ganda system in the history of major modern nations. Instead of stepping forward for national health insurance, Bush II, protected by this propaganda system, is gutting Medicare, letting private corporations betray the workers to whom they owe pensions, and preparing to kill Social Security. In place of the rifles and pistols the Texas Rangers used to keep the Mexican Americans and blacks in line, the Texafied United States deploys the superpower’s nuclear weapons, our helicopter gunships and heat-seeking missiles, and soon to be, our longrange weapons circling every nation on earth day and night in space. After Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II, the United States, too, is crypto-fascism with lingering democratic forms, and during Bush H’s second term, depending on the nature and extent of his further uses of force against other nations and against us ourselves, we may be plain fascist. Many more factors than those in and from Texas and Southern California brought us to this pass, this emergency, but concerning our distinctive contributions from Texas, we may be able to identify some general causes and some turning points. The liberal-populist U.S. Senator from. Texas, Ralph Yarborough, said to me before he died that one thing that’s gone badly wrong is that not enough forward-looking people are running for office. Even when losing, he said, good people, just by running, hold forth before the young the image and the idea of the high-minded public leader advancing good ideas, and that encourages others to run, too. For decades too long, in my opinion, we have confused the form for the substance, that is, the political parties for the power. The real power belongs to the ever-grabbing wealthcenters, the gigantic corporations, they who and which do the governing and they who and which have systematically destroyed real free-enterprise competition and with it, democracy. We have been insufficiently radical about the control, limitation, and redistribution of excessive wealth and power. The decline of the Democratic Party as the people’s champion occurred because we the people who should have led it instead let our politicians keep compromising with the real power and let the obscenely rich keep getting obscenely richer and let the gigantic corporations keep getting even more gigantic. In Texas we had some reason, in the late 1950s, to think we were inhaling sustenance from our illusions. The humanist radical Frankie Randolph of Houston became the national Democratic committeewoman from Texas; Yarborough was elected to the U.S. Senate; upwards to 50 state representatives, led by the delegations from Houston and San Antonio, fought the interests in the Capitol; the eloquent Mexican-American Henry Gonzalez filibustered the racist legislation of the era in the Texas Senate; and what could be seen to be a people’s movement emerged, all in the second half of the fifties. In 1960, however, Kennedy chose Johnson to be his vicepresident, killing almost at once \(for in his own state Johnson Texas. We fought our way back toward a liberal takeover of the statehouse with Don Yarborough, who was in position to beat Johnson’s man Friday, John Connally, for governoruntil the assassins hit Connally, too, on November 22, 1963. In 1970 Ralph Yarborough was defeated for re-election by the power structure’s candidate, Lloyd Bentsen, and the people’s gains and hopes of the ’50s went a-glimmering. Election night, Yarborough drew me into his office and contended intensely for about an hour and a half that he should now be drafted for President. I did not respond. I wonder sometimes now if I should have agreed with him. He was the best of all of us in action. Jim Hightower, upon leaving the Observer editorship, became Yarborough’s natural successor, and after some years of brilliantly innovative service in lower offices he moved into position to run a winning race for the U.S. Senate against Republican Phil Gramm. I believed, and told Jim, that after a few years as senator he could become a winning candidate for president. The liberal movement drew deep breath and organized behind Hightower for the Senate until Jim suddenly decided, for personal reasons, not to run. The Texas liberal movement collapsed again, this time like a punctured balloon; Hightower even lost his lesser state office. Attorney General Jim Mattox might have made a great liberal governor, but there was a grave financial question about why he had failed to enforce the law during the enormous savings and loan scandal that could not be ignored, evaded, or dissolved. That, too, was a turning point, when the Observer, which I was then editing for a short spell, did not endorse Mattox for governor. A liberal team had done well statewide as Ann Richards had become governor, and for a time it looked as if the promise of the ’50s might be realized in the ’80s. But then a vacancy occurred in the U.S. Senate from Texas. Governor Richards had the power to appoint anyone she chose as the successor for the interim before the special election. Lloyd Doggett, who was then on the Supreme Court, should have been appointed. Or Jim Hightower. Or Judge Wayne Justice of Tyler. But in the purest act of propitiatory suicide the Democrats of Texas ever generated and countenanced, Richards chose Bentsen’s favorite, Bob Krueger, a hyperconservative former Democratic congressman who promptly lost, of course, to Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison. Little wonder, with such wretched Democratic leadership, Texas went for Reagan both times. Came along, then, to run for governor against Richards, one George W. Bush. Holed up in a beachside motel in Port Aransas, I watched the two of them on the TV in a climactic “debate.” Ann Richards said NOTHING. George W. Bush said NOTHING. It was one of the most pitiful excuses for a debate I ever saw. It was as if the people of Texas were all either morons or nitwits. Voila! Karl Rove groomed his new Governor Bush, and exploding forth directly from the cumulative failure of the Texas liberal movement, in December 2000 Jim Baker persuaded the Supreme Court to stop recounting the votes in Florida and Bush II began his eight years as the president and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States. None of this is to say that any blow for liberty and justice continued on page 65 62 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 12/3/04
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