Lone Star Launch Pad for Rear-Guard America? These Not So United States (TX Part 5)
Our special guests for this fifth episode on Lone Star State identity are two authors with Texas-sized reputations: Lawrence Wright (The Looming Tower, God Save Texas) and Stephen Harrigan (The Gates of the Alamo, Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas).
Wright, a New Yorker staff writer, wastes no time in spinning around our hypothesis that polarized national politics might erode that rather famous, not shyly-held Texas state identity. “Texas is taking over the country,” states Wright emphatically. “Whatever happens in Texas is the future of America.”
Longtime Texas Monthly writer Stephen Harrigan does see some weakening of the loud, proud Texan identity in recent times. But he also observes the state's current GOP political monopoly pushing back against these changes, natural or not.
Wright and Harrigan have more in common than a shelf of prize-winning American books bearing their names on dust jackets. Born in the same Oklahoma Hospital in the same year, they both moved to Texas as adults, wrote for Texas Monthly, currently live in the same Austin neighborhood and recently published books on their adoptive state: Wright’s reportorial memoir, God Save Texas, and Harrigan’s Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas.
This episode features an extended discussion between these longtime friends and some-time collaborators on the magnetic appeal of Texas. They assess the legacy of political icons on the Texas of today and tomorrow, such as independent Texas President Sam Houston; independent presidential candidate Ross Perot; one-term populist Democratic Governor Ann Richards; and Lady Bird Johnson.
They also bemoan the loss of rational, moderate, Texan-accented voices in recent time, such as former Republican Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, and three-term moderate Republican Congressman Will Hurd, author of the just published book American Reboot. And they contemplate the potential for a “passionate centrist” like the Texas-born actor Mathew McConaughey to bridge the political divide in Texas, perhaps with spillover effects.
Tune up your understanding of this strongest and proudest of state identities, and gauge the influence of ever more populous and prosperous Texas on American politics and identity writ large.
Original music created and composed by Ryan Adair Rooney
Lawrence Wright, staff writer at The New Yorker, author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, The End of October, The Plague Year, and God Save Texas. Lawrence Wright’s website, Twitter
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