Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Texas liberals are crazy

But it's a good thing. I am always emphasizing that citizens around the country should be spending some time familiarizing themselves with our screwed up politics in Texas, as the way that Texas is run is now affecting the entire world. George Bush and Tom DeLay in particular come out of a school of Texas political thinking called "Win At Any Cost".

Texas liberals are crazy because Texas conservatives drive us insane. As Molly Ivins is always pointing out, all you need to go cross-eyed is to spend any time at all listening to members of the Lege (Texas legislature) speak. I remember a friend of mine in college who went to her first legislative session to help represent a group dedicated to protecting children's rights in divorce cases. Coming back, she was seeing red because one hoary Republican got up and started pontificating on how giving child support was wrong because women just spent it on luxuries like expensive clothes and new cars. His evidence for this statement was that his ex-wife had recently purchased a car for his teenage daughter.

Texas politicians, especially conservatives, are notorious for their unwillingness to restrain themselves from just saying any fool thing that pops into their heads. The classic example of this is Clayton Williams stating that women who are get raped should just lay back and enjoy it--this was in the middle of a campaign for governor. To this day, you can find people who will defend that comment. If Texas liberals have little tolerance for cleverly disguised bullshit, then it is because we are used to dealing with undisguised bullshit on a daily basis.

The myth about Texas liberals is that we are rare. Not by a long shot--there are millions of us. And we vote. And we don't make it all that easy for the conservatives of this state who just wish we would shrivel up and go away.

With this is in mind, I would like to recommend two new books by very funny, very astute progressive Texans. One is Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush by Jim Hightower. It's a pretty typical Hightower book, but that's a good thing. Goofy, unapologetically progressive, and with lots of jokes about drinking beer--who wouldn't want to read it? The great thing about Hightower is that he deliberately avoids talking about social issues. He is irritated about how the Republicans use social issues to distract working class Americans from paying attention to the important issues--money and freedom.

One of the reasons that the media avoids talking about the economy and about dry civil rights issues is because these are unsexy matters. (The other reason, of course, is that their corporate overlords tell them not to.) Hightower has a great grasp of how to tell stories about corporate greed and scary political power grabs through interesting and telling stories. Tell someone that said CEO made this much while laying off this many people will put them to bed. Hightower puts feet on the street and gets people's personal stories and brings the whole thing home.

Hightower firmly believes that most Americans hold two values close to their hearts--the belief that if you work hard, you should be able to carve out a middle class existence for yourself and your family and that people should be able to live free without having anyone, not corporations or government or whatever, meddle in your business. He feels that if liberals can tailor their message to these two values, they will able to beat the beady-eyed conservatives off and take this country back. Read one of his books, and you'll find that you'll start agreeing with him.

The other new book is by Molly Ivins called Who Let the Dogs In? (It's a shame that it's got a stupid title, because the cover art is awesome--various politicians drawn as different breeds of dogs.) This book is an absolute must-read. It's various columns by Ivins since the Reagan era and it will give any liberal a good sense of the history of the political evolution that's led us to the dire situation we have now.

Ivins out and out states in an early essay about Ronald Reagan that Texas liberals have the upper leg in surviving under wingnut regimes because we have no relief from that in Texas. Her advice in this area is more valuable than ever, as we have a truly crazy wingnut in the highest office in the land right now. I consider Ivins to be a must-read writer every week, but even if you don't follow her column, there is tons to get out of this book.

The thing that is refreshing about Ivins is her steadfast belief that politicians, whatever their foibles, are human beings and should be regarded as such. It's important to be grounded like that. It does no one any good to insist repeatedly that Bill Clinton is a liar and a sneak because he comes off a progressive person and then turns around and passes some decidedly non-progressive legislation. Ivins is there to remind us that Clinton is someone who means well but after decades of having to compromise constantly to get anything done in a decidely conservative Southern state, he just didn't have the gumption to stand up for himself. That may be worse or may be better, but if you don't see it for what it is, you are prone to making some serious judgement mistakes. One I see often is thinking that therefore all Democrats are like him and that we can expect Clinton Part II when Kerry is elected President. (For one thing, I think that Kerry takes personal intergrity more seriously--really.) Ivins is very good at reminding readers that parties, while important, are not everything. And that we shouldn't have been surprised that Bush the II is not Bush the I.

Anyway, both books are great, especially for people who want to bone up on the state of liberal and progressive politics without having to get lost in piles of policy wonkery or have to read shrill screeds that make everything seem like it's a dire emergency. If there's one thing that being a Texas liberal will teach you, it's to have endless optimism in the face of overwhelming odds and that yes, a good, solid sense of humor plus a taste for good beer can make all sorts of things much more tolerable.

57 Comments:

Blogger Victor The Talking Mule said...

From the Mule to the Mouse. Love your site and commentary. Check out the Mule at http://thetalkingmule.blogspot.com
I am reading Ivins book "dogs" right now. Met Hightower at a speech recently. I used to live in Houston when the neo-Nazis and KKK ran it, now of course, the Godly Repbulicans run the state and it's worse.
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9/26/2004

 
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Yes, that's exactly why I love Ivins so much. She brings us all back down to earth and reminds us that nothing about politics is monolithic or Manichean.

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