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August 28th, 2009
An Idle Word: Politics as usual

An Idle Word: A column
by BILL CUNNINGHAM

While I prefer to devote my semi-regular musings to popular culture and related issues that really interest me, I decided to break with my favorite topics and reflect on local politics, which has fired up the local print and online journalism the last couple of weeks.

Maybe, I’m just jealous that those stories seem to attract more comments except for those enlightened few who know their Sergio Leone from their Sergio Mendes.

Obviously, I’m referring to the World Class Championship Electioneering that went on from my late friend Howard Warner’s last breath (and probably before) until the appointment of his replacement Thursday by the Commissioners Court and the future ramifications of that campaign.

There were several well-qualified candidates who entered their names in the process—perhaps unaware that the process in question was much like that in Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.”

This campaign was particularly ugly in large part because of the use of the very technological marvel that brings you “Idle Word”—the Internet and the blistering and blustering comments of supporters/critics, both anonymous and those who used their real names.

I won’t go into them in detail — you can see for yourself — other to mention a couple of examples such as that of the supporter of one candidate (who used his real name) and was looked up on Facebook by the supporter of another who used the fact that the earlier commenter was fan of Faux News to discredit him as a right wing nut. I personally am a fan of CNBC but some of my best friends are right-wing nuts.

“Judicial temperament”—a phrase we have heard a lot of lately—shouldn’t be measured on the basis of what TV commentator one of your supporters prefers. I don’t even believe electing judges should be done along party lines.

Several of the most scurrilous comments were placed by a commenter who has adapted the nom de plume (non de guerre?) of a 1960’s spaghetti western gunman who carried a coffin around with him (Thanks to my young friend Ryan for reminding me about this last bit of trivia. It’s good to know there are fledgling Spaghetti Westerners coming up).

No doubt, this anonymous commenter will Facebook me and portray me as a moral degenerate for favoring the music of Nick Cave and Serge Gainsbourg (not to be confused with either Sergio Leone or Sergio Mendes).

I don’t really mind the use of pseudonyms when commenting on my own ramblings (Ethel Burman is a particular favorite) or most issues, I just think that when it comes to personal attacks, one should put their name where their mouth (or mouse) is. No doubt, Ethel will remember “Harvey Melton.”

What this portends for Hays County politics has intriguing ramifications.

The election in 2010 is an off year following the Presidential year in 2008 and conventional wisdom holds that the party that is out of power nationally gains ground.

This is certainly a large part of what happened in 2006 when President Bush’s unpopularity gave the Democrats control of the Senate and extended to the local level (at least in part) with the reversal of the Hays County Commissioners Court from a 4-1 Republican majority to a 4-1 Democratic majority and gave scares to GOP officeholders who normally would have won without much challenge.

The “off year theory” could be seen as particularly true in Hays County, which is very much a “swing county” (see Commissioners Court shift in paragraph above).

San Marcos, save for the growing suburbs to the southwest, is solidly Democratic. Fast growing Dripping Springs is Republican turf (save for 2006). Wimberley, once considered the only solid Republican area of the county, is a battleground. Kyle and Buda are growing fast too but attracting the kind of new residents who are not solidly locked in to either party.

Nationally, I don’t see as much blowback as some Republicans at the national level are predicting. President Obama does have some bumps and bruises but, with rare exception, Presidencies are like new cars– the minute you drive them off the lot, the value is reduced. But for 9/11 and the resulting scare tactics, Bush’s presidency was like driving a new car off the lot into the path of a 16-wheeler– he just dodged it until 2006.

So while national political trends will play some role in the local campaign, I don’t see independent voters going down the ballot, hunting for either “R’s” or “D’s” to vote against as they did four years ago with the “R’s.”

While the eventual choice for Judge Warner’s post is a gracious lady, who endured some flesh wounds herself, the nastiness of the campaign, following a somewhat less-fractious appointment process for sheriff after the death of Allen Bridges, could prove Pyrrhic to the Democratic court and other office holders.

The 800-pound gorilla in the equation is State Rep. Patrick Rose, who possesses the most formidable political operation (and war chest) in the county—and much of the state.

Rose is a politician like my old boss Jake Pickle who regards any opponent as a serious opponent and campaigns as hard as he did as a challenger. I believe the ill-advised candidacy of an underfunded GOP challenger (two years after Rose had crushed a well-funded opponent) contributed as much or more to the local Democratic rout in 2006 as did the anti-Bush sentiment.

If the Hays County Republicans are to rebuild next year, step one is to concede the fact that your State Representative is going to be a Democrat for as long as he wants the job (barring of course the usual Texas political caveats).

I think I’ve said enough to anger both angry Democrats and Republicans so now I hope to sit back and see comments roll in.

And, “Django”—bring it on. I’ve got “Sabata” waiting.

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10 thoughts on “An Idle Word: Politics as usual

  1. My sternest critic just called to remind me it’s MSNBC I watch not CNBC. You gotta remember I grew up in a 3-network world and all these call letters get me confused.

  2. The nom de plume, “django” is derived, not from some gunslinger in a spaghetti western, but from the earlier guitar innovator, Django Reinhart.

    Django Reinhart was a gypsy with a injured hand who, despite this drawback (actually in many ways, because of it)developed a unique picking style that has been the inspiration for many a later guitar hero, including B. B. King.

    I fail to see how bringing to light the facts of a person’s public record rises to the level of “scurrilous”, but you are free to make your own judgments, as I have.

    My own musical tastes range from Bach and Vivaldi to the soundtracks of Sergio Leone, through the Beatles, the Stones, David Byrne, Brian Eno, Jonathan Richman and Brave Combo….as though any of that were relevant to who sits on a judicial bench in Hays County.
    .

  3. Being brand new to this fray, I always assumed it came from Reinhart,a qypsy who lost fingers in WWI, rather than from the grade B spagetti western character. And my music collection holds every artist listed so far, plus a couple of thousand others.

    Back to the real issue, this was far too political, and ugly. The court should have considered a caretaker, rather than someone wanting to run for the job, just my two cents.

    Think I’ll listen to some Gun Club, Robert Johnson and Diamanda Galas now.

  4. Sorry, I do not know Ethel Burman. But Ethel Merman and I are old enough to remember Harvey Melton and appreciate his efforts back in the day.

  5. “some of my best friends are right-wing nuts”

    Well thank you Bill. You can say the sweetest things you old silver tongue devil.

  6. Watch out y’all Charles Sims not just a right-wing but also a “nuts” too.
    Though I wish all right-wing people as nuts as Charles, this country of ours would be few times better than it is now.

  7. Bill, you must be kidding. MSNBC? The home of faux intellects and mindless numbskulls? Are you trying to prove that you own the distinction as the most left-wing nut Charlie Sims knows?

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