How Powerful Is Texas?

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 6 2012 @ 8:25pm

Gail Collins, who has a new book on Texas, contends that the state has "taken a starring role in the 21st-century national political discussion":

The state has a remarkable ability to be two contradictory things at once. It’s a fast-growing, increasingly urban place whose citizens have nevertheless managed to maintain the conviction that they’re living in the wide open spaces. And its politicians are skilled at bragging about the wonderful Texas economy and lifestyle while wailing and rending their garments over their helplessness in the hands of the federal Death Star in Washington. You need that sense of victimhood because it creates energy and unity. You can’t build a Tea Party on good news.

James Henson thinks Collins oversimplifies:

Though you’d never know it from As Texas Goes, Obama got more votes than McCain in Harris and Bexar counties in 2008, and there are a growing number of competitive legislative districts in the demographically dynamic suburbs. Significant groups—African Americans, Latinos, and white voters in urban and suburban areas with relatively cosmopolitan views—have little interest in the orthodoxy Collins describes. Much to the Democratic party’s frustration, the Texans who take the trouble to vote are much more conservative than the overall population of eligible voters. But just because the opposition keeps losing doesn’t mean there isn’t one. The current battle over redistricting is an indication of how terrifying the Republican leadership finds these shifts.

Erica Grieder agrees that Collins misreads Texas:

I think she slightly exaggerates Texas's capacity to mess with America. Yes, of course, it's a big, influential, state, but if Texas is leading the way on policy issues, it's because other states are following its lead, as it is, of course, their right to do. 

Collins also critiques Texas's abstinence sex-ed program.