Annise Parker won the Houston mayoral run-off yesterday, which means that Houston is now the biggest city in U.S. history to have an openly gay mayor. This will almost certainly cause a lot of people to say, “Holy fuck no way, is this the same Texas that we hear so much about, the Bible-thumping, gun-shooting hellhole?” And the answer is yes, that’s the very same Texas.
Here’s the dirty little secret about Texas: It’s more liberal than you think. Or, to put it another way, Texas (like most of the country) is divided in the same way that the nation is, down population density lines more than by “red” versus “blue” states. It’s not just Austin that trends blue. All the major cities went for Obama in the last election, at least within the city (suburban counties trended red). I got this map off the NY Times election coverage.
This should be a reminder of the limits of the “red state/blue state” narrative. Not that this is a novel observation or anything, but it’s more a matter of urban vs. not-urban. I’m not going to call the suburbs “rural”, because they are anything but, since many American suburbs have many of the urban amenities that the white flighters can’t live without, plus more parking. Texas is often treated like the shining example of all that’s wrong in the U.S., but really, its politics tailor to the national trend very closely, which is that it has a liberal population that is outvoted by its rural areas, but that this may not be true forever. What’s interesting to me is that the AP article I linked goes out of its way to downplay the significance of this election, pointing out that there was low voter turnout (shocking in a run-off election in December! shocking like the fact that it gets cold in the winter!), as if higher turnout would have certainly changed things. I’m not so sure. But it does go to show how dearly the mainstream media clings to stereotypes about Texas, and how they will fight tooth and nail to shove obvious evidence against their prejudices into the box. But they can’t conceal that both candidates are Democrats.
Of course, Parker won only after an election that got really ugly, as you can imagine. Even though her opponent Gene Locke officially distanced himself from attacks on Parker’s sexuality, it was apparently a big issue. And that means that you get comical shit like this quote:
Several voters expressed anxiety with Parker’s sexuality and said they were swayed by mail pieces or e-mails they received raising the issue.
“I don’t believe in homosexuality,” said Lavern Tisby, a Third Ward resident. “I think that’s a sin.”
Well, I don’t believe in your toenails, and yet you still have to clip them. Seriously, what’s it going to take to get people to stop misusing the word “believe”? If you think homosexuality is a sin, then you think that it exists, and therefore your absolutely believe in it. I’m usually sanguine on the way that words shift meanings, but in this case, I have to protest. People are using the word “believe” instead of the more accurate words “approve” or even “accept”, because they want cover for their bigotry. They hope the word “believe” puts their bigotry into the Religion Zone, therefore above criticism. Well, I say fuck that. If you’re going to be a bigot, fucking own it.
Anyway, congrats to Annise Parker and congrats to Houston for making people’s heads spin.