Wendy Davis has thrown her hat into the ring to run for Governor of Texas. Unlike her well healed Republican opposition, Ms. Davis hails from working class Haltom City, a suburb of Fort Worth; not Dallas: Fort Worth. Dallas has museums, haute cuisine, and oil billionaires. Fort Worth is famous for its stockyards. More an over-sized Texas “little town” than internationally recognised cosmopolitan Mecca, like its neighbor, Fort Worth is reflective of the real Texas, traditional Texas. This is important. Pundits are already saying Ms. Davis is too liberal, too partisan, and out of touch with the state. Was Sam Rayburn too liberal, too partisan, out of touch? How about his protégé, Lyndon Johnson?
In spite of the ugly Viet Nam experience, Johnson was a man of the People, and he was well known for not suffering fools. Born and raised on a ranch in the Texas Hill Country and later a teacher in the Rio Grande Valley, Johnson never forgot his working class roots. This is why needy students were able to attend decent universities, while Johnson held influence, well funded universities. One of the noblest acts by Republicans was removal of oil tax revenues from state university coffers, sending tuition rates sky-rocketing. Society has forgotten the National Defense Student Loan Act. It has forgotten the Hinson-Hazelwood Loan. Many Texans went from near poverty to degreed professionals thanks to Lyndon Johnson. Is this too liberal? Governor Rick Perry calls himself a job creator, sure, for minimum wage, with no chance of healthcare benefits. In contrast, Johnson brought major industry into the state. A shining monument to Johnsonian prosperity stands on FM 528, just outside of Houston: the Johnson Space Center.
Merely a few decades ago, Texas bragged that it had two major political parties in the state: Liberal Democrats and Conservative Democrats. There was also this small, insignificant party in Houston and Dallas, composed of well healed Yankee carpet baggers and a few out of touch oil millionaires, the people Dwight Eisenhower called stupid, because of their reactionary, ultra conservative mindset. This was the Republican Party. Like the rest of the South, admittedly, Texas switched to Republican partisanship, after passage of the Civil Rights Act, but this change was gradual, very gradual. Texas refuses to be in lock step with the rest of the South. Texas is Texas. It was not until Karl Rove promulgated an inconsequential Yankee hopeful into the political arena that Texas joined the rest of the South in ultra conservative mindlessness.
Ann Richards once said, “Poor George. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth!” That’s the point. George W. Bush was born with a silver foot in his mouth. He attended college at Yale and Harvard, not UT or the U of H. Bush might have gone to high school in Midland, but how many eastern prep schools did he attend? He represented the one percent, the Eastern Billionaires, Enron, and ultimately, the Koch Brothers.
Too liberal, too partisan, out of touch? Wendy Davis? I don’t think so. Texas now has the chance to return to the state it once was, a state of home-grown political leaders; a state where politicians cared about the quality of the life of the People. This was a state where political leaders were born and bred in “little towns” and knew their constituents, understood their needs, their wants, their dreams. Texas has the chance to set things right, to return to the mindset of Sam Rayburn, Lyndon Johnson, Barefoot Sanders, and Ann Richards, and cast off the yoke of Charles and David Koch.