Monday, January 17, 2011

Stereotyping Texas

John Cornyn is irritated that Jim DeMint is meddling in the upcoming Republican primary to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison.

By Friday, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina fired a shot across the hypothetical, non-existent Dewhurst campaign bow by sending an email to members of his influential Senate Conservatives Fund. In his email, DeMint ripped Dewhurst and praised two lesser known Texas Republicans: Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams and (perhaps more interestingly) former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz.

DeMint’s comments irritated at least one important Texas political figure, and not for the first time either.  When asked about the DeMint email, Senator and Texas political giant John Cornyn sardonically quipped “is that guy from Texas?” What sounds like a harmless joke to the untrained ear was aimed for an audience of Texans that understand full well what Cornyn is saying: “Jim DeMint isn’t one of us.”

Fair enough. But then the reporting by Jeb Golinkin at Frum Forum gets really irritating:

Texas really is different.  The Lone Star State fancies itself as (and in many ways is) far more like a country than a state.  Indeed, to find a society that is collectively as fascinated with its own culture or as prepared to guard against attacks on it, one must look past the rest of the United States.  Indeed, Texas’ only obvious peer in this regard is (ironically) France.  And as is the case with France, the stereotypes about Texas are there for a reason.

Any candidate that seems too close to national figures like Palin, DeMint, or Bachmann opens themselves up to suspicion that they are allowing outsiders to meddle in places they are not welcome, namely, Texas.  DeMint’s email demonstrates just how unprepared his organization is for Texas politics.  The “establishment” that DeMint denounces and anticipates will line up behind the current Texas Lt. Governor is really the Texas establishment. Texan voters are apt to look upon a candidate they associate with the state political establishment far more kindly than they will look upon a candidate they associate with a group of outsiders lacking ties to the state.

For this reason, talented candidates like Ted Cruz ought to be careful not to seem too cozy with “outsiders”. Or else, Dewhurst may flip the tables and accuse them of pushing a national agenda upon the voters’ beloved Lone Star State.

Can we lay off the cheap Texas stereotyping for a second here? Yes, Texas is a different state. Yes, Texans love to talk about themselves. For all I know, Golinkin may be a Texan himself--Texans stereotype about themselves as much as non-Texans.

But none of this has to do with the matter at hand--whether Jim DeMint can insert himself into the Texas primary. And I see no reason that he can't. Is there any empirical evidence that Texans get cranky enough at outsides to change their votes in a primary? Especially when that interference is going to go to the most conservative candidate? I can't see any Texans saying, "I like Candidate A. He hates immigrants, abortion, and the queers. But that gosh durned foreigner DeMint is telling me to vote for him. So I'm going to vote for Candidate B, even though they only want to build a 100 foot wall along the Rio Grande and not actually expel all Mexicans from Texas."

It's not going to happen that way. And to say that it will, that John Cornyn's irritation at DeMint is going to matter a hill of beans in what is to be sure an extremely scary primary race, is just lazy reporting that substitutes stereotypes for analysis.