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Crossposted at MyDD

In his satirical (and hilarious) book The Areas of My Expertise, funnyman John Hodgman categorizes the State of Texas like this:

NICKNAMES:  The Homeland, More Mexico

MOTTO:  "Friendship, Except When Betrayed, or Approached by Strangers."

NOTES:  You have heard the saying that everything is bigger in the Lone Star state, and it is true that the cats are the size of dogs and the dogs are the size of European cars.  But Texans themselves are of normal proportions, with normal-sized dreams and loves, who just happen to own cars that are the size of twenty-five European cars.

Like all good satire, there’s a grain or two of truth in Hodgman’s summary.  I work in the environmental consulting industry, often in support of the development and permitting of renewable energy facilities (e.g. wind and solar).  Last week these efforts brought me to the near center of a vast sea of Republican red: West Texas.  

We bunked in the city of San Angelo, a college town of around 90,000 souls.  Despite whatever liberal leanings local Angelo State University might foster, folks in Tom Green County voted 75% in favor of George W. Bush in 2004.  For Democrats, you can’t get much further behind enemy lines.  It’s down home and deep red, but maybe even in the heart of Texas the governance of their Crawford local boy and his GOP cronies has rendered "the brand" (pun intended) cold.  It just doesn’t burn in like it used to.  More on that in a bit.  For now, back to the "big" picture:

My colleague and I can affirm the Texas tendency to super-size.  Indeed, the steaks were both phenomenal in flavor and massive in scale.  We shied away from the "large" T-bone option offered by our waiter, and ordered the ones he described as "medium-sized" instead.  The thick, sizzling slabs served were roughly the size of a Frisbee.  They landed on our table with an audible thud, sending ripples through the beer in our 56-ounce goblets.  Now that’s my kind of "medium".

True to Lone Star custom (and Hodgman’s joke), the cars were bigger in Tom Green County too.  Many of them sported bumper stickers with sayings like Texas Is Bigger Than France, and this gem:  Their Mascot is a Jackass.  Any Questions?  We saw another that read Some People Are Only Alive Because it’s Illegal to Shoot Them, but that’s a whole different story, and I have tendency enough for digression.  Back to the gist.

The steaks and the cars were definitely big, but that isn’t all:  Democratic turnout was bigger too.  In the 2008 Primaries 10,172 enlightened Texans pulled the level for a candidate with a "D" behind the name.  

Not too shabby, considering that the GOP slate drew a crowd of 8,813 confused (or crazy) Republicans out to the booths.  McCain won with 59% of the vote, with "Aw Shucks" Huckabee a distant second.

Despite the apparent prevalence of the sort of attitude reflected in the anti-democratic bumper stickers, more Democrats turned out than Republicans:  1,359 more to be precise.  Statistically speaking that’s not many, but it certainly suggests that Team Blue was more energized.  All things considered, the enthusiasm gap hasn’t shifted much since then and when it has, it’s been in favor of the Democrats.  There’s still evidence of this energy on the ground.  I was as pleased as a weasel in a henhouse when we spotted this place:

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The fantastic lady staffing the office was quick with a grin, and happy to see us.  "We don’t get much traffic here as you might expect," she said, gesturing widely to indicate our environs.  She quickly added that she thought things were "going pretty well lately".  She explained that Hillary had many supporters in the area during the Primary, but they’d pretty much transitioned smoothly to backing Obama.  "Warming up very nicely," I believe she said.  Conversely, she didn’t think her Republican neighbors were taking to McCain all that well.  Check out the swag, and have some of that sweet Democratic candy:

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What’s got people so riled up?  Why are Democrats turning out in better number? Some stuff clipped from the local San Angelo paper, The Standard-Times helps to explain it.

On Monday, August 4th, Mitchell Kransy (a San Angelo resident and retired federal employee) published a guest column boldly headlined 'GOP Stands for Greedy Oil Politics'.

I agree with these headlines over columns in the July 21 Standard-Times: "Seek smart energy solutions" by U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland, and "U.S. needs long-term energy policy" by self-confessed political junkie Jim Ryan.

Unfortunately, neither column lived up to its headline. Conaway's column contains the same old stuff he and other Republicans have been peddling, without success, for months. He makes it clear that "GOP" stands for "Greedy Oil Politics." If Ryan's idea of a long-term energy policy is to lay in lots of canned food, one can only hope he has a manual can opener.

The energy crisis is obviously an issue.  The following day, another guest column appears.  This time it’s Skipper Gaston, the former owner of a B.B.Q. joint.  He says the U.S. must get serious about energy issues.

T. Boone Pickens recently said that Americans are currently sending $700 billion a year out of this country for oil. Considering who much of this money goes to, it should be obvious that this is a major national security issue. It is not merely a major economic problem for this country. We are also making our enemies stronger by pumping money into the economies of countries that are as friendly to our enemies as they are to us, if not more so.

Hodgman told us above that Texans have "normal-sized dreams and loves".  Sounds like a growing number are dreaming about change, and they’re speaking up.  Listen to Jim Dunnam (elected to the Texas House in 1996; served as the House Democratic leader since 2003), when he says the GOP is to blame for the energy crisis.

Both our family budgets and the air we breathe are suffering because of poor energy decisions made by the Republican leadership of the Texas Legislature.

(snip)

And while our bills are getting higher, the air is getting dirtier. Texas is already the country's top polluter, spewing more carbon dioxide into the air than any other state. If Texas were its own country, we would be the seventh-largest polluter in the world - in part due to our state's heavy use of old technology coal-fired electric plants. Texas uses more coal than any other state, and we have five of the dirtiest coal plants in America.

In 2007, Democrats in the Texas House won bipartisan support for a number of amendments to a comprehensive energy bill that would truly have made a difference in the bills you pay and the air you breathe. The full House, including many Republican members, adopted our proposals for across-the-board electric rate cuts and stronger environmental protections to start cleaning up our air.

We won the fight in the House for a utilities bill that would give us real solutions to our problems. Unfortunately, a House-Senate conference committee dominated by the Republican leadership stripped the bipartisan reforms out of the bill. In the end, the House was given a measure written in secret right at the final day of business last session. The final bill did so little for consumers that Bob Jackson, director of the Texas AARP, memorably said the bill was "as weak as dirty dishwater."

Slowly but surely, people are getting the message.  Even in Texas, people are weary of the same old politics as usual.  Heck, the Editorial for Thursday, August 7th says the Subpoena dispute highlights the gridlock:

...but the White House's obdurate and often high-handed refusal to allow Bush's former top political adviser Karl Rove, former White House legal counsel Harriet Miers and current chief of staff Joshua Bolten to testify before the House and Senate Judiciary committees infuriated lawmakers. With the Democrats in control, they sued in federal court.

(snip)

It is a shame that the White House and Congress couldn't negotiate a settlement on this issue. It shows just how deeply divided and partisan our government has become - and no one benefits from this hopeless gridlock.

Let’s hope this message continues to grow better than normal-sized.  Speaking of which, let’s share a hearty golf clap for the seven MoveOn.org members who protested at the San Angelo constituency office of Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) for his support of offshore drilling for oil and gas.

Asked about the role wind and solar energy will play as the country seeks multiple fuel sources, Conaway said, "Wind and solar will always be minor players" unless the country develops a way to store that energy.

He stressed that coal and nuclear energy sources will be stronger investments.

Coal?  What’s Conaway looking to "invest" in?  Maybe the five dirtiest coal plants in America, the ones that Dunnam told us about earlier.  Again, what was I doing in Texas all week?  Oh yeah, that "minor" wind power thing.

As wind energy continues to expand across the U.S. heartland, rural America is likely to experience a revitalization not experienced since the homestead land grabs of the 19th century. Green jobs - high-quality employment for environmentally sustainable industries - and related spin-off opportunities are proliferating across West Texas. Local leaders predict that the economic growth has only just begun.

All in all, maybe things are lookin’ up for those stubborn "Jackasses" in Texas.  If you’re feeling it, send some Buffalo Nickels to the good folks over at the Texas Democratic Party.  

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Originally posted to |=06!\/:1337 on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 10:46 AM PDT.

Poll

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63%19 votes
6%2 votes
30%9 votes

| 30 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for the Californio (12+ / 0-)

    Just an addendum of little or no relevance:  We witnessed a zebra-striped Cadillac with Longhorns affixed to the hood.  No kidding.  I have proof.  What’s better was that it was parked at a Bail Bonds place.  God Bless Texas.

    "When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon." -Thomas Paine

    by Fogiv on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 10:47:00 AM PDT

    •  Hey, that's my hometown! (5+ / 0-)

      Thanks for this diary, Fogiv.  I was just in San Angelo about two weeks ago.  We visited my family after Netroots in Austin.

      My older brothers are conservative, my parents  centrist democrats and I'm one of those libruls they couldn't really understand.

      As you can imagine, our political in the past were :ahem: discussions "lively".  Now?  My oldest brother is all about wind energy, my second oldest brother (who, by far, was the most conservative of our bunch) is talking about how deregulation of the energy market had done the exact opposite of what they promised and he's pissed about it.  Oh, and don't try to sell my family on the offshore drilling gimmick; they KNOW it's BS.

      I don't know how my brothers will vote.  Chances are they won't because they are so disgusted by their party.  My parents will vote for Obama and I think my mom is secretly tickled at seeing some of the bumperstickers she's seeing around town.

      Keep up the good work, Fogiv.  San Angelo is still very red and "has more churches than trees" to coin a Dixie Chicks lyric, but there is definitely a tide shift.  Even in San Angelo.  :)

      "Hod-d-d-d" - Eddie Izzard

      by bijoudesigncom on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 11:03:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks! (5+ / 0-)

        Appreciate the hometown perspective.  Apart from those bumper stickers, nice little town you have there.

        "When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon." -Thomas Paine

        by Fogiv on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 11:10:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You didn't go to Zentner's Daughter, did you? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jlms qkw, Fogiv

          We went because I was jonesing for a chicken-fried steak.  It has really gone downhill from what it used to be....

          "Hod-d-d-d" - Eddie Izzard

          by bijoudesigncom on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 11:17:14 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Heh. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jlms qkw

            We did, but it was just one of the many steaks we ate all week long.  In all, I think I shaved about 2 years off my life.

            The steak at Miss Hatties was pretty good, and was the one at the Texas Roadhouse place.

            "When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon." -Thomas Paine

            by Fogiv on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 11:21:59 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  to clarify (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jlms qkw, Fogiv

          My mom is loving the Bush-bashing bumperstickers (and we saw a few in town, he he), not the disgusting stuff you saw:

          Many of them sported bumper stickers with sayings like Texas Is Bigger Than France, and this gem:  Their Mascot is a Jackass.  Any Questions?  We saw another that read Some People Are Only Alive Because it’s Illegal to Shoot Them, but that’s a whole different story, and I have tendency enough for digression.  Back to the gist.

          Didn't see those you mentioned, but I'm not surprised.

          "Hod-d-d-d" - Eddie Izzard

          by bijoudesigncom on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 11:24:51 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I figured (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            texasmom, jlms qkw

            that was what you meant.  I was kind of stunned to see as many Obama stickers and signs as I did.  A promising, errr, sign.  ;)

            "When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon." -Thomas Paine

            by Fogiv on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 11:31:09 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Howdy Californio (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jlms qkw, Fogiv

    Bringing up that dirty, awful word Hope. Even out here in the reddest of states there are those of us who have entertained that notion.

    After taking several readings, I'm surprised to find my mind is still fairly sound. Willie Nelson

    by cactusflinthead on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 11:19:22 AM PDT

  •  This spring was my first election in Texas (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    texasmom, jlms qkw, Fogiv

    I'm newly naturalizing (native angelina, actually).

    So I was interested in the whole Pri-Caucus combo, and dutifully stayed the three hours it took for my precinct to get it together and tally our votes for the remaining two Democratic candidates.  I ended up being an alternate Obama delegate to our county convention - I got elevated and enjoyed voting.  I also volunteered at the state convention and was an observer.  Fun.

    At any rate, in addition to scratching my head about things like the secretary of state not providing voters with summaries and debates about the candidates and ballot issues, and getting used to the whole voting twice thing (which of course appealed to my inclination to vote both 'early and often'), I was very confused about why the vote tallies from the primary and the causcuses on the day of election came out so differently on the numbers for Clinton and Obama.

    Here's the way it worked for those who are unfamiliar: There are many ways to 'early vote' in Texas, but whether you do it on the day or ahead of time, you are asked to declare your party affiliation at the door - I'm under the impression that most states require that people declare well ahead of showing up at the polls.  You get a ballot of the party you claimed at the door, you vote, and then you get a stub that shows you voted which makes you eligible for participating in the caucus.

    Only the Democrats caucus.  To Caucus, you return to the precinct polling place on election evening after the polls close.  Then you sign in and indicate which candidate you prefer and then wait and wait and wait while everyone signs in, and then the coordinators check to make sure that everyone who signed in actually voted... You can't participate in the caucus if you didn't vote in the primary... you got that right?

    Here's the important bit - it would make sense that the primary vote counts and the caucus votes should resemble each other - but they didn't.  Hillary won the primary, and Obama won the caucus.

    The primary was close Clinton 51% to Obama's 47%, but the caucuses had a reverse and less close result with Obama 56% to Clinton 44%.

    How many Americans actually know that Obama won Texas when the vote finally became official in June (the vote wasn't official until the state convention)?  Hillary claimed a Texas victory in March, and she didn't get challenged much in the national analysis.  Her concession came right at about the same time as our convention.

    Given how passionately both camps felt about their votes in the primary, I'm convinced that there is only one explanation for the disparity:

    I think the result is evidence of the old Operation Chaos promulgated by the chief wingnuts.  Republicans showed up at the poll, changed affiliation, voted in the primary for Hillary, but then didn't bother to come to the caucus.

    We know that they did this in large number because thousands of them hadn't thought through their actions and then called/emailed in to complain on Fox and Friends the next day... they hadn't figured that they would get a whole Democratic ballot, and that they then couldn't vote for Republicans down ticket, and they were PISSED.

    So, while I appreciate your numbers about Democratic increase, um, I'm afraid it may not actually reflect a change in San Angelo and be a harbinger of good things to come - I'm praying that I'm incorrect, of course.  Let's see what happens in November.  I've got my fingers crossed that we're turning Texas BLUE this year, but that may still be an election away.

    •  Actually, I agree (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jlms qkw, MsGrin

      for the most part.  I found it encouraging that turnout numbers were remotely close (even assuming a share of Operation Chaos clowns).  

      I seriously doubt Texas will turn blue this cycle, but I do think the seeds have been planted.  Now we must tend them.

      "When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon." -Thomas Paine

      by Fogiv on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 12:57:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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