I’m wondering what it’s going to take for my former colleagues in the Texas press corps to call out Rick Perry for using the term “socialism” over-and-over to describe the insurance reform Congress passed last week.
Either Perry and reporters covering him don’t know what socialism is (and I doubt that), or Perry again is pushing Tea Bag propaganda, and the press is too lazy or too intimidated to challenge it.
Brent Budowsky, a columnist for The HIll, writes today that Texas Democrats are in position to upset Republicans in 2010. He has especially hopeful words for Bill White. and a keen sense of why national Democrats should be and will be paying more attention to the Lone Star State.
The coming election for governor of Texas could be a surprisingly tight race with the real possibility of a Democratic upset. The result could determine whether a future Congress is controlled by Democrats or Republicans, with a reapportionment that will give Texas a number of new seats and a potential gerrymandering swing that could move from five to seven seats from one party to the other.
For Texas Democrats, it is only a matter of time before Texas turns blue because of game-changing demographics, especially the huge wave of Hispanic population growth.The odds still favor Republicans keeping the governorship of Texas, but Democrats now have a fighting chance to achieve a stunning upset.
What does Bill White’s candidacy mean for Texas? What does it mean for Texas Democrats?
It’s auspicious, I think, that White’s announcement is accompanied by a weather flurry of white stuff, a white run-up to Christmas (and the January filing deadline).
Here’s what I like best about Bill White: he’s a problem solver. He fixes things. That’s his record as mayor of Houston. It’s good to have things fixed, and Republicans have over the years broken a lot of things — public schools, college tuition, health care, transportation. Texas looks more like China than China: extraordinary income disparity, an authoritarian elite whose talk of democracy is really no more than a note to the treasury tellers to hand over the money to cronies.
I also believe White’s pragmatic, get-things-done message is just right for Texas and the times. Ever since Democrats passed the Civil Rights Act in the 60s, the field has been tilted against Texas Democrats. Politics suffers from a faulty analogy with sports. Election cycles are not neutral playing fields. The Deep South part of Texas political culture — the racist, hierarchical part — has dominated the state the last few decades.
For years, moderate business Republicans enjoyed their alliance with the yahoos. Exploited would be a better word. But they never expected the creationists and the theocrats to actually gain power. Just think about it. The oil and gas industry needs geologists. How many geologists believe the world was created 6,000 years ago?
To paraphrase something Joe Garagiola once said about baseball, politics is a funny game. It happens that I read, or looked at, Garagiola’s book, Baseball is a Funny Game, when I was eight years old and on my first ever trip to Austin, a trip that included lunch at the Austin Club and an overnight at the Driskill Hotel. My older brother and I spent most of our time playing on the hotel elevators while my father met with the lobbyists for his small trucking company. Years later I discovered that sneaking around the hotel was an adult game in Austin, too.
Politics and baseball are funny games for many of the same reasons. Things go hilariously (or tragically) wrong, as fallible humans sport in public. Case in point. There’s an old story about a guy stealing second base. The catcher’s throw beats him, but the shortstop drops the ball. As the runner slides into the bag, he picks the ball up with his hand. “You’re out!” cries the umpire. “Out?” shouts the runner. “He dropped the ball. Look, it’s in my hand.” “In that case,” the umpire smirked, “you tagged yourself out.” I think that was the precise legal logic of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 in the Bush v. Gore case.
Other commonality: In politics, as in baseball, the umpires are usually blind, a circumstance denied in both spheres. As far as baseball umpires go, there’s no need to elaborate on the obvious. In politics, though, it’s easy to forget that most of the calls are made blindly. At the very least, political umpires are often out of position. They can’t see the play, so they guess.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison announced late yesterday that she won’t resign the Senate until after the March gubernatorial primary. She is, of course, campaigning against Gov. Rick Perry. Houston Mayor Bill White and former Comptroller John Sharp are running for the Hutchison seat that is suddenly not empty. So was Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Etc. Etc. Endless speculation will follow Hutchison’s announcement. But I think it’s best to have a visual, metaphorical representation of the blind musical chairs our political leadership has been engaged in.
The brand new Texas Tribune debuted with banner headline about the Tribune/University of Texas poll. Gov. Rick Perry leads Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison by 12 points. The news for Democrats is more muddled — and explained badly by the pollsters.
I don’t really know what to make of this poll. It is based upon a sample of 800 registered voters. No information is given us about how likely these registered voters are to vote. Polls without tight screens can be wildly off the mark.
There is a quote from UT pollster Jim Henson that is unjustified by any of the reported findings:
“The problem with the Democrats is not that nobody’s looking at them,” said pollster Jim Henson, who runs the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin and teaches there. “It’s that the candidate’s they’re showing, nobody likes.”
While it’s true that an unnamed Democrat fares better in the poll than the announced candidates, it’s that phrase “nobody likes” that seems to me to be, well, bull. Houston Mayor Bill White won his last two elections with around 90 percent of the vote. Houston’s a big town, and its voters have a huge impact on statewide results. Where’s the “nobody likes” in White’s successes?