Turning Texas Blue by Mary Beth Rogers


book jacket with cowboy boot like flag colorsTurning Texas Blue: What will it take to break the GOP grip on America’s reddest state? by Mary Beth Rogers (2016)

Highly recommend reading this book

I was shocked and appalled when much admired Governor of Texas Ann Richards lost to George W. Bush. Reading Bush’s Brain (aka Karl Rove), I learned how his pernicious manipulations and lies accomplished W’s win. It turns out that Mary Beth Rogers ran the campaign that put Ann Richards in office for her first term as governor, so she knows Texan politics. This book is well written and really gives an inside view of the in the trenches kind of political action that goes on that we never hear about on the news — and that’s a real loss to creating an informed citizenry. I’m going to have to return to this book for my mega opus on Know Thy Enemy post I will eventually write because of the details of the connections of the people and lies and realities. Quick quote from pp. 164-165:

Republican congressman Louie Gohmert of East Texas, who can always be counted on to say something outrageous and often UNTRUE, reflects the tone too often used by public officials here. He claimed that President Obama’s immigration policies were “luring millions of diseased immigrant children” to the United States. And he urged Texas officials to “use whatever means’ possible, like TROOPS, SHIPS OF WAR, OR TAXES to ‘stop the invasion.’ “

And the best part of her writing is that she has done her research. She does not simply pick the easy cherries like Gohmert who, to any rational person, is an outlier even on the bat shit crazy side of tea party republicans, she goes on to point out that “Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, a former radio talk show host from Houston [!!!!] might inflict real damage.” So she really has an eye on the more subtle dangers of unqualified ideologues gaining control of local, state, and federal levels of government. In fact, I have to say, that it has been VERY EASY for them to do so. And I can only blame a willfully ignorant citizenry. Alas, those of us who prefer secular, compassionate, social and economic justice above petty politicking are just screwed to have been so naive as to think good people will prevail and common sense and reason are characteristic of most Americans. I give you The Donald as proof.

Another thing I really like about her writing style is that she says what she thinks and doesn’t feel a need to follow the sanctified falsehood of “objectivity” in her commentary, here are a few examples from pp. 123 -126:

Right-wing zealot Michael Quinn Sullivan is the unofficial Republican political boss of the clowns, crackpots, and Christian crusaders who now rule Texas. And he has become the “punisher” of any PRAGMATIC Republican who departs from his ULTRARIGHT PARTY  LINE. Sullivan has the fierce tenacity of NRA leader Wayne LaPierre, the vengeful bluster of anti-taxer Grover Norquist, and the money of the infamous Koch brothers. The combination is one of the factors that have sent the Texas Republican Party into a FRENZY OF IRRATIONAL CRAZINESS.

The Sullivan Republicans are anti-government, anti-tax, anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-immigration, and anti-separation of church and state. They advocate CREATIONISM and CENSORSHIP of the state’s school textbooks, which have in some cases wiped African American leaders and progressives off the pages of American history.

Sullivan, she describes on p. 124, is involved in the Texas Public Policy Foundation [I love how patriotic and benign these bastards pick for their slimy “think tanks.” /sarcasm] The Foundation is  FAR TO THE RIGHT of the Heritage Foundation [and that’s saying something!] and has about a $10 MILLION dollar annual budget.

It issues white papers with the finesse of the Heritage Foundation and is a regular contributor  of op-ed pieces in Texas newspapers, as well as detailed, scholarly LOOKING reports AGAINST Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the ill effect of MINIMUM WAGE INCREASES.

The page continues on listing donor names and the development of “model” legislation (ALEC has close ties; saving the time of the ACTUAL LEGISLATORS from (a) thinking, (b) spending time doing their job rather than make constant phone calls to rich donors to beg for money to keep their cushy government jobs in the government that the Norquist’s of the bunch what to drown in a bathtub (as he famously said). Some of that legislation they get sponsored is “everything from opposing Obamacare to eliminating Texas’s meager environmental laws to attacking renewable energy and denying climate change.” These people are absolutely incomprehensible to me with their fervent ideology that betrays all rational thinking. They will destroy the world with this attitude! How can they be so profit obsessed to own all the world only to have it be a wasteland?

After attempting a takedown of Republican house Speaker Joe Straus at the beginning of the 2015 legislative session, Sullivan’s crackpots could draw only 19 votes against Straus’s coalition of pragmatic Republicans and Democrats who joined together to save him. Sullivan vowed to hunt down and punish any Republican who voted for Straus. Upon reelection, Straus, who is from a wealthy political family [redundant?!] in San Antonio, proclaimed that neither he nor his followers would be intimidated by Sullivan any longer. Although Straus managed to block some of the CRAZIEST pieces of Tea Party legislation, enough of those laws got through to keep Texas tilting further to the right. But Strauss’s declaration of independence from Sullivan’s threats apparently has not been enough to reassure almost a dozen Republican house and senate members who have decided not to seek reelection in order to avoid a primary election slugfest with Sullivan’s candidates in 2016.

And this is what is truly frightening. How can a Democratic agenda, much less a democratic socialist agenda gain traction when even REPUBLICANS are intimidated by the nuts. And she is not just talking about the conservative traditionalist we used to know:

Longtime moderate Republicans like Tom Luce have been dismayed by the power of Sullivan and the extreme rightward turn in the party they helped build. Maybe the term “moderate” is a misnomer. Although about 30 percent of Texas Republicans do not fall into the crazy right-wing end of their party’s spectrum, they are not necessarily moderate. Former senator [Kay Bailey] Hutchison bristles at the term and still proclaims her allegiance to traditional Republican principles.

Perhaps Hutchinson has a point. According to Peter Wehner, who served in three Republican presidential administrations and is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, what today passes for conservatism, as embraced by the most radical elements of the Republican Party, is really a cynical populism. IT WARNS OF APOCALYPSE if its prescriptions are not followed and encourages its adherents to believe that they are LIVING UNDER TYRANNY as long as DEMOCRATS — or MODERATE REPUBLICANS — remain in power. It is a decidedly unrealistic view of the world. (pp. 126-127)

Unfortunately her list of 10 things to do to turn Texas blue are unrealistic. When even REASONABLE REPUBLICANS quit in droves, and ruthless intimidation and vicious lying attacks, combined with talk radio hate, and Faux news propaganda, we cannot get actual good civic minded people to run for office. To do so is to open up yourself for shame, ridicule, and probable ineffectiveness for the trouble of exposing yourself and every detail of your life to become a public servant in an elected office.

Only deadly, narcissistic, egomaniacal, zealots with the self-righteous belief in the certainty of their god can just lie and cheat and rationalize it as for the better good with God by their side. Just like the thugs that support mass killing of people in the name of Islam, our Xtian thugs would rather let poor people starve that provide the aid that Jesus suggests would be the Christian thing to do.

If good people cannot run for public office because of minor mistakes in their past, or for a woman especially, saying “fucking” at all much less too much –unlike Rahm Emanuel for whom it is an amusing quirk — we cannot hope for better government. The good will always be beaten by liars, and they will remain in the minority because everyone else is corrupt and the incorruptible become subject to vicious attacks. The majority of legislatures has already been taken over by a carefully planned insurrection by authoritarian theocrats. They will take no prisoners. We had a small chance with Bernie Sanders’ presidential run, but the Democrats have become as radicalized corporatists and neoliberalism rules their guiding principles. Democratic socialism would be good for 99% of the people but too many people are brainwashed into believing TRUTH=LIES and LIES=TRUTH. Orwell’s 1984 has arrived. I had hoped the spirit of the sixties could survive capitalism, but it cannot because the rich and the powerful are the kids that grab both marshmallows in the social studies experience. They are not willing to wait or share with the promise of more in the future. They want it all NOW and they can take it, so they will.

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