From some Texans' point of view, Tuesday's election bought the Lone Star State a one-way ticket to the political wilderness.
A Democrat from Illinois won the presidency without Texas' help, potentially diminishing the state's leverage after it had provided two of the last three chief executives. Added to that, the state's voters reaffirmed the GOP's domination of their sizable congressional delegation — sending 20 Republicans and 12 Democrats to the House — while the Democrats strengthened their overall hold on Congress.
The upcoming departures of President Bush, the White House staff and several thousand presidential appointees are expected to cut dramatically the number of Texans working in the top echelons of government. Sensitivity to all-issues-Texas could ease. The White House and Cabinet's response to state-level crises could be slower.
"It's just going to be harder for Texas to look to Washington for a bailout next time," says Bob Stein, a Rice University political scientist.
Obama took money out of Texas and spent it in places like Nevada and Virginia for TV advertising and GOTV, but more critically he sapped manpower and shipped it to New Mexico and other states. It's been a history of recent Democratic presidential nominees to use Texas as an ATM but the Obama campaign also vacuumed up the cheap (as in volunteer) labor.
But this post is about what Texans did to themselves, particularly in the rural counties of the state, who voted to send all the Republicans back to the Congress and the Texas Supreme Court. (And the Houston suburban Republicans sent a crazy one to replace poor old Nick Lampson.)
Adds Republican Pete Olson, a former Senate staffer who defeated Democrat Rep. Nick Lampson in a Houston-area district, "We're just going to have to work harder to be unified and look for opportunities to stand together."
In addition, the Republicans in the delegation must look elsewhere in Congress for help.
"My advice to Republicans in the Texas delegation in the House is to make friends with your Senate delegation," says Christopher Deering, a political scientist at George Washington University.
Texas is, in short, the last remaining power base for a withered GOP buried deep in the minority in the nation's halls of power. I expect them to do what they do best: obstruct, obfuscate, and prevaricate. Whatever New Conservatism arises from the focus groups and conference calls held going forward for the battered conservatives, Texas -- more so than Utah or Alabama or anywhere else -- will have a strong hand in the mix. They'll be influenced by their state party apparatus, whose chair also has higher ambitions -- which means they will be dominated by extremists, such as those 23-percenters who believe Obama is Muslim.
Pridefully ignorant, powerfully dishonest, xenophobic to uncharted extremes. Clinging tighter to their guns and Bibles than a pair of rednecks double-teaming a table vise.
The urban areas -- Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso (notably not Fort Worth) -- and a swath in the Rio Grande Valley as well as my old stomping grounds of Jefferson County are thankfully blue oases in the sea of crimson, but nowhere else in Texas outside of those areas considered "votin' for the ni@@er", unlike say, Western Pennsylvania.
We have another uphill climb ahead electing a statewide Democrat in 2010. And no, neither Bill White nor Kinky Friedman honestly qualify as real Democrats.
As the proud signature at the top of this blog says, Texas remains icy even as the rest of the country enjoys the warm sunshine of Obama and strong Democratic majorities. We just have to keep fighting 'em on the ice.
Update: One area of significant concern for the Houston area would be the future of NASA. Sending a freshman Republican -- under investigation for his own personal voter fraud -- to represent the interests of the massive government project was an epic fail on the part of Clear Lake voters.