The Weird Truth About Texas

Evan Vucci/AP Images
Mitt Romney during a campaign stop at Southwest Office Systems, Fort Worth, Texas, June 5, 2012

Little suspense attaches to the outcome of the 2012 presidential race in Texas, which is all but certain to give its thirty-eight electoral votes—up from thirty-four in the last election—to Mitt Romney. Let’s just say certain. This is surprising because Mitt Romney was not designed by the God that made him to do well in Texas. Mitt Romney is a Mormon, which would not make him the first choice of Texas Baptists, some of whom doubt that he can be properly identified as a Christian. Mitt Romney was the governor of Massachusetts, which many Texans—let’s say most Texans—hold in suspicion as the most liberal state in the country. Mitt Romney as governor passed a state health care law that provided the template for Barack Obama’s much-disliked—let’s say hated—Affordable Care Act. Over the last nine months, Mitt Romney outspent, outpolled, and outlasted a platoon of other candidates for the Republican presidential nomination whom most Texans would have preferred, given the choice, conspicuously including Texas Governor Rick Perry.

But Mitt Romney is the last man standing with a plausible hope of beating Barack Obama, who seems to incorporate in his person, or represent in his beliefs, just about everything that the Texans who run Texas have detested and feared and hoped to crush over the last 150 years. Of all the many Republicans who have sought the nomination, Romney without question speaks best of the man most Texans hope to defeat. He says Obama is a nice guy who is in over his head; he says Obama wants what’s best for the country but doesn’t understand business and can’t get the economy going again.

Romney can tick off the failings of the president like any other Republican but he precedes each one with a friendly word or tip of the hat. It drives conservatives crazy, not only but also in Texas, where the preferred oratorical style is closer in tone to the Book of Revelations. In a verbal scuffle over cutting health care costs a few years back, Texas state legislator Debbie Riddle went for the jugular of entitlement in the preferred style: “Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education, free medical care, free whatever? It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell.”

Romney might cut the last penny from the last program to provide aspirin for undocumented single mothers but he would never say anything like that. In Texas, but not only in Texas, this makes him a…moderate. The word says everything and must stand alone. For Tea Party conservatives it is the ultimate argument stopper. “Liberal” is no longer the word that brands an untouchable. To call a political candidate a moderate in Texas is to class him or…

This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Get unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 an issue!

View Offer

Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 an issue. Choose a Print, Digital, or All Access subscription.

If you are already a subscriber, please be sure you are logged in to your account.