Screw this, I love Texas

By Amanda Marcotte
Saturday, April 18, 2009 1:00 EDT
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Okay, so 18% of our citizens are stupid enough to want to secede from the rest of the U.S. This isn’t necessarily surprising—we’ve often joked at this blog about the “25%-ers”, the steady quarter of the population of Americans that would love it if we moved to a fascist government. The Birchers. The black helicopter crowd. That it’s under 25% in Texas is a pretty good sign that perhaps the country on the whole is moving in the right direction.

It didn’t bother me so much when a bunch of commenters here were like, “Texas can fuck off and die.” I figured people were just expressing some deserved frustration with our state, which is sadly controlled by wingnuts, though if everyone here had full suffrage and used it, I doubt that would happen. But then I saw bloggers who presumably put some thought into this sign on, and my heart sank. Matt’s post struck me in particular.

I’ve got more thoughts on this, but this part bothered me especially:

Obviously, one advantage of large-scale secession of the most conservative states is that it would be a lot easier to pass progressive legislation. An aspect of Civil War history that people don’t tend to appreciate is that the temporary departure of the Dixie bloc of Senators allowed a huge flowering of legislative activity that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible. In addition to prosecuting the war, the Lincoln-era GOP took sweeping action on industrial policy, infrastructure, land reform, etc. much of which would have been extraordinarily difficult to accomplish had the southerners just stayed in their seats and used the considerable levers of obstruction that are available to legislative minorities.

It’s frustrating when you get the sense that outsiders think Texans have nothing of value to contribute, as Texans, to the liberal cause. People condescendingly note that we had Molly Ivins and Ann Richards, but what they don’t seem to quite get is that these folks come from a very specific Texas background, and they play the game as Texans, and if they didn’t have that cultural background, they wouldn’t be who they were. And it isn’t just Ann Richards or Molly Ivins—it’s Cecile Richards (Ann’s daughter), voice of the progressive populist movement Jim Hightower, Barbara Jordan, Sam Rayburn, and LBJ. Hell, it’s blogosphere heroes the Dixie Chicks, who were being a lot more Texas that the Shrub will ever be when they denounced him. These people aren’t just famous liberals with a lot of moxie that happen to be from Texas—they have a lot of moxie in no small part because they come from Texas. Ballsy is considered part of our state character, and people pride themselves on it.* Of course, this doesn’t mean that non-Texans aren’t capable of being ballsy. But for Texans, especially liberal Texans, there’s a lot of pride in pointing to our progressive history and the ass-kicking philosophy of politics that goes with it.

The case of LBJ is instructive. His hang-ups and stubbornness failed this country pretty spectacularly when it came to the Vietnam War, of course. But it’s not out of line to point out that his impolite, Texas-bred, ass-kicking approach to politics also got the Civil Rights Act passed. Johnson chauvinists from Texas firmly believe that Kennedy had more of an appeasement strategy when it came to passing legislation to support the civil rights movement, which I suppose is debatable. What isn’t debatable is that Johnson knew what passing the Civil Rights Act would mean for the Democratic Party going forward—that they’d lose the South—and he did it anyway. Johnson didn’t just happen to be from Texas, and neither are the rest of us who are being treated as if our political leanings mean we don’t quite belong and would jump at the opportunity to move to another state. It may not seem like it when Rick Perry is spouting his mouth off, but we liberals contribute to the good of the country as Texans, and it would be nice if people remembered that.

And I shouldn’t have to say this, but the “they could just leave” approach doesn’t do very much for the substantial number of non-wingnut Texans that live in poverty or may have immigrated here illegally that can’t just up and move. Leaving them to the whims of a government that isn’t constrained by Texas Democrats or the federal government from acting on its most reactionary and racist impulses is immoral. So, yes, this is actually a lot like the Civil War, where there is a moral anti-racist component to the equation.

*Strangely, this doesn’t come into conflict with the laid-backness we also consider part of our state character. Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. A proper Texan says something ballsy to you while kicking back and speaking at a non-hurried pace.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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