Reform Follows Function

How to fix the political system in Texas in eight easy steps.
In the center of things: The author on the campaign trail.
Photograph by Erin Trieb

It’s hard to believe that a year has come and gone since I lost the race for governor to a man in a $5,000 suit. That’s almost as bad as losing to the guy you’d rather go to a barbecue with and then discovering he plans to barbecue the world. What have I learned in all this time? That we’re not in Minnesota, Toto. If we’d been in Minnesota, we would have won. In fact, we won the race every place but Texas. Meanwhile, Minnesota maintains its status as the number one state for health care coverage. Texas, perhaps predictably, continues to hold down its position at the back of the caboose of the Sunset Limited. And how are we doing on education? Ask any teacher. Better yet, ask any student a few rudimentary questions about history, literature, science, or math.

Like I said during the campaign, we need to reform our political system, folks. Why is this so important? Have you ever tried to go visit your congressman and forgotten your checkbook? Have you ever wondered who actually writes the legislation that becomes the law of the land? Have you by now realized that every time a bell rings, another lobbyist gets his wings? There are good legislators, of course, who are just as frustrated as the rest of us. But unfortunately, they are rarely in power positions. Something about the system tends to beat you down after a while, and you realize that to have any voice at all, even to get reelected, you have to go along to get along. The lobbyists and our so-called leaders are necessary evils. It’s not unusual for lobbyists to write laws themselves and give marching orders to their bought-and-paid-for legislators. That’s why some observers of the Texas Legislature have taken to calling the section of the gallery where the lobbyists sit “the owners’ box.”

How do we get these career politicians and lobbyists out of the system? How can we effectively clean out the political stables? Unfortunately, the Crips and the Bloods, like bullies on a playground, are not going to help us achieve clean government. Their mind-set is almost entirely one of hanging on to power—whatever it takes. They care much more about getting themselves reelected than they do about helping the people of Texas. A political leader should be like a Wal-Mart greeter: The first thing out of his mouth should be “How

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