THE PARTY – “So what do you think about the elections?” I ask a total stranger, trying to make idle chatter. “I’ll TELL YOU WHAT I THINK!” he says sweetly, pouring his drink on my canapés. Uh-oh. I’ve done it again. Today the mere mention of politics and/or elections sets off a firestorm. No one seems to see elections as a spectator sport anymore. Not since the War Between the States (note to newcomers: that’s what we call it down here) have Americans been so divided over governments and their offspring. Republicans are hard-lined and paranoid, with a take-no-prisoners victors’ mentality, while moderate Republicans are an endangered species, like friendly French and humble Texans. Democrats are hopeless and helpless, without leadership or a plan, and have turned to drink. Both sides have delusions of adequacy.
Actually, here in Texas we are not divided, at least that’s what the election results show. Texans are not well read, but we are very well red. In the last election, the GOP candidates swept the field in state and most local offices. They elected demagogues, incompetents and scoundrels, easily beating the Democrats’ demagogues, incompetents and scoundrels. When Sam Houston gets beat, you know this is a one-party state. The guy who beat Houston for attorney general, Ken Paxton, got almost 59 percent of the votes despite the fact – or maybe because of it — the Texas State Securities Board said Paxton violated state law by soliciting clients, for pay, for a company that dispenses investment advice even though he had not registered with the board. He was fined $1,000, and a criminal investigation was put off till after the election. Paxton describes it as an administrative error. So we elected as the state’s chief lawyer and law enforcer, a guy who may end up in jail.
Who are Glenn Hegar and Sid Miller? Texans elected them comptroller and agriculture commissioner. We knew our new land commissioner, George P. Bush. He was once a governor and U.S. President, wasn’t he? Did you know John Cornyn was running for re-election? He won with very little effort or campaign funds spent. Who ran against Cornyn? I had to look it up. David Alameel was the sacrificial donkey. Rep. Joe Barton was re-elected to Congress even though at a House committee meeting he apologized to BP, and added its payment for the cleanup of the Gulf oil spill was a “shakedown.” Louie Gohmert was also re-elected although he charged Sem. John McCain “supported Al Qaeda” in traveling to Syria. Shelia Jackson Lee, routinely voted by Capitol Hill staffers as one of the worst members of Congress — each year, an average of half of her staff quits, and one year, all but six of 23 staffers left — won by almost four to one.
A big surprise was who took the wind out of Wendy? Sen. Wendy Davis was nationally known after her Texas Senate filibuster against road-side litter and people who use air quotes. She was the darling of Democrats, not to mention pink sneaker salesmen (they sell pink sneakers, they are not pink themselves, I think). Yet Davis not only got trounced by more than 20 percent, she lost worse than her predecessor as Dem guv candidate, Bill White. White had been a successful mayor of Texas’s largest city, Hidalgo, or maybe Houston. No one else knew who he was, yet White did better than Davis. Go figure.
We can forget the Dems’ favorite euphemism, “changing demographics.” That was another way of saying “the growing Hispanic vote,” which goes Democratic. True, Texas has many newcomers from south of the border, but someone should have told the Dems that those 10,000 Honduran children can’t vote. The Hispanic landslide never materialized and may never.
Another brutal victim of the Republican onslaught was Battleground Texas. It was made up of Obama power types who had engineered his triumphant victories. So they brought their winning ways here to turn Texas blue. Battleground Texas got massacred. It reminds us of the time when Jack Kennedy’s Whiz Kids, a bunch of Ivy League elites who knew everything about politics, got Lyndon Johnson on board as vice presidential nominee for the ensuing campaign. Said Sam Rayburn, looking over the preppy posse, “I just wish one of them had run for sheriff.”
It’s hard for missionaries to grasp the difficulties of running a state-wide campaign here. We are expensive. Texas is separated into 20 media markets, the most of any state. Former Texas Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, who was state director for Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2008, told The New York Times, “It’s like running a national campaign. There are no similarities between Amarillo and Brownsville and Beaumont and Texarkana and El Paso and Austin and Houston and Dallas. These are very separate demographic groups with very diverse interests.”
If you voted the straight-party ticket, you probably voted for the Republican candidates. Harris County had 253,548 Republican straight-ticket or 68 percent. In Montgomery County, 59.3 percent of all votes cast were straight-ticket Republican. Dallas County had 64 percent straight party voting, but with more Dems than GOPers doing so.
Could Battleground Texas or any other such group made any difference? Probably not. So Texas Democrats continue their 16-year losing streak as Republicans swept all 15 statewide races on the ballot. In most cases state-wide the Republican candidates won by more than 20 percentage points. So in the upcoming Legislature there will be 55 Democratic state representatives and 95 GOPers. In the Senate, there will be 12 donkeys and 19 elephants. It’s hardly worth the minority party showing up to vote.
Remember that the Dems ran the Texas Legislature longer than the PRI ruled Mexico or the communists ruled the Soviet Union. But what would Sam Rayburn and LBJ, Lloyd Bentsen and Jack Garner and the other Texas Dems think? It would not be printable. Now back to the party, this one, not the political one. I like wet canapés.
Ashby writes-in at email@example.com