All I can say is that if you are like me, and you remember those years when national Democratic Party leaders treated Texas like it had a near fatal case of cooties — from Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton to Hillary Clinton’s attempts in 2008 and 2016 and all those off-year elections in between — tonight’s debate gave me a serious case of whiplash.
My once reviled home state is suddenly finding itself embraced in a bear hug as big as, well, Texas.
Why would this be happening? Because Texas could maybe shift from the Republican column to the Democratic one, that’s why. Suddenly everyone is crazy about us. Like they haven’t been since, oh, 1976, when Texas went for Jimmy Carter and most residents of the state probably regret it to this day.
Now I remember what it’s like to be loved. Houston! Praised as the most diverse city in the nation — ¡Tanto Español! — even from candidates who aren’t native speakers. (Mayor Pete Buttigieg, your accent puts Beto O’Rourke’s to shame.) Cory Booker scored points by translating the word “no” into Spanish for the folks at home.
This is an election year when the biggest yahoo comes from New York, and the Texans on the stage talk like the Ivy League smarties they are. Here, too, is Elizabeth Warren reminding us that she spent many years here in school and teaching at the University of Houston law school.
The tragedy in El Paso came up often in the first hour, making me wince that it is being exploited for political gain, but hoping at the same time that the deadly shooting — and the ones in Odessa, Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe — can be used to change the conversation about guns, not to mention immigration. The candidates were daintily falling all over themselves to praise Mr. O’Rourke’s heartfelt support for his El Paso constituents, simultaneously injecting themselves into the drama with their declarations of sympathy.
Maybe you missed Mr. O’Rourke’s invocation of perpetually self-aggrandizing Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and her support for reparations? If Donald Trump is to be beaten, every black person in Texas needs to turn out. Texas Southern, long ignored in town, is now on the map as a revered HBCU. Thank you, Kamala Harris.
Hurricane Harvey? Being the poster child for climate change isn’t exactly at the top of Texans’ list, but knowing that help is on the way might bring a few more voters around.
So … hey. I’m looking forward to the path to November. Bouquets are a nice change from brickbats.
Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, is a contributing opinion writer.
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