The Civics Lab

Ross Ramsey discusses Texas Politics

March 14, 2022 David Thomason Season 2 Episode 4
The Civics Lab
Ross Ramsey discusses Texas Politics
Show Notes Transcript

Ross Ramsey.  co-founder and chief editor of the Texas Tribune, sat down in the Civics Lab Studio this week.  A lively and information conversation, Ramsey shares his thoughts on the state of Texas politics.  We cover the primary voter turnout, controversial statements by statewide leaders, how Denton in the 1970's ended up passing liquor laws and whether Blue Bell Ice Cream is worth fighting over  Plus much more!  React to the conversation on our twitter feed:  @thecivicslab

Speaker 1:

Hello, and welcome to the civics lab podcast brought to you by the Hatten sum nurse foundation. As members of the civics lab, we are setting out to explore the complexities of modern political, economic, and social issues. Today, we are joined with a very special guest Ross Ramsey, the exact and co-founder of the Texas Tribune stay tuned for a lively and informative discussion on Texas politics, the gubernatorial race in the state of our democracy.

Speaker 2:

Uh , first off we want to just welcome Ross Ramsey here from Texas Tribune to the , the podcast you for having me . Absolutely. Thanks for coming over to St . EDS . Yeah, you bet. Uh , you know, this is a , a real important time in Texas politics for a lot of different reasons. Um , we just finished the , uh , primary and a lot of places in Texas obviously had low voter turn out . Um, so, you know, I guess kind of our thoughts and questions are kind of first off how the, the , um, the primary went and , um , why we had such low voter turnout in Texas in that, in the

Speaker 3:

Pardon . You know, part of the deal with Texas is that it's a low turnout state. It's sort of structurally that way , uh , in this primary, if you add the Republican and democratic primaries, 80, I think it's 82 and a half percent of us of registered voters didn't vote. Um, so most people opt out and what you end up with because of the historical trend of Republican wins in Texas and at the statewide level, and because of , uh , the effectiveness of redistricting maps and Congress, Senate house state board of education is that small percentage of voters who actually shows up for the primaries effectively chooses most of the legislature and most of the statewide officials. So in the governor's race, for example, until the Democrats break through , it's a Republican state , uh , they come close once or twice notably in 2018. But right now, you know, the working assumption is unless something unusual happens, Republicans will win in November. And if you have a million and a half people show up in a Republican primary, that means about 800,000 people or all you need to win the governor, you up in a state with 30 million people. Um, it's, you know, I mean, it's real power, and if you're an organizer or a political player, or , uh , you want to influence this thing, small numbers are easier than big numbers. It's easier to get, you know, 800,000 people to vote than it is to get three or 4 million people to vote. So if you play really hard in the primaries, you have an outsize influence, the same. Thing's true for Democrats. If you're, you know, if you look at the house , uh , maps that were drawn by the legislature last year, there are 150 seats in the house, probably only a dozen, a dozen and a half of those seats are in any sense, competitive in a November election. Most of them are drawn for either Republicans or Democrats, because if it's a Republican legislature, more Republicans than Democrats, but even the democratic seats are drawn. So that they're not really competitive in November. So this little group of people who votes in primaries essentially picks most of the legislature. Same's true in the Senate. Same's true in the congressional delegation kind of goes down the line that way. Um, you know, there are a million reasons why people don't vote, but the biggest one is they either are not attracted to the spectacle of it. I'll come back to that. Or they're not convinced that something that they would do as a voter has any influence on anything at all. I'm just a drop in the bucket. What difference does it make? I think I'm gonna go get some fries, right? Um , yeah . Right . So you , so you get that kind of an effect. If you get elections where people feel like they've really got a stake , they show up. So one of my first elections, I , I went to school in Denton and Denton. When I went to school in the seventies was dry. And the students at north Texas state university of north Texas now, north Texas state and Texas women's university had about the same number of about the same number of students as there were people in Denton at that time, it was a relatively small college town. And we came in and voted the city wet. And when we left for the summer, they voted it dry again. And when we came back, we voted it wedding and everybody showed up for that election cause beer. Yes . Right. We had something at stake . If you vote, we can get beer. You won't have to, you know, we had this weird thing where you had to join a club for 10 bucks and pretend you were a member. It was just a bar. Right. Um, so, you know, it was something, it was just a really early quick example to me of, you know, if people feel like they have a stake , they actually vote. If they feel like they actually have a voice, Hey, we can swing this thing. Let's go. Um , one of the things that has happened in Texas, primarily in the Republican primaries, but also in the democratic primaries is the activists have figured this out. The most Republican Republicans and the most democratic Democrats have figured out, look, if we're organized, we all care. Cuz we're a, and we're really into this and they don't care and we can take this over and we can have this real influence. Um, so you see this, so you see this effect of, you know, the primaries producing more democratic Democrats and more Republican Republicans. And then you get 'em into a box that the capital and wonder why they can't agree or in , you know , whichever capital you're talking about.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. You know, one of the thing , one of the theories in political science is the rational choice voter model. Right . But basically for every, your vote is so such a small fraction of what the larger percentage of voting is in the state or, you know , whatever election you're in, that there's not incentive to participate. And so if you have incentive, you're more likely to vote. So a lot of times the tactics are around fear, right . You know, if I , if I can scare you enough, that will overcome the already existing urge not to vote. I mean, I can think of lots of things that I would rather be doing than waiting in line, right . To vote. When my, when my fraction , when my vote is such a fraction of the total vote. Right. So you know why, when we think about some of these fear issues, this, this election cycle didn't candidates like Alan West and Don Huff finds on the Republican side, which I think really pushed the governor and, and kept pushing and prodding him further to the right. Right . Why didn't we see them do better in the , the election?

Speaker 3:

Well, part of it is cuz um, Abbot was successfully adaptable, right? They're pushing me to the right and I'm gonna go to the right, cuz it won't cost me voters. It's a lot like there's any threat to me in the primary on the left. So the moderates are gonna come with me because I'm not Allen west and I'm not Don Huffin and the people who might be voters with whom, Huff fines and west and people like that can gain traction. If I move a little bit to the right, they'll have less and less reason to vote it for those guys, I can marginalize them. Right. And he did a very effective job of that. And by the time people went to the polls, Abbot was in a very, very conservative frame. Yeah . Um , where even Dan Patrick, in some ways wasn't to the right of him, there were a couple of issues where, where, you know, Abbot wasn't out there necessarily. But if you're talking to a very conservative voter , um, who's not just completely from the starting gun. I don't like Abbot. There were some of those. But if I'm talking to a very conservative voter of it's like I got a guy who's been here for eight years, he's effective, he's in control of the thing. And these other two guys are kind of a pig in a poke . So I'm gonna go ahead and go for this guy cuz he's conservative like me and he's a proven quantity. He just took it away from him. You know, the best politicians adapt. Um, Abbot did that. The interesting thing to watch the rest of the year, the next eight months is gonna be, does O'Rourke pose enough of a threat on the left to draw Abbot back . Right? Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Michael's got something about that actually. He's he's been thinking about

Speaker 4:

Yeah. I , I was actually one of the areas that I'm curious about if he moves to the right more and more for the primary, do you think he's, you know, when , when we did our project on the primary, we interviewed a lot of Republican voters who are now particularly thrilled with , um, some of the , they were moderate Republican voters who were not particularly thrilled with some of the more extreme actions taken by governor Abbott. Do you think in any way that it might be enough to push those moderate voters either to stay home or even to vote the other direction if Abbot has overstepped in the primary or does he have enough time to get

Speaker 3:

Back to center ? You got , you got the right element in your question. There's not an either or position. There's an either neither core position. Right? Right. And you find a lot of voters that go to that middle ground and then don't go over. Um , we do a lot of work with , uh, Jim Hansen and Darren Shaw who are pollsters and Josh blank who are pollsters up at the university of Texas over the years. And one of the things that they talk about now is that one of the prime motivators for someone who is partisan right now is not, I love the Republican party or I love the democratic party party . It's I hate the Republican party or I hate the democratic party. Yep . So the there's this classic model where you sort of say run to the extreme of your party in a primary and then run back to the middle for the general election. And the idea behind that is that, you know, there's this giant VE diagram and this is Republican and this is Democrats and some of 'em will only vote for their party, but there's this big group in the middle that's sort of at play , um, UNC uncommitted, but engaged, right? And to some extent, these are the voters that you're talking about, but that assumes that everybody is sort of like there's a little ground candidate, there's a candidate who could win a moderate Republican and a moderate Democrat, which would be true if I was in my party for ideological reasons or for reasons of positions. And it may be that I disagree with, you know, I'm a Republican and I disagree with that Democrat on a couple of issues, but I agree on issues and I don't have a sort of built in antipathy to Democrats. Now I've got a built in antipathy, so there's not a middle vote to play for. So the neither position is actually more important than either or position. If I'm trying to move voters around and let's say I'm a Republican and I'm dealing with, you know, the Trump gravitational pull in my party, you know , in Texas right now, 80% of Texas Republicans say they have either a very or somewhat , uh , favorable opinion of Donald Trump. If Donald Trump really heavily blesses somebody that's gold. Right. But there are some anti-Trump is into party and they go, I just can't vote for that crowd, but I'm sure as hell not gonna vote for Beto O'Rourke right. Because he's a Democrat and I'm a Republican. And so you get this weird thing and that helps drive down turnout in a general election.

Speaker 5:

So then do you think, cuz we were talking about fear earlier. Do you think that Beto, the fear that the Republican party instills into voters about fed , do you think that is enough to push people to vote Republican or do you think Beto is just that people are just not gonna go vote if they don't like Abbot either.

Speaker 3:

I think there's two decisions that they're making there. You know, the choice between these guys is fairly stark. You know, sometimes you get elections where, you know, I've got vanilla over here and I've got vanilla over here, you know, like French vanilla or do you want homemade vanilla, you know, blue golf , right. Um, French , um , it's always see , there you go. There's the disagree. You have it . Yeah . You're my enemy. Yep . I can't see . Um , so you , you get this, but this one is a very clear, this is this kind and that's that. And you have to get people in a position where they say, I don't necessarily like the guy that I'm with as a matter of party. So what am I gonna do? First decision is I'm off of my candidate. The second decision is, am I on the other candidate or am I out? Right ? Right . And sometimes you just go, you know, I'm just gonna skip the governor's race and go down to this other thing that I'm , that I'm paying attention to. There's a lot of bleed between races. So one of the things I'm watching carefully in the November election is how many voters are drawn to the fight between Paxton, for ag and whoever the Democrat turns out to be. Um, that's still a runoff and actually the second position in the runoff is still undecided. Yeah. It's so close and merit and so close Ky . Um , so you know, you, you look at that race and if that race turns into a car wreck, this is the thing I was talking about a minute ago, people were attracted to, Hey, what's going on over there. That's a turnout machine. That's what presidential races do. It's what the crews O'Rourke race did in 2018. So far, we don't completely have one of those this year. But if that turns into one, then it'll bleed into other. And if I'm drawn to a race between Paxton and for the sake of argument, say Gar , uh , Garza , cuz she's in front. Um , and if there is a genuine race there, the Democrats are funding their candidate. The Republicans are, these are real candidates as a rock M SOCOM deal. They're gonna draw certain constituencies to the polls that are gonna vote in that race, cuz they're there for that race. And then they're gonna go to that race and to that race and to the other race and the kind of voter drawn to the, to the marque race on a ballot influences to some extent all the other races on the ballot. If I go to a cruise O'Rourke race and I'm in a mood and I'm, I'm wanting to what was going on in that race was partly , uh , O'Rourke was kind of a phenom, but Cruz had a particular problem. He'd run a presidential race that had wounded him with some Republican voters and the antipathy to Cruz was pretty strong. So some of the Republicans were there going, I'm willing to vote against Cruz and they went and however, they voted in that race, they then went to the governor's race and went to the Lieutenant governor's race in the ag race in with the exception of the governor's race. All those races got really tight. Cuz you had drawn a particular kind of voter to the polls this year. If the AGS race that looks like the one to me that could really be the car wreck. Um, you know, you'll draw a certain kind of voter. One other thing to say there, the two guys in the top race are the best fundraisers in the modern history of either party. Yeah. Um, Greg Abbot had 65 million at the beginning of this year in the bank. And after he bought all those ads that are all over TV, he still had 50 million in the bank. Um, O'Rourke raised 80 million with those $3 emails. You know, when the 2018 race, he didn't invent this, but he really weaponized the, Hey send us five bucks, Hey, send us two bucks. Hey. And they raised, you know, campaign finance limits in federal races. They raised 80 million. So if those two guys are on their game, you've got 125 to 150 million in the governor's race. And that could be a car wreck .

Speaker 4:

So just to clarify real quick, going back to the ag for a quick second and the Trump endorsement itself are you of a strong belief that Patton now that this has gone to a runoff Patton will run away with it in may. What does George people have to

Speaker 3:

Run away ? I don't know. I think he wins it. Okay . Um, there's , you know, Paxton really wanted Bush rather than Guzman . Um , because they, part of the party that supports Paxton is against the Republican establishment. And there's no better name for the Republican establishment in Texas than Bush Bush. Yeah . So he wants that built in , you know, another George Bush, he wants that built in yep . Guzman was a fresh face and also a law and order face and Paxton, the last name Paxton needs right now that was a law order facing , right . Yeah . Right . Yeah . He's I mean, he's a , he's a very weak candidate and ordinarily the analysis after a runoff like this would be, if you have an incumbent statewide official who doesn't get 50% in his or her own primary from his and her, his or her own voters, that incumbent is in deep. Yeah . But this one because of the Bush thing and because of the Trump endorsement and that gravitational field of Trump is really a real thing in politics because of those two things. I think he's the way to bet

Speaker 2:

You look down the list of the Republican statewide offices, well valley and Conroe where , uh , everyone of eight Y elected Republican candidates wanted a picture with Trump, wanted an endorsement from Trump, wanted to say Trump's name over and over. So you , your , your comparison of gravity is exactly what we've been talking about in here, right ? That the gravity pool of Trump is strong. And you look at , uh, the race that I'm interested, his land commission race , um , and Don Buckingham is obviously , uh , tying herself really close to , um , Trump. Right . You know , a lot of the campaign slogans and everything are all around that. Um , and to me, the way that I see the land commissioner's race, whoever wins the democratic primary , um , I think is about the rural voter. I think there's so much here that the democratic party has not done very well. Obviously this is not a , a , a real or shattering point here, right ? But the rural voters in Texas just do not vote for Democrats. And they vote in a very strong block for Republican candidates, right . Whereas suburban areas have been mixed. There are some success they're in play , they're in play and urban areas have, have fractured as well. You don't have a as strong, you certainly have democratic voters in urban areas, but not, they don't vote as strongly democratic as rural voters vote Republican. Right. And the result of that is the , the democratic party strategy to turn Texas blue has not been successful, has failed because it's not taken the rural voters serious. It hasn't addressed the issues that rural voters are thinking about. So the land commission race, I think a guy like Jake Kleberg right , is primed for winning. If he can appeal to the rural voters,

Speaker 3:

You could have, you know, it's a weird thing that you could have somebody from the king ranch running against an eye doctor and the eye doctor's the favorite. Yes . You know, and it's it's yes . It's interesting. She's a , um, kind of a political accolade of Dan Patricks. Who's very close to, to Donald Trump. So she's gonna get that gravitational pull and you know, we'll see how it plays. One of the things about politics is I can't tell you what we're gonna be talking about in October and what's gonna be at play in your mind. Is it gonna be inflation? Is it gonna be everybody's out of strawberry ice cream because of supply chain problems, the's gonna be going on

Speaker 2:

The Ukraine. I mean, every it's , there's so many uncertain points right now COVID

Speaker 3:

Finds another letter in the Greek alphabet

Speaker 2:

Or combine them right . To create new letters.

Speaker 3:

Delta , here we go.

Speaker 2:

You brought up , uh , Lieutenant governor Patrick. And just a few weeks ago, mid February, he made some statements about the university of Texas , uh , position that the faculty took with respect to academic freedom, right ? And banning certain kinds of , uh, of ideas on campus and even put out the idea that he would suspend tenure , uh , require annual reviews of faculty , um , which, you know, really is an extension of the continued , uh , war path by the Republican party against these ideas in public that they claim to be in public schools, right . That , uh , are promoting equality , uh , looking at the historical basis of our country. Um , ideas about how there's systemic racism in America, which are all true. And there are all, there are systemic racism issues in America, right? Our founding does have significant problems. Our founders, many of them had slaves. So these are all true facts. These are facts that students at schools should be talking about, right . And questioning and thinking about, right . And our democracy really in many ways is under assault as a result of these kinds of claims that, that , that governor Patrick and others have made. Um, but these kinds of claims like this , uh, how do you think that goes? Do you think the , the average Texas voter is drawn into this?

Speaker 3:

It's a , it's a classic, it's a piece of classic populism. You guys are about my daughter's age. So you're all the Harry Potter generation. This is dolo Umbridge . It's the same kind of thing. It's like, I'm gonna impose a set of rules. I'm going to, it's a culture war. And I'm going to touch on things that separate the political constituency into us and them carefully moderating this so that the us is bigger than them. And I'm with us. Right. And if you're so in a particular way, Patrick is kind of a master of this. And he's also really good at ignoring a lot of Republicans and really talking to the people who go in primaries, that group, that's the group he's talking to. And these are the things that excite voters and light voters on both sides and anger in politics is often a stronger impulse , um, than a feel good . You know, I'm gonna give everybody a , I'm gonna give everybody a treat is not a strong blue

Speaker 2:

Be bluebe ice cream, right?

Speaker 3:

Blue bell ice cream. I'm gonna give everybody, you know, a carton or I'm going to tell you, you know, what's what terrible things are gonna happen if you don't vote. And, you know, we're to the fear thing that you were asking about and into this, this mindset of what's wrong with those people, why aren't they like us? And it's in us and them, and the ivory tower has always been one of the easiest ones. I mean, you read just a little bit of history and ever since they built the first university, you know, they started burning books, you know, and started, started going after these things. If you talk to somebody, who's not really thinking about it, you know, a lot of these things on the surface sound okay. Like why would you allow pornography in a public school library? Well, it depends on what you call pornography. It depends on how they , it is . It depends on if you have to ask the librarian, it depends on, it depends on a million things, but I'm not gonna talk about a million things in politics. I'm gonna have a slogan that says get porn outta the school library.

Speaker 6:

And then what that means is like what sexual obscenity. And then we get to like the L G B T books that are also being taken off the shelves, which I think leads into perfectly. We , I know we wanted to touch on the things Abbot has said about trans children and how that's kind of another dog whistle. Um, and I mentioned this, I don't know what podcast, but , um, to me, it's because it's easy to demonize something or someone that, you know, that your voters don't know, cuz statistically, most people do not know a trans person

Speaker 3:

Or don't know that they know a trans person.

Speaker 6:

Exactly. Right. And so, and that mindset and, and it's the same thing about, they don't know what's in the books that we are , they don't know what's in the 16, 19 project. Right . And because of that, it's so easy to demonize it. And so I think that's like a , a good segue to talk about, like , why do you think Abbot has been so adamant about the trans bills and then the transgender child abuse.

Speaker 3:

It , it goes in some ways to the same thing that I'm talking about, it's an us and them issue. And I was looking for something I couldn't, I didn't find it immediately, but , um , cuz I'm writing about this, what they're doing in a broad sense, Paxton and Abbot in particular with the trans children actually fits within the definition of bullying under the Texas education code. If you were a group of students doing to another set of students, what they're effectively using their offices to do , uh, to, you know, to their bullying and the reason bullies operate. I mean, one of the reason bullies rate is because you know, all of us are like , and all of them are different and they're pointing, they're pushing them into a , a difference thing. And they're doing it in a way where they're saying everything that I'm doing to those people and calling gender affirming , uh , procedures, child abuse be basically is a kind of political affirmation for all of the people who aren't doing that or who don't know somebody or don't know , they know somebody. And it's a way of, it's a way of gathering together. A people, a group of people who , um, are best motivated or are partially motivated by, Hey, we hate Democrats. Here's another reason I hate Democrats push 'em over there. Um, I , you know, I think it's, you know, it's, it's appalling on a bunch of different fronts. You wouldn't allow this. I mean, even the people doing this wouldn't allow it in another context or with another difference, whatever the difference was. Right . The difference that we're talking about now is trans kids. Right? The difference that we might be talking about in a different context is, you know, professors who teach CT, you know, it's are reporting to me. You just , you are reporting to me, right ? Yeah . I mean , because I do, you know , professors. Yeah. Right. I'm kidding . You know, it's um, but, but they , in doing this, I mean, you sort of understand the general theory of how the , it works. I'm gonna talk about, you know, people who Mo their lawn or people who don't, I'm gonna talk about homeowners associations that charge too much. And those that don't and whatever works with my voters. But if I move this from something like professors doing C RT to something like , uh , transgender kids or families that are li doing, you know, gender affirming surgery, it crosses a line from differences of opinion, to real differences in people. And you're , um , your you're building kind of , of a virtual leper colony in a way. Right. And you're declaring something off base and wrong and terrible, and then you're gathering people around it and it's, that's sort of essential populism

Speaker 5:

Something. So , uh , what , what y'all are talking about, it's, it's a terrible, the , and I know that , uh , judges have blocked , uh , the investigations that are , that have been Sergeant to some of the , so far so far. Yeah. And I , I know personally, a lot of conservative friends of mine are against the boat . I think it , it pushes too far. And, and Greg Abbots loo has, he's not losing the, the moderate Republican because they don't wanna vote for bad know . Right . But do , do you think he's gonna be able to bring it back because I don't know , from what I've seen and heard, that can be damaging in the long run, do you think he's gonna be able to push back?

Speaker 3:

You know, I mean, it gets nuanced. You could make an argument, this is gonna sound cynical. And I don't mean for it to , um , and I don't think it is, you could make an argument that I'm gonna , as the governor or the attorney general, I'm going to present this. They're both lawyers. Right. They kind of have an idea what the courts are gonna do. And if I say this and sort of innovate my constituency, right. And the courts knock it down, then I've kind of got the best of both worlds. I didn't do it, but got these people excited about it. And , and those stinking judges, those activist judges over there stopped me from doing this. So elect me and , and sort of like, you know , either way, you know , there's a , in a way it works for them even better than if they got it, because if they got it all of a sudden, and actually you're starting to see this a little bit, pretty soon you have a line of actual families and kids who are caught in this thing and they become sympathetic characters. Even if you don't think , um , they're doing the right thing, they've got the state going after individuals. This is the Republican party. That's exactly the opposite of what their , what their , um, is in their DNA. And , you know, over eight months that doesn't work very well. But judge knocking you down works pretty well.

Speaker 6:

And I think, and it's an interesting point, cuz we, we like to talk a lot about like the typical , um , scenario of like who's the hero, who's the victim. And it's interesting because on both sides of this issue, the children are the victim, but for ver very two different reasons on the left, the children are the victim because why would anybody ever , um , deduce the value of somebody's existence in somebody's identity, but on the right, the children are the victim because this is imoral in its child abuse and it goes against X, Y, or Z. Right . So I think that's where we're gonna see , um, people having trouble rationalizing , um, on the right, this victimhood stance when like what you said when families do actually end up getting into situations, because how far can you go to say the child is a victim and that's why their parents are , um , having issues with the law because cuz it's, it's just not , it's just not as logical.

Speaker 3:

They become the collateral and you're collateral , you know, I think you're in, you're obviously in moral trouble, but you're in, you're in political trouble whenever you collateralize individuals. And you basically say, this is just the, you know, these people are just the fodder, we're arguing over, wait a minute, those aren't fodder, those are kids. Right. Um, even if you're initially not sympathetic to them, you , you know, in your , in your construct that's right. I mean, doesn't matter what side I'm on. Leave the kids alone. Yeah . So , um, I don't know . That's an interesting one. CT is really interesting. There's this really thick book called critical race theory that you can go read and it's a set of essays that goes back to, you know, sort of the, the inception of this as a formal course of study in law schools and stuff in the early and mid nineties. Right . And it's a bunch of essays and internally in the book, I mean, it's a big old thick book and you know, cuz I write about this, I read it. And because these are all like essays and legal opinion and all of that kind of stuff, the book itself kind of argues with itself, right. Essay to essay. It's not the same point of view. It's like a bunch of different people and it's not what we're arguing about. I mean, you can argue about critical race theory and it's in that book. There's a whole, you know, it's pretty vigorous, but if you talk about what they're actually teaching and what's going on and on the other hand, talk about what the politicians are talking about. Those are not the same things.

Speaker 2:

No. And , and you're right. And I think that they don't care because they just want to use a term that that tends to , as you said, create a villain where the villain in this case are these communist teachers that are indoctrinating our children in public schools across the , the state of Texas and that they've become this secret Kabal of communist. Right . And that's, that's extended now into our university. So they use the expression critical race. And what I find interesting as you , as you know, the fight is over framing the narrative, right? And they framed this narrative as a critical race, anti critical race theory, right . The idea that they are against critical race. Right . But really the frame or the narrative should be they're against discussions about equality.

Speaker 3:

Well, you know, the way Patrick , um , described it himself was a white student. Shouldn't walk into a classroom and here are things that make the white student feel like an oppressor and a black student shouldn't walk into a classroom and come out with a set of information that makes the black student feel like a victim and they aren't victims and they aren't oppressors. And you know, I mean you're listening to it and you're kind of going, yeah. But the history is that they were victims and oppressors. And you know, the fact that that's the history doesn't necessarily , um, indicate any of the attributes of the kids listening to it, but that's the frame of it. Yeah . And when you frame it like this, this is, you know, again, this is a populous thing. If you go back and read speeches from like a William Jennings Bryant or a Huey long or a George Wallace, or they're not all racial, I mean it's often the content, but you know, the way they do the us them thing is really, really very interesting. And what you're seeing is a classic burst of populism that was really sort of weaponized and brought to the fore, you know, in a very successful way by Donald Trump.

Speaker 2:

Let's talk about solutions because these are problems that we see over and over in American politics. We saw that on the national scene with the, the Trump campaign , uh, we saw it even before the Trump campaign. We've seen these kinds of rallies around the us and them dichotomy, but that's a such an unhealthy approach to a democratic society where , uh , we look at politics like a zero sound game for , for every game you get, I lose something, but in a , in a broader way, the, the problems that we have in Texas are still here. We still have public education problems. We have so many kids that are dropping outta high school. We have high teen pregnancy rates. We have high chronic diseases and healthcare . We have some of the lowest, if not the lowest uninsured rates of , uh , population in the country, these are problems , uh , our , our public school funding mechanisms and how Robinhood distributes , uh, you know, whether it's equitable or not is certainly a significant issue. Right? Uh , and so here we are, and here are the problems. And yet those that are in power continue these us versus them dichotomies. So how do we, how do we get above that? How do we start talking about collaborating and solving problems instead of

Speaker 3:

You have to change? You know, this is sort of like, you know , good . I go to BF Skinner , you gotta go to behaviorism. Right. Um , people in politics are very tuned to the public, very attentive to the public. And when you see them skewing off in a particular direction, it's probably because it works right. And they're looking at this and they're saying this works. And then you have to think about, okay, so it works. In what sense? Um , it works in the short term , if an election is your short term thing, it's like if you're talking about companies, public companies, and if they're judged in the stock market on the basis of quarterly earnings, all their decisions are gonna be three months decisions, cuz they're gonna try to influence the quarterly results. Politics works the same way. The problems that you're describing are sort of systemic problems. Like at any given time, we could completely fix school finance and arguably this has happened before. And then over time, it kind of erodes and gets out of whack. Again, it gets out of balance and you have to go back and reform it and then it erodes a little bit and you have to go back and reform it. It's a perennial problem. And that's a cycle that may be 10 or 20 years. You know, we don't have 10 or 20 year terms. We're electing people for this office every two years. And for this office every four years and their stimulus response system is on elections and built on what do I need to do to get outta this primary? Because if I'm a , you know, I can be goodhearted and , and a practical person that you agree with and everything, and look at a primary and say, look, if I don't do some of these things that I don't necessarily agree with in this primary, in order to win this primary, a I will lose. And the person who wins will be somebody who might actually believe those things and go full, full hog . Right. And, and you can have this conversation. I mean, if you're having a conversation, if you're not a reporter, or if you're off the record, you can have this conversation with politicians and, and they will say at some point, look, this is what you gotta do to win this thing. So if you really wanted to reform, you would have to figure out a way to reform the stimulus response thing. You know, I'm gonna , I'm gonna put cheese out there and then mice is gonna go to the cheese. So

Speaker 2:

That's, that's a basic DNA as you , we're talking about it's vitals , right? Yeah .

Speaker 3:

Well, it's , you know, it , this is , we set up a competitive system and it doesn't necessarily incentivize the things that we wanted to incentivize. It's an incentivize getting into office. And then you hope that they do in office, what you hoped they would do when you elected them , but the things are, are disconnected.

Speaker 4:

So I guess one of the things as I'm sort of listening to all this and thinking about it, and I've said this a couple times here is it seems to me that the answer would be education in , in a way, right . It's educating on these issues so that the truth comes out, not even the truth necessarily, but the facts, right ? The idea of, you know, learning stuff on how C RT is this book of essay . It's not strictly that, but the, at this book exist , this what a really upper graduate, you know, level conversation. That's not something that most folks know the transgender comments that were made earlier about not most folks, either don't know, they know somebody or they don't know somebody and therefore haven't experienced that or spoke with someone who's gone through that. So the answer to me always seems to go back to education, but then we loop back around and we say, if they're taking out the , if the people in power are taking out the books on these issues, if they're attacking the education itself to further inform the citizens on this,

Speaker 3:

Right?

Speaker 4:

How do we get around that to have more educated discussions as a civil society going into

Speaker 3:

Election ? Depends on what you believe. I mean, if you sort of, I mean, this is a really complex question. If you fundamentally believe, sorry about that, that if everybody has all of the information available to them, that everybody will become a rational actor and do what they do, even if they disagree, right. I may just be inherently intrinsically conservative and you may be inherently intrinsically liberal, but if we're both educated, at least we'll have a rational conversation about it. That's one way to think about this. The other way to think about this is, you know, I , I think the ideas in these books are twisting people off and that you're not gonna have a rational idea or a rational conversation because this is all bull . Right. And, and, you know, C RT is a bad thing inherently, and I don't wanna waste any time with it. And you're just indoctrinating these kids. Yeah. Which is where we're at now . Which , so if I'm in a , so, so think this back, let's just go back to take all of the emotion out of it and say, Ross Ramsey is an elected official who believes X and Y and Z. And if people begin to believe the version of X and Y and Z, that's in all of these textbooks, the Ross Ramseys of the world are outta here. I want those books removed. Right. Right. Because I believe I'm right. And if I'm right, those books, shouldn't be in the schools, you see, it's a , I can , I can , I can rationalize sure . Any of these arguments and you have to rely on people. This is one of the great disappointments of being an adult. You have to, you have to rely on people to be smart and inquisitive and sell of questioning in a way that, you know, whatever they believe they believe it all the way down and they've thought about it. And they've, you know, really given it some thought instead of they walked into a voting booth and saw a name like Ross or Ramsey and said, oh, that alliterates I'll vote for him. Yeah . Right . Or Rick Perry, it's, it's really, it's really disappointing. You know, Perry actually was sort of interesting because he , he was a , you know , you're talking about the Rick Perry asterisk ,

Speaker 7:

The new one, right. The new one, the new one,

Speaker 3:

Rick Perry was interesting when he was governor. And when he was, you know, coming up in that, you know, you kind of, the contents on the side of the box were really what was in the box. You know, you kind of, you know , you liked him where you didn't, but it was sort of an honest, you know, hi, I'm, I believe in XYZ. And it's like, well, it does, you know, and like it or not, it was like, okay, that's straight up. That's pretty honest. We can do that. Yep . Um , some of these, you know, you wonder about 'em , um, there's a kind of legislation. Um , the bathroom bill in 2017 is an example of this where members go into, in that case, the speaker's office say this was a bill that basically was trying to tell transgender people, which bathroom to use. Right. You have to use the bathroom as indicated on your birth certificate. Um, and it sailed through the Senate and was a Republican talking point. And the speaker at the time was Joe Straus. He thought it was a bad idea and the house was Republican and they thought it was a bad idea, but they were parade into his office. Um, this is talking to them and talking to Straus , they were going into his office and they were saying, listen, this is a terrible piece of legislation. But if it gets on the floor of the house and we have to vote, when all my voters are watching, I'm gonna vote for it. So don't let it on the floor of the house. You gotta protect me on this. Uh , we voted for you. We made you speaker. We gave you the high chair . We gave you the corner office. Congratulations. You have to catch all the Jains. And by the way, when I'm through with this conversation, I'm gonna go out of your office and stand in front of a bunch of TV cameras and tell them what an sob you are for. Not letting me vote on this bill. That was the compact . Yeah . Straus blocked. It, it didn't pass. All those people didn't have to vote. Everybody was covered on this. Uh , if you properly push a populous movement, you force everybody to take a position on things that they wouldn't ordinarily take a position on. And in many cases on things where the politically proper position they believe is not what they actually believe.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Yeah . I think about this whole attack on public schools right now, and there's many components to this and we've talked about a few of them , but I think there's some coattails here and I'm not sure whether it is by design or whether it is the result of just being , uh , opportunist. But I think there is underlying this, the drum beat towards vouchers. Uh , and I think, you know, a lot of the arguments that are put out here that the schools , it erodes the trust that the , that the general public has about our K through 12 education in Texas. And you can see it in Greg Abbot's comments over the last year, how he steadily started to say and Abbot . I mean, and , and Patrick, that this session, we are going to move legislation harder than we've ever moved towards the vouchers. Uh , we see groups like the Texas public policy foundation that have started , uh , reviving the , um , the message that public schools can't be trusted. Uh , we have to move to the vouchers. Um , do you think that's concerning to the, I mean, is that, do you think that's something where this is going?

Speaker 3:

I , you know, I don't know. Um , you know, if you, if you deinstitutionalize, you know, there's been a long conversation in , in the country about, you know, we're tearing down institutions, people have a little less faith than the government. God knows they have a little less faith than journalism. Um , a little less faith than higher ed public ed churches, you know, institutions are having a bad time right now. Yeah . But institutions exist for a reason. And, you know, at some point, you know, I , I believe in cycles and at some point, if you tear things down, you're gonna get to a situation where everybody goes, you know, it'd be cool. If we had a place where we could all gather and do like education together, that'd be kind of cool. We could call it. I don't know a school revolutionary.

Speaker 2:

That's a great idea.

Speaker 3:

That'd be something, you know, to your question. What if we educated everybody and had a , an intelligent electorate that's in the original DNA, that's in the original arguments that they were having about. We have to have public ed, cuz if these people aren't educated, democracy's a sham. Cause there'd just be a bunch of idiots casting votes based on who bought them beer, you know? Right. I know

Speaker 4:

It's a horrible connection, but if y'all seen the Larry David commercial yes . With the concept institution

Speaker 2:

Thing , everybody voting, are

Speaker 4:

You gonna let everyone out ? Even the stupid ones, they all fight . I mean, that's , but it's important that

Speaker 3:

They all get to , that's the thing, you know, you gotta , you , you know , um,

Speaker 2:

Me Lamar said it it's over the library where I went, I went to west Texas. Yeah . And , um , and over our library, me , BU Lamar said a cultivated mind is , and I know because I went into the library all the time and I've memorized this thing, but it's a cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy and while guided and controlled the Nobles attribute of man. So the idea of democratic education is inherent in not just the United States, right . And Thomas Jefferson is founding public first public university at the university of

Speaker 3:

Virginia. It's baked in the cake . It

Speaker 2:

Is.

Speaker 3:

And no . So, so I'm, you know, I'm an optimist and I'm also a believer in institutions and you go through periods like this and, and this country has gone through periods like this. Um, George Wallace, Huey long J William Jennings, Brian . I mean, we , we do this periodically and other countries do too. That's how Boris Johnson got in office. It's how , uh , Burleson got in office in Italy. It's how, you know , this , this happens. And it , it generally, you know, you , you know , one of the things you have to do is you have to look at, you know, why are people going for this right now? And there's usually kind of disquiet or dissatisfaction in the electorate that makes something like this catch on, you know, where you just say, you know, if you can go in front of a room and everybody's mad enough that you can say, listen, we just need to roll up our sleeves and get our torches and our pitch forks and go get those guys. And most of the time people listen to that and they go, yeah , we're not gonna do that. But every once in a while you go in there and you say that, and everybody reaches for a pitch for it . And

Speaker 2:

January 6th , January 6th ,

Speaker 5:

Right.

Speaker 3:

Torches. And there's almost always in a populous movement, a fiery leader who does this and Donald Trump was our fiery leader. And he still a gravitational in , you know, influence on the party that happens to be a majority in this state. Something just have to figure out how to , how to win

Speaker 5:

Recently within, within the , um, sorry within the Republican party, there's been, I guess in internal strife. Right? So now Liz Channey is on the outs , um, up north, but within Adam kin zinger , Adam Kinzinger , uh , but within the Texas Senate, there was a, I can't remember for the life of me to remember his name, but there was a Senator that spoke out against , uh , Dan Patrick. And he was in the , uh, uh , business in commerce , um , talking

Speaker 8:

Cal

Speaker 5:

Umbrella . Yeah . He was kicked out of that. And I can't remember where they put him, but do , do you think that

Speaker 2:

He's not coming back?

Speaker 5:

No, he's not. But do you think that tho those, that internal fight is gonna weaken the Republican party?

Speaker 3:

It weaken the Democrats. You know, when I, when I was starting as a political reporter, it was a democratic state and, and the Democrats were divided at that time into liberals and conservatives and the conservative Democrats were basically what you now call moderate Republicans. Yeah . And, and the joke around the country was a Texas , uh , Democrat is, is a Republican with a DAC with a , with a cowboy hat , um , and largely true. I mean, it was a pretty conservative party, you know, elected people like Coke Stevenson and, you know, on and on and on and on. Yeah . Yeah . Um, but they got into internal fights and those internal fights were gradually and eventually exploited by Republicans said , come over here. The water's fine. The problem with a majority party is that it's a gathering of ambitious people who want to move up. And eventually, you know, we got here, we got here as brothers and sisters bound together in common cause. And uh , now we both want the same job. Right . You know, and eventually that sours the sours, the milk a little bit. And , um , the are just having a real episode of it. They had a very , um, big jolt to their system. If in 10 years, time you go from George W. Bush to Donald Trump, right. With a Obama interlude, something happened to your party. Yeah . Something really, you know, some , there was some kind of blow up at Thanksgiving. We're still not it over. And , and they're still doing that. And the Democrats in Texas have just not figured out , um, how do they get over a long period of time? How to exploit that. Yeah . And

Speaker 2:

When the Republicans, as you were saying, when the Republicans started gay momentum in Texas , uh , a lot of those Republicans were former Democrats. Sure . Like we just talked about Rick Perry, Rick

Speaker 3:

Perry was a bill Ram was a Democrat. Ken Han was a Democrat, you know, it's like, you know , they , they got 'em all out of the, you know, and they were in a position where, you know , um , Rick Perry was one of a cohort of people who came out of Texas a and M at the same time. And they were all running for public office at the same time. And it's just what I'm talking about . This is like a band of siblings that gets to a certain point. And then they all go, oh, you wanted the same job I want. And all of a sudden, Rick Perry and John Sharp and Gary Marow and Ken Caperton, and a bunch of other people that you could name were all in a competitive situation. Yeah . And if there's not any room in the democratic party, if I can't move up cuz so, and so's in front of me and the Republicans are over here without anybody on the ladder and saying, come on to , water's great . It's like, okay, I'll do that. Hmm . But that was also a time when the difference between the parties was not, I hate the Republicans and that's why I'm a Democrat. Was I like the Democrats now you've got that antipathy built into the cake. So, you know, it's harder to step to the other side because the parties are so built on yeah . You know, instinct . And so, and so , and you're instinct . And so, and so

Speaker 2:

What about a guy like Joe Straus? Here's a guy that shows moderate Republican. Do you ever see him flipping, becoming a Democrat, doing , trying to run for

Speaker 3:

Something? No. Cause his con you know, his family's one of the old Republican families of San Antonio. Uh , his mom was an activist for years and year . I used to call her and ask her about candidates and stuff. His family's really deeply into that. He and his wife met working in either the Reagan or the Bush administration. They're Republicans. Yeah . But they're not Trumpists. And that's, that is an illustration of the split in the party that you're talking about. Joe Struse , you know, got elected in a district full of Republicans of that ilk and could probably still win in that district, but he couldn't win in a statewide election right now as a Republican, because that's not where the party is. 80% of 'em are with Trump, you know, after Trump, you know, maybe, and the Democrats, you know, I mean the Democrats problem is that it not a , in Texas right now, it's not a coherently organized party, you know, they could , you could hand them a good candidate and they bump their hand every time. I mean, they'll eventually figure it out. I mean, these things are also cyclical, but you know, it's been a long cycle. You think they have a good candidate right now? I think gours a decent candidate. I mean, all candidates have flaw. Yeah. You know, and, and if you look at Greg Abbot, you know, and squint at it , um , he's been in political office. He's been in statewide political office in Texas since 1996. Yeah. And if nothing else, as a Supreme court judge, as an attorney general, and as a governor, he's made so many decisions and done so many things that a , the, that a moderately talented political consultant could pick him apart. So, I mean, when you're looking at a candidate and you say that's a pretty good candidate, but he or she has bruises or, you know, this is, you know, there's some flaws here. Both of them have flaws. Um, O'Rourke are more prominent right now. I'll hell yes. I'll take your gun. Yeah. Uh , um , but I think that eventually turns into a fight on immigration. And I think that's gonna be kind of interesting cause abs on immigration where he is. Yeah . And if you go back to the 20, 20 democratic primaries for president and watch Castro and O'Rourke and Harris go at it. Yeah . Um, that was a pretty interesting conversation about immigration. And there were a bunch of different varied points of view. And I think if you put O'Rourke and Abbot in a , in a finding box and let 'em go, I think, you know, that's gonna be a very interesting conversation and actually actually has something to do with one of the big problems facing the state in the country. And one of the things that we need to solve, you know, it actually is like, wow, civic. Absolutely . How about that? Going,

Speaker 5:

Going into that talk of immigration. Right. So the democratic party has historically had the Rio , uh , grand valley , uh , and the Hispanic vote. And that recently shifted a lot of them were voting , voted pro-Trump um , there's a lot of different reasons for one is machismo , which is a very like Latin American ideal , uh , idealism, which is currently under fire for a lot of good different reasons um, and another thing is immigration. A lot of, a lot of , uh , those, those people that immigra, I don't wanna say legally, but I , for , for lack of a better , uh , word that comes to mind right now , uh , legally they're , they're very strong . They have very , a lot of them have very strong and tied .

Speaker 3:

They feel like they followed the rules and you guys aren't following the rules .

Speaker 5:

Exactly . Right. So do you, do you think that the democratic party is going to try to win them back soon or, or are they focused on other issues right now?

Speaker 3:

I think the Democrats went to sleep on that . So the first thing I would, I , you know, the characterization I would put on, on what happened in south Texas, what's happening in the Rio Grande valley. I'm from El Paso. But you know, as you go down toward the, toward the Gulf from Mexico, there's a bunch of different things going on. One of them is that there's always been a very conservative strain there culturally. And another of them is, is that the best jobs down there right now are federal government jobs. You know, the , the money in the economy is, you know, if you start, you know, Texas is throwing $3 billion down there and the United States is throwing a bunch of money at walls and CBP and ice and all of those kinds of things. Those are, those are great jobs in the elections. It's not that those have become Republican areas. It's that they've become less democratic areas. Democrats are still winning, right. And you've seen a couple of party flips, but not many. And, and you know, when you really see an , an area go like that, you'll see a bunch of people. It usually starts with judges and people down the ballot who look up and say, I didn't leave the democratic party. The democratic party left me and they jump over and run as Republicans until you see that that's not flipped. That's , that's the behavioral thing you're looking for. Gotcha . So in Harris county went from red to blue. It's like one day, all the judges changed when Dallas county went from red, from blue to red and then red to blue, same thing. Yeah . You know, I'm old enough to remember both clips. Yeah . And it's just like, you know, when the judges start going, I gotta get outta here. That's the sign. Because go back to what I said, politicians are very responsive and very attentive to voters and they can smell it. And when it happens, it happens, the Democrats have a real problem there. And it's because they haven't been tending their garden. They haven't , they took it for granted. We'll win this many votes down there. You don't need to worry about it. And the Republican we're working on holy crap, we're losing the cities. We're losing the suburbs. We're losing places where we used to be dominant. We still have rural Texas , but that's not gonna hold forever. Most of the state lives in the triangle, Dallas Fort worth, Austin, San Antonio, Houston. Um, we need to do something and they started, you know , let's go hit. 'em where they're from .

Speaker 2:

Yeah . Yeah . Thanks a lot for coming in today .

Speaker 3:

Yeah . Happy ,

Speaker 1:

Thanks for listening to this episode of the podcast. Hope you enjoyed and be sure to tune in next time for another fascinating interview with Lynn Osgood, the executive director of civic arts, where we will learn about the parallels between creativity and politics.