Sunday, November 27, 2016

Before 'The Donald" there Was 'Claytie' Williams

Just finished an old, out-of-date biography of Texas Gov. Ann Richards ("The Thorny Rose of Texas," Shropshire & Schaefer, 1994), and was delighted to be reminded of some juicy history.

In Texas in 1990, Ann Richards ran for governor against a bigger-than-life West Texan named Clayton Williams, and she won. She wasn't supposed to win, but she did. Her own campaign's internal polling showed her 27 points behind Williams just months before the election. But she was a natural politician and a born fighter and ended up edging him out 49.5% to 46.9% (a Libertarian candidate took three percent).

"Claytie" Williams had been the heavy favorite because everyone knew him from TV (a series of "reality" ads with Claytie in the foreground, in white hat, saying he was going to take care of some particular stupidity in government. For one ad, his campaign hired guys from Sul Ross University in Alpine, Texas, to act as jailbirds doing hard labor, with Claytie saying, If you do drugs in Texas, you're gonna become acquainted with "the joys of busting' rocks!"). By most opinion polls, the great majority of voting Texans approved of Williams' tell-it-like-it-is, tough guy, no-holds-barred populist image. He was entertaining. Made for TV.

Ann Richards had a following too, a big one. She had risen through the ranks of Texas Democratic liberalism -- potent, once upon a time -- to the office of State Treasurer. She had become a national media star during the Democratic National Convention of 1988. You remember. "Poor George! He can't help it…." You know the rest.

I was preparing to write about the interesting parallels/similarities between Clayton Williams in 1990 Texas and Donald J. Trump in "2016 Reality World," but I discovered that Lauren Fox beat me to it. Read her.

1 comment:

John Sears said...

That was the era when Jim Wright and other descendants of LBJ still grasped some of the levers of power. But they were slowly losing at the local level, especially in rural eras.