An acquaintance last week asked that any of her Facebook friends who support the Republican presidential juggernaut of real estate tycoon and reality TV star Donald Trump identify themselves so she could defriend them: “If you support this man, I do not respect how you think and I do not want you as a Facebook friend . . . .” Or friend, apparently.
I see this as sure evidence of two things: First, many citizens see Trump as a reckless, sexist, Mussolini-quoting but intriguing narcissist who, if victorious, could well prove to be a Yankee version of Silvio Berlusconi, stamping our descent as an oversized third-world nation with trifling concern for the U.S. Constitution. Trump could make President Obama look statesmanlike by comparison — and modest in his use of executive power. (Face it: Most of us don’t mind broad executive orders, so long as they reinforce our own political agendas.)
Second, if people are outraged about Trump backers, why not the reckless and inexplicable choices we ourselves make as Texas voters? Travis County Republicans are “apoplectic” because they just handed a significant victory to a loose cannon as their new party chairman. He spent Election Night tweeting about former Gov. Rick Perry’s sexual orientation and how some of the Bushes ought to be behind bars. GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak is quoted as saying Republicans possibly picked Robert Morrow as chairman because they liked the name better.
The situation offers up some parallels with the GOP presidential race in that some Travis County Republicans now say if they can’t get rid of the man they just voted into office, they’ll split and form their own Republican Party. My question: Will this make them any smarter when they go into a voting booth next time and vote on yet another down-ballot race? I doubt it.
How to explain, for instance, the colossally stupid decision by many Republicans statewide last week to pass on experienced geologist Lance Christian as a Texas Railroad Commission nominee? Instead, they put into runoff a Harris County apartment developer and a former legislator (also named Christian) deservedly lambasted by party elders and the news media for steering to passage legislation narrowly benefiting his own beachfront property.
All this, mind you, involves a pivotal industry that entails 400,000-plus oil and natural gas jobs in our state and last year paid $13.8 billion in state and local taxes and state royalties. May the best unqualified Republican win.
Other examples include voters who last Tuesday put into a runoff for the State Board of Education a creationist who claims Obama once toiled as a male prostitute to support his drug habit. Or the voters who very nearly returned to office state Rep. Molly White, who last year needlessly fueled anti-Muslim fervor at the State Capitol. Former state legislator and veteran Hugh Shine only narrowly kept her from another term. (White is now demanding a recount.)
One of the most glaring examples of voter bungling came two years ago when Republicans bypassed two worthy Republicans (including then-state Rep. Dan Branch, a Dallas lawyer) for state attorney general and picked Ken Paxton, who earlier admitted violating state securities laws, a third-degree felony. Paxton’s ethical lapses continue to dog his administration as our state’s top law enforcement officer. He now seeks to get the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas to dismiss the charges while fending off charges of violating the Texas Disciplinary Rule of Professional Conduct for ignoring the U.S. Supreme Court. Nice going, Republican voters.
I guess I have similar feelings as my Facebook friend when, every Election Night, I survey winners, losers and the vote tallies and see some of the fools and scoundrels we the voters have picked over candidates of outstanding credentials and impeccable character. I feel moved to go out and ask some voters: “Hey, did you actually vote for this idiot — and, if so, why?”
A close friend of mine who for many years was an outdoorsman of note once told me that he voted for Jesse James as state treasurer because he thought it amusing for someone with a train robber’s name to be overseeing our state’s finances. (James’ success as our treasurer did get noticed by “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.”) I told my friend this was terrible but decided his logic precluded further argument from me.
I do wonder how this nation survives such misjudgments by we the people. While we might be well justified in disowning some friends for supporting a braggart with uncertain regard for constitutional powers and limits, how many of us have let ignorance and what only passes for instinct run wild in the sanctity of the voting booth?