Those were the days!
|Texas Governor Ann Richards-Wikipedia|
I admired Richards. She was spunky, unafraid, and really quick-witted, but with a caring side steeped in a love of the people she represented. It was easy to relate to her. All the cards seemed stacked against her, yet she continued to work hard, driven by what she believed in. She would not be bullied by the good ole' boys; those traditionalists we know today as the gods and guns crowd. She fought the good fight to become the first woman to be elected governor in the State of Texas. Texans were better for it too. She was a popular governor, accomplishing much of what she set out to do. She was a champion for women, minorities, and generally, all the people in her state. She established alcohol and drug abuse programs for prisoner inmates. She knew from where she spoke, as as admitted alcoholic. Such honesty and high achievements didn't sit well with the state's elite, who was used to doing it only one way; their way. They suffered through one term by the liberal governor, but were not about to deal with another. Thus began in my opinion, America's darkest days, days for which we have yet to emerge.
Just a one-term governor, Ann Richards' tenure came to an abrupt halt in 1994 when she was defeated by George W. Bush.
I remember watching the election returns. Her defeat was a blow to me personally and to the country as a whole. Hers was one of the most important races in the country, because if she fell, others would too. And they did.
As I watched the movie this morning, I could recall the moment I heard she was defeated. It was like a stake in the heart of everything I believed politics to be. After all, my own personal cynicism had not yet taken hold by that time.
I admit I was more interested in local politics then; I was just beginning to learn the players on the national stage. I hadn't watched the Texas governors' race closely, but I knew enough to know that defeating Ann Richards was big in 1994, and not in a good way.
Looking back, I think that moment in time was the beginning of the end of our democracy. That one race made a difference that set in motion a destructive turn of events.
If only Richards had won re-election, Bush would not have been governor of Texas. That would likely have precluded his moving to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I can only dream of how great that would have been. Imagine: no Iraq war, no Supreme Court nominees, no September 11, 2001, no homeland security, no Dick Cheney, no Rumsfeld's war machine, no NSA spying,... Al Gore would likely have been allowed to serve after being elected. The problems we are now facing with climate change would have been minimized rather than exacerbated. The things connected to Bush's presidency are mind-boggling and to me, represent everything I abhor in politics.
The movie portrayed Bush's campaign against Richards as a whisper campaign, orchestrated by the brilliantly devious Karl Rove. The campaign quietly, but effectively painted a false picture and used television ads and lies and innuendos on campaign fliers about Ann Richards. They called her a lesbian because she employed people who happened to be gay or lesbian. The National Rifle Association (NRA) opposed her, even though she had her own firearms and knew how to use them. Rove was relentless. These are people who want to win at all cost and don't have the ethics not to cheat to do it. Think hanging chads, a biased Supreme Court decisions, gerrymandered congressional districts, voter registration purges, Citizens United, and the latest campaign finance free-for-all. It all started with Karl Rove and George W. Bush. It continues with no end in sight.
Whisper campaigns are nothing new; these types of campaigns have gone on for as long as the country has held elections. But today, whisper campaigns are on steroids with the advent of unlimited spending, unscrupulous media sources, and completely unethical behavior. The whispers are now deafening. Efforts to persuade voters has become commonplace, because potential voters are becoming less interested and less engaged in politics.
People don't like politics. It is a dirty word. Admittedly so, but participation of an informed electorate is the only hope for a working democracy. With a constant assault on the Middle Class and women's rights, worker's rights, and the ever-widening chasm between the have's and have-not's, it is more important than ever that potential voters be informed.
In fact, that is the only way to once again elect decent representatives that will work for the good of all the people and not just their pals. Potential voters have to be able to see through the tactics and know enough to differentiate fact from fiction. They need to take issue with falsehoods and those who tell them. Truth needs to be defended with honor again. There need to be more candidates like Ann Richards.
Ann Richards died seven years ago, but she left behind a legacy and an example. We should settle for no less.
In November, there is an opportunity for voters to do the right thing for today and tomorrow. We must vote for candidates that can see farther than the nose on their faces; candidates that emphasize what is good for all and that which will better our world community as a whole. Candidates stuck in the 1950's will not solve the problems of the 21st Century. We must all get informed and to whatever extent, get involved.