A Texas Democrat in the "City of Churches"
After another long day of doing interviews in 90+ degree weather at the Nacogdoches blueberry festival, we decided to take a break and try the blueberries. We stopped in a quintessential country store selling everything from tea towels and door hangers to blueberry jam and ice cream sundaes. Because we lug around so much equipment, people usually ask us if we're from out of town. After telling the storeowner about my project and asking her if she'd like to answer a few questions, she said, "Sure, but this isn't Bush country." She has been in business for many years and grew up in a nearby town.
Tell me about this town.
It's the oldest town in Texas. The population is about 30,000. It's a good university town. A lot of artists live here. It's a very caring town. We try to protect our history and enjoy these festivals. There's a core group of people that does everything. I'm from Lufkin, which is right down the road, but Nacogdoches is more historic. People ask me, why do you prefer Nacogdoches over Lufkin? Davy Crockett walked these streets. Sam Houston walked these streets. I just love it. I'm very protective of the downtown area. We've accomplished a lot in the past 10 years. We got historical overlay put on our buildings. We fought to keep the festival on the brick streets. We're involved in a minor way in local politics and that's what it takes. You can't just let someone run with it or you won't like the way it turns out, much like our national elections.
How does this town lean politically?
Republican. You don't really discuss it if you're a Democrat because for one thing, the Republicans act like you're ignorant if you say you're a Democrat. A lot of times we just keep our mouths shut. I've always been a liberal and I just don't believe in some of the things that Bush is doing. We've got to take control again. I believe in stem cell research. I believe in a woman's right to choose. I believe in so many of those things that they are trying to take a giant step backwards on. That really aggravates me.
This area used to be Democratic. Why did it turn Republican?
I don't know. It's been turning Republican for the last 15 years. Bush was our governor and not a very popular governor. Now we have good hair Perry. If Molly Ivins would run for governor, I'd vote for her. She's wonderful. Kinky Friedman says he's running for governor. I am gonna vote for him!
I was just interviewing the Republican booth outside. When I asked them why this town turned Republican, they said Democrats no longer value the family or the church.
That's bull. Believing a woman has the right to choose has nothing to do with your religion. That has to do with human rights. As far as family values, I think Democrats are right on up there with everyone else.
Do you talk about these issues with Republicans here?
No. We do what we can to get local officials elected. Their political party really doesn't come into play. It's really about their agenda. I've got a lot of friends that are Republicans. Rather than get into arguments, we just don't talk politics. My stepfather is against gun control. He has so many guns. You just don't bring it up at home.
Do your friends know you're a Democrat?
Well, we don't talk about it, but I think they know. Some will say, I know you're a Democrat, but... And my husband has a ponytail, so that's a good giveaway there. It's not a problem with my friends. We try to look beyond that and I look over them for being Republican, unless they cram it down my throat.
Do you go to church?
Whenever I talk to conservatives who go to church, the first thing they bring up is abortion and gay marriage.
I would rather have a gay person get married to their significant other than to go out and be a pedophile or a stalker. If you love somebody, you love somebody. I don't have a problem with that.
What do you think about the war?
It's time to leave Iraq. My nephew is over there working for a private company guarding ammunition dumps. We've wasted a lot of money over there. We have a healthcare issue here. There are so many people without healthcare, myself included. My healthcare went up to $1,000 a month. I can't pay $1,000 a month for insurance. If we could take all of that money that we've blown up in smoke over there, we'd have fewer problems here, but that's not gonna happen. Bush's agenda is anything but taking care of the home front.
A lot of the Republicans I've interviewed talk about personal responsibility. They say the government shouldn't pay for social programs. People need to take responsibility for themselves and pull themselves up.
We need social programs. My husband always says, it's not a handout, but a hand up. Yes, we do give away too much money, but it doesn't compare to the amount the government wastes on things like the war and things that aren't helping put food in people's mouths. I told you I don't go to church and I'm not religious, but to me, that is a Christian outlook. You should help people. I don't understand that. A lot of my Republican friends will say one thing and do another. You'll see that in any walk of life, but the Republicans want you to believe that they don't do that.
What message would you send to Democrats as they try to figure out their strategy for 2006 and 2008?
Don't give up and find us a good leader. You need someone who is charismatic and intelligent. Al Gore wasn't it. John Kerry wasn't it. I'm hoping Howard Dean can figure it out.
Earlier, you said you've always been a liberal. What does that mean to you?
Live and let live. If people are not hurting me or my family and they're happy, I'm OK with it.
Where do you get most of your news?
CNN. My husband watches Fox and it drives me insane. I read the daily newspaper here. The Internet takes up too much time. We watch a lot of news on television. My favorite place for news is the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I told my husband, it's bad that we get our political news from a comedy channel.
Do you think this area has a chance of becoming Democratic again?
No, I don't see it happening.