An Idle Word: A column
by BILL CUNNINGHAM
Please Gov. Perry, don’t add the so-called voter i.d. issue to the Special Session of the Texas Legislature you are planning to call this summer. If you can refrain, I promise to stop referring to you in print as the “Coif in Chief.”
By all accounts, the slowdown and failure to act on such important issues as financing the continuation of the Texas Department of Transportation in the regular session concluded barely more than a week ago, was caused by the bitterness engendered by this one issue.
Even the genuine bipartisan concern for our beloved Seguin neighbor Rep. Ed Kuempel after his heart attack wasn’t enough to stem the vitriol generated by this one issue, which happens to rank pretty low on my priorities for our state. I doubt that I’m the only Texan who doesn’t lie awake at night worrying what will happen to our state during the current national crisis if we don’t require every voter to bring a picture i.d. to the polls with them.
Bear in mind, that this was a session with a new Speaker of the House who put partisan issues on his personal backburner in order to pull Republicans and Democrats together.
Instead, the session almost devolved into déjà vu of the ugly redistricting battle of years ago.
We’ve probably all had friends who we hate to go to bars or parties with because we know they’re just going to be looking for a fight and sure enough the Republicans had some of those buddies come along. And when the fight breaks out, you have to wade in with your friends.
The secret to avoiding this real life is to just find an excuse not to go out but the Republicans who believe in addressing truly substantive issues don’t have that option available when a special session is called.
The governor is the only one who can limit that donnybrook from breaking out again but it’s a tough call when you’re facing a stiff reelection campaign in your own party’s primary and doing so by throwing out red meat issues.
It’s a crazy idea I know but why not just limit the session to those pressing immediate problems, getting them addressed in only a week or so and then saving the divisive issues for future episodes of Circus Maximus Austin.
It’s not that I think the security of the ballot box shouldn’t be protected but weighed again these more pressing issues, why risk another meltdown.
And as any doctor will tell you, too much red meat can prove damaging.
Whatever, the true merits of voter identifications are, minorities are firmly convinced the voter i.d. message is aimed directly at discouraging their participation in the process.
In this, it’s like the illegal immigration issue. There really are very serious concerns by racially tolerant Democrats as well as Republicans about the long-term financial implications (health care, Social Security, etc.). I personally know Hispanics who are concerned about illegal immigration after they have achieved citizenship legally.
But zealots have drowned the sober debates out. I once received an e-mailed video game from an acquaintance who assumed that I would be amused by the contents which awarded points for gunning down various categories of border crossers. I promptly deleted it and fortunately got my name off his list.
The discussion by many GOP activists (a sober analysis of the situation was one of the things President Bush got right as did Senator John McCain, although it no doubt costs him points in his own party) was such that retired Republican House Majority leader Dick Armey—no flaming liberal—weighed in on it in an interview I read a couple of years ago.
I don’t have the exact quote but it was something to the effect that his party had approached the issue by first identifying the fastest growing demographic in America that was trending towards voting Republican and then followed up their assessment by asking themselves, “What can we do to alienate them the most from the Republican Party?”
This is a risk Perry should be considering. Conventional wisdom holds that the winner of the Republican primary between the incumbent and Senator Hutchison will easily win in the General Election.
But with the surge in the Democratic Party in states once given up for lost B.B. (Before Barack), a bitter GOP primary could produce problems for a wounded Perry if he emerged victorious.
Rumors are circulating that potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates could include Phil Hardberger, the term-limited former mayor of San Antonio who won high marks for his administration and John T. Montford, the former Lubbock state senator turned Texas Tech Chancellor turned AT&T executive in San Antonio. Montford, is the type of conservative Democrat that used to be routinely elected, and with his ties now throughout the state (as well as his nickname of “Iron John” earned when he was Lubbock District Attorney) could pose a unique challenge.
So, Governor you might want to take some politics into account (although like Claude Rains, I’m sure you would be shocked at politics figuring into important state issues) when calling this Session.
Round ‘em up, head ‘em out to address the immediately pressing issues and then send ‘em home.
I have been remiss in addressing comments from my readers (assuming I still have any) so I decided I better get started again and am officially renaming the feedback section “Idle Chatter.”
TO BILL HANEY (who commented a couple of weeks ago about my comparison of the swine flu and the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918): Bill, it’s good to hear from you. Bet you’ll find something to disagree with me on this week. It’s always nice to find someone you can disagree with in an agreeable manner and you are one. You may even be right on your comments that I was overly optimistic about being too panicky about this current outbreak. I read in the morning paper (they still print those) buried on Page 2 that the World Health Organization is preparing to declare the swine flu a “pandemic.” I hope I’m right but if not we can stop worrying about the U.S. government going into the car business.
TO CHARLES SIMS: I’m not sure about the implication of the ad for the movie “Drag Me To Hell” appearing next to my column. Maybe it’s meant as an option to reading “Idle Word.”
TO MARK HENDERSON: Thanks for the explanation of the title of your book. Always like to bone up on ancient Greek torture devices.Email | Print