Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hope in state of ignorance

      Parsing his vote for Rick Perry in the primary, one Republican told a reporter the message was to "let Texas be Texas."

      Yup.

      Texas, where he who panders hardest to the hard right wins the privilege of governing all.

      Texas, where a politician who led Aggie cheers can be the state's arbiter on global warming, as opposed to, say, alarmed A&M scientists who study it every day.

      Texas, where one-third of respondents in a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll say that man co-existed with dinosaurs, and where 51 percent reject the theory of evolution.

       Texas, where a majority on the state school board is more dedicated to evangelizing its own world views than sharing with students what the weight of science says on either matter.

        Texas, frozen in political amber, or some sticky stuff that retards motion, ultimately cementing one in place.

         That was a curious statement last month from Perry when he, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Attorney General Greg Abbott said the state would sue to block the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate greenhouse gases relative to their effect on our health.

      Perry said the EPA was interfering with Texas' "freedom to continue our successful environmental strategies." Beg pardon, Governor: But if the EPA is wrong and these pollutants are no threat, why even give "environmental strategies" lip service? Stop pretending. Combustion is our most important product.

       OK. So, pursuant to the only primary that matters, Texas consigns itself to another four years of pandering to the basest of its instincts, the lowest of its common denominators. Yes? Well, maybe not.

      Indicators from the primary give people who wish for something else a few glimmers of hope.

       Consider that voters ousted the devoted creationist who once headed the State Board of Education, Don McLeroy of Bryan. The victor, Thomas Ratliff, is the son of a man who embodies something once considered dino-extinct: the moderate Republican. That would be former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff.

    Elsewhere, forces of moderation turned back an effort that harked back to how creationists and homeschoolers schemed and slimed their way onto the state school board in the 1990s. Moderate GOP Lubbock incumbent Bob Craig won re-election despite character attacks by a steaming tea kettle of righteous fury named Randy Rives. Rives advertised that he had tape of his opponent consulting at a school board meeting with, get this: the president of Texans for Sound Science.

     Imagine that. Consulting with science practitioners.

     Not only that, but Rives said Craig canoodled with groups friendly with groups like Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign, "the largest homosexual organization in the country."

    How can such an appeal not be gold in a state of ignorance? Gov. Rick, haven't you shown your political brethren the way?

     Don't look now, but Democrats have fielded their most viable candidate for governor in a decade with former Houston Mayor Bill White. Don't look now, but the Legislature teeters in ways that could undo Republican hegemony. Don't look now, but for the next century, make that two or five, demography is increasingly not on the side of the majority party under today's Capitol dome.

     Texas never stopped being the state of Johnson, Rayburn, Yarborough, Richards, Hobby, Bentsen, Gonzales, Cisneros, Jordan and Farenthold and, oh, yes, Ratliff. It just stopped imagining what sort of Texas that could be.

      John Young writes for Cox Newspapers. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

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