The evolution of the Republican primary into a race to the far right is a sad moment in Texas politics. There is nothing left of the party of George W. Bush, or even the party of Rick Perry. The press has done little to hold up its side of the equation; they can’t get away from the Wendy Davis saga. We should be talking about how Republicans have allowed creationism to creep into the schools, about the myopia of the media when it comes to setting the agenda for a political race, about the failure of the business community to shoulder its share of responsibility for educating Texans about the things our citizens need: better schools, better roads, better health care.
The lieutenant governor debates ought to embarrass ordinary Texans, so far have they strayed from addressing the real problems facing the state. Each of the four candidates took the hardest of hard-right positions at every opportunity. They couldn’t risk even the slightest hint of moderation. What is missing is mainstream Republicans, local business and education leaders who care about their communities instead of ideological crusades. How did this happen? The simple answer is: Ted Cruz. He has remade the state GOP in the image of the tea party.
Texas politics has fallen into a situation where 1 million or so people completely control the politics of a state of 26 million folks, and I don’t see any escape. Until mainstream Republican voters figure out that the only way to return Texas politics to sanity is to find a middle ground, that they need to make their voices heard in the primaries because that is where major races are settled, nothing is going to change. Even if we had a few candidates who wanted to change the direction of the state, I don’t think it is possible. We have gone too far over the cliff to look back over our shoulders. It’s pretty obvious that the electorate is interested only in issues that are created to drum up a controversy with the federal government: immigration, guns, and anything involving Barack Obama. Until the antipathy for Obama loses some of its force, I don’t see any change in sight regarding Texas politics. I do think that the primary will, in due course, feature a war between the mainstream and establishment factions of the Republican party.
I also think that the media have failed us: they have allowed Greg Abbott to carry on a campaign with no substance and no blueprint for the future of the state. Wendy Davis’ lifestyle has dominated the news. She deserves some of the blame, of course. What she failed to realize is that the media hates amateurs. She assembled a weak team and hasn’t pulled the plug, something that is long overdue.