Thursday, June 29, 2017

Texas, Your Texas

Like most things about Texas, this is a joke.  I wish you folks would quit taking us so seriously.

This is a pretty good analysis of rural white America.  A bit one-sided and certainly with an axe to grind, but for all the ranting about the blinkered point of view labeled "fundamentalist" in this essay, the writer does point out progressives can be just as blinkered and shift their point of view just as dramatically when theory becomes practice, and ideology becomes personal reality.

Read it through, you'll see what I mean.

What I don't understand, and this is the premise of the argument, is why we are so anxious to turn America into Texas, with California our national Travis County (home of Austin).  Texas is a deep red state, and has always been politically conservative, but not as conservative as it is now.  We gave the country John Nance Garner and John Connolly and LBJ, as well as the Governor Mizz Anne, Molly Ivins, and Jim Hightower (Sec. of Agriculture, for one term, and a darn good one.  Rick Perry replaced him.)  We even had one of the most progressive (and aggressive) consumer protection laws in the country, some 40 years ago.  That law, the Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA), is an object lesson in not resting on your political laurels.  It's probably an object lesson in what not to do when you get control of the Lege, either.

The DTPA was passed in what turned out to be the waning days of Texas Democrats, in the '70's when even Dems in Texas were liberal (well, by prevailing Texas political standards).  Halcyon days, and the Dems, as it turns out, went out with a bang.  DTPA was effective in curbing all kinds of shenanigans for businesses, putting the power in the hands of the consumers who could, under the right circumstances, recover treble damages really rather readily.  I remember working for a defense firm and if there wasn't some attempt to shoe-horn the DTPA into the plaintiff's complaint, it was tantamount to malpractice.  That kind of power in the hands of the low-born and the many-headed, of course, could not last.  The bidness of Texas bidness is bidness, and that's all government is for (well, was, until Dan Patrick; that's another story) in Texas.  The DTPA flashed across the sky and, by the time I'd left legal practice as a legal assistant and slogged through 3 years of law school, it was dead.

Dying, anyway, finally put out of its misery before my brief legal career (all 3, maybe 4 years of it; I'd rather not remember) was over.  It was almost a symbol of liberal excess, and it, along with people like Hightower who talked too much goddamned sense about ordinary people (see that line about bidness, again) led to the ascendency of Rick Perry, who gave way to Greg Abbott (who makes us all forgive Perry and want him back) who begat Dan Patrick (who we would gladly elect to the Senate, if Cruz wasn't already there as the designated asshole even Texas isn't big enough for).  Downhill, in other words, goin' to hell in a handcart.

Reaction to the over-reach, if you will.  We still don't know what hit us, us once-proud yellow dog Democrats.  We may never figure out the enemy was us.

The usual analysis is that this arch-conservatism, the Dan Patrick bull-goose looney variety especially, exists not in the major urban areas (Dallas-Fort Worth, which I think is actually larger in population than Houston but not being one city but many, especially all the suburbs that surround Dallas like lampreys on a shark, doesn't count; Houston; San Antonio, home to a very "liberal" (again, Texas standards) Democratic Hispanic mayor, who had a career until he couldn't keep his pants zipped; El Paso, Austin), which all went for Obama, twice; but the rural areas, where more people vote than in the urban areas.  Mind, there are more people in the latter, but it's the former that go to the polls.  Souls to the polls always wins.  Which is why voter ID, but that's another matter.....

This is probably true in Texas, and it doesn't have to be, but we Democrats still don't know what hit us and think if we could go back to the '70's people would love us again, so there you are.  But why is it happening across the country?

For one thing:  white rural America didn't elect Donald Trump.  The greater truth is urban and suburban America didn't do enough to push Clinton across the line, because they thought somebody else would do it for them and besides:  Clinton!  Ugh!  Trump didn't pull off a miraculous win, he fell into the White House by default.  So, no, we don't need to "understand" rural America.

For another, we misunderstand by insisting we must understand, but not in the way the Raw Story essay has it.  BBC went to Ken-tucky (I love the RP mispronunciation.  What is it about the British?) and found plenty of rural folk as disgusted with Donald Trump as they can be.  Whether they realize Mitch McConnell is more the author of their impending pain (KY expanded Medicaid, and apparently the new GOP hatchet man in Lexington hasn't rolled that back yet.  He probably knows better.), but they despise Donald Trump for setting up the disaster they are sure is about to happen.  They need Medicaid, and they know it.  Anybody looked at KY?  Outside of Louisville (one of my favorite cities), it's about as rural as Arkansas.  If those people aren't the white fundy conservatives that Raw Story essay is about, where are they?

Frankly, the essay is more than a bit of a caricature.  I've known rural people in East Texas and even around Dallas (yes, Dallas) for all my life.  They aren't as blinkered and malevolent and blind as this article indicates, but if they are, it's because of what Alvin Toffler called "Future Shock."  I was talking to my daughter about this just tonight:  how her generation doesn't mind transgendered people and gays and lesbians (I grew up learning to call such people names I equate with the "n-word" now.  Transgender was a concept I only encountered in my 20's, and then it seemed more weird than likely. Now, Caitlin Jenner.  I remember Bruce in the Olympics.).  I mentioned the other BBC story, from south India, about a group of transgenders living in a port city renowned for its tolerance of diversity in India; but these people were a bridge too far.  The upshot was a group of nuns (bless 'em!  Not under the Bishop in Illinois, obviously!) took them in, because the people in that city, well, some, reacted violently to the presence of transgenders.  Dan Patrick just wants to segregate their bathroom usage in Texas public schools.  Still, to go from ignorance of such persons to acceptance can be quite a shift in one's thinking.  As the Raw Story essay points out, it usually takes personal experience (as it did for me, too; mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa) to change minds.

Or just a new generation determined not to find reasons so hate people they don't personally know.  Well, it's an improvement.

But the shift, the push, the rapid onset of change, is engendering reactions.  Is rural white America really so blinkered and benighted?  Are they wrong to feel besieged, especially if communities, as the essay describes, went from affluence to poverty in one stroke?  Do they blame the people they relied on for that?  Might as well blame themselves.  No surprise, then, they don't want to listen to "coastal elites" with their "education".  Although, highly educated as I am, I've never had trouble speaking to such people.

I just don't try to convince them they're wrong, and I'm right.  But many of them know something is wrong, and no small number of them know what's wrong has a name:  Donald Trump.

He's not all that's wrong, of course, but it's a beginning.  It's an improvement, just to identify someone.  It was the uber-wealthy who put Trump in office, the Koch Brothers and their ilk.  Rural America just turned out and voted, as usual.  It as urban America who failed to stop them, the same reason Trump has a GOP Congress.  The mass of American voters, in their many-headed wisdom, have for decades now given one party the White House, and the other party Congress (or at least one House of Congress).  This year they gave the GOP the big domed building, expecting like the rest of us a Democrat would be sleeping in the white mansion.


But it's not a sea-change, and we don't need to demonize white rural America to feel better about it, or to beat up the Democrats.  They can do that on their own well enough; believe me, we don't need to make the country more like Texas in that respect, either.

And this whole Texas emulation thing; America, you really need to get over that!

No comments:

Post a Comment