When I get up in the morning I always grab the newspaper and skim it over breakfast. There’s usually not much in there that helps me wake up, but December 22, 2010 was an exception. On page 7B under the subhead “Redistricting,” I read a quote from U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, a Republican from Lewisville, Texas. Burgess said “Anytime you can add Texans to the roster in Congress, it’s good for the country.” My brow furrowed.
Taken at purely face value, I’m sure most Texans find this statement hard to disagree with. We are after all Texans and it plays to our sense of pride and Lone Star swagger. But if we flip on just two or three lights in the oft unused rooms upstairs, this claim is long on hat but short on cattle.
Texas is after all home to U.S Rep Joe Barton. He’s the beady-eyed Republican sycophant from Arlington who actually apologized to BP during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill hearings. It wasn’t one of our finer moments. In fact, it might be one of the most embarrassing moments in the history of the U.S. Congress.
If I’m not mistaken, Texas is also the home state of former U. S. House Majority Leader Tom “The Hammer” DeLay. When he’s not clumsily stepping up on Dancing with the Stars, he’s getting convicted of money laundering, the charges of which forced him to somberly step down from politics. Oh, and he was also a K Street lackey who has said his proudest moment was intervening to keep Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube from being removed in 2005, and this after unplugging his own comatose father after an accident in 1988. And did I mention his right-hand lobbyist was Jack Abramoff?
We also have to claim John Cornyn, as in corn cob in each ear (pardon the pun). He’s been deaf to any discussions of climate change or global warming and he’s never met a polluter he didn’t like. He voted against banning drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, reducing fossil fuel usage by 40% instead of 5%, ending subsidies for oil and gas exploration, including oil and gas smokestacks in mercury regulations and factoring global warming into federal project planning. During his long and undistinguished stint as a U.S. Senator, the League of Conservation Voters has awarded him a score of 0% for his voting record on legislation aimed at protecting the environment. All around swell guy and visionary. Really.
It’s not as if there’s a pattern. I mean we’re not a state that would let a transplanted Yankee weasel from a Big Oil family seize the governor’s office after running a few companies into the ground, serving as part-owner of a pro baseball team and then shooting the state bird. And we certainly wouldn’t permit the same silly imbecile to bluff his way into the White House, lie us into a war, turn American soldiers into war criminals or sit idly by while the middle class became an endangered species.
None of that stuff could happen right under our noses, right?
There might have been a time when most Texas politicians at the national level weren’t an embarrassment, but it was at least a half-decade or so before this millennium started. And it doesn’t look like they’ll be a change in our political delegation any time soon.
Meanwhile, our domestic politics (so to speak) reflect our embarrassing representation at the national level. We have a State Board of Education that thinks the Scopes Monkey Trial was a mouthwash taste-test involving Curious George. We have a state Railroad Commission that’s sat on its thumbs so long regarding air quality standards that the EPA is stepping in to administer air permits. And we’re on the verge of allowing three dozen other states store their radioactive waste on Texas soil.
I was born in Texas and I’m as Texan as the next guy, but I’ve learned to face the facts. If your IQ is over 75 and you’re not ignorant, misinformed, an Aggie or an employee or beneficiary of the oil and gas industry, you’re going have a tough go of it around here. Most of us aren’t just drinking the Red (state) kool-aid; we’re guzzlin’ it from a boot. And the kool-aid imbibers outnumber the level heads by a country mile.
We vote against our own interests. We thumb our nose at laws made to protect us. We’d rather be wrong and well-off than right and modest. We’re a geographic ringer for a new line of “I’m With Stupid” t-shirts.
The United States doesn’t need more Texans in Congress. It needs more Texans to wake up and smell the bullpuckey.