In one of the most timely political books in years, Gail Collins declares that “what happens in Texas doesn’t stay in Texas anymore.”
Gail Collins’s fascination with Texas began rather abruptly in that distant spring of 2009 when she heard Governor Rick Perry—back to the wall, boots to the ground—address a Tea Party rally full of passionate Texans who seemed to be interested in seceding from the Union. “How long had this been going on?” she wondered, on behalf of the rest of the nation. “Was it something that we said?”
The more she looked at Texas, the more she realized it was at the heart of the American political story. The Tea Party had Texas roots, with its passion for states’ rights and sense of persecution by an overreaching Washington. But Texas also seemed to be running the federal government it despised. Through its vigorous support of banking deregulation, which began with the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and ended calamitously with the Wall Street crash of 2008, Texas’s boot prints were deep.
In education, Texas had managed both to be the model for the wildly influential No Child Left Behind law and to provide some of the loudest political voices calling for the law to be trashed. In energy, Texas was the heart of the drill-baby-drill movement and the war against the whole concept of global warming.
Collins brilliantly frames this national movement through the outsized behavior and inimitable swagger of some of Texas’s most colorful and influential political figures, from former House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who got into politics when the EPA banned his favorite fire ant repellent, to Perry himself, who when confronted with the fact that his state had the country’s third-highest teen pregnancy rate, defended its abstinence-only sex education policy by doggedly asserting, “I’m just going to tell you from my own personal life. Abstinence works.”
Digging beneath the veneer of cowboy hats, oil derricks, and Alamo cries, Collins has produced a profoundly original work demonstrating that much of what ails America was first birthed in Texas.
Like it or not, as Texas goes, so goes the nation.