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Herman: Wendy Davis reaction not a ‘meltdown’


Today, join me for a few political observations.

Ridicule is appropriate for anyone using any form of “meltdown” to describe anything Democrat Wendy Davis did during the Friday night gubernatorial debate. The pejorative word flew when she tried to make a point after Republican Greg Abbott responded to a question from her.

Debate panelist Ryan Wolf, a South Texas TV guy, cut Davis off, telling her the rules barred what she was doing. Davis kept speaking while Wolf interrupted. Turns out Wolf was wrong. The rules allowed Davis a 45-second rebuttal, a fact debate organizers acknowledged after the event.

And even if the rules weren’t on Davis side, what she did was many, many degrees short of anything remotely approaching a meltdown. It was a candidate trying to make a point. We’re OK with that.

But that didn’t stop Abbott’s team and supporters from calling it a meltdown. “Watch Sen. Davis Melt Down During Debate,” said an Abbott campaign promo of video of the moment. An Abbott campaign release invited folks to “click here to watch Sen. Davis meltdown during the debate.”

The Abbott Response Team’s Twitter account also told folks to watch the “debate meltdown.” Abbott adviser Dave Carney tweeted: “The melt down in McAllen goes viral.” Not only was there no meltdown, there was no debate in McAllen. It was in Edinburg.

What Davis did, in addition to being within the rules, was well within the bounds of reasonable discourse. It was nowhere near a meltdown, which, to me, implies totally losing it. Watch it and see if anybody melted down.

The meltdown allegation is unconscionable, uncalled for, unnecessary, unfair and unhelpful toward the goal of more civilized politics. I’m guessing you’ll never hear “meltdown” from Abbott’s mouth. He should tell his minions to likewise eschew it.

A day after the debate, at the Texas Tribune Festival, Davis was asked about what it would be like to be a Democratic governor working with a GOP-controlled Legislature, as it’s sure to be next year. Davis went with the I-can-work-across-party-lines mantra, something that always leaves me uncertain because there are some issues that legitimately defy bipartisanship.

Davis said she’d veto GOP-backed legislation to repeal in-state tuition for state university students who are not legal U.S. residents and legislation banning so-called sanctuary cities.

But, after discussing the possibility of using executive action to approve the Medicaid expansion opposed by most Republicans, Davis acknowledged that while she could veto legislation she opposes, she’d have no way to win approval of legislation GOP lawmakers oppose.

That means, for example, she could block additional abortion restrictions — though she could also face the possibility of veto override, a Texas rarity — but do nothing about rolling back existing restrictions that survive court challenge.

“Elections matter,” she said.

Which leads me to the excellent Sunday article by the Statesman’s Asher Price and Christian McDonald slicing and dicing Gov. Rick Perry’s 8,000 appointees to state posts. The story noted the appointees are far whiter than the state’s diverse population.

Keep this in mind about the real world: The universe of potential appointees for any governor is not the entire population. To a huge extent, it’s limited to adults of his or her party. Fact is, that’s what folks who elect governors expect those governors to do.

Another fact is that, for whatever reason, a large majority of minorities choose not to be Republicans. Nothing wrong with that, but it helps explain why they’re underrepresented when GOP governors make appointments.

That gets us back to Davis: “Elections matter.”

Please keep that in mind. The last day to register for the upcoming election is Oct. 6. Early voting is Oct. 20-31. On-time voting is Nov. 4.


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