The Purpling of the South

Wendy Davis and Friends (Courtesy of Wendy Davis for TExas)

Texas and Georgia have much in common. Both are as hot as Hades in the summer and staunchly conservative year-round. Both are firmly planted in the Bible Belt, and about as red as a red state can get. That is, until now. Two governor’s races could turn these red states blue or at the very least a lovely shade of purple.

Lilly Ledbetter and president Obama
Lilly Ledbetter and President Obama

Texas, of course, has had the most media coverage. The fight is between State Senator Wendy Davis, the filibustering pink-sneaker-wearing queen of the pro-choice crowd, and State Attorney General Greg Abbott, who does not believe women deserve equal pay. He also opposes the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  Recently, Abbott refused to answer the question of whether he would support a similar bill Davis introduced in the Texas State Legislature. But his spokesman made it clear he would veto such a bill if he were governor. Not surprisingly, the current bill was vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry, who thinks this is a great first step towards another brilliant presidential run.

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A recent San Antonio Express news report showed that in the Attorney General’s office, most female assistant attorneys general are paid less on average than their male counterparts. The reasoning behind this rational is that the men have been licensed longer. Huh? So should that reasoning apply to anyone with a license? The actual job no longer matters, it’s how long you have had your license to practice.  I can only imagine how long it will be before insurance companies stop reimbursing doctors who have had their licenses for short periods of time. After all, it’s another way to save money! What about positions that don’t need a license? Abbott and his GOP compatriots including the Red State Women PAC do not believe women deserve the same pay for the same job. When asked to explain her opposition to a law that would immediately help women in her state, here is the rambling non-answer their eloquent leader Cari Christman, executive director of the PAC gave:

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“If you look at it, women are extremely busy,” she said. “We lead busy lives, whether working professionally, whether working from home, and times are extremely busy. It’s a busy cycle for women, and we’ve got a lot to juggle. So when we look at this issue we think, what’s practical? And we want more access to jobs. We want to be able to get a higher education degree at the same time we’re working or raising a family.” 

So because women are so busy, they don’t care they are getting shafted in their paychecks.

Abbott’s campaign has been a non-stop ride into the mind of an anti-woman, anti-choice, red state, tone-deaf guy who thinks the misogynist, bigot has-been musician, Ted Nugent, is the man to have speaking on your behalf.

Ted-NugentAbbott’s gaffes and missteps, or what his campaign calls, the Road to the Governor’s office, is conceivably the way Wendy Davis can win. All she has to do is let Abbott keep talking. Here are a few choice moments:

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Texas became a “majority-minority” state in 2004, meaning various ethnic minority populations now outnumber whites. With this in mind, Abbott called the border valley of Texas a Third World country.

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He thinks women should get paid less and can’t sue when they realize they have been screwed.

He would like to make medical choices for women because, as we have all learned these last few years, men clearly know better than we do about our bodies and health. Everyone needs a daddy. His extreme position on abortion does not allow for exceptions in the case of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

And of course he does not believe gays should be allowed the same right to get married, not even his great old law school friend Mark Phariss. No marriage for you!

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With all this, you would think that Abbott should be planning his inaugural theme! But here comes that crazy lady in the pink sneakers, sneaking up to within 7-points in the latest poll. Seven points! In Texas! Not since Ann Richards has a woman come thisclose to the governor’s house. While the odds are tough, the fact that she is that close to such an ultra-conservative candidate tells us something about the changing demographics in this last frontier state. It is expected that by 2020, Hispanics will eclipse non-Hispanics in this originally Mexican land. It’s not just the growing Hispanic population, the Millennials are getting older and more politically active, they are shifting away from the xenophobia of their parents. They are more accepting of diversity; they are more multi-cultural, more open to gay marriage and unlike Ann Coulter, are not afraid of the browning of America.

The Growth of the Latino Vote (Courtesy of Latinos Ready to Vote)
The Growth of the Latino Vote (Courtesy of Latinos Ready to Vote)

The same demographics that are shaking up Texas are also changing the political landscape of another bastion of conservative politics, Georgia. Thirty-eight-year-old Georgia State Senator, Jason Carter, grandson of President Jimmy Carter has pulled ahead of Governor Nathan Deal by 3 points. What, you say? This young upstart is actually giving an establishment Republican governor a real headache.

Georgia State Senator Jason Carter. (Photo by Anne Almasy)
Georgia State Senator Jason Carter. (Photo by Anne Almasy)

Gov. Deal is, of course, completely against the Affordable Care Act. But he is also trying to limit access to emergency rooms that legally must provide treatment to anyone who needs it, regardless of citizenship or their ability to pay. So on one hand, he doesn’t want anyone in his state to get affordable health care while willingly denying them access to emergency health care at a hospital. And he is behind by only 3 points? This is a guy who is a poster child for all the White Fright issues: Immigration? Not in my country! Abortion? Let’s have men make their little ladies’ decisions! Gay marriage? Not unless you want the end times to arrive and all straight marriages to implode! Climate change? It’s a commie plot against big oil!

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The last few years have been a steady menu of hate-filled speech, scare tactics, barely disguised racism and misogyny, and constant attacks on women’s rights and access to health care. We have had to listen to the Tea Party’s paranoid fears of diversity, brown and black people, gay people, Muslims, non-Christians in general, women’s bodies and their irrational obsession of taking away the health care that 4 million people have signed up to receive.

This may have been a winning strategy prior to 2008, but as this country moves forward, our population is changing from majority white to majority non-white. That is very scary for many in these Southern and conservative states.  The old white Republicans are freaking out. They cannot understand where their America went. Remember? The America who wouldn’t let blacks sit at the same lunch counter? Irish need not apply? Women in the kitchen cooking and birthing babies, gays 289c2308d763eb8de34b6fda5fa546e3either in the closet or married to misery. (Her name is Carol and they have three sad children.)  Yes, that is an America that the GOP is fighting tooth and nail to get back. Mercifully, that America is long gone and as the old GOP dies, so too will their ideas of what America is and should be.

My America reflects what it has always been, a place of welcome to those who come to start a fresh new life full of opportunity. My America welcomes all with open arms and hearts, knowing that the more we diversify, the better our lives will be.

The Texas and Georgia governor’s races are a bellwether into the coming elections. And just as important as it will be to see either Carter or Davis win, it is equally important to see how close these races will be. It’s looking into the future of America and accepting that this demographic change is good. This change is the very thing that has kept and will keep this country exceptional; and continue to a beacon of light to all.