The Texas gubernatorial election fight is on. It will be over in March. The general election in November is a formality. The fight is between Kay Bailey Hutchison, currently the senior senator from Texas and incumbent Rick Perry. Both are Republicans and the two will duke it out for the Republican nomination in the March primary. Whoever wins that primary will be the governor. (The eventual Democratic nominee is roughly analagous to the Washington Generals. The Harlem Globtrotters have to play somebody.)
Here’s why this is all so.
The three most populous states in the union are, in rank order, California, Texas and New York. More than one of every four Americans lives in one of these three large states.
All three are hugely populous for essentially the same reason. There exists in each state a base of natural wealth that acts as the fuel for economic activity. California is, by far, the richest of the three. Its natural wealth consists of abundant water that flows from the Sierra Nevada Range and the Cascades, oil, natural gas, timber and minerals. Plus, California enjoys a long coastline and a Mediterranean climate.
We know about Texas’s wealth. It’s the stuff of both legend and cliché. The East Texas and West Texas oilfields created storybook fortunes. Timber, abundant minerals, a long growing season and water from the Ogalala Aquifer in West Texas, which made farming possible on otherwise arid land, and the Edwards Aquifer, which makes possible large cities like San Antonio and Austin without the need to impound surface water, all contribute to Texas’s economic success.
New York state benefits from the success of New York City, which in turn benefits from its possession of what is arguably the best natural harbor in the world. The natural geography of Manhattan Island created the world’s finest shipping destination and set New York City up as North America’s point of interface with the rest of the Western Hemisphere. As the American economy took root, it was inevitable that New York City would emerge as the financial capital of the world.
Decisive possession of natural wealth or natural advantage. That’s what California, Texas and New York have in common.
But Texas is different from New York and California in one important way.
Texas is not bankrupt.
Earlier this year, California was paying its bills with IOUs. They did not have sufficient cash in the bank to cover actual checks and the budget that they eventually adopted is an exercise in fantasy. California is broke.
Last week, New York governor David Patterson announced that the state of New York would be out of cash before Christmas. Expect New York to follow in the ignominious footsteps of General Motors, Chrysler and AIG on its way to the federal indigent shelter.
Texas differs from its two large peers in another important way. Texas is a solid red state. California and New York are deeply blue.
The Texas Legislature by law meets for only 140 days in odd-numbered years unless called into special session by the governor. Although members run for election on partisan ballots, the Texas Legislature is officially organized as a non-partisan body. And even when Democrats outnumbered Republicans in the legislature, the legislature has throughout its history been, by and large, socially and fiscally conservative.
By contrast, the legislative bodies of New York and California operate fulltime and have been dominated by career liberal big-government high taxing Democrats for more than 30 years. That these two states are bankrupt, while Texas stands as what is arguably the soundest economy on the planet, should not be seen as simply an unfortunate coincidence.
Industry, self-reliance, the worth of the individual, entrepreneurism, a strong distaste for taxation, frontier independence and an innate distrust of government are still part of the Texas genetic code.
So when you hear the commercials for Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison, smile. Because in the real race for governor, the primary election in March, the two of them will be fighting one another over who is truly the better conservative, a political philosophy that has served to make Texas the most successful state in the Union.