Texas, jobs, and politics
New Bloggingheads! This time it's me and Joshua Treviño, patriarchy-lover extraordinaire and former Bush speechwriter, discussing the Perry campaign's chances and the role Texas plays in national politics. You may be surprised to find that I'm largely unwilling to get into the weeds with him about the reality of the "Texas miracle". It's not that I'm unaware that the "Texas miracle" is a myth. I point out in the video that Texas's unemployment rate is still at a record high and is only one point below the national average, and here I'd like to add that Texas has higher unemployment than Massachusetts or New York. Plus, dwelling on unemployment numbers is a way to distract from the fact that decades of neglect and Republican rule have created a culture of poverty in Texas that is stunning to even see, which Treviño no doubt has, since he travels a lot. It's got the 6th highest poverty rate in the nation. And pretty much everything that's shielded Texas from plunging even further into the abyss has nothing to do with Rick Perry's leadership: as someone who lived there 32 years, I can state with assurance that the mass migration of people to Texas owes more to the weather than any other factor. Unlike someplace like New York that has hot summers and freezing winters, most of Texas doesn't have a winter to speak of, and a culture of air conditioning prevents the summers from being that bad. New York is actually harder to take than Austin in the summer because it's so humid and there's so little intense air conditioning—some days you're just going to be sticky no matter what you do. Not so in Austin. When people ask Marc and myself what we miss most about Texas, we tend to say "the weather". The Tex-Mex, our friends, the Alamo Drafthouse—all fine things, but 70 degree days in January is hard to beat. Central Texas is the new Southern California, a place where you go when you could go anywhere, because it's got nice weather, and unlike Southern California, it's still not as crowded, though that's changing.
Anyway, getting off-topic. Here's why I'm wary of arguing about the non-existent "Texas miracle": the old maxim that if you're explaining, you're losing. This is the same trap liberals always fall into. Conservatives trot out some quick, farcical, but evocative phrase like "Texas miracle", toss that out there, and enjoy watching liberals start arguing it, complete with heavy details and nuance that cause everyone who isn't already a detail-oriented liberal to tune out. They try to drag you down the rabbit hole, too—if you successfully argue something simple as a rebuttal, they have a bunch of other lies to throw out to get you back to the bad habit of 'splaining shit. Treviño tried to bait me repeatedly like this, trying to toss out half-truths and falsehoods in order to get me to argue them down. Anyone undecided watching this finds themselves emotionally attracted to the easy lies and not to the complex truths. As long as we're fighting on their turf, we're losing.
Treviño asked me a hard question about this, and I struggled with an answer. Clearly, the answer for an Obama win in 2012 is for them to start getting those jobs created and fast. Steve Benen was closing in on the answer with this piece where he told the administration to start approving Republican requests for projects in their districts that would create jobs. He's right that they need to get that approving pen out and start fast-tracking some jobs. But he's wrong that they should do it in places like Bachmann's district. There's no return on that investment for them. Even if Obama turns the economy around in some shitty little Whitopia Republican hellhole, they are still not going to vote for him. The hardcore Republican districts vote their religion and skin color, full stop. Giving them money in some political kabuki isn't what's going to get the job done.
No, the answer is to target spending in swing districts. Ohio, Florida, places like that? They're not going to be entranced by bullshit memes about the "Texas miracle" when they're experiencing an actual Ohio miracle or Florida miracle. Show them that Obama has the will to use his power to get them working again, and they'll respond positively. Most people trust Democrats more on these issues than Republicans, and only vote for Republicans out of a desperate sense that since the Democrat isn't working, then they'll take their chances with the new guy, even if they're less trusting of the new guy's message.
Of course, that's the sort of bold, ass-saving move we're not used to getting from Obama, so I'm not going to bet the house on that one. But I do think it's important to remember that if you're explaining, you're losing. If someone starts to go off on the "Texas miracle", I recommend joking it off instead of explaining it off—it is a miracle, because after all, Rick Perry had shit all to do with it, so you might as well thank your supernatural deity. All your efforts would be better spent focusing on what Obama has accomplished, and suggesting that a solid Democratic win in 2012 could help him accomplish more.