Exodus to Texas, &c.


There has been a lot of talk, the last couple of years, of Texas’s economic success. The talk has intensified because Gov. Rick Perry looks like he may run for president. Texas has been almost the lone exception to the nation’s economic pain. (The “lone star,” yuk yuk yuk.) People, particularly employers, are leaving California and other states in droves, to go to Texas. “G.T.T.,” read the signs of the 19th century: “Gone to Texas.” Something like those signs can be seen now.

Well, you want to hear a taxi story? Okay. Romanian taxi driver in New York City. Makes a good living — $100K a year. But not really: because he is barely scraping by on that $100K. He can’t get ahead. Can’t save. Taxes, fees, regulations, and all. A studious sort, he did a big study of the United States, with an eye to what he might do. He decided to go to Texas. The reason: It’s friendly to small business.

Man’s going to Austin. He’s not going to drive a taxi. He’s going to try to buy a franchise — maybe a fast-food place — and make a go of it. I bet he succeeds.

By the way, do you remember one of my favorite sayings, which comes from Aaron Wildavsky, the late political scientist (Berkeley)? “One story is an anecdote; two stories are data.”

I was talking with a good friend of mine, a true-blue conservative Republican. Does some political work in Albany. I asked how Andrew Cuomo, the new governor, was doing. He said, “On the economic front, great. Perfectly. He’s doing everything right. I can’t think of anything I would do that he’s not doing.” Holy-moly. I said “Why is that so? Why is Cuomo performing so well?” My friend said, “He has no choice. We’re up against it. Something’s got to give. We just have no choice, and he knows it.”

I can’t help thinking of one of Burnham’s Laws (i.e., the maxims of James Burnham, the intellectual who was one of the pioneers of National Review): “When there’s no alternative, there’s no problem.”

Back to Texas for a minute: For a long time now, I’ve been ballyhooing my friend Ted Cruz, who’s running for the U.S. Senate. He’s competing for the nomination to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison, who’s retiring. Ted’s website is here. My little piece about him, when he announced, is here. It links to my prior piece about him (bigger). And I could ballyhoo on — and will.

But now George Will has written a column about Ted. The title, in the Washington Post: “In Ted Cruz, a candidate as good as it gets.” Exactly. And when the biggest guns take notice of this fact, and trumpet it — what need is there of little ol’ me? What a delightful development. And inevitable. Ted Cruz is well on his way to national conservative leadership, and we’re all the better for it.

I was particularly grateful for Mona Charen’s column yesterday, for this reason: It pointed out that the 1980 presidential election was a close-run thing. Reagan pulled away at the end, but at the very end. This was no cakewalk.

For years, I have had a peeve — have I mentioned this before? — about another presidential election, the one in 1984. Yeah, Reagan won it 49 states to 1. But don’t you dare believe that this was foreordained, or anticipated by all. Throughout the campaign, we heard of the strength of the Democratic ticket. And saw it. Geraldine Ferraro was an especially potent factor, ready to win the votes of women and “Mediterranean ethnics.” And when Reagan stumbled, badly, in the first debate . . .

I watched The McLaughlin Group in those days — we all did, all of us who were crazy about politics. I heard everything that Jack Germond, among the others, said about the campaign. And after that big November day, when Reagan romped, Germond published a book, with his partner, Jules Witcover, called “Wake Us When It’s Over.” You know, yawn, yawn, yawn: It was always going to be a historic Reagan landslide.

Nonsense. I remember being infuriated by that title — thought it was misleading and dishonest.

Look, you don’t win until you win (most of the time).

Yelena Bonner — or Elena Bonner, take your pick — was one of the great dissidents and human-rights activists in the history of the Soviet Union. She was dogged, fearless, righteous, like all the best. Her greatness may have been slightly obscured by the fact that she was married to a man of almost fathomless greatness, Andrei Sakharov. As for La Bonner, she was cantankerous, impossible, and wonderful.

She passed away over the weekend. Last year, I had the privilege of interviewing her. We did this via e-mail, through the good offices of a dear Russian-American friend of mine, who translated. Bonner and I talked mainly of the moment in 1975 when Sakharov won the Nobel peace prize. She happened to be out of the country when the announcement was made; she was in Italy, receiving eye treatment. She stayed out of the country until she could represent Sakharov at the Nobel ceremony. The Soviet government refused to let him out.