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Running scared in purple Texas



Republicans are terrified of Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate who’s only three points behind Ted Cruz in the Senate race down in Texas, which Trump won in 2016 by nearly ten points.

They’re coming after Beto on a variety of fronts. Some are direct frontal assaults, like this one from Cruz that accuses him of being a “left-wing liberal Democrat pushing an angry agenda that includes raising taxes and grabbing guns.”

“Grabbing guns”!! A huuge lie, albeit an alliterative one. But that’s all Cruz has–that, and doubling down on anti-Democratic hate. O’Rourke isn’t just a “liberal,” he’s “left-wing“! In Republican circles, that’s worse than serial adultery and child molestation a la Roy Moore.

Other Republican attacks are more subtle, such as this hit piece by a “writer based in Texas,” Kevin D. Williamson, entitled “Republicans Do Well in Texas, Except for Dallas, Houston, Austin…”. (The “…” ellipsis” in the header is because a fourth Texas city, San Antonio, also has turned blue, and the Lone Star State’s demographics are rather quickly making it viable for Democrats.)

I never read a political op-ed piece from someone I’ve never heard of without turning to Google to find out what that person’s agenda is, and in Williamson’s case, it’s not hard to figure out. The first hit for him is another op-ed piece he once wrote, called “The punishment I favor for abortion.” In that one, he said women who have abortions “should be punished by hanging,” a statement that got him fired from his then job at The Atlantic. An embarrassed and frightened Williamson later tried to walk back that awful remark by explaining, That isn’t my view at all,” a typically Trumpian lie.

Well, it is his view, because he said it, and he didn’t retract it until the merde hit the fan. Ten years ago that kind of inflammatory rhetoric might have ended his commentator career. Now, in the age of Trump, when lies, insults and threats are the lingua franca of the conservative movement, Williamson still has publishing opportunities, notably in the Wall Street Journal, where you can say just about anything, no matter how deplorable, as long as it’s well-written. His thesis, in the Beto O’Rourke piece, is predictable: Texas Republicans had better watch out (as if they need him to tell them that) because the Democrats are coming! Drive through the up-and-coming Winnetka Heights section of Dallas and it’s a sea of BETO signs, with not a whiff of Ted Cruz.”

 At least Williamson isn’t living in the Land of Denial, the way the purblind ammosexuals at Breitbart are. Having issued his warning to the GOP, Williamson must deal with O’Rourke, an attractive candidate whom even Williamson acknowledges as “a fresh face.”

How does he savage O’Rourke? “A stale agenda,” Williamson hisses, “offering up the familiar and bland welfare corporatism his party has been selling for 30 years.”

There they are, the buzzwords and dog whistles Republicans love: Welfare! Lazy slobs, usually colored, who refuse to work, suck up the taxpayer’s hard-earned money to buy booze and junk food for their illegitimate kids, ruin our neighborhoods, and are probably secret Islamic terrorists. Never mind that a centerpiece of O’Rourke’s campaign is to provide jobs “for Texas who are ready to work,” that he vows to “bring jobs to Texas,” that he wants to improve access to community colleges so that people don’t have to go on welfare in the first place, and that nowhere in his campaign has he uttered a word about “welfare” or “welfare corporatism,” a Republican euphemism for a stew of clichés concerning Food Stamps and Black welfare queens, of the sort Ronald Reagan elevated to notoriety. Beto O’Rourke is, in actually, more closely aligned with Bush-style Republicanism than with Bernie Sanders. If he were a Republican, the Wall Street Journal would endorse him.

But, you see, when Republicans can’t run on issues, they run on smears: “bland” is a particularly interesting choice of adjectives for Williamson to use. It telegraphs to Texas voters that O’Rourke is nothing more than a pretty face.

I’m glad that Texas is shifting its political allegiance. My mother’s people hail from that great state (and Oklahoma, too). Texas was LBJ country; the President who gave America Medicare, Medicaid and the Civil Rights Act was part of an honorable tradition of Texas Democrats that also included Sam Rayburn and the inestimable Ann Richards.

The switch in Texas is due—as Williamson points out—to the state’s increasing urbanization (86% of Texans now live in cities). City folk—better educated and more culturally tolerant than their country cousins—tend to be Democrats. This is great news for Texas, and for other deep red states, including Alabama and Georgia, where Democrats are slowly and inexorably becoming the majority, vote by vote, household by household, county by county. A new generation of enlightened, younger Americans is seeing right through the GOP’s lies; it’s a pleasure for an oldtimer like me to watch this exciting, dramatic transformation that, hopefully, will put the reactionary/evangelical right out of business, once and for all.



  1. Bob Henry says:

    I don’t know Kevin D. Williamson.

    Had never heard of him until reading last weekend’s Wall Street Journal “op-ed” piece.

    To this day have never read any of his work . . . other than that “op-ed” piece.

    Williamson is crying foul and poor journalism standards over his departure from The Atlantic magazine here:

    “When the Twitter Mob Came for Me”
    Wall Street Journal “Review” section, April 20, 2018, page C1ff



    “In early March, I met up with Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor in chief of the Atlantic, at an event sponsored by the magazine at the South by Southwest conference in Austin. He had just hired me away from National Review, the venerable conservative magazine where I’d been a writer and editor for 10 years.

    ” ‘You know, the campaign to have me fired will begin 11 seconds after you announce that you’ve hired me,’ I told him. He scoffed. ‘It won’t be that bad,’ he said. ‘The Atlantic isn’t the New York Times. It isn’t high church for liberals.’

    “My first piece appeared in the Atlantic on April 2. I was fired on April 5.

    “The purported reason for our ‘parting ways,’ as Mr. Goldberg put it in his announcement, had nothing to do with what I’d written in my inaugural piece. The problem was a SIX-WORD, FOUR-YEAR-OLD TWEET ON ABORTION AND CAPITAL PUNISHMENT and a discussion of that tweet in a subsequent podcast. I had responded to a familiar pro-abortion argument: that pro-lifers should not be taken seriously in our claim that abortion is the willful taking of an innocent human life unless we are ready to punish women who get abortions with long prison sentences. It’s a silly argument, so I responded with these words: ‘I have hanging more in mind.’

    “Trollish and hostile? I’ll cop to that, though as the subsequent conversation online and on the podcast indicated—to say nothing of the few million words of my published writing available to the reading public — I am generally opposed to capital punishment. I was making a point about the sloppy rhetoric of the abortion debate, not a public-policy recommendation. Such provocations can sometimes clarify the terms of a debate, but in this case, I obscured the more meaningful questions about abortion and sparked the sort of hysteria I’d meant to point out and mock.

    . . .

    “On March 22, the Atlantic announced that it had hired me and three others as contributors to its new section ‘for ideas, opinions and commentary.’ In no time, the abortion-rights group Naral was organizing protests against me, demanding that I not be permitted to publish in the Atlantic. Activists claimed, dishonestly, that I wanted to see every fourth woman in the country lynched (it is estimated that 1 in 4 American women will have an abortion by the age of 45). Opinion pieces denouncing me appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Republic, Slate, the Huffington Post, Mother Jones, the Guardian and other publications.

    “The remarkable fact about all this commentary on my supposedly horrifying views on abortion is that not a single writer from any of those famous publications took the time to ask me about the controversy. (The sole exception was a reporter from Vox.) Did I think I was being portrayed accurately? Why did I make that outrageous statement? Did I really want to set up gallows, despite my long-stated reservations about capital punishment? Those are questions that might have occurred to people in the business of asking questions. (In preparing this account, I have confirmed my recollection of what Mr. Goldberg said with Mr. Goldberg himself.)

    “Instead of interviewing the subject of their pieces, they scanned my thousands of articles and found the tidbits that seemed most likely to provoke. I was half-amused by progressive activists’ claims to have ‘uncovered’ things that were, after all, published. …

    . . .

    “Having my views misrepresented is familiar territory for me. …

    . . .

    “You can find other tweets attributed to me that are pure invention. And while the claims against me during the course of the Atlantic fiasco were not created ex nihilo, the distortions and exaggerations represent a similar kind of intellectual dishonesty: indifference to the facts of the case in the service of narrow ideological goals.

    . . .

    “… what this whole episode was really about. No one is very much interested in my actual views on abortion and capital punishment — I am hardly a household name. Anyone genuinely interested in my views would have done what journalists do and inquired about them. It isn’t hard to do.

    . . .

    “… when it comes to what appears in our newspapers and magazines, some of the old rules should still apply. By all means, let’s have advocacy journalism, but let’s make sure about the journalism part of it: Do the work, ask the questions, give readers a reason to assume that what’s published adheres to some basic standards of intellectual honesty. To do otherwise is to empower those who dismiss the media as a tangle of hopeless partisan opportunism.

    “Without credible journalism, all we have is the Twitter mob, which is a jealous god. Jealous and kind of stupid.”

  2. Bob Henry says:

    We all have an obligation as fair-minded individuals to do our own fact-checking and question our “confirmation biases.”

    (See the book titled “Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense” by Stanford professors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton.)

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