I’ve been meaning to post something about how I voted, and the specifics of my choice in the governor’s race. I ended up voting straight Democratic unless their wasn’t a Democrat, in which case I voted for the Libertarian (kudos to the Libertarians for running someone in every race.)
Up until a month ago I was a Kinky supporter. The reason I supported Kinky was because he is down to earth and honest and is very good on most of the issues. I liked him, and like most other Kinky supporters, without really taking the time to look into Chris Bell. After considering the merits of both candidates and especially their stances on the issues, I decided that Chris Bell has most of the merits of Kinky Friedman with few of his faults.
On the issues, they have a lot in common. I’m not going to go into detail on every issue because that would be long and pointless. Anyone serious about making an informed choice should read all of what they both have to say about the issues on their websites (Kinky’s, Bell’s.) As I see it, they both have good positions on the environment, education, political reform, and the trans Texas corridor. On gay marriage, Kinky is slightly better because he courageously supports gay marriage while Bell supports civil unions. However, in the current political climate in Texas at this point that is a distinction without a difference because on any issue that comes up about gay rights they will be on the same side. I also credit Kinky for being more outspoken about the death penalty (both support it in principle but question it’s use.) On immigration, both support increased border security and cracking down on hiring illegals, but Chris Bell has a nuanced view that stresses that you have to meaningful immigration reform to deal with the illegal immigrants already here, something I strongly agree with. When Kinky talks about immigration it tends to be dangerously close to sounding like the right-wing paranoia on this issue. Kinky supports non-denominational school prayer, which is not only stupid but unconstitutional.
The big difference I see is that Chris Bell is very intelligent, articulate, and knowledgeable. While I believe Kinky to be a smart guy, I think he is very naive about politics. He seems to understand the basic foundations of each issue so that he can come up with a reasonable position, which is fine for a citizen, but he has not shown that he has the depth of understanding and a command of the details and nuances which anyone involved in policy should have. With more than a year in this, he hasn’t shown that the time to really try get there. In all I think he just doesn’t take politics seriously enough. When he does talk about the issues he knows something about, he is usually very good. The problem is that he has spent way to much time being the celebrity and joker. It’s good for getting attention and the votes of stupid people who don’t take it all seriously, but for those of us who take politics seriously, it really hurts him. Because he has taken it seriously enough, people don’t take him seriously and won’t vote for him because of it, and that is what will and has doomed his campaign. It’s just as much a waste of our time when he makes jokes instead of having a serious response as it is a waste of time to listen to Strayhorn repeat shallow slogans. It’s more entertaining, but politics isn’t about entertainment. That is where Chris Bell is great. He isn’t colorful, but that is a good thing in my opinion. It means that he can’t get away with spouting BS non-answers like Strayhorn or Kinky try to do. Chris Bell spouts some amount of non-substance just like everyone does, but he has substance substantially more than Kinky or Strayhorn. And unlike with Perry or Strayhorn, Bell is honest about it. He is the only candidate, besides the libertarian Werner, who doesn’t insult the voter’s intelligence with lies and/or to many jokes and/or slogans. Kinky has no practical experience in politics beyond campaigning, and Chris Bell does, so Bell would most likely be more effective than Kinky would.
An argument I hear a lot for Kinky is that he is outside the corrupt two party system. That may be true, but it doesn’t mean that he’s better than a good person within it. Kinky has been trying to portray all of his opponents as corrupt, selfish, partisan hacks by describing politicians that way and then describing his opponents as politicians. His claim that he is the only candidate not slinging mud is disingenuous, to say the least. The other problem is that their is nothing that anyone has been able to show about Chris Bell that would make him deserve such a description. Even the GOP attack machine hasn’t been able to come up with anything better than attacking the guy contributing to his campaign and using the standard “big Washington liberal” label. When Kinky was on campus I asked his campaign manager Dean Barkley to tell me how Bell was corrupt and all Barkley had was that he was bad because he’s in the Democratic party. Sorry, doesn’t cut it. I asked Kinky why he’s a better candidate than Chris Bell, and he couldn’t give me anything (another example of his not knowing the issues in depth). I’m not fond of the two party system, but not all politicians, Republicans, or Democrats are bad. Nearly all of our great leaders have been one or the other. So to say that all politicians are bad, like Kinky’s campaign does, is a severe and unfair over-simplification. The fault is not with politicians in general, it’s with corrupt ones. Kinky is right that Perry’s experience hasn’t gotten us anywhere. That is because Perry is corrupt and dishonest. But that doesn’t mean experience is bad. We need both experience and honesty. Perry and Strayhorn have experience but no honesty. Kinky has honesty but no experience. Bell has both honesty and experience.