Texas is a solidly Republican State that hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994. With Gov. Rick Perry stepping down to devote some personal time to remembering what that third thing was, the way is clear for his heir apparent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, to waltz into office.
No prominent Democrats chose to mount a campaign against him because there are no prominent Democrats in Texas. So the mantle of “default candidate” is falling on Democratic State Sen. Wendy Davis.
Davis is developing into a problem. She started with little name recognition, a massive fundraising disadvantage, a thin resume and no experience in a state-wide race. The fact that she’s gathering national attention and closing in on Abbott in the money race is not what’s really scary about her campaign.
Why is Wendy Davis such a dangerous challenge? Texas Republicans have learned from hard experience that they should never, under any circumstances, express what they think about blacks and Mexicans. Women, however, are still fair game and Republicans are Akin’ to share what they think about Davis’ personal life.
The Dallas Morning News published a bio piece that stirred some dark waters. Davis was raised in Fort Worth by a divorced mother with virtually no child support. She got pregnant as a teenager and briefly married the father. She left him at 19 and moved back into her mother’s trailer. Her divorce wasn’t final until she was 21, which matters for some reason. A few years later she married a well-heeled lawyer who held a seat on the city council. So far, it’s a pretty standard DFW socialite career-path.
Then it takes a turn. She attended TCU and graduated at the top of her class, earning a place at Harvard Law School. With her children in the care of her husband, she graduated cum laude from Harvard. She returned to Texas where she established a successful law career and became a business owner. She left her husband after they paid off the last of her student loans (in strictly legal terms “they,” not “he” paid those loans). Her second ex-husband kept custody of the kids while she pursued her career and her political ambitions.
Across most of the rest of America and the non-Muslim world, this resume would rate somewhere between mildly inspiring and boring. Single mother goes to college, has a career, blah, blah, blah good for her. Texas, however, is not the rest of America. It’s barely America at all. In Texas, Wendy Davis is a symbol of all that’s evil and terrifying.
The Dallas Morning News’ bio piece sparked a storm of comment from the usual corners. Any woman who would leave her children in their care of their father to pursue her own personal ambitions is a whore, unless she’s Sarah Palin. “Conservatives” lined up to express their moral superiority and some of the nastiest comments came from other women. A fellow Houston Chronicle blogger led the righteous charge with these gems:
For those who aren’t familiar with the place, it is socially acceptable in Texas to say absolutely anything, no matter how ugly or bigoted as long as you preface it with “sweetheart.” That makes it cute. And women in Texas are supposed to be cute. They are supposed to smile, and do what their husbands tell them, and keep themselves pretty, and take care of the children, and tame their tongues.
Good, wholesome Texas women do not leave a husband behind in Fort Worth to go gallivanting off to Harvard. They do not let fathers raise children while they pursue a career. They most definitely do not stand up to ignorant, sexist bullies in the Texas Legislature, thwarting plans to shove righteousness into the dark unwilling places that resist it.
And if they do, you can be sure that “good” Texas women will be on the front line of the effort to hold their uppity sisters down while society enforces proper social order. Wendy Davis is not a good girl. Righteous Texas women do not approve.
Sounds like a feel-good story so far, right? What could possibly go wrong?
Many Americans, especially those far from the South and insulated from social media, still look to the Republican Party as the bastion of traditional commercial values – the strongest political force defending free enterprise, trade, and prosperity. Whoever it is out there who has missed the party’s ugly takeover by our own homegrown Taliban may see their foggy delusions burned away in the light of this otherwise inconsequential state-level contest.
Leaving behind for a moment all questions of morality or decency, this side of the GOP’s madness is unquestionably the most politically disastrous. The party may have alienated African-Americans and sold off much of its moral credibility in the process, but there are only so many black voters out there.
By contrast, there are lots of women. Many, many women. Many of them, more than you probably want to imagine, wish they had the chutzpah to do what Wendy Davis did.They do not always vote in the manner that their husbands and fathers request.
Wendy Davis is unlikely to win this election. She was always unlikely to win this election. So far her chief qualification for office is a filibuster she conducted once. By that criteria, Ted Cruz is ready for the White House.
Meanwhile Greg Abbott has served in an executive office for nearly a decade. Sure, he is utterly beholden to a cadre of religious kooks, but he has also demonstrated fundamental competence in a high-level state-wide political office over a long period of time. That’s really all the campaign story this race ever needed. The ugly references to Davis’ biography are not going to help.
Thanks to this race, young women all across Texas and the country who will one day be successful business owners, entrepreneurs, and perhaps also mothers and wives are going to hear what the GOP thinks of them. The way things are headed they may remember this race for the rest of their lives and vote accordingly.
Sen. Wendy Davis is a walking invitation to Texas Republicans to put their worst instincts on display. Anyone with any investment in the Republican Party’s broader goals, the ones that have nothing to do with putting people of certain races or genders in their divinely assigned place, please shut the hell up about Wendy’s Davis’ private life.
Pardon my manners. Please shut the hell up, sweetheart. 🙂