Fellow Texans, only now do I feel safe in confiding that since last year’s elections, I have lived in a state of unrelenting torment, unable to rest, anxious for the fate of Sarah Palin. I’ve arisen from fitful sleeps, fretting: What if Sarah proves a flash in the pan, a passing right-wing fancy, a momentary media darling like Joe the Plumber or poor pocky Steve Forbes? If she does, I worried, what might happen to Texas? For I hold that Palin’s fading star would prove a disaster of Enron proportions for our great state.
I’m not the first person to point out to Observer readers that for the past 15-odd years, Texas Republicans have developed a national reputation for idiocy that has made interstate travel a trifle uncomfortable. For Texas liberals, the discomfort has been more than unfair. It has, in fact, been salt to the wound. After all, as I’ve insisted to insufferable Yankees from Westport to West Hollywood, we had to put up with W. longer than anybody. Sure, they knew the disappointments of Gore’s and Kerry’s losses, but where were they on that benighted election night in 1994, when W. unseated Gov. Ann Richards? Probably somewhere useless like Montauk, smugly writing checks to the Green Party and floating the genius idea of a Ralph Nader presidential run.
I’d trade a passel of John Kerrys or Naders-as-politicians for one Ann Richards, and so would anybody with a lick of sense. For years she and Molly Ivins were the only terrific comebacks I had for know-it-all Yankees talking trash about Texas. But now I’ve got something even better. I’ve got Sarah. (And while we’re on the subject, wouldn’t you give years off your life to hear what Ann or Molly might say about Palin? I know I would. God, I hate cancer.)
Remember the way Molly used to say that the Texas state seal ought to read, “Thank God for Mississippi?” No matter how bleak things might appear in the Lone Star State, there’s always good money to be made by betting they’re that much worse in Mississippi. I think Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign slogan ought to be, “Thank God for Sarah Palin.” No matter what kind of bat-shit drivel Perry might sputter out, Steadfast Sarah’s already on record with something even stupider: What’s that you say? Perry threw a tea party and threatened to secede? Wake me up when he says he can see Russia from his window. … Perry told the ladies of Midland that President Obama’s hell-bent on turning America into a socialist country? Call me back when he implies that the redesign of the nickel is part of a secret Democratic plot to secularize the nation.
See what I mean? There’s really no comparison. Palin has managed to set the bar of eloquence so staggeringly low, she’s achieved the impossible—she’s made Perry and W. look urbane and debonair. Honestly y’all, compared with Palin, Perry is David Niven. No wonder Perry wants her to campaign for him. If I were he, I’d stick to her like white on rice.
For the past year or so, I’ve begun to perceive a trend among big-state Republicans. It’s almost as though there’s some kind of inverse relationship between a state’s landmass and its elected Republicans’ IQs. In a national lineup of conservative dunderheads, the dimness of Texas’ right wing is trumped only by Alaska’s. Finally, we’ve scored a little wiggle room.
That’s why I got so antsy last fall when Obama trounced McCain. Of course, Obama’s election was best for the nation, but would it be bad for Texas? I feared it was the last I’d see of Sarah and that sweet family of hers—a clan that makes the Reagans look codependent. As we all now know, I needn’t have worried. Sarah resigned as governor to join the lecture circuit. Going Rogue‘s a mondo best-seller, and Levi Johnston’s dropping trou for Playgirl. All in time for Thanksgiving—a day I would have spent thinking of Sarah anyway for the sake of her sublime press conference last year in front of a turkey-slaughter machine. Type “sarah + turkey” into YouTube if you’re feeling a little blue. It was her first press conference since the election. She’d just pardoned a turkey. Then there she was, laughing and jawing and winking and grinning while a deranged-looking, blood-soaked man behind her stuffed live poultry into a little plastic guillotine. Usually you have to travel deep into East Texas to find a Republican willing to do something that fabulous on television.
This Thanksgiving, even without such showstopping moments, it was impossible not to think of Sarah. She was everywhere—Oprah, newsstands, bookstores, you name it. I know I was thankful. If she could only win the presidency, we Texans could hold our heads high throughout the Northeast. Even Europe! Maybe we could persuade her to declare war on some Middle Eastern nation, and we could even go to France again.
East Texas native Robert Leleux, author of The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy, lives and writes in New York City, where he is working on an oral history of Sissy Farenthold.