THE TEXAS server JANUARY 26, 1996 VOLUME 88, No. 2 FEATURES The Chemical Industry Takes on the PTA By Michael King 4 The Myth of Democratic Environmental Protection Alexander Cockburn By Jeffrey St Clair and 8 DEPARTMENTS Dialogue 2 Editorials Embracing Speaker Gingrich James Galbraith Chinese Mirrors on the Budget Fantasies 10 Molly Ivins Selling off the Info Highway 12 Jim Hightower Coming Apart & Flat Taxes 12 Chemical World Epidemiology and the Public 13 BOOKS AND THE CULTURE Inspiration Poetry by Andrea Potos 14 Both Sides Now Book review by Peter LaSalle 15 Rushdie: Unity of the Flesh Book review by Steven Kellman 17 AFTERWORD Remembering Cliff Olofson By Friends and Associates 1 8 Political Intelligence 24 Cover art by Kevin Kreneck PULITZER PRIZEMAN Theodore Roethke “measured time by how a body sways.” The Democratic Party measures time by the rate its elected officials flee to the Republican Party. Roethke savored time and earned his Pulitzer with an existential musing that included the line “I wake to sleep and take my waking slow.” For Democrats, time flies. “Over a hundred eighty-five elected officials switched parties in the past year and a half,” Newt Gingrich said at a $100-a-plate breakfast fundraiser for Congressman Greg Laughlin in San Marcos. Laughlin, who was elected as a Democrat in 1988 and last year switched to the Republican Party, is one of seven members of Congress to have left the Democratic Party since 1994. How to explain the departure of what Gingrich calls “the largest number of federal elected officials since the collapse of the Whig Party prior to the civil war?” Try the three-word imperative Deep Throat whispered into the ear of Bob Woodward: Follow the money. The party that most openly serves the interests of corporations always finds it easier to raise money, and since the 1994 election Democrats have wondered if their big donors were only covering their bets while the Democrats controlled Congress. As Thomas Ferguson reported some eighteen months ago, Federal Election Commission filings in the final quarter of the 1994 campaign showed a big shift of corporate money from the Democratic to the Republican Party. The money, Ferguson reasoned, began to move once fenders perceived that the Republicans could win. And much of the recent party switching is the end of a process that began about the time Texas elected John Tower to the U.S. Senate. Tory Democrats, Texicrats, and Dixiecrats then began moving to the party where they belonged. Lincoln’s emancipation of the slaves had made their grandfathers Democrats; LBJ’s attempt to politically and economically enfranchise African Americans made them Republicans. And Republicans are better party builders. That was what this affair was about. \(Its other function was to continue a In eighteen minutes, Gingrich strung together half a dozen homely anecdotes in which he managed to say “liberal” twentyseven times. Only “Warshington” and “bureaucrat” were uttered with more derision. “Irresponsible [read: black] young males,” welfare mothers, and environmen talists all took a pounding. And there were the requisite genuflections to other Republican recruits, while Kent Hancethe Saint Sebastian of Republican convertssat nodding at the head table. Even former Democratic State Representative Parker McCollough was recognized. McCollough, who must be a Republican lobbyist now, was elected to the state house the same year Laughlin won his seat in Congress. Both owed their victories to the door-to-door canvass environmentalists conducted on their behalf in Williamson County. “The Republican Party keeps its door open,” Gingrich said, adding that he will now use “Greg” to recruit Democrats. The event was not without its comic moments. The Austin AmericanStatesman had already reported that the last time Gingrich campaigned in this district he described Laughlin as damaged goods, suggesting he would be indicted after the election. And Laughlin got all sentimental about the worksite where the fundraiser was held. “Never in my lifetime in politics do I recall a fundraiser honoring someone so senior, so important in the government of the United States, being conducted and held in a workplace. In a place where citizens I represent, the citizens of America and Texas, come together every workday to use their skills, intellect, and talent….” This from a guy who had been invited in by plant owners and had to drive through an AFL-CIO protest on I35 to get Newt to his breakfast date. Newt himself got a bit misty-eyed talking about creating wealth before it can be redistributedperhaps because he’s been the recipient of redistributed wealth since he signed on at West Georgia College in 1970. But it was a great morning to be a Republican in Hays County. And maybe party labels don’t matter anymore. Who can tell the difference between Clinton’s and Gingrich’s budgets? And didn’t Bill Clinton sign the law under which the last old growth forests in the West are now being savaged distinction between Republicans and Democratsin an age when James Carville, who did the strategic thinking for the Clinton Campaign, and Mary Matalin, who performed the same function for the Bush campaign, can marry and write a bad book about the experience. With that peculiar coupling as an anthropological point of reference, it is not at all strange to see Greg Laughlin in the oscine embrace of Newt Gingrich.L.D. Cliff Olofson Memorial Fund Several Observer supporters have sent checks in memory of the late Cliff Olofson. We have, thus, begun a Memorial Fund to continue Cliff’s lifelong work: building the Observer. EDITORIAL The Speaker’s Embrace THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3
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