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How to Earn a Bum Steer Award

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As a feminist, someone who believes that men and women should be treated equally, I had no problem with the selection of Wendy Davis as Texas Monthly’s Bum Steer of the Year. As a journalist, I would have had qualms picking anyone else. The award recognizes the Texan who most spectacularly face-planted in public during the previous year.  As our then-editor Jake Silverstein noted in 2012, it’s not necessarily a title we relish bestowing. For every Dick Cheney, who was recognized for shooting his friend in the face, there’s a Rick Perry, who shot himself in the foot. Feelings aside, though, and politics aside, Davis was abundantly qualified for this year’s title: to ignore her would have been to ignore how genuinely bad her gubernatorial campaign turned out to be. It would have suggested, on our part, the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Inevitably, some readers disagree with our choice of Bum Steer, and we encourage them to do so. Nonetheless, I’d like to take a moment to address a critique written by Andrea Grimes of RHRealityCheck. In a post published yesterday, she calls the cover an “act of pure, derisive mockery,” part of “a long bipartisan tradition of deeply misogynistic mainstream portrayals of women who work in politics.” As evidence, Grimes cites the cover itself, which depicts Davis grimacing after having stepped in a cow patty, wearing the pink sneakers that carried her through her famous filibuster in June 2013; this is worse than a caricature, she argues, and harsher than previous Bum Steers covers, such as the one featuring a “remarkably smooth-skinned” Perry. She also offers a variety of unsubstantiated theories about our motives, but let’s set those aside—a glance at Texas Monthly’s masthead would offset any concerns about deep-seated sexism among our ranks. 

Some of Grimes’ points are debatable; as my colleague Andrea Valdez observes, the caricature of Perry makes him look kind of like a monkey. But what I wanted to highlight is Grimes’ argument that criticizing Davis is tantamount to “punching down” or picking on the underdog, because I’ve heard other partisans make similar arguments in the wake of this year’s general elections:

This year, Texas saw its most promising, most energizing Democratic candidate in years: a woman who gave thousands of Texans permission to finally talk about supporting abortion in public, who filibustered not only for reproductive rights but for education funding, who took a Harvard law degree while raising two daughters. And the most prominent periodical in the entire state, the magazine that purports to be a thought leader in the political conversation month after month, shoved her into a shit pile for it.

Is it any wonder Texas Democrats have trouble gaining ground in mainstream political conversations? When they are roundly mocked for making any attempt to try?

Grimes is right to say that Davis was the most promising Democratic candidate in years. She was promising as a state senator, having shown that she could win in a purple district and having earned favorable recognition for her work in the Legislature; in 2013, for example, Davis was named to Texas Monthly’s biennial Best List. Her filibuster, in 2013, left Democrats more energized than they had been in years, as we discussed at the time. It also made her famous and helped her raise a lot of money, which meant she had unusual momentum going into the campaign. No one thought it would be easy for a Democrat to win statewide in 2014. But Davis’s candidacy, at least for us, raised the question of whether the party could be considered competitive again.

In other words, Davis wasn’t named the Bum Steer because she lost. That would be ridiculous; there’s no dishonor in trying. Rather—and this is not remotely unclear, if you read the articleDavis was named Bum Steer because of how she lost. She lost badly: “In the end, she lost by more percentage points than Tony Sanchez did in 2002.” She lost fairly: “Infighting! Staff shake-ups! Tension with the press! Missteps over her own biography!” And she lost consequentially: “It’s not that the Democrats underperformed. It’s that the party that hasn’t won a statewide race since 1994 actually dug itself a deeper hole!”

I would put the case even more strongly than that. At the beginning of the campaign I thought that she had a chance to exceed expectations, like Ted Cruz in 2012. But Davis’s campaign wasn’t just ineffectual. It was deeply shallow. The most clear-cut example of that came in September, when Davis finally started talking about raising the minimum wage—a worthy issue, one that voters in five other states would approve in November, and one that Davis set aside a couple of days later in favor of promoting her memoir. In 2014, she even seemed to set aside the issue she had gone to bat for in 2013; on the anniversary of the filibuster she commemorated it as a fight against “insiders” rather than a stand for reproductive rights. Davis’s campaign was, also, unduly invidious. It was wrong of conservatives to deride her as “Abortion Barbie,” of course, as too many did—but it was also wrong of Davis’s actual campaign to insinuate that Greg Abbott is a rape apologist, which they did, repeatedly. 

Ultimately, Davis’s campaign was far less serious than her supporters would have hoped when she declared. The results were dispositive: she underperformed Bill White, the 2010 nominee, by a considerable margin; Democratic turnout dropped; and despite unrelenting arguments about a supposed war on women, Abbott won 55 percent of the women’s vote. (And yes, as some Democrats noted, he lost among Hispanic and African-American voters, but the “war on women” is theoretically directed against all women, and it’s not a good day for Democrats when they’re taking comfort in the fact that a Republican won only 45 percent of the Hispanic vote overall.) Beyond all this, Davis also cast an undeserved shadow on downballot Democrats like Leticia Van de Putte and Mike Collier, who campaigned with purpose and passion, and who would surely be named to Texas Monthly’s Champion Steers list, if we had one.

Some Democrats might take a more generous view of Davis’s campaign itself. Others, no doubt, would rather celebrate Davis’s strengths than dwell on her missteps. It’s taking things a step further, though, to assert that such missteps never occurred; to posit that Davis’s yawing defeat was largely due to the voter ID law; to posit that Davis, as a matter of social justice, should effectively be graded on a curve; or to angrily insist that any criticism of Davis, from any source, reflects misogyny or elitism. Such claims ignore reality. Such assertions of endemic victimhood helped land Davis on the Bum Steers cover, and deservedly so.

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  • CH

    I’m very sorry to say that I agree with your choice this year. Sorry, because I really had hoped that there might be a resurgence of spirit and enthusiasm from Texas Democrats – that Wendy Davis’ filibuster might be the catalyst for change that we were looking for. Sigh. Nope. I blame her campaign. It was pathetically mismanaged and off focus from the start. I got so tired of the daily email telling me all about Greg Abbott YET AGAIN, but no word about the candidate I wanted to support so badly. I never heard anything about her beliefs, her actions, her stand on issues…just a whole lot of reasons not to vote for her opponent. Let me give a hint to future campaign managers: We voters are sick sick sick of negativity. All you’re doing when you run down your opponent is reiterating his name and digging it even deeper into the public psyche. Focus on what you believe, dammit, and tell us about it, every chance you get. Tell us what you’re going to do, tell us how you’re going to do it, and then tell us how you’re going to pay for it. You’ll do better than Wendy did in this campaign.

    • WUSRPH

      Sorry, but I also must differ a bit with those who claim that Davis could have won or even done much better had she run a “positive” rather than a “negative” campaign. The sad fact is that today Texas is a DARK, DARK RED STATE and no Democratic statewide candidate could have overcome that this year. It would have been nice had Davis been more positive. It would certainly have made her supporters feel better about the outcome. But, the reality is that it would not have made any difference in who won or lost. But this does not let Davis off the hook for running a poor campaign that started out with the unforgivable screw-ups over her bio statement and never seemed to get on track.

      • Blue Dogs

        The TX Dems will have to get U.S. Housing & Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro (D) as their standard bearer for 2018.

        But will he able to give Abbott a run for his $$$$ ?

        • WUSRPH

          The Democrats are far from ready to run a major statewide candidate in 2018. There is too much work to be done at rebuilding the party for it to pour resources into such a losing race. It has to start now for 2016 and hope it can show more strength in the presidential race. Other than that it is where the Associated Republicans of Texas where in the mid-70s—building from the ground up. To do that they must find a message that will get “non-voters” to the polls and bring back the Democrats who did not vote this year. (Turnout for both parties was down, but more for the Dems than the GOP.) As one party leader in Travis County put it after this year’s elections. “We registered 65,000 (new) voters (this year) and none of them voted.” Finding a solution to that problem is vital for both parties if we are to retain a working government.

          • Blue Dogs

            In the post-Obama era, which all but began on November 5, 2014, Dems will have to rebuilt from the ground up in order to grow a BACKBONE.

            Look at how the VA Dems rebuilt their party in recent years and started winning statewide elections again. Florida Dems are on a losing streak in regards to the governorship over there (Chiles was the last Dem to win the FL Governor’s Mansion in 1994).

            NC Dems still hold several down ballot statewide offices, but recently lost both chambers of the General Assembly in 2010, the governorship & LG in 2012 including U.S. Senate seat last month.

          • WUSRPH

            Define “backbone” please?

          • Blue Dogs

            Backbone means: manning up & start winning statewide elections again by reaching out to Independent voters, suburban GOPers & Blue-Collar Dems as was the case of how the VA Dems have started winning again (see Mark Warner & Co.,)

          • WUSRPH

            What do you think they have been trying to do for the past several campaigns? You might note how close the VA Senate race was this year…despite all the good things you say about what the Dems did there. One of the primary aims of the Davis/VDP campaigns was to reach out to women voters and particularly GOP suburban women (ala Ann Richards in 1990)…but, as I noted back in September:

            “One of the biggest hopes for a reason she might win of the Wendy Davis campaign is that she, as a woman, etc. can attract the votes of the suburban women (often Republican) voters to whose cross-over votes many attribute Ann Richard’s victory in 1990. I, however, tend to discount this idea.

            I do so for two reasons:

            First, Greg Abbott has not and is not likely to make the kind of “sexist” remarks that turned off many GOP women in the Dallas-area suburbs who in protest voted for Richards. He will slip up occasionally, as he did when introducing his “women’s health imitative” with 9 while men and only two women standing behind him. But there will be no equivalent of Clayton Williams’ “lay back and enjoy it” comment or his refusal to shake Richards hands. (Any attacks on her character, etc. will be left to the social media the GOP uses so well to spread rumors and tales.)

            Second, that was 24 years ago and the kind of women Republicans who might have been attracted by Sen. Davis’ position on issues such as abortion, birth control, women’s health care and equal pay enforcement legislation if it were still 1990 have either long ago left the Republican Party or are dead. Those women who remain Republicans or who became GOPers in the years since are far different in their views than those of 1990. Today’s GOP women do not share Davis views. Their beliefs are often quite contrary to hers–or they would not be Republicans. In fact, most and are perfectly happy with the positions being taken by Attorney General Abbott. As such, while it is nice to dream about, any hope the Davis campaign has for any substantial cross-over by GOP women is just that—a dream.”

            I had to respond to your insightful entry (SiC)….but I have taken up too much space…So I will stay off for a day or two unless directly challenged.

          • RockyDude

            VA dems started winning when thousands of dems moved to N. VA taking government jobs and political jobs after Obama’s election. Then they voted and son of a gun, they started winning elections.

        • Vik Verma

          I have my doubts about Julian running in Texas in 2018. I think he went to HUD knowing that his future in politics is going through national avenues like George HW Bush did

          • Blue Dogs

            Vik, the TX Dems need SOMEBODY to run against Abbott in 2018.

      • I disagree Texas is a conservative state. You’re an example of a democrat who does not have the ability to distinguish between fact and fiction.
        In fact one might say you’re delusional.

    • Marty Lewis

      Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • I cannot agree more with your comment, in fact, your comment above very much mirrors what I wrote to the Davis campaign folks when I asked them to please drop the negative campaigning and replace it with substance followed by another request not long afterwards to cancel my monthly contribution to the campaign. I too was sick and tired of the negative campaign e-mails and the utter lack of substance from the campaign. In the entire time I received e-mails, not a single one ever mentioned her past accomplishments or vision for the state.

      If I were a a candidate or a political party, I would find the names of every paid member of Davis’ campaign staff and post a kind of FBI most wanted poster except with the words “Do not hire – EVER!” as the headline. Sadly, I suspect the party won’t learn from this and we’ll see more of the same next time.


    Well said. Well deserved award. In this day of “straight party” voting Davis never had a chance. But Wendy Davis and her campaign did not win the Bum Steer because she lost. They won it because she ran such a poor campaign that she lost by more than she should.

    • Blue Dogs

      Davis should’ve ran for State Attorney General instead & let former Houston Mayor Bill White (D) have another shot at the Governor’s Mansion against Abbott.

      • Vik Verma

        White wasn’t interested in running again

        • Blue Dogs

          That’s too bad because I felt White would’ve done better than Davis.

          • Vik Verma

            I would agree with that

  • Lloydville

    Well said, indeed.

  • vajohna

    This is another Texas democrat saying that Ms. Grieder nailed it.

  • Blue Dogs

    Davis also underperformed Tony Sanchez, the 2002 nominee.

  • Scott Whitt

    Agree with your choice. While I thought she should’ve ran for AG instead of governor, her campaign was awful. Seemingly took first half of year off while Abbott defined her. It reminds me of Carville quote about Dole’s presidential campaign “he wanted to run for president in the worst way, and he did”

    • Blue Dogs

      Scott, which is what Abbott wanted all along: define your opponent early & often before she defines you.

  • Wilson James

    It would be fun to have an all decade winner….(Perry) or perhaps the Texas Bum Steer All Time team: Perry, Perry, Cruz, Gohmert, Barton, Perry, Texas A&M…..Jerry Jones, Tony Sanchez……

  • J Mathis

    Agreed on all points, but you will never avoid criticism from the hopelessly-out-of-touch hardcore feministas, who cannot abide any criticism of any female to the left of Sarah Palin. There is a reason the most popular stereotype associated with far-left feminists is ‘no sense of humor whatsoever’. Attempting to explain things to the unreasonable is a fool’s errand.

  • lam33gb

    She was a miserable candidate… She was woefully underqualified.

  • Mandy G

    I am a feminist and a Davis supporter. It is not sexist that you chose her to win the Bum Steer. What is a total joke, however, is criticism of her campaign and the implication that she could’ve had a better results had it been better managed. Ok, marginally better, but let’s get real, when the Republican candidate doesn’t even have to campaign, and Republicans will vote for a baked potato that runs with an (R) besides its name, Davis never had a chance, I am sorry to say. But the things that she embraced – equal pay, raising the minimum wage, choice for women – are the things any progressive society should embrace. In my opinion the HUNDREDS of Bum Steers in Texas are the Republican politicians, and the voters that vote against their own interests to support them. You’ve lost one subscriber, TM.

    • Erica Grieder

      Let me put it this way–you guys deserved better. I (and I think most watchers) would have considered the elections a partial success for Democrats if Davis had significantly narrowed Bill White’s margin (he lost by about 13 points in 2010). That wasn’t an unreasonable goal for Democrats to have had. At points during the campaign polls showed her trailing Abbott by less than ten points, and in the weeks leading up to Nov. 4th her campaign publicly insisted it was a single-digit race. This retroactive insistence that any Democratic candidate would have lost equally badly is wrong–and, frankly, it does a disservice to the millions of Texans who supported Davis and the issues she (occasionally) stood for.

      • WUSRPH

        If you check you will find that for many of us it was not a “retroactive insistence”…..I, and others, said the same thing from the very beginning and again when she fouled up the bio statement so badly and showed her campaign was not ready for the big leagues. That is why I advocated–before she filed–that Davis run for Attorney General in the hope that a Democratic candidate could do better at a lower level office. That turned out to be not to be possible either in the this day of RED straight ticket voting. Had she run a better campaign, she might have done a little better….and helped some candidates farther down the ballot…but there was NEVER a chance that she could win.

        As I said on July 3, 2013:

        “Reality can always seem to be cold to those who don’t want to face it. If Davis runs for anything but re-election to the State Senate it will have to be a down ballot race where the current enthusiasm for her can help outweigh the millions more the other guy will have…As I have said before, to me that is Attorney General.
        As to her being the “hottest thing since Ann Richards” people forget that Richards won in 1990 with less than a majority of the vote and was helped by the fact that her opponent kept stabbing himself with his loose tounge…And she was so hot that he got beat four years later. It takes more than an “image” to win and, unfortunately, that is all the Democrats have at the moment.”

        • John Johnson

          You loudly proclaimed that Davis had to go for Abbott’s throat if she had any chance at all. You, the career political staffer, and all the overrated political consultants obviously continue to think that voters don’t pay any attention to campaigns that actually introduce a relatively unknown to the public by telling voters what they have done…what bills they have submitted and co-sponsored. In Davis’ case, they would have shown an effort to lower utility costs, insurance costs, improve school funding, improve vet’s benefits, end predatory lending, and make it easier for women to sue if it is found they have not been getting equal pay. These actions are neither conservative or liberal, and are tangible, verifiable actions on her part as a senator…not the typical Obama type, blue sky campaign promises. I hold firm that had she followed this plan she would have fared much better. However, the abortion filibuster, IMO, was her death knell from the very beginning.

          • WUSRPH

            Sad Facts:


            Democrats up and down the ballot…including those who ran positive or balanced campaigns went down….3 seats in the Texas House, one in the Senate…carried 9 fewer counties than in 2010 and ran thousands and thousands of votes behind what our candidates got that year.

            There was no such thing as a “cross-over voter” who votes for the candidate, not the party to appeal to. The voters did not pay attention to anything but the party label.

            Davis could have run the most positive campaign in history and would still have been badly defeated.. Others below her on the ballot ran much more positive campaigns. Collier’s was much more balanced and much more positive about what he was going to do. HE GOT CRUSHED.

            As to Davis campaigning on her record. All she could show as a senator was that she had filed bills to do such and such. She passed almost none of them. Voters want to see a record of accomplishment more than one of proposals. She could not show them that….You blame it on a GOP conspiracy…which may be true…but what is also true is that her record could be described as All Hat and NO COWS. All she had to offer was “what I wanted to do”,

            I never advocated a totally negative campaign. I said it had to be balanced with positive…but first she had to get the voters attention. She never did. I also never said that a BADLY EXECUTED NEGATIVE ATTACK would accomplish anything.

            The reality is that Texas is a DARK, DARK RED STATE at the moment and until that changes–for whatever reason–demographics, public awareness, scandals or the Democrats getting a “message that sells”—Democratic candidates in all but selected areas are going to lose…Good campaign…Bad Campaign…or No Campaign at all. I, for one, do not expect to see that happen in my life time…which is more than a bitter dose to swallow.

            P.S. I find it interesting that those who oppose this recognition the most tend to blame the failure on “her campaign” and the “campaign managers”. Sorry, folks, but a candidate is ultimately responsible for how a campaign is run, the message it delivers and the people chosen to run it. Those “campaign managers” did not look her in a room and run rampant without consulting her. Nor did they send her out on the campaign trail armed with a handful of leaflets and a stock speech while locking the office door behind her and cutting her off from any input. (Altho in some campaigns I was involved in we would have certainly loved to be able to do just that.) Campaign managers advise….and they manage….but they do not make the final decisions…Only a candidate can do that. And, if you have a candidate who allows that to happen, that is a candidate you certainly do not want to see be elected. We need leaders, not pawns.

          • John Johnson

            Where do you come up with this stuff? History is one thing; philosophy another. You don’t get people off a straight ticket by telling them what a putz their main guy is. You don’t win hearts and minds over to your way of thinking by being controversial. It doesn’t work in religion, nor in politics. You walk the walk and let others judge you by actions. Davis “acted”. There was a history of it. It made no difference that none made it into law. “I submitted a bill to attempt to get the highest insurance rates of any state in the U.S. lowered. The majority party in Texas decided that it should not even make it out of committee for a vote. They obviously feel more of an allegence to Big Insurance than to you consumers who might appreciate a little extra money in your pockets at the end of the month.” I can point out this sort of concept to you, but I can’t help you understand it.

          • WUSRPH

            Oh, I understand it…I’ve been in campaigns that ran on that message. I worked for that message my entire “career”. Some won, some lost..This year in contested races that message lost.

            The reality is that what you are talking about is not something that one campaign can do. It will take years of building from the ground up…with candidates in local races and those in statewide races who do not expect to have any chance of winning but who run to spread the message. That is how you build a party that can attract voters from the other side, independents (what few actual ones there are) and even some of the “non-voters”.

            The Davis campaign was not run like ….Perhaps because Wendy Davis’ problem may have been that she actually thought she could win….

          • John Johnson

            Oh, no…not more of the same from you. More after the fact rambling. No one ran the type of campaign I, and others, have suggested needed to be run. It was grenade lobbing from the start in all races, except for Ag Commissioner. Your “mix” idea is goofy. “Comparing” is one thing; excoriating is another. People want a change and no one is willing to try it because old pundants and copycat campaign managers are stuck in “it’s always been done this way” mode.

          • WUSRPH

            I think that part of your problem is that you just don’t understand what is meant by a “positive”, “negative” or “balanced” campaign message.

            You seem to think that “negative” means calling your opponent an SOB and leaving it at that. That might serve the limited purpose of turning voters away from the person being attacked, but it does not do anything about moving them TOWARD your candidate.

            Similarly, you seem to think that “positive” means having a candidate stand up and say:
            “Texas has the highest insurance rates in the nation…Wendy Davis wants to change that….In fact, she has introduced X bills in the Texas legislature to ……(brief easy to understand explanation) but Wendy cannot change things in Austin with out your help. Vote for Wendy Davis for governor”.

            Again, that is probably okay as far as it goes. It says you are a good guy for all the right things…BUT what it does not do is show the voter why they should choose you over your opponent who, as far as they know, is also a good guy.

            That’s where the kind of a “balanced” attack you call “goofy”comes in…..it is also where it might have been possible to use some of Davis’ record as a senator–as weak as it was in accomplishments–in an attack on Abbott.

            For example, she could have run an ad that said:

            “Texas has the highest insurance rates in the U.S. and nothing is being done about it….That won’t change if Greg Abbott is elected….In fact, he’s already taken more than XXXXXXX from insurance interests and recently he tired to settle a law suit against XXXX on such favorable terms for the company that the judge threw it out…
            “Wendy Davis…WILL CHANGE IT. In fact, she’s been fighting high insurance rates and insurance companies in the Texas Legislature every since she was elected…She’s introduced bills that would have….(brief description)..but she cannot change things in Austin without your help…..Elect Wendy Davis our next governor!”

            The same thing could have been done on issue after issue from tort reform (“you got screwed…Abbott advocated it…Davis is fighting it”) to the location of dangerous chemicals.. This is the kind of “negative” campaign I mean when I say “negative” and it is what I would have done had I been running her ad campaign. Of course, there is nothing new in it…It is what “old pundits and copycat campaign managers” have been saying and doing for years.

            In truth, Davis tried some of this with her “Abbott is an insider” attacks but her campaign was badly executed and never really made the point. Instead, they came off sounding too NEGATIVE without tying that to a positive alternative. That’s why she lost as bad as she did and that’s why she deserves the Bum Steer. However, the sad fact is that she would still have lost.


          • John Johnson

            Blah, blah, blah. You are all over the place and still telling me…someone who has worked all my life in the private sector…that I don’t know what moderate, undecided voters want to hear. I will also add that if you are a moderate in Texas, it is because you have started paying attention and are fairly up to speed. We don’t need some 40+ year retired state employee educating us on how the book says it is supposed to work. It’s archaic. Just stick to giving history lessons.

          • WUSRPH

            There is quite a difference between “knowing” what moderate, independents want and knowing how to get the message to them. You learn that by doing it….by focus grouping…by polling and by getting your hands dirty ….you have and never will do any of that. I will waste no more time on you.

          • John Johnson

            And you keep repeating that staid comment over and over again. I could care less if you ever respond to my posts again. You keep making that promise, yet you keep breaking it. That, however, will not keep me from commenting on yours when I see fit. I know you won’t mind.

          • WUSRPH

            My problem is that I am an incurable optimist…I just won’t accept the truth of the old Texas House saying that more than applies to you:
            “I am sorry, sir, I can explain it to you, but I can not understand it for you.”
            In your case, no one can. So I will definitely not try again.

          • John Johnson

            Yet another old, trite “Texas House saying” that you must have posted twenty times or more over the years when anyone disagrees with you. That would be mostly me. Good night, Professor. Until next time…

          • JJ the guy is delusional, give it up. Once I take a step back and look at the facts objectively I found. Democrats never run on issues, never they can’t. Are all republican good? Of course not in fact many are “converted” dems. But what I’ve come to realize is the worst republican is better than any democrat and I think most voters now feel that way.

          • John Johnson

            Obviously, you are right on both fronts. The one Dem I held out hope for self-destructed with the help of idiotic consultants from D.C. and Matt Angle who, it seems, bowed at their feet without so much as a peep. I cannot think of another Dem who I would ever afford consideration. Their leader is the Worst President Ever, and he builds on this resume almost daily. This said, the Repub’s have their share of loons tambien. A few from Tarrant County are about to show up in Austin soon. Hide and watch. It should be interesting. Can’t wait to see which one shows their ass first.

      • Mandy G

        Thanks for replying. I’m no political analyst, but I think the reason for the huge margin of defeat was her unabashed pro-choice stance. Yeah, she could’ve tempered her opinions or not chosen such a “hot button” issue to focus on and gained some more votes, but it was the issue that made her famous, and, as a Democrat, a woman, and a voter, I’m glad that she made her support for choice clear and unequivocal. Are you telling me that Abbot’s campaign was better-run? All he had to do was not mess up hugely. To state the obvious, this was not a level playing field. To name the Bum Steer Wendy Davis and her campaign? PLEASE.

        • Erica Grieder

          Davis’s pro-choice stance may have hurt her–certainly when she announced her campaign there were people on both sides who thought that it would. But I’m skeptical that the issue explains the size of the margin, for two reasons.

          1) Polling suggests that things got worse for Davis over the course of the campaign:

          Early in the race, polls showed Davis trailing Abbott by about 13 points. Not until the final weeks of the race did the gap expand. If her pro-choice stance was hurting her among voters, we would expect the gap to be 20 points at the outset, because–although abortion wasn’t a major focus of her time in the Senate–that was the issue that made her a household name. Instead, it seems like something happened in mid-October that really put voters off. The two possibilities that seem most plausible to me are a) the wheelchair ad b) when news coverage of the national midterms picked up, as typically happens in November, Davis’s unpopularity spiked because voters were thinking about Obama as the reference point for “Democrats”.

          2) If you look at the raw votes, Abbott got about as many votes as Bill White; his greater margin of victory was the result of a dropoff in votes for the Democratic side of the ticket. If voters were outraged by Davis’s stance on abortion rights you’d expect to see a surge in support for Republicans. The results suggest that the change in motivation levels was on the other side of the aisle. (And it’s not like Democrats were unusually amped in 2010–they didn’t even have a comptroller candidate that year.)

          • Erica her filibuster which brought out the underbelly of the democrat party did her in. You were there and you supported her. Stop being delusional, stop thinking like a groveling shill for the democrat party.
            Dewhurst should have banned you and Cecile Richards for your antics at the fillibuster.

  • Jon

    Grimes sounds like someone who can’t understand why Texas’ voters aren’t more enlightened and sophisticated, like New York or California. And therein lay the problem of Wendy Davis’ campaign strategy, in that during the first six months she was introduced to Texas voters outside of her Fort Worth state senate district, from June of 2013 to the end of last year, she and her handlers took not just the swing voters of Texas for granted, but also took a good part of their base, especially the heavily Latino-Catholic border areas of Texas, for granted.

    They assumed those people who traditionally voted Democrat would do so again in 2014 no matter what Wendy said or didn’t say as her introduction to them, so there was no downside to courting the big money out-of-state donors and the bi-coastal media by touting an issue they could identify with (standing firm on school funding equalization and making that your top issue never gets Davis a photo spread in Vogue or a celebrity fundraiser in New York). She and her handlers tried to lock down their funding before they locked down their voters, and the folly of that was shown back in March, when Davis lost those eight border counties to Ray Madrigal in the Democratic primary.

    Trying to run a candidacy to thrill the hearts of New Yorkers (when even some upstate New Yorkers aren’t thrilled about downstate’s politics, and Central Valley Californians aren’t all that happy with their coastal neighbors’ beliefs), was simply defining yourself initially to voters in the exact same way Greg Abbott wanted to define you to voters. Alarms should have been going off 15 months ago at Defcon 1 levels in the Davis camp when they saw Team Abbott pushing the same memes about Wendy as they were. That obtuseness alone should have earned her the Bum Steer Award.

    • Blue Dogs

      Dem gubernatorial nominees & the Latino vote in recent elections
      Sanchez (2002): 87%
      Bell (2006): 43%
      White (2010): 61%
      Davis (2014): 55%

  • Sports Princess

    Let’s recap: a governor under indictment for trying to run off the DA investigating CPRIT and TEF corruption, an AG who covered up a half a billion dollars in imaginary TEF applications while taking over $1M in campaign contributions from the businesses who received that TEF money, and the incoming AG admits to committing a felony over securities disclosures. But Wendy Davis is the Bum Steer for having the audacity to run and lose against this corruption. Nah, nothing wrong with the optics here.

    • Blue Dogs

      We love the job Perry’s been doing for the last 14 years & looking forward to Abbott continuing the economic policies of Governor Perry, so you stick your nose OUT OF IT!

      • Keith Babberney

        Not sure who”we” is, but plenty of Texans have had quite enough of Perry, Abbott, and their cohorts. And, as a 6th-gen Texan, I will stick my nose right in the middle of it whenever I like. You elected two of the worst candidates from your party to the top of the ballot. Though I shudder to think about the damage they will do, I am heartened by the idea that their tenure just might wake moderate Texans up. The Castros are coming, y’all.

      • John Johnson

        Speak for yourself, BD. Sports Princess brings lots of valid points to the discussion. All agree that Davis’s campaign strategy was an unmitigated failure, but for the Bum Steer creators to give the mentioned questionable actions a cursory glance, at most, deserves a WTF?

      • Vik Verma

        keep your nose out of it?

      • Sports Princess

        I’m a native Texan. I have as much say as you do. The “economic” policies of Perry are nothing more than crony capitalism. Can you afford a Texas State Rep or Senator? I can’t. Are you one of the cronies getting no bid contracts from the state? Are you one who took millions of dollars in slush fund money without so much as an application?

  • Greg Curtis

    Yes, but aren’t Bum Steers supposed to be funny? They aren’t political analysis. They are jokes. I read the analysis above and looked at the cover and never saw any reason to smile.

    • Erica Grieder

      Hey now. If you’re doing political analysis in Texas you have a choice: laugh or cry.

      • Greg Curtis

        Perhaps that’s true, if you’re doing political analysis. If you’re doing Bum Steers, laughter is the point.

        • John Johnson

          Are you the Gregory Curtis who ran TM back when it was THE national magazine to subscribe to?

  • Alice

    Problem: the Bum Steer article clearly pronounces not only Davis, but Battleground Texas and ALL of the Democrats as its winner. Why then does this defense ignore that and laud the democrats that deserve more praise in the eyes of this author. The Bum Steer award was clearly given with little depth of thought, and this response echoes that.

    • WUSRPH

      Which Democrats are those that “deserve more praise”? Remember WE LOST three seats in the Texas House and one in the Texas Senate as well as every statewide race as well as carrying nine less counties than we did the last time while running thousands of votes behind our previous races. Plus the GOP claims to now hold a record number of local offices in the State. It was a rout from the top to the bottom.

      Used my quota….Have fun folks. P.S. Where is Beerman when we need him?

  • Blue Dogs

    Obama’s stupid policy change regarding Cuba will result in a BACKLASH against the Dems in 2016, leading to the GOP winning back the White House.


    • WUSRPH

      It has been nearly 55 years since the Castro’s took over….It only took the US 33 years to recognize the reality of Communist China and it was (and is) a much bigger threat to us than Cuba has ever been. Cuba is not going to be run the way we would like, even after the Castro’s are dead…and it is time to accept that reality. I suspect most Americans’ reaction (other than Cuban exiles and a few right-wingers) will be “so what”….although you will be right if you say it may cost the Democrats Florida.

      • Blue Dogs

        Plus, a big what if can be: What if Batista had the Castro brothers executed years earlier ? We might have never heard of the Bay of Pigs.

        • dave in texas

          If Batista had executed Fidel (the *only* reason anybody’s ever heard of Raul is that he’s Fidel’s brother), then someone else would have led the revolution. Batista’s cruelty and corruption assured that a revolution was going to happen; it was a matter of when, not who would lead it.

          • WUSRPH

            If it had not been for ITT and the big sugar companies….we probably would have led it.

          • Blue Dogs

            In other words, Batista was finished regardless ?

          • WUSRPH

            The ease with Castro and a few thousand–at the most–guerrillas overthrew him and the greetings they received from almost everyone, everywhere in the country more than demonstrated the fragile hold Batista had on power…Remember, he fled the country with most of it still under his “control”. There were some warnings about Castro before hand, but most people in Cuba and the U.S. warmly welcomed him at the time. He started creating problems shortly thereafter.

    • Lloydville

      Cranky old Cuban-Americans, the ones who vote in Republican primaries, will fume over Obama’s actions. Younger Cuban-Americans, the ones who vote in national elections, will either approve the President’s actions or not care. Marco Rubio’s decision to pick a fight with Pope Francis on the issue will be one more nail in the coffin for GOP hopes of attracting significant Latino support in 2016. Yet another example of the Republican dilemma — to win primaries they have to take positions that don’t help them or actively hurt them in national elections.

    • José

      One expects that the backlash will be every bit as severe as the one regarding the end of DADT. It won’t be long before folks look back and wonder why the hubbub because it will look like a no-brainer.
      Stupid is continuing a policy that has failed for half a century, that is inconsistent, that is anti-business and anti-freedom. The President explained his rationale. If you can’t offer a realistic alternative and back it up with some kind of logical argument for why it is better than moving forward then it’s best that you keep quiet and let grown-ups talk.

    • Jon

      You can also note that up in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned fracking on Wednesday — http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/18/nyregion/cuomo-to-ban-fracking-in-new-york-state-citing-health-risks.html?_r=0

      Cuomo isn’t likely to run for president if Hillary does, and even if he did, isn’t likely to get anywhere. But just the fact he’s thinking about, and has decided a ban on fracking is a way to woo in-state and out-of-state Democratic primary voters, shows why any Texas Democrat tying themselves too closely to the national Democratic Party is doomed in anything but hyper-local elections.

      • WUSRPH

        You know it is possible that he acted because he was convinced, rightly or wrongly, that fracking is bad and not because he wants to appeal to some donors. Not all actions are tied to some political calculation…as you apparently believe. Some times (more than you would think) a decision is made for other reasons…..with political concerns being set aside.

        • Jon

          It’s certainly possible. But as The New York Times reported two years ago ( http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/01/nyregion/with-new-delays-a-growing-sense-that-gov-andrew-cuomo-will-not-approve-gas-drilling.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 ), his path to this week’s decision has been meandering, to be kind.

          But whatever mindset brought him to his decision, the main point is that decision would not play well except on the extremely hyper-local level in Texas. As a result, Democratic politicians in Texas not just wishing to win statewide elections, but also possibly seeing themselves as future players on the national level, have to deal with the reality that what works to woo your party’s base in Blue states might at best lock you into nothing higher than a seat on the Denton City Council in Texas. Which gets us back to where Wendy Davis first went wrong in the summer of 2013.

  • jengely

    Absolutely Wendy Davis deserved this award. And y’all’s reasoning was spot on, possibly even a little too soft after that dreadful campaign. What did feel incredibly sexist was your caricature of her on the cover where you turned her into MILF-abortion Barbie on a political walk of shame. This is not how male politicians are treated; y’all doing exactly what the DMN did with that takedown piece about her parenting. And if this state had a Molly Ivins, or a female political columnist with a pair, or more female political columnists period, this would be discussed.


    P.S. When do we get to see the rest of the Bum Steers?


    withdrawn…I’ve said more than enough.

  • Chris Meredith

    Let us not forget that people who deride Texas Monthly on its choice, are deriding the #1 most liberal, pro democratic journalism in the entire state of Texas for a one in a million slap at a democrat. Without TM she may have lost by 50%.

    • Jed

      if you can’t find anything to the left of TM, you may be dyslexic.

      • WUSRPH

        Try the Texas Observer. The Houston Press….and a bunch of blogs.

        • Jed

          why do YOU get the upvote for this?

          my post was damn funny.

          • John Johnson

            He gives them to himself. I agree with you…yours was witty and brought a smile to my face.

          • WUSRPH

            Actually I have never understood this up vote thing….but, however, it works I do not do it…Yours was funny..mine was informative.

          • Jed


          • WUSRPH

            Actually, how does this voting thing work? I have never done it but there may be a time (say on one of your entries) that I would like to show support. Is that what it is for?

            I just tried it….It’s those little arrows below the entry….Finally figured out what those were for…

  • Sue Cavanaugh

    So disappointed with my all-time favorite magazine.

  • I disagree….TM had a once in a lifetime chance to get it right and they cutNran.

    Michelle Obama told us this week about how racist America is, using her trip to Target to prove her point. But some of us remember a different version of the same story she told on Jimmy Kimmel a few years back. The trouble with most democrats is they cannot remember or distinguish between fact and fiction and cannot keep up with all the lies they tell. However most voters can.
    After the 100 year shellacking at the polls in 2014, TM should have awarded the Bum Steer award to ALL democrats, not just one.

    • Jed

      i agree. austin now has more republicans on its city council than i believe has ever been the case. like, ever ever (possibly excepting reconstruction – anyone know if this information is archived?).

      two of those were elected by margins of only a hundred votes or so.

      democrats have no one to blame but ourselves.

      • WUSRPH

        Oh. we’ve had then before…Although some of them claimed to be “conservative Democrats” but that was back in the days when it was still socially unacceptable in most places to call yourself a Republican.


    It also helps you to lose if your Party can not figure out what it stands for.


  • Sue Cavanaugh

    Guess TM has no problem losing the 40 and under female readers. How DARE she speak up for women for hours wearing those pink shoes that you pooped on! How DARE she have the courage to run and lose. TM gets the Bumsteer Award this year for me.

  • Blake Mitchell

    I’ve read the 2012 TM piece linked to in the first paragraph, and I wish I could detect the same level of reluctance this time around, but I can’t. I can’t because it’s just not there, no matter how much TM and it’s apologists claim it is–after the fact, of course. And I also wish it was somehow unfair to point out that Abbott is indeed a rape apologist, or that Patrick is a suicidal maniac, but it’s not, because it’s true in both cases. But, you know, Que sera…

    ps–I also believe that men and women should be treated equally. Unfortunately they’re not, and the tasteless cover–and TM’s defensiveness over it–is proof of that.

    pps–I’m sure the folks who pay for all those glossy full-page ads in TM every month love the cover; and in the end, that’s all that really matters, right?

    • WUSRPH

      The cover can be compared to the (in)famous “wheel-chair” advertisement. Both went too far in making points that could easily have been made with a lot more taste.

  • Gretchen McCord DeFlorio

    I’m so glad to hear that having women on the Texas Monthly masthead proves the absence of sexism there. I’ll be sure to tell Ferguson, Missouri, that we have a black president now; I’m sure they’ll be relieved to know that racism in the U.S. is dead.

  • Aggielawyer

    The key here is “War on Women.” This election cycle, Democrats determined that was their opening. They didn’t want to talk about their policy and successes over the preceding 7 years, because polls demonstrated few were that happy about the ACA, the push for amnesty, or any of the other big, national policies of the party. So they went with War on Women. Nearly every Dem campaign, local and statewide, in the entire country, hammered home how the GOP hated women. Even in races with a male Dem candidate vs. a female GOP candidate. It backfired wholeheartedly. In this state, and a few others, the GOP won the woman vote. In other states, such as Iowa, women split their vote, evenly, and nationally, the GOP lost women by 4 points- a stark turnaround from 2008, when the GOP lost women by 11 points, nationally.

    Here’s the key, Democrats: in Texas, for instance, women, depending on the wording of the poll, are, in many aspects of “reproductive rights” more conservative than men- supporting abortion restrictions after 20 weeks, for example. Nationally, married woman and single woman are very distinct in their views on “women’s rights.” Don’t treat both groups as a block.

  • RockyDude

    “As a feminist, someone who believes that men and women should be treated equally,” Guess I’m a Republican feminist-never really realized that the definition is so narrow.

  • ekyles

    I am more curious as to why you feel you need to answer the critique of an abortion blogger? Do you regularly apologize for your Bum Steer selections every time a political bigot takes umbrage with your choice?

  • Gretchen McCord DeFlorio

    In response to a letter I wrote to the TM editor criticizing pretty much everything about this Bum Steer award, Erica Grieder took the time to write me back. She explained the “red” dress I complained about was actually an orange one worn by Sen. Davis the day after the infamous filibuster; and she forwarded me a link to her piece above (which I had already read). Below is my response to her:

    I apologize for taking so long to respond. The holidays…..

    I appreciate your taking the time to reply to my letter. I’m sure you/ TM received many on this Bum Steer selection. I did not realize this was a depiction of a dress Senator Davis actually wore. However, that doesn’t really effect my point.

    The overall effect of the depiction strikes me as sexualized and depicting Sen. Davis as a haughty woman horrified at getting her shoes messed up. The original explanation of TM’s selection made clear that the award was being given because she lost badly. In your own follow up, you explained that it’s not because she lost, but because she lost badly, fairly, and consequentially. I don’t actually see that adding “fairly” and “consequentially” makes a significant difference. Or any.

    It was the combination of the visual depiction and the rationale for the award that offended so many of us and struck as a misogynistic attack on a woman who very clearly had no qualms about stepping into a great big, steaming pile of shit — time and again — if that’s what it took to fight many battles for the citizens of Texas, particularly women, knowing that most of those battles were likely lost from the beginning. Thousands of Texas women feel that they’ve done the same — time and again — just not in the public spotlight.

    I am struggling here in an attempt to provide examples of how TM’s point made have been made in a way that would not have been so offensive to so many, and it is truly a struggle, because I keep coming back to the oft-repeated rationale for the award: She lost bad. The point in itself is offensive.

    In your piece, you say, “Davis wasn’t named the Bum Steer because she lost. That would be ridiculous; there’s no dishonor in trying. Rather…[it was because] she lost badly.” This implies that there is no dishonor in trying and losing, so long as one doesn’t lose too badly. I’m having a hard time getting my head around how this helps TM’s argument rather than digging an even deeper hole.

    In your piece, you also go back and forth in spots in referring to Sen. Davis and the Democratic Party. This reveals the core of the conflict here. Had the the explanation for the award focused more on the Party, or even the Davis campaign, than on Davis herself, even though she was a — not the only — prominent representative of the party (the original explanation spent only half of the last paragraph in doing so); and had the image represented something other than a sexy, pearl-bedecked woman freaking out over stepping in a cow patty — say, for example … well, I intended to refer here to depictions in previous Bum Steer awards, but I just skimmed through your covers back through 2007 and don’t see a single one with a remotely comparable image, in any way. I won’t bother to list them in comparison.

    The bottom line is that the sexualized depiction of Wendy Davis as a prissy woman, and your explanations (the original by the editorial board and yours on Dec. 16) for her selection being that she lost really badly, give the very clear message that Texas Monthly is slamming women (at least, attractive women who don’t try to disguise their beauty) for fighting losing battles against the strongly white-male-dominated Texas political machine as they attempt to become a part of the political discourse in Texas.

    This is what so many women and men of Texas find so highly offensive. It truly saddens me to think that at least some individuals listed on TM’s masthead can’t understand this.