It’s been pathetic––even poignant, if you’re the sensitive sort––watching Kay Bailey Hutchison trundle out her endorsements by these antediluvian, establishmentarian Republicans––Bush Senior (now sadly looking his age), James Baker, and, most curiously, at least to us, Dick Cheney. Surely Brent Scowcroft also has thrown one her way and we missed it.
The elder Bush put his button finger right on Hutchison’s current dilemma, most certainly unwittingly, when he observed that the state’s senior U.S. senator was “a Lone Star Republican before it was cool to be a Republican." Yes, those were the days, my friend, back when “country club Republican” was not a dismissive pejorative but instead summed-up the essence of Texas Republicanism, when Tory Democrats, even after the McGovern debacle, still rode tall though perhaps not-so-securely in the saddle and Republican strength, such as it was outside of John Tower’s reliable re-elections, was confined mostly to places like Highland Park and Midland and River Oaks-Tanglewood-Memorial, domain of Bush Senior. Back then, an ambitious young single gal from LaMarque who secured her public profile as a reporter for Channel 2 could run as a Republican and win a state legislative seat representing West University Place and environs without sacrificing her principles (or many of them).
Now, of course, it is cool, even chic, to be a Republican in Texas. Everybody’s doing it. A couple of weeks ago, up in the East Texas county where our mother and father were raised and all of our known kin are buried, the weekly newspaper reported that several Republicans were vying for the top county jobs in their party’s March primary, among a long list of GOP hopefuls. Just two lonely Democrats were on their party’s ballot for district offices, both unopposed. This in what was once one of the most reliably Democratic-voting regions in the nation, outside, perhaps, of precincts in Berkeley, Calif. and parts of Chicago, Ill.
Yes, times and fashions change, and in this day of Tea Parties and Palin a GOP trailblazer such as Hutchison gets repaid by running second in the polls to a guy who up until 20 years ago was a Democrat and who won re-election with a just a little over a third of the vote. Like a River Oaks dowager who tries to run with the younger ponies by tarting herself up with Botox and Collagen, Hutchison has tried to make herself over to keep up with the times, but the results have been similarly unappetizing. This most painfully manifested itself during the first televised debate among the GOP gubernatorial candidates when Hutchison, pressed by an inquisitor as to whether she favors maintaining Roe v. Wade, offered up a novel reason for not overturning that Supreme Court decision, if we can take the liberty of interpreting her: Should Roe v. Wade be deemed unconstitutional, decisions on abortion would revert to state legislatures––which, in our humble opinion, would be one of the more salutary recent developments for Democrats, even in Texas––and, according to Hutchison, that would result in some states––here she’s probably thinking, or pretending to think, of Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii, etc,––would move to allow the wholesale yanking of full-term fetuses from their mothers’ wombs. That’s one way to look at it, and it certainly beats saying what’s no longer cool to say in the Texas Republican Party, “I believe a woman should have the right to choose an abortion,” ... because times and fashions change. (We would never presume to speak for the dead, but after Hutchison had concluded her tortured and dodgy explanation that evening we thought we heard a faint, ghostly cry of “M-----f---k!” off in the ether, followed by the hard snapping of a kitchen match being lit. Surely that was Jane Ely, once a pal and supporter of such disparate personages as Slampo and Kay Bailey Hutchison, issuing a damning judgment from the beyond.)
Now Hutchison is reduced to touting her support from the ancients of the Texas GOP––would even half of potential Republican primary voters be able to accurately identify James Baker, if forced to do so at gunpoint?––while her opponent prepares for his big endorsement by the GOP’s slightly tarnished but still almost-shiny-new although occasionally near-comatose Flamin‘ Creature of the Month.
As for the Cheney endorsement: We’re sure that the Hutchison campaign wouldn’t be airing that commercial with the picture of her and the skulking ex-vice president together if there wasn’t a poll somewhere that showed Cheney is still popular in Texas, at least among likely GOP primary voters, which puzzles us no end, given that about all Cheney has done for Texas is 1.) accidentally shoot a man in the face and 2.) help nearly run a once-sound oilfield-services company into the ground before floating off to high office in his Golden ’Chute,* both testaments to the man's gross incompetence.
*Disclosure: Our father was a Halliburton retiree who before his death held Cheney in about the same regard as he did Hitler and Tojo when he was freezing his behind off in the Ardennes back in ’45.