YOU SHOULD read Erica Greider's Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas. It's a well-written, intriguing book. The author is not infected by the contempt for Texas that blinds many intellectuals and most public-affairs journalists to the virtues of our sweet state. From the introduction:
Today Texas is one of America's genuine powerhouses, and it has all the tools it needs to keep that up as long as it plans accordingly. Texas is, despite its rhetorical flare-ups, a pragmatic and largely reasonable state. It has a deep-seated suspicion of government and, not coincidentally, unusually high confidence in the private sector and in individuals, but as far as that goes, it's an exaggeration of American tradition rather than a break from it.
Texas, in other words, is not a menace. There's no reason to be scared. There's no reason to be jealous. There are, however, plenty of reasons to pay attention. Texas might not be a role model for every state, but most places could use a little more of this state's spirit, drive, and determination. . . .
She comes to the affray armed with more fair-mindedness and good sense than the editors of our miserable hometown newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, and our too-precious state magazine, the Texas Monthly, put together.
But don't expect too much.
For starters, she doesn't get religion. Not at all.
At the center of her story about how Republicans took over state government is the religious right. That group certainly played a part, but she ignores or is blind to the impact on pragmatic and largely reasonable Texas voters of the national Democratic Party's lurch toward progressivism (McGovern, 1972) and President Clinton's disgusting dalliance with a young female staffer (revealed in 1998).
Texans don't cotton to socialism-lite or to ideologically self-righteous presidents who can't keep their zipper up. McGovernism and Saturday Night Bill had more to do with the Texas's abandonment of the Democratic Party than the religious right did, though abandonment might be the wrong word. Former moderate and conservative Texas Democrats have it right: They didn't leave the party; the party left them.
As the party lost power, it drifted ever more leftward, becoming little more than the local franchisee of -- certainly not a counter-balance to -- the hard-left ideologues who run the national party.
Look at the 2012 Democratic National Convention through pragmatic and largely reasonable eyes. On policy, McGovernism is now triumphant. And it was not just the religious right that is appalled by the party's red-in-the-face effort to purge references to God from the party platform.
Leftwing Texas Democrats -- the only kind these days -- who return home from national conventions with their blood up can hope to win elections here and there, largely in the big cities where Democrats still outnumber Republicans.
But statewide? Dream on. Dream on, Bill White. Dream on, Wendy Davis. Texans have too much sense.
Here's an example of how Ms. Greider's blinkered vision causes her to see things that are not there.
[The] private sector has long been the most important part of Texas's supplemental or shadow state, and even if the state does become Democratic, that's not likely to change. After all, the last time Democrats dominated Texas -- and it wasn't that long ago -- they were probusiness too.
The last time Democrats dominated Texas, it had members who wore suits and ran business and industry, it had ranchers, pharmacists, scout leaders, and auto dealers. Except for the trial lawyers and a handful of executives who were, for one reason or another, raised as red-diaper babies, the suits are all gone now, replaced by tee-shirts with hateful slogans.
Modern Texas Democrats are as anti-business as their role models in Washington, D.C. If -- actually, when -- Texas does become Democratic, don't expect nostalgia for the good old days to protect the Texas economy from the ministrations of Democratic, spenders, and regulators.
Still -- and I'm sincere about this -- Big, Hot, Cheap is an important book by an important writer, quite good at her craft. I wish her the best. She gets a lot of stuff right. Maybe with time she'll get it all right.