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.