Tag Archives: John Birch Society

Democratic excitement causes flashbacks

I must be hallucinating, or having some sort of flashback . . . which I assure you isn’t drug-induced.

Texas Democrats, not Republicans, are all agog over the looming struggle for attention between two rising stars. One of them came so very close to being elected to the U.S. Senate; the other is a former big-city mayor and a former housing secretary for the most recent Democratic president.

Stand tall, Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro.

O’Rourke almost defeated Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the midterm election; he might run for president of the United States in 2020. Castro was mayor of San Antonio, the state’s second-largest city and served in the Cabinet of Barack H. Obama; he, too, might run for POTUS.

Of the two of them, Castro seems the surer bet to toss his Stetson into the ring, although O’Rourke keeps tantalizing many around the country with messages that suggest that he, too, is likely to join the Democratic free-for-all.

Texas once was a Democratic bastion, where only Democrats were seen and heard. Then it morphed into a Republican stronghold and the GOP snatched all the headlines, the air time and people’s political attention.

It’s now becoming more of an inter-party competition, instead of an intra-party donnybrook. I like the idea of the two parties fighting hard for the hearts and minds of Texans and other Americans.

As for O’Rourke and Castro, I am beginning to sense a rivalry in the making.

Politico reports that a Texas political strategist, Colin Strother, sees the two men’s disparate upbringing well could produce a unique situation in Texas. They won’t be fighting for the same constituency, Strother guesses. “I see them as two completely different types of candidates,” he said.

Castro sees himself as the underdog, given O’Rourke’s meteoric rise while losing his race to Cruz. He has a twin brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, who’s been helping him raise money to try to bring down the O’Rourke colossus.

O’Rourke, you might recall, campaigned against Cruz without the help of high-powered, top-dollar political consultants and/or pollsters. He just visited every one of Texas’s 254 counties, talked to voters wherever he found them. What astounded me was the amount of time O’Rourke spent in GOP-stronghold counties in rural West Texas, from the Panhandle to the Permian Basin. Didn’t anyone tell him the Panhandle is where the John Birch Society used to give “mainstream politicians” fits?

I don’t know whether both — or either — of these young men are going to vie for the Big Prize in 2020. I’m just delighted to see the excitement they both are generating in a state that has grown quite unaccustomed to hearing noise from Democrats’ side of the fence.

That’s the spirit … of a closed mind

Oh, this is such a great country. It enables anyone to speak for what passes as their “mind,” no matter how moronic, idiotic or hateful his message might be.

This sign has gone viral throughout the vast social media network. It sits along Interstate 40 near Vega, Texas, a nice town just west of Amarillo. I used to live in Amarillo. This sign has given me my first pangs of relief that I no longer live in a community where this kind of closed-minded thinking is so damn pervasive.

Randy Burkett owns the sign. He runs an outdoor advertising company. He served for two years on the Amarillo City Council. Then, in 2017, he decided against running for a second term. I am one voter who is glad he took a hike and removed himself from elected public office; my hope is that he never returns to the elected public arena — ever again!

There once was a time when this country represented inclusiveness. It welcomed all sorts of thoughts, beliefs, points of view. Sadly, the message displayed on this billboard offers a grim reminder of a thought that used to be expressed openly throughout the Texas Panhandle.

Do you recall the John Birch Society, one of the forebears of what’s been referred to these days as the “alt-right”? Birchers were — and still are — supreme isolationists. They want the United States to pull out of the United Nations. They were the godfathers (and godmothers) of the “America First” movement now espoused by the likes of Donald John “Stable Genius” Trump Sr. They wanted no part of any internationalism in our country. They used to plant signs in Amarillo that demanded that we “Get U.S. out of the United Nations.”

Now we see this kind of message springing up?

It is shameful in the extreme to telegraph this kind of closed-mindedness to the thousands of travelers who blow through the Texas Panhandle daily along I-40.

Yes, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants individuals such as Randy Burkett the right to spew this message. It also gives folks such as me the same right to call it what it is.

Trash.

NPR far from being a ‘propaganda’ vehicle

I hate disagreeing with one of the great editorialists of our time, but I feel the need to make a point or two about a news medium that is about to expand its presence in the Texas Panhandle.

Paul Greenberg, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a man I consider to be a friend, has referred to National Public Radio as “National Propaganda Radio.”

Ouch, man!

Greenberg is a noted conservative columnist who works these days for the (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. So, his view of NPR perhaps is tainted a bit by his own political leaning.

The Panhandle version of NPR, High Plains Public Radio headquartered in Garden City, Kan., is set to launch an expanded news/information service that will be located at 94.9 FM on the radio dial. It will broadcast news 24/7. HPPR is having a ceremony on Monday at its downtown Amarillo office to mark the occasion.

This is a big deal on a number of levels.

Understand that the Texas Panhandle is as right wing in its outlook as any region in the country. It once was known to be fertile ground for isolationist groups such as the John Birch Society, the folks who disdain the United Nations, fearing it’s a cover for a worldwide takeover of every nation’s sovereignty.

But HPPR sought contributions from listeners in the region to launch the all-news system. It received them.

Public radio long has been the bogeyman of right wingers, who insist that it’s nothing but a liberal mouthpiece, that is spouts lies, tilts the news toward the left, that it serves as a propaganda organ for squishy liberal thinkers.

As Col. Sherman T. Potter would say: buffalo bagels!

A friend and former colleague of mine who used to work at HPPR in Amarillo once told me that NPR’s gurus made sure that on-air news presenters and reporters avoided using the term “reform” to describe the Affordable Care Act. “Reform,” my friend said, implies an improvement over existing policy and NPR wanted to be sure to avoid the appearance of bias in its reporting of this highly controversial public policy. NPR’s preferred term was “overhaul,” he said. Fair enough.

I learned long ago when I started my career in print journalism that bias — without exception — is a product of one’s own world view. If you disagree with someone else’s view, then that person is “biased.” One rarely sees or hears of people acknowledging their own bias. I received a good bit of that sort of criticism during nearly four decades in journalism, most of which I spent writing opinions for newspapers.

Do I have my own bias? Sure I do. Do I gravitate toward certain news media over others because I perceive some media taint their news with “bias”? Yes again.

Public radio, though, is a different animal altogether. Its presentation of news is as fair as fair gets. It even has fans and followers who often don’t want to acknowledge it.

I recall a conversation I had with a key aide to U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Clarendon Republican who has represented the 13th Congressional District since 1995. This source — who also happens to be a friend — actually whispered to me over the phone that many on Thornberry’s staff “listen to NPR.”

Why are you whispering? I asked. My friend said, “Oh, I don’t know. It’s just what we do around here.”

Fear not. NPR isn’t out to poison anyone’s mind. It’s here only to provide news we can use … in whatever way we choose.

And it damn sure isn’t propaganda.

Getting by in a ‘hostile environment’

obama

My friends on both sides of the political divide ask me on occasion: How do you cope with living in an area where you are part of a distinct political minority?

It’s easy. I am comfortable in my own skin.

My wife and I moved here in 1995 understanding that we were about to take up residence in what one might consider hostile territory. I knew of the Texas Panhandle’s John Birch Society heritage and of the ardently conservative politics that drove the region upon our arrival and which continues to this very day.

I knew immediately I wasn’t about to change anyone’s mind.

I trust my neighbors understood as well they weren’t about to change mine.

With all that laid out there, I remain perplexed, to say the least, at the “anger” of many Americans at the direction the country is heading.

A blog post notes that the writer of the essay is offering thanks to President Obama “on behalf of an ungrateful nation” for the job he has done for nearly eight years. Here’s the post:

http://www.thedenverchannel.com/decodedc/mr-president-on-behalf-of-an-ungrateful-nation-thank-you

That’s what I’m feeling today as I watch individuals such as Donald J. Trump painting this dark and forbidding picture of the state of play these days.

Perhaps the most fascinating public opinion survey statistic out there is that so-called “right track/wrong track” question pollsters keep asking Americans. They get a 70 percent “wrong track” response.

What does that mean?

I keep wondering if it includes those who think the country hasn’t veered far enough to the left¬†along with those who want it to lean hard in the other direction.

We keep hearing those on the right — now led by GOP presidential nominee Trump — repeating the mantra that America is hurtling along on the “wrong track.”

Let me be as clear as I can be: I don’t believe it.

I remember as clearly as everyone else where we were headed when Barack Obama took office in 2009. He decided to take some bold steps to end the economic free fall.

Spoiler alert: They worked!

Have they worked as well as everyone would want? No. Those on the fringes of the spectrum say (a) too many Americans aren’t yet earning enough money or (b) the national debt has ballooned too rapidly.

Yes, we live in a dangerous world. It’s always been a dangerous world.

I’ll continue to see this world through my own prism. It’s different than the one used by so many of my neighbors here in the Heart of Republicanism. I get it.

Just as my neighbors are comfortable in their own skin, though, I am comfortable in mine.

As the essayist writes in the blog attached to this message, thank you, Mr. President, for doing your job well.

 

Panhandle activist to lead Texas GOP

There’s a certain justice in the selection of Tom Mechler to lead the Texas Republican Party.

Mechler is from Amarillo, the unofficial “capital” of the Texas Panhandle, which is the unofficial capital of the Texas conservative movement that is so tightly bound to the Republican Party.

http://www.texastribune.org/2015/03/07/mechler-picked-new-texas-gop-chair/

I’ve known Mechler for a number of years. I like him. I admire his tenacity. I think he’ll do a good — maybe even a great — job as chairman of the Texas GOP.

Why the justice angle?

Mechler served on the Texas Criminal Justice Department of board. So he’s well-versed in punishing criminals for the misdeeds they commit.

But more to the point: The Panhandle has been known for decades as the place where conservatism was cool before it was cool anywhere else. The state’s political tides began turning first in the Panhandle. While the rest of Texas remained solidly Democratic, the Panhandle started turning Republican, sending up signals that the rest of the state began to understand.

There’ve been pockets of arch-conservatism here, starting with the John Birch Society, which for many years has preached a brand of isolationism that hasn’t really gone mainstream.

I don’t know how Mechler intends to lead the Texas Republican Party. Perhaps he’ll take this advice, should he ever read it. It would be that the party needs to return somewhat to the center, back toward the few remaining Texans who still call themselves Democrats.

There once was a tradition in Texas of the parties working together for the common good. The reality of late has been that Republicans — who’ve grown into a colossus — are trying to bulldoze an agenda into public policy that isn’t a good fit for all Texans.

Mechler seems on the surface to be of a quite conservative persuasion. Maybe that’s how he campaigned for the office he’s just obtained. Now that he has, might he drift more toward the center?

I’m hoping.