Anyone who’s spent half a second in Texas, or payed more than a moment’s attention to the recent history of the U.S. Senate, will have heard the name Kay Bailey Hutchinson (KBH to we honorary Texans). For her constituents, friend and foe alike, she’s synonymous with the honest, competent conservatism of the late governor Ann Richards, a reputation that’s won her a fair amount of bipartisan support (in the 60s, which is better than McCain did).
Despite her popularity, her moderation on some “red meat” issues – e.g., she wouldn’t completely overrule Roe – has unfairly bought her the outright enmity of elements of the GOP, potentially endangering her bid for governor. See for yourself:
SEN. HUTCHINSON (R-TX): “Because I speak in civil tones, some want to try to label me a moderate. My voting record is one of the most conservative in the U.S. Senate. … We can’t expect to remain the majority party in Texas if we drive out voters that support Republican principles but might not agree on every single issue.
She’s clearly right. Hutchinson is not only a Texas icon, she’s precisely that rare conservative – principled, intelligent, and unblemished – that the GOP will need to rebuild its shattered image (whither “conservative competence”?). And yet the state party stands poised to throw her under the bus in her primary challenge against state embarrassment, incumbent governor Rick Perry. For shame.
This story should sound familiar. While Texas is indeed the birthplace of conservative stateswoman-stars, they have a history of losing, unfairly, to unremarkable men. Take Ann Richards, a true progressive conservative, laid low by George W. Bush and his particular breed of nasty politics, eminently qualified to sum up his entire life in a nutshell: “some jerk.”
Just so. Don’t get me wrong – I’d prefer a Democrat in Hutchinson’s seat (like Barbara Ann Radnofsky) – but everyone benefits from a sensible opposition party. No matter how much fun we derive from sideshow acts like Rick Perry, we as Democrats should celebrate Republicans with real ideas, when they emerge, and Kay Bailey Hutchinson is just that. Here’s hoping the Texas GOP knows it.
Incidentally, this is precisely why people like me were skeptical of the GOP’s brief fling with feminism during ’08. Adding a name like Kay Bailey Hutchinson to a national ticket says “we believe in leaders who are strong, independent, and intelligent — oh, and if they’re women, all the better!” Adding Sarah Palin to a national ticket, though – a woman whose sole contributions to any national debate remain winking, smarmy catch phrases, and ‘Joe the Plumber’ – says “we believe in divas, photo shoots, and empty talking points.” That’s not feminism: that’s staging.
Too bad. Wake me when the GOP decides to put competence over shrill partisanship.