
What made the great State of Texas go so politically bat shit crazy?
Think about it. Texas used to produce maverick politicians. The nation’s second-most populous state gave our country real leaders who talked straight to us. They worked with elected officials from other regions and even the opposing party to improve the quality of life for all Americans.
Once upon a time, Texas produced political greatness.
Now, the state has become a national laughingstalk. But nothing is funny anymore. The joke’s on us.
How did Texas go politically from this…..
Republican Senator John Tower, former Chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, and head of the Tower Commission, which investigated the Iran-Contra scandal. Sen. Tower worked in a bipartisan fashion and was widely respected by people in both parties.
Senator Lloyd Bentson, a Democrat, served his constituents for 22 years. He ran for Vice-President in 1988, famously wounding and exposing rival Dan Quayle in the debate with the singer, “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” He also served as U.S. Treasury Secretary under President Clinton.
Houston congresswoman Barbara Jordan was a pioneer in many ways. An unapologetic liberal, she championed working people, those of color, and fought against misplaced priorities in Washington. She famously delivered the keynote address at the 1976 Democratic Party National Convention, rising into a national political star.
Gov. An Richards was a wonderful woman, who I think would have made a fabulous president. Brave, funny, honest, hard-working, and at times wildly eccentric (she rode a Harley to the Capitol every day), Gov. Richards was the rising star of the Democratic Party until her career was torpedoed by George W. Bush, who won the gubernatorial election with a barrage of campaign money and misrepresentations about her record while in office.
Former San Antonio Mayor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary under President Clinton, Henry Cisneros was one of the first Latino political leaders in the state and nation. He now chairs the Bipartisan Policy Center, which helps to wok for affordable housing for all citizens.
Gov. John Connally, who was once famously shot and wounded in the JFK motorcade in Dallas, served as Texas Governor, and then was an official in the Nixon Administration, even though he was appointed while as a Democrat. Untainted by the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon once confided that he favored Connally to succeed him in the Oval Office.
“George Bush I” made some mistakes. But he was fundamentally a good man and a willing compromiser, who paid politically for his “unforgivable sin” of reaching across the aisle. Bush Sr. served this nation with distinction, as a congressman, CIA Director, Ambassador to China, Vice President, and President.
One of the most capable politicians in American history, Lyndon B. Johnson, from humble roots in rural Texas, was a transformational figure who gave us many of the policies we enjoy today in society, from civil rights, gender rights, funding for the arts, Medicare, to a host of other government programs that have helped tens of millions. A tireless workaholic, Johnson’s legacy remains mixed because of Vietnam. But he’s the greatest President on domestic policy since FDR.
Once again, I ask the question: So, how did Texas go from producing and electing such remarkably astute and effective political leaders (regardless of their ideology)…..
This last photograph is a mug shot, taken of Texas Governor Rick Perry just a few days ago when he was booked at the Travis County (Austin) jail. He’s now under federal indictment. And now, he wants to become President?
What happened, Texas? If, as the old song goes, your eyes are upon us (“The Eyes of Texas are Upon You“), we are now looking back. And we don’t like what we see.
Correction: An earlier version of this essay stated Gov. Perry was booked in Tarrant County (Fort Worth). That has been corrected to read Travis County (Austin).