When it comes to political history, our President must think it started when he graduated from high school. A Texas reporter asked Barack Obama why he thought he was so unpopular in Texas, to which Obama replied, “Well, look, Texas has always been a pretty Republican state, you know, for historic reasons.”
Always? Only if you think history started 33 years ago, as Michael Laprarie explains at Wizbang. Texas had been controlled by Democrats from Reconstruction until 1978, a span of over a century that included the rise of Lyndon Johnson to the White House. In 1978, a combination of scandal and a move to the Left by Democrats sent Texans into the arms of the GOP:
Texas didn’t begin its political blue-red shift until 1978, when Bill Clements was elected as the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction (that’s a century of Democrat control of Texas state government, for those as ignorant of history as our Law Professor in Chief). Clements’ predecessor, Dolph Briscoe, was a conservative Democrat who campaigned as a reformer, and won the governorship in 1972 based largely on his pledges to end corruption within his party and within the Texas state government.
Briscoe’s election was the result of the Sharpstown stock scandal, a shining example of the kind of corruption enabled by single-party dominance over state government. Numerous state government officials, including then-lieutenant governor Ben Barnes, were implicated in the scandal. Texas bank tycoon Frank Sharp secretly loaned hundreds of thousands of dollars to Texas politicos, which was used to purchase stock in one of Sharp’s insurance companies. Sharp manipulated the company’s books in order to artificially inflate its value. Sharp’s crony investors then sold their shares at the inflated price, paid back the secret loans, and pocketed a nice profit.
Unfortunately for the Texas Democrats, one of the patsies who got taken to the cleaners as a result of this little scam was the Strake Jesuit College Preparatory school, which lost $6 million after it invested in National Bankers Life at the height of its artificially inflated share value. This proved to be a PR disaster of epic proportions, and the Texas Democratic political machine was dealt a heavy blow, from which it never fully recovered. And even though he wasn’t directly involved in the Sharpstown trading scandal, the political career of Ben Barnes, who was considered to be the Democratic party’s ‘golden boy’ and heir-apparent to the governorship, was for all intents and purposes completely destroyed.
No one would expect Obama to have the details of this at the tip of his tongue, but to argue that Texas has “always been a pretty Republican state” is nothing less than pretty ignorant.
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