Dear Big Daddy,
Why does everyone keep talking about Texas? I thought I lived in California.
— Lone Star in Lompoc
Gravity is a function of mass. Trust me, I should know. If I’d been any bigger, things would have started to orbit me. Heck, come to think of it, they did: women, lobbyists, women lobbyists, lesser legislators, cheese burgers and whiskey bottles. I could basically reach out and grab most of these things, most of the time, without taking a step. Those were the days.
But enough about me. We’re talking about my native state. In California, we tend to think of ourselves as the biggest thing this country has going. We have the most people, the biggest economy. Things start here and spread everywhere – the Internet, Hollywood movies, tax revolts…oops.
Anyhoo, just because you’re big doesn’t mean everyone else is small. It ain’t just us and 49 Delawares. If you’ve even taken I-10 and seen that sign that says, “Howdy to Texas, San Antonio 854 miles,” you’ll recognize we aren’t the only nation-state in the lower 48. Heck, Texas actually was a country for a little while. We may have Google, but they’ll always have that.
Gravity is also cultural. We may be surfers, wine and sunshine, but they’re boots, brassy women and low taxes. Depending on your perspective, the Lone Star State is either the best or the worst this country has to offer—and, remarkably, whichever side you’re on, you’re probably pointing to most of the same stuff to justify your ranking.
Let me backtrack and remind our readers what we’re talking about here: the recent GOP junket to the land of Laredo. Now, you don’t actually have to go to Texas to look at their tax structure – remember, we gave the world the Internet for that sort of thing. The whole dang trip was an exercise in Lone Star symbolism. They just as well could have gone to Mississippi or Kentucky. But unless you’re really into civil rights or horse racing, those states don’t conjure up so much in most people’s minds. Texas isn’t just a place, it’s a state of mind, and that’s why Connie’s posse wanted to go there.
Texas is small government in action: bad roads, the kind of zoning anarchy that ends up giving you strip clubs next to preschools, and a state capitol that’s empty most of the time. Heck, that capitol hardly even has security compared to ours—because their legislators actually do carry guns on the rare occasions they have to come to work. Heck, it’s practically required.
Now, like most kinds of political symbolism, this one doesn’t actually mean that much. If these folks really wanted to live in a place like Texas, they’d give up on trying to convince a bunch of liberal, urban, sushi eaters (not that they don’t have a bunch of those in Austin) that what they really want is to vote for the kind of politicians they complain about when they’re eating sushi. They’d cancel their return flights and just stay there.
But in a few years, this whole thing may look a little different. We’ve got a lot more in common with Texas than most people in either state would likely care to admit. They’re budget and real estate markets are
in shambles, too. They’re increasingly dependent on a boom-and-bust tech sector whose fortunes are hard to influence through policy.
And, like us, they’re browner and browner. In a decade or two, Texas could be bluer than Berkeley and voting for Los Democratos in every election, Wisconsin and Michigan could be old, white and red, and if you want to go on a junket to complain about taxes, you’ll need to pack earmuffs, pard’ner.