Guest Host: Todd Zwillich

Texas Congresswoman Veronica Escobar greets constituents during Beto O'Rourke's presidential campaign kickoff rally in downtown El Paso, Texas on March 30, 2019. .

Texas Congresswoman Veronica Escobar greets constituents during Beto O'Rourke's presidential campaign kickoff rally in downtown El Paso, Texas on March 30, 2019. .

In his latest book, “God Save Texas,” journalist Lawrence Wright writes that his home state of Texas “should be as reliably blue as California.”

But instead, he writes that “it is the Red Planet in the political universe.”

A Democrat hasn’t won a statewide race in over 20 years. The state has two powerful and staunchly Republican senators — John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Of the state’s 36 congressmen, 23 are Republicans.

And it matters — Wright’s book posits that “because of its size and particularly its spirit, [the state] has a heavy hand on the national tiller,” according to Texas Monthly.

Here’s another excerpt:

I think Texas has nurtured an immature political culture that has done terrible damage to the state and to the nation. Because Texas is a part of almost everything in modern America—the South, the West, the plains, Hispanic and immigrant communities, the border, the divide between the rural areas and the cities—what happens here tends to disproportionately affect the rest of the nation.

How’d Texas become so conservative?

In a 2017 piece for The New Yorker, Wright illuminated what the place means to him, and how he understands it.

I’ve lived in Texas for most of my life, and I’ve come to appreciate what the state symbolizes, both to people who live here and to those who view it from afar. Texans see themselves as a distillation of the best qualities of America: friendly, confident, hardworking, patriotic, neurosis-free. Outsiders see us as the nation’s id, a place where rambunctious and disavowed impulses run wild. Texans, it is thought, mindlessly celebrate individualism, and view government as a kind of kryptonite that weakens the entrepreneurial muscles. We’re reputed to be braggarts; careless with money and our personal lives; a little gullible, but dangerous if crossed; insecure, but obsessed with power and prestige.

If former Congressman Beto O’Rourke wins the Democratic nomination for president ahead of the 2020 presidential race, understanding Texas could matter even more.

We talk to Wright about the politics of the Lone Star State — and what it means for all of us.

Produced by Lindsay Foster Thomas.

Guests

  • Lawrence Wright Staff writer for The New Yorker; author of "God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State;" @lawrence_wright

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