Watching the outrage at Ted Nugent’s appearance with Greg Abbott, the Republican gubernatorial candidate for Texas, yielded two obvious facts:
- Ted Nugent, originally of Michigan, is a racist; and
- The national news media does not understand Texas politics.
And it is that second point that is crucial in understanding that no matter how odd it is to court a racist, the flawed candidate in the race is Wendy Davis.
I was lucky enough to grow up in the Park Cities, a suburban enclave in Dallas. Today Val and I have a small investment in a startup in North Dallas and I spend a couple of weeks a year in Dallas, Austin, or Houston for business or vacation.
Texans do not particularly want any “help” from outsiders. Self- reliance is in their essential nature. Texas economic performance, which avoided the scale and depth of the recession, reinforces that self-confidence.
The three holy grails of Texas politics are:
- low taxes with minimal government;
- gun rights; and
It is the exact opposite agenda of the national Democratic Party. It is why the President is broadly disliked in Texas and for a sliver of the population openly hated and ridiculed in Mr. Nugent’s language.
Ms. Davis is, unfortunately, a great candidate in New York or California, but a deeply flawed candidate for Texas. Her most famous issue is of course fighting a set of abortion and women’s health restrictions. The problem is those laws are broadly popular in Texas.
Ms. Davis’s voting record (votesmart.org) appears to show her at least not openly voting for higher taxes. However, her “F” rating with the NRA reflects her votes in earlier elected offices. Which associates her with the albatross of the national Democratic Party on gun control.
Before non-Texan Democrats give the usual response on gun control polls and the 1%, hear me. My point is those arguments are losers in Texas politics. You are not going to bludgeon Texans into voting for Ms. Davis with coastal policy that clashes with broadly held Texas views.
Texans are not monolithic. Texas polls show that roughly 40% of Texans associate with national Democratic Party pro-choice, gun control, and greater government policies. But for over two decades the party has not been able to turn that 40% into 50.1% in a single state wide election.
It is not that Ms. Davis is a woman. Texas has been a leader in electing women to the governorship – the first in 1925 and again in 1933 and Governor Richards in the early 1990’s. It is because unfortunately Ms. Davis’s life’s story and appearance scream liberal Democrat. Ms. Davis sounds and looks like a particular stereotype – a big haired liberal socialite from the Park Cities or River Oaks ruined by an Ivy League or California university.
Ms. Davis famously attended Harvard. It is hard for non-Texans to understand, but graduating from Harvard is on balance a political liability in Texas. Harvard is seen as the breeding ground of coastal elites who in four years never hear a conservative thought. Governor Richards skewered President George H.W. Bush for putting his Yale silver foot in his mouth. She graduated from Baylor and obtained her teaching degree from the University of Texas fitting with some authenticity a different big haired populist Texas stereotype.
It is about winning tactics. Abbott has Ted Nugent on the trail, because Nugent is popular with the NRA and gun rights activists. Ms. Davis ought to find a non-racist celebrity gun rights supporter quickly.
We have heard a lot about lame Republican tactics in 2012, but not realizing that Texas, including Texas Hispanics and some Democrats, tilt conservative is lame. Ms. Davis’s out of state fundraising while probably necessary is a horrible liability. The image of out of town CNN reporters shoving a microphone into the face of a disabled man in a wheelchair yelling questions about a President widely disliked throughout the state makes it worse.
Democrats won Texas for generations on Texas terms. They accommodated pro-life, gun rights, and moderate low tax economic advocates into a big ruling coalition. If the Democratic Party does not change, it will keep facilitating the election to governorships in conservative states of candidates that share Ted Nugent’s values more than ours.