Category Archives: State news

Wanting two parties to fight it out

I want Texas to become a two-party state.

It’s not enough to be dominated by a single political party. Not even the Democratic Party, which used to control everything in sight dating back to the period after the Civil War. They held onto power like a vise until the 1970s, when Republicans began picking off statewide elective offices and then started winning local races where Democrats once reigned supreme.

Now it’s all Republican all the time.

Democrats keep yapping about the next election cycle when they’ll turn the corner, when they’ll start winning back some of those seats. It hasn’t happened … yet!

Is this the year? Is this when Texas Democrats can start regaining some of the clout they gave away when the party leadership veered too far to the left to suit many millions of Texans?

We’ll have to wait. And see. And hope.

Why is a two-party state preferable to a one-party juggernaut? This comes from my own point of view, given that I consider myself to be a moderate, center-left Democratic-leaning voter.

Two viable political parties make them both more alert, more receptive to compromise, tacking more toward the middle. That has been the case in Texas, at least during my more than 36 years living here while reporting and commenting on Texas public policy.

My definition of good government combines the best of both major parties. It also compels them to work with each other, not against each other.

We have in Texas a Donald Trump version of the Republican Party, which is to say that it doesn’t hue to traditional GOP partisan principles. Low taxes? Government fiscal responsibility? Internationalism?

The Texas GOP follows Trump down some version of the Yellow Brick Road to, well, nowhere in particular. Meanwhile, Texas Democrats see this as their best opportunity to pick off a few GOP posts, playing to the anger and perhaps some disappointment among rank-and-file Texas Republicans. Take my word for it, there are a number of them out there wincing, grimacing and gnashing their teeth over the way Donald Trump has chosen to lead the nation.

Might all of this pave the way for a return to competitive political environment? My hope springs eternal.

Time to put country ahead of party

This is no great flash, but I want to share with you a conversation I had recently with a prominent West Texas politician.

I won’t divulge his name because he doesn’t know I am going public with this exchange. So, bear with me.

My friend is a Republican through and through. He also happens to believe that Donald J. “Republican In Name Only in Chief” Trump needs to lose the November presidential election.

Trump is a disaster, according to my friend. He has led the country since the very beginning of his time as president down the wrong path. I didn’t ask my friend this, but I should have asked him whether he considers Trump to be a real Republican or just someone who wears a partisan political label for reasons only he knows.

I told my friend that he was “preaching to the choir” in expressing his view of Donald Trump. What I didn’t tell him — but wish I would have done so — was that he needs to take his concerns to the public. He needs to say what he told me out loud, in the proverbial public square.

My friend needs to speak from the heart, tell his West Texas constituents — who likely are going to vote one more time for the carnival barker — that they would make the gravest mistake possible. They shouldn’t endorse Trump’s re-election.

Does this individual need to serve in the office he now serves? Oh, probably not. He is a man of means who doesn’t need the publicly funded salary he draws. Thus, this is my way of saying he shouldn’t care whether he angers his constituents enough for them to vote him out of office.

My friend is far from the only Republican officeholder who carries that belief about Donald Trump. I haven’t spoken to many of them. I just know that others are out there who share my friend’s belief that we cannot afford another four years of Donald Trump.

My friend is a patriot. He loves this country. It’s time for him to demonstrate his love of country by telling the world what he told me.

Biden showing strength in Texas? Hmm … still looking for it

Let me be clear that the observation I am about to offer is purely anecdotal and based only on what my wife and I have observed up close while traveling through Texas.

It is that I am having a bit of difficulty understanding how the public opinion polls released lately can show Joe Biden tied with or leading Donald J. Trump in the race for president of the United States of America.

My observation is based on the absence of any Biden signs showing support for the presumed Democratic presidential nominee. Trump, meanwhile, enjoys at least a smidgen of lawn sign support that we have seen as we motored our way south from the Metroplex and into the Hill Country.

Before you climb all over me, chewing me up one side and down the other, I want to stipulate that I understand that lawn signs comprise a fleeting indicator public opinion. There’s nothing scientific about this observation. However, I try to add 2 plus 2; it still comes up 4. Biden’s reported Texas support, based on polling results, doesn’t seem to add up, based only on what I have noticed with my own eyes.

There might be a hidden Biden vote, one that keeps people from exhibiting their support in a visible fashion. You hear a bit these days about vandalism committed on those with certain political leanings. There also are reports of Trumpkins being a bit more, um, vehement in support of their guy.

I want to believe the public opinion polling that suggests a Trump-Biden contest in Texas is going to be a highly competitive contest. It fills me with hope that Trump will spend money in this state that he might otherwise spend in a more traditional “battleground” state.

We’ll keep traveling around the state. I also will keep my eyes peeled for signs — no pun intended — of Joe Biden strength in Texas. I remain hopeful it’s out there … somewhere.

Is there a lesson to be learned?

The news that U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Loony Bin, has tested positive for the coronavirus ought to send a clear message to the moronic conspiracy theorists out there who joined Gohmert in dismissing the value of mask wearing.

The Texas Republican had visibly and vocally eschewed wearing a mask, calling masks overrated as a preventative measure against the pandemic. Then he tests positive. Gohmert is now isolating himself in his East Texas home.

Will this clown’s infection stem the naysayers? Will it shut them up? Hardly. These idiots keep yapping about masks being part of some sort of nefarious conspiracy concocted by someone, or some organization, perhaps the Deep State designed to rule the world … or some such moronic tripe.

Gohmert is the unofficial chairman of the Wacko Caucus within the Republican congressional delegation. His initial response, I hasten to add, is that he now will wear a mask “religiously.” He says he feels fine. That’s good. Really, it is. I don’t want him to suffer.

According to “I will not be around anybody for the next 10 days without making sure that I have a mask,” Gohmert said. “Because that’s the real danger. Once you have it, giving it to somebody else, and that’s when a mask if most important.”

I do want his positive test result to send a chilling message to his fellow pandemic goofballs to listen to the docs, who tell us to wear masks and to stay the hell away from everyone else.

Oh, have I mentioned that we passed the 150,000 death count in this pandemic battle? There. I just did.

This is serious stuff, folks. Just ask Louie Gohmert.

Mother Nature deals cruel blow

Mother Nature can be the cruelest of elements.

Our friends and fellow Texans in Nueces County have been struggling against the COVID-19 virus. Reports of a spike in infections among infants has been particularly alarming. They’re running out of morgue space and are receiving refrigerated trucks to store the remains of those who have died from the virus. Good grief.

Then comes Hurricane Hanna, which blasted ashore south of Corpus Christi on Saturday. It was a Cat 1 storm, which isn’t catastrophic by definition … but it might as well have been a Cat 5 or worse, given the heartache that has struck that part of the state.

I am left while sitting up yonder in North Texas to offer my sympathy, condolences and, yes, “thoughts and prayers” to those who suffer from the pandemic and now to those who are battling storm surge, flash flooding and 100-mph wind.

What’s more, we should lift up first responders and the medical professionals who have been risking their health, their lives and those of their loved ones even before Hanna blew down the front door along the Gulf Coast.

Will any of this ever end? Can we get some help from our government and, by all means, from Mother Nature herself?

Texas becomes battleground

To be candid, I didn’t think this day would arrive so soon.

But it has. A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Joe Biden with a statistically insignificant 1 point lead over Donald Trump … in Texas!

It’s a dead heat, according to Quinnipiac. An earlier poll from the Dallas Morning News/University of Texas has Biden with a 5 percentage point lead. Other surveys all suggest the same thing, that it’s anyone’s game here.

Jimmy Carter was the latest Democrat to carry Texas, winning the state’s electoral votes in 1976 while defeating President Gerald Ford’s bid for election. I’ve long thought that Carter’s victory wasn’t the “last” time a Democrat would carry this state.

Now, though, it appears that Joe Biden has a puncher’s chance of making a serious contest for Texas’s 38 electoral votes.

We moved to Texas in 1984, settling in Beaumont, one of the state’s last Democratic Party bastions. Much of the rest of the state had turned Republican by that time, but the Golden Triangle remained heavily Democratic. That has changed in the years since then.

The new Democratic bastion now appears to be Dallas County, which borders Collin County, where my wife and I now reside.

My own Democratic leanings are well-known to readers of High Plains Blogger. No need to belabor that point.

However, I am heartened by former Vice President Biden’s strong showing in this state, given its heavy GOP leaning over many years.

The coronavirus pandemic is going to preclude any big campaign rallies between now and Election Day. That’s a bit of a bummer. I would love to attend a Biden rally, just as I attended a Trump rally in the summer of 2019 in downtown Dallas.

Whatever. We can now expect to buried/swamped/inundated with a flood of campaign ads on our TV screens. I’m guessing they’ll begin in September.

I used to complain that Democrats had given up on this state and that Republicans had taken us granted.

It looks as though that has changed … bigly!

Texas GOP has gone ’round the bend

I can declare it loudly that the Texas Republican Party has gone bonkers, around the bend, it’s out to lunch … and dinner.

The party has just elected a former one-term congressman from Florida as its new chairman. He is Allen West, who “distinguished” himself in Congress by picking fights with President Obama and riling even his own colleagues with his fiery rhetoric.

West succeeds James Dickey as Texas GOP chair. The two of them have locked arms in solidarity, pledging to keep Texas solidly Republican in the upcoming presidential election.

Let’s look back at former Rep. West’s still-brief political history. The African-American former Army lieutenant colonel once said blacks were better off under segregation. He said that Islam is not a religion but is a “totalitarian, theocratic political ideology.” I think my favorite utterance came when he said that congressional Democrats were being controlled by communists and Marxists dedicated to the overthrow of the American political and economic system.

As the Texas Tribune reports: “We’re disgusted but not surprised that Texas Republicans chose a certified racist conservative hardliner like Allen West as their new chairman,” state Democratic Party spokesman Abhi Rahman said in a statement. “West is everything that is wrong with the Republican Party and brings to light their failures on building an inclusive, welcoming party that is deliberate and thoughtful in handling crisis situations.”

This is the guy who now is going to lead the Texas Republican Party?

Oh, brother.

Abbott draws fire from his fellow Rs … amazing!

Pardon me for a moment while I, um, LOL.

Yes, the reason for my guffaw has been the response from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s fellow Republicans over the governor’s conversion to a get-tough politician waging war against the coronavirus pandemic.

Actually, Abbott is drawing heavy fire from both sides of the divide. Democrats are angry that Abbott acted too quickly to reopen the state. Now it’s Republicans who are spittin’ mad at Abbott because he realizes he erred the first time.

So, Abbott has dialed back the state’s reopening plans. He has mandated mask-wearing as a preventative measure against the virus; he also has mandated social distancing and told businesses they have to scale back their occupancy rates.

What is hilarious — in a sickening sort of way — has been the response from GOP-leaning businessmen and women. One of them is a friend of mine. He runs a small business in Amarillo. He displays a picture of President Reagan prominently where customers buy their products. My friend’s GOP credentials are real and I respect them.

But now that Abbott is acting to protect Texans’ lives and health against the killer virus, my friend has taken to calling the governor a dictator. I think he used the word “communist” in a social media post complaining about Abbott’s order to shut certain businesses down.

I happen to be upset that Abbott acted too quickly when he sought to reopen the state’s business infrastructure. We are paying the price at this moment.

However, I support the governor’s decision to dial it back and believe he is acting responsibly now. My family and I are wearing masks when we venture out. We are keeping our distance from others. We are wiping down surfaces with sanitary wipes and we keep alcohol-based sanitizer handy at all times.

Do I feel sorry for the governor? Not for a second. He gets the big bucks to make the correct decisions. He made the wrong one, then has tried to correct it. I hate to say that do-overs aren’t allowed.

Texas becomes battleground?

The national political media continue feed my heebie-jeebies.

They talk about Joe Biden’s national polling lead over Donald Trump. They suggest there might be a Democratic “tsunami” about to sweep Trump and many of his Republican congressional sycophants out of office in Washington.

Why, many commentators are looking at a recent Dallas Morning News/University of Texas-Tyler poll that puts the former vice president up by 5 percentage points over Trump. They use that poll result as evidence that Texas is about to cast its electoral votes for the first Democrat since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Whoa, now! Let’s hold on. Let’s catch our breath.

I am not yet ready to toss Texas into the Democrats’ sack of political goodies. This is among the reddest Republican states in the country. Every statewide elected official here is a Republican. It’s been an all-R state since 1998. The state’s transition from overwhelming Democrat to Republican has been stunning in the speed with which it occurred.

Is Joe Biden the Democratic presidential candidate to carry Texas across a new threshold? Hmm. I have trouble believing it, although my heart wishes it would happen.

As the Dallas Morning News reported: “I really do think that Biden could win Texas, and I didn’t think that as recently as even a month ago. But the landscape has shifted so much,” said Nancy Beck Young, chair of the University of Houston history department and a scholar of Texas politics.

The Morning News poll does suggest that since Texas is being stricken so cruelly by the COVID crisis that Texans at this moment are enraged by Trump’s feckless and reckless response to the emergency. That well might be reflected in the polling results.

I think it’s fair to suggest, though, that if Biden somehow manages to win more votes than Trump in Texas then we are looking at an epic political landslide that will bury Trump. Moreover, if Biden falls short by just a little bit — say, 2 or 3 percentage points — then that, too, might portend a significant political defeat for Donald Trump nationally.

Still, the media keep fueling my nervousness. I get that’s the media’s job. It is to report the news and polling statistics that suggest a staggering defeat of the self-proclaimed “smartest man in human history” — or words to that effect — most certainly should get our attention.

All-GOP Texas Supreme Court follows the law!

A ruling by the Texas Supreme Court denying a Republican Party appeal over the cancellation of its state convention is a really big deal.

Here’s why.

The state’s highest civil appeals court, unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, comprises partisan politicians who run for election to the office on partisan ballots. That means they might be subject to intense political pressure to favor one party over the other.

The Texas Supreme Court, in a 7-1 ruling, said “no” to the Texas Republican Party’s appeal seeking to stage its convention in Houston.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner had canceled the convention, citing extreme risk caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The GOP wanted to meet in the George Brown Convention Center. Turner said that’s a non-starter, so he invoked his power as mayor to keep Texans safe from the killer virus.

The case went immediately to the Supreme Court of Texas, which has put the kibosh on the GOP’s appeal.

The state Supreme Court is made up entirely of Republican judges, which makes this decision damn near spectacular.

It goes to show that on occasion even partisan judges can do the right thing, which is what occurred with the Texas Supreme Court’s decision stiffing the Republican Party’s desire to expose thousands of convention attendees to a potentially deadly virus.