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I served in the US Navy from 2002-08; four of those years were as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator aboard an aircraft carrier. I engage in political activism in various Democratic circles when I am able to. I have a cat, and I am an uncle.

All opinions that I express are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization that I represent.

Friday, March 14, 2014

WHY TEXAS MATTERS




On the first Tuesday of this month, Senator Wendy Davis and Attorney General Greg Abbott easily won their respective party's primaries.



For the first time since December 2000, Texas will have a brand new governor. One of these persons will be sworn in as the 48th governor of Texas this coming January.

You may wonder why a recently relocated resident of Colorado might take interest in a gubernatorial election in another state. For starters, I still have many friends and family members that live in Texas and they wonder what do I think about the November election. I lived in Texas for 24 of the 30 years that I've been on this planet.

Here is another reason why people should pay attention to what is going on in Texas. The Lone Star State has had a huge sway in national politics for over 80 years. The trend can be traced back to 1932 when the Democratic Party nominated Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who represented the northern wing of the party, as their candidate for president and John Nance Garner, who was a Congressman from Texas, as their choice for vice-president. It is widely believed that Garner said that the vice-presidency was not worth a pitcher bucket warm of piss spit. After the death of Speaker William Bankhead in September 1940, Sam Rayburn was elevated to the Speaker's chair. Both Garner and Rayburn got their start in the Texas Legislature. Rayburn was elected Speaker of The Texas House after only his second term in The Lege.

Rayburn was Speaker of The House from 1940-1947, 1949-1953, and from 1955 until his death in November 1961. The interruptions in his speakership were caused when the Republicans took control of the House during which time he was out of the speakership despised being referred to as the Minority Leader, but rather the Democratic Leader. His 17 years holding the gavel is the longest in US history. Rayburn was one of the influences of a young congressman named Lyndon Banes Johnson. Johnson left the House in 1948 to run for the US Senate where he became the Senate Majority Whip and Democratic Leader. Following FDR's strategy, Kennedy selected Johnson as his running mate in 1960. Events in Dallas in November 1963 elevated Johnson to the presidency.

George H.W. Bush's rise to the presidency was different than that of Johnson's. Though not a native Texan, Bush got his start in Texas. He was Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party in the 1960s and was elected to the House in 1966 representing a Houston neighborhood. Bush tried a second attempt to run for the US Senate in 1970 but was defeated by Lloyd Bentsen. Despite the loss, Nixon appointed Bush as his ambassador to the United Nations in March 1971. With the Watergate scandal looming in 1973, Nixon requested that Bush become chair of the RNC. After Nixon's resignation and a new administration coming into the Oval Office in August 1974, Gerald Ford named him as liaison to China in September 1974 and then Director of Central Intelligence from January 1976 until the end of the Ford presidency one year later.

During the Carter administration, Bush was chairman of the First International Bank in Houston and was a part-time professor at Rice University's Jones School of Business. Bush began exploring a presidential run and entered the Republican Primary in 1980. During the primary, Bush famously called Ronald Reagan's supply side economic plan "voodoo economics." Though that did help him win the Iowa caucuses, it would be the high point of his campaign. Reagan won the nomination, but selected Bush as his running mate. George H.W. Bush was Vice President from 1981-89 and won his own term as President in 1988 defeating the Democratic ticket of Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen.




Despite the Democrats failures to capture the White House in 1988, television audiences were introduced to Ann Richards in a keynote address where she was critical of the Republican nominee with this famous one liner:







This wasn't the first time that a Texan address the DNC as a keynoter. Congresswoman Barbara Jordan did so in 1976, becoming the first black woman to address a major party convention. She would do so again in 1992. Richards used that exposure to run and win a term as governor of Texas in 1990.



George H.W. Bush lost his re-election bid in 1992 to former Arkansas governor Bill Clinton. Two years later another Bush became the face of Texas politics. George W. Bush got his start in the oil and gas industry and later purchased a share of the Texas Rangers in April 1989. In November 1994 he defeated the incumbent Ann Richards in an election that was both hotly contested and a reflection of the national politics at the time.

In 2000, W. Bush ran for president and won the Republican nomination despite an opposition campaign by Senator John McCain whose efforts were crushed by Karl Rove. Thanks to the television networks unable to make a clear call in Florida on Election Night 2000 along with voter irregularities and confusion concerning the ballot layout in that state and one of the candidates brother being governor of said state and to top it off, a partisan Supreme Court stepped in to decide the election in one of the most controversial decisions the court has ever decided, George W. Bush was "elected" president. In one the closest elections in recent history, George W. Bush became our country's 43rd president and served two terms.

Despite not winning the state in either of his presidential runs, President Obama made a fundraising stop in Austin and San Antonio in July 2012. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and now-Senator Ted Cruz both delivered keynote addresses to their respective party conventions in 2012. Recently Houston Mayor Annise Parker addressed the California Democratic Party at their convention as a means of increasing her visibility and she has hinted at higher office within Texas. The Democratic caucus contains freshmen Marc Vesey of the recently created TX-33 that stretches from Fort Worth to Dallas and JoaquĆ­n Castro who represents San Antonio in TX-20 that was once represented by Henry and later his son Charlie Gonzalez. The Republican conference can always rely on East Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert to say something insane crazy completely devoid of any facts.






Gail Collins' book "As Texas Goes, So Goes The Nation" highlights how much sway Texas has on national policy. It is really no surprise. Population wise, Texas is the 2nd only behind California and has 38 electoral votes, also behind California's 55.






Roe v. Wade (1973) originated out of Texas and given what happened in Austin last summer, it could lead to the Supreme Court revisiting the issue of abortion down the road. Texas and many other states are passing similar laws regulating abortion clinics while also adopting sex education that teaches abstinence only. In this 2010 interview, Governor Rick Perry claims that abstinence is working while Texas Tribune's Evan Smith shows that the facts differ than what the governor is claiming.


On the topic of education, in 2011 the Lege made cuts to education and state level social safety net programs in order to balance the budget on the poor and working class while awarding tax breaks to the wealthy. Some of those cuts were restored in 2013 but that was before Governor Perry made the special session call to focus on women's reproductive organs. George W. Bush brought his "No Child Left Behind" program from Texas up to DC when he entered the White House in January 2001. Democrats have criticized the program as being too heavy on standardized testing while Republicans have criticized it for taking control of education away from local authorities.

To no surprise Texas has played a role in energy policy. Most of the major energy companies are headquartered in Texas. The idea of hydraulic fracturing drilling or "fracking" is taking place in Texas, some of them in suburban areas of the state and resulting in seismic activity. In the nearly three months since I've been in Colorado I have seen ads on television advocating for fracking. The ads claim that it is safe, but I beg to differ.

Energy policy also explains why the politics of Texas is what it is today.

It began when Jimmy Carter broke a promise he made with Texas natural gas interests to deregulate the industry in order to solve the nation's energy crisis and inflation. Carter's promise allowed him to carry the state in 1976 and gave him enough of a cushion in the Electoral College to unseat then-President Gerald Fold. Another energy crisis came to fruition in the first half of Carter's term and the president called that energy conservation was "the moral equivalent of war" in a televised speech to the nation. Because his plan did not include Texas energy interests, it was the start of the decline of the Democratic Party's power in Texas.

In 1978, Bill Clements became the first Republican since Reconstruction elected to the governor's mansion. He basically ran against Carter and his energy plan. In 1980, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush carried Texas and would do so again in 1984. Bush would carry the state again in his win in 1988 and his loss in 1992. George W. Bush would begin a nearly 20 year run of Republicans controlling the Texas governorship.



In November 2002, Republicans would gain control of the Lege and in response partake in an unexpected map redistricting that would give more control to Republicans both in Austin and the Texas US House delegation.


Carter was the last Democratic presidential candidate to carry Texas. Since then Texas has been a reliable red state in presidential elections. In part due to a Bush being on the ticket in four consecutive presidential elections from 1980 to 1992 and in 2000 and 2004. Republican candidates have won Texas with more than 50% of the vote with the exception of 1992 and 1996 when the Republican candidate won with a plurality.

No Democratic presidential candidate has cracked 45% in Texas since 1980. The average margin of victory for a Republican (or defeat for a Democrat, depending on your point of view) in Texas is nearly 15 points. The largest spread was Reagan's 1984 victory when he carried Texas by 27.5 points. In comparison, Reagan defeated Mondale by a little more than 18 points in the national popular vote. The only Democrat to come within of winning Texas was Clinton in 1992 and he lost Texas by less than 3.5 points, but he was helped by Texas billionaire Ross Perot claiming 22% of the Texas vote.

This is why Texas matters. If you want a preview of what a Republican led government in your state or a return to a Republican White House in DC, take a look at Texas. Roads downgraded to gravel because there is not enough money to fix them. Toll roads that enter into default because it is not generating enough revenue because people don't regularly use them. Low voter turnout. Rejecting expanding Medicaid even though the state has the highest number of uninsured persons and rejecting the Medicaid money costs the state $9.2 billion.

Believe me. I and many others have lived the so-called Texas Miracle.

The mirage must be shattered because it's really not about Texas.

It is about Texans.
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