THE SEVEN PERCENT SOLUTION

                            Is anyone else getting Clinton fatigue? Before you take sides according to your political beliefs, is anyone getting Bush fatigue? It seems like both names have been in our faces since the Boxer Rebellion. Just recall how many times they have sought our vote, not to mention, “I hope I can count on your support.” (read: money).There was a Bush or a Clinton in the White House or cabinet for 32 years straight. And does this cause us to be MIA on election day? Our no-shows are particular true if you have lived in Texas or Arkansas – especially Texas.

            Bill Clinton’s first race was for the U.S. Congress. He lost, then ran for Arkansas attorney general and won, then ran for governor and won, then lost, then won back the governorship. He was on the ballot twice as president. Hillary was a high profile First Lady, U.S. senator, ran for president, was Sec. of State, has two books about her just out, and now she will no doubt run for president again. A goodly chunk of our citizens have never known an America without a Clinton on page one. This just in: Bill Clinton is campaigning for daughter Chelsea’s mother-in-law, Marjorie Margolies, to be sent back to Congress. The beat goes on.

            Same for the Bushes It’s not generally known, but George the Elder first ran for political office in 1978 out in West Texas. It was for Congress, and, like Clinton, Bush lost. He was a Republican before that was cool. Even worse, he was from Connecticut. Here’s a story I picked up about that race: Kent Hance, the Democratic candidate and a smooth-talking good old boy, was telling a yarn about working in a field along a rural road. Then along came a fancy car. “It was a Mercedes,” drawled Hance, raising his eyebrows, and the audience tittered at the hint Bush was the kind of man more comfortable in a Mercedes than a pickup. “The guy rolled down the window and wanted to know how to get to a certain ranch.”  Hance recounted how he’d given the man directions, telling him to turn right just after a cattle guard. “Then,” Hance continued, “he said, ‘what color uniform will that cattle guard be wearing?'”

            Bush moved to Houston and ran for Congress again. This time he won — twice. Ran for the U.S. Senate and lost. But he was always in the news, usually for holding down some dirty job: Ambassador to the U.N., head of the GOP right after Watergate, emissary to China — sent me some notes with great panda stamps — head of the CIA (remember that bit of background when someone sneers that Putin was a KGB agent). Briefly ticking off the rest: ran for president in the GOP primaries, lost, two terms as vice president, one term president, etc. How many times has Bush the Elder  been on a Texas ballots?

            Then we have George Bush the Younger who Texans have voted on at least four times. But there’s more. Brother Jeb Bush served for eight years as Florida’s governor, and his son, George P. Bush, is running for Texas Land Commish, a well-worn stepping stone for seeking higher office. George P. easily won the Texas GOP primary so we will see a Bush on next fall’s ballot. Now Jeb is being mentioned as a presidential candidate. We may be able to vote for or against both a Bush and a Clinton in the same election. Even Bar Bush seems to getting tired of all her kin always running for something. And, Bar being Bar, said so.“If we can’t find more than two or three families to run for office, that’s silly, because there are great governors and great eligible people to run. And I think that the Kennedys, Clintons, Bushes — there are just more families than that. And I’m not arrogant enough to think that we alone are raising” presidential candidates.

            Perhaps Texans have a special fatigue, or at least it’s a good excuse for our miserable voting record that allows a handful of hard-charging citizens, some would day zealots, to decide who runs Texas. Just to refresh your memory, this is now a red state, a handy title invented by TV newscasters that is shorter than “a state that is dominated by members of the Republican party.” Any candidate who gets the GOP nomination here is almost certain to win, especially in a statewide election. Ah, who but picks these candidates? A small band of Tea Party members. Thus about 7 to 10 percent of eligible voters chooses our governor, lite gov, attorney general, and so forth. The Tea Party did not kick down the door, hold a pistol to our heads and demand control. Their actions were legal and effective.

            So where are the other 90 to 93 percent of us? Texas ranked 51st in voter turnout  in 2010 — behind every other state and Washington, D.C. We’d probably be behind Saudi Arabia and Oman if they ever had elections. The situation is so bad in Texas that not long ago in several counties not even the party chairmen voted. Santa Anna was right – Texas is not ready for self-government. This same survey, conducted by the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at The University of Texas at Austin and the National Conference on Citizenship, determined that we rank 49th in the number of citizens who even bother to contact public officials.

Our laziness continues when it comes to civic participation rates, ranking 43rd in donating and 42nd in volunteering, according to the Texas Civic Health Index. And 61.6 percent of eligible Texans reported being registered to vote in 2010, but just 36.4 percent reported voting in the general election when the outcome had already been determined. For Texans, when it comes to running the government, it is a spectator sport. Where are you, Santa Anna, when we need you?

 

                                    Ashby is running at ashby2@comcast.net

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