Wendy Davis rocks! She achieved notice when she filibustered a bill in the Texas Senate which would create new abortion restrictions. In October she announced she would run for Governor of Texas. And I’m moving to Texas just so I can vote for her!
Her story is an important part of her attraction. Her parents divorced, leaving her mother to raise her and her three siblings without the benefit of child support. She started working at age 14. She moved in with her boyfriend, with whom she had a daughter. They separated when she was 19, and divorced when she was 21. She was a single parent, living for a time in a trailer. She met her second husband, with whom she had another daughter. They helped each other through college, and she through Harvard Law School. They divorced.
Her political career began in 1999 when she won a seat on the Fort Worth city council, after having been defeated in her first try in 1996. She was a Republican at the time. In 2008, as a Democrat, she ran for and won the seat in the Texas Senate’s 10th district, and was re-elected in 2012.
Drew Weston, in The Political Mind, takes Democrats to task for the poor quality of their campaigns. He argues that Democrats are smitten with the notion that people vote their reason while Weston believes that they respond to stories and vote their emotions, and that Republicans have understood this and used it to their advantage. He especially chastises the campaigns of Al Gore and John Kerry (the book was written before the 2008 campaign and victory of Barack Obama). He uses as a literary device the critiquing of a speech or response that Gore and Kerry have given, then rewriting in a way which has more resonance. When I read Weston’s version, I go “Yes!” I think Wendy Davis has read Weston.
Davis’ opponents have made an issue of inconsistencies and blurry details in her story. She was not 19 when she divorced as she has stated, but 21. She only lived a short time in the trailer and can’t plead poverty. She divorced her second husband just after he had paid off her school loans.
But Wendy Davis will have none of it. In an open letter she blasts back. Speaking of her opponents she says, “they’ve stooped to a new low by attacking my family, my education, and my personal story – playing politics with the journey that has been my life.” She continues, “Mine is a story about a teenage single mother who struggled to keep her young family afloat. It’s a story about a young woman who was given a precious opportunity to work her way up in the world. It’s a story about resiliency, and sacrifice, and perseverance. And you’re damn right it’s a true story.”
But just when you think she is extolling herself, she adds, “Throughout this campaign, I’ve shared that story – not because it’s unique, but because it isn’t.” This story, and this campaign, is not about her, but about all of those like her who have suffered hardship, and for whom the current political establishment has no sympathy.
They say that Texas is going to go blue in the next 4 or 6 years. We go through life thinking things are stable and change only slowly. But every once in a while, something or someone comes along to upend the established way of things, particularly in politics. Maybe Wendy Davis will stir up enough enthusiasm to get the fence-sitters to join with her and get the stay-at-homes to get out and vote in large numbers. It’s a long way to November, and anything can happen, but maybe Wendy Davis is the one who will paint Texas blue.