Armageddon Avoided. Be Happy.

Thank providence for small gifts in the midterms.

Armageddon Avoided. Be Happy.
Actual photo of a voter on November 9th.

The last few months have been frankly scary. We have all been talking about the prospect of our democracy slipping away into a Trumpian La Brea Tar Pit of misinformation and conspiracy. We saw scary former TV anchors threaten an entire state the way they frightened all of us on the set. We saw crazed rallies with participants in the thrall of a carnival barker, eyes bulging in excitement like horses on a runaway stagecoach.

Out of our way! We have to get to the Capitol!

We saw a group denial of reality only rivaled by people still sending money to Jimmy Swaggart. We heard rumors of civil war or at the very least, the 101'st Chairborn Division waving their AR's and AK's like celebrants at a Taliban wedding. The coming mid-term election held the prospect of a red tidal wave even Moses couldn't part. Republicans were already outlining their plans for the pressing issues facing America like, how high exactly was Hunter Biden when he was nailing hookers? I swear I'll never vote for that Hunter guy again.

Hey, I wrote a book. It has a kid on the cover. Leave me alone!

In Texas, it looked more and more like Beto was on a kamikaze mission and the Abbott/Patrick/Paxton brain trust was on their way to another easy victory. Well, OK, actually that one did come true as all that Beto potential pretty much fizzled out right after he announced his candidacy. In fact, the entire Texas Democratic Party showed all the skill and finesse of Stan and Ollie moving that piano, with similar results.

The Democratic Party template for victory.

But in other states, governorships, senatorial seats, representatives, even lower state offices were all on the verge of going MAGA or MAGAGA or whatever the loopy acronym is now. The pessimism was palpable.

We weren't talking about sensible, conservative folks we all know and often vote for. No longer is our political divide one of liberal versus conservative and civil debates over the extent of the social safety net, tax policy or the merits of the balanced budget amendment. We weren't worried about the election of a John McCain or George H.W. Bush. Those icons had been supplanted by the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, Lauren Boeberts, Jim Jordans and Matt Gaetzes of the world. These are the 20 watt bulbs in the congressional chandelier and now, they had bullied their way into power in the party. And the only thing standing between them and committee control was a man with all the courage of the Uvalde PD, Kevin McCarthy. Two words summed up our trepidation...Herschel Walker.

"She's lying. I do not know this kid."

So on Tuesday evening, I and most folks went to bed assuming the worst. And Wednesday morning, we learned something about our neighbors in the land of the free. Oh, Republicans took control of the House of Representatives by the narrowest of margins. But they didn't take over the Senate, and virtually none of the true loonies who believe that kids are using cat litter boxes in schools (I kid you not) had been elected. Oh, some didn't give up right away. Kari Lake, who had she continued in TV might have been the first anchor fragged by her own floor crew, threatened and yelled, but it will come to naught. Boebert beat a democrat in a blood red district by only 550 votes.

"Come on, admit it. I'm sexy with just a little hint of 'she might burn down your trailer.'"

Then, on Thanksgiving eve, We learned that Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, one of those republican moderates who will soon have a glass display case at the Smithsonian, and Democrat Nancy Peltola won the Senate and House seats from the iceberg state. Trump endorsed Murkowski's opponent as revenge for voting against Brett Kavanaugh and Peltola saved the nation from the re-emergence of the 7-year locust of American politics, Sarah Palin. I'm thinking Medal of Freedom here.

"Hello, I must be going."

In fact, most of the Trump-endorsed candidates augered in like Errol Flynn in Dawn Patrol, so he took the next logical step. He announced another run for the White House. I described last week the energy level in the ballroom at Mar-a-Lago that night, that resembled a your phone at 1%. But, could it happen again? Could we be in for another term of insecurity, petty insults and hurricanes redirected by a sharpie? Should my wife and I be packing our bugout bags and heading for Ecuador?

"Who chose these colors? This is awful. Not nearly enough gold."

But then, after 6 years, Trump was forced by court order to turn over his tax returns. His former private sector CFO testified against him in his New York tax investigation. Senator Lindsay Graham (R-Tara) was ordered off his fainting couch to testify in the Georgia election interference case, and Attorney General Merrick Garland, the Dr. Zachary Smith of the Justice Department, appointed a war crimes prosecutor to examine the stolen top secret documents and January 6th riot investigations.

"When you swing by, be sure to bring that Nazi kid." 

And then this week, we found we should never underestimate the former President's ability to take careful aim at his own foot, as he hosted noted all-around cretinous nincompoop Kanye West and his apparently new best buddy, America's Next Top Bigot and raging neo-Nazi, Nick Fuentes, to dinner at his swankienda in Florida. No doubt the air was filled with excited conversations about the Holocaust and probably screenings of Birth of a Nation and Schindler's List. Perhaps run Saving Private Ryan backwards so the allies are chased back into the water.

So, I am admittedly pleasantly surprised that our gloom, doom and overall pessimism about our fellow Norte Americanos was not ultimately borne out. Well, except for two places. They would be Texas and Florida, and the resounding return of two flaming sacks of governorhood left on our state's doorsteps, Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis, both of whom cruised to re-election against two well known, but hapless opponents.

"Donald, who?"

DeSantis is, essentially, Trump without the charm. But also, without the personality quirks that make the prospect of another 4 years of Trump as appealing as removing your own appendix with a shoehorn.  His speaking style makes George McGovern seem like JFK. And honestly, he reminds me of the salesman at a Houston dealership who sold me a sports car that had been through a flood. He has latched onto every MAGA cliché out there, and wrestled the word “woke” to the ground and beat it into submission. But for all that, he seems, if you squint hard, almost normal in comparison.

And not to be outdone by our own gubernatorial goober, DeSantis wanted to demonstrate what a problem illegal immigration was for his state, But he lacked any actual illegal immigrants to use, so he came to Texas to recruit some. He then loaded them onto a private jet and flew them to Martha's Vineyard, the Miami Beach for liberal WASPS. OK, it's the ultimate “me, tooism” but a Lockheed Jetstar is so much more elegant than a 43 hour bus ride.

"Just ignore this. I hardly know this woman."

I mentioned in an earlier piece that I anticipate a DeSantis/Gavin Newsom contest in two years. California's Governor Newsom has assured President Biden he won't challenge him in 2024 so, of course, he will. His ex-wife is Donald Trump Jr's girlfriend and his current wife testified against Harvey Weinstein, so this is just too delicious to pass up. Of course, Newsom had a series of unforced errors during the pandemic that make the Texans look like Vince Lombardi's Packers, but I still like the idea of California versus Florida, Granola versus Garbanzos, Kale versus KFC. I'll stick with that prediction.

Beto standing proudly next to the guy who voted for him. 

In Texas, Governor Gregg Abbott, successfully recovered from his charisma bypass, defeated Beto O'Rourke handily. Actually, that doesn't begin to cover it. That untapped reservoir of potential that Beto's supporters tout, remains untapped and seemingly safely tucked away from prying eyes. I mentioned Gavin Newsom's unforced errors earlier. Well, Beto is our own political Bill Buckner, who at least only committed baseball's most notorious error once. With no detectable campaign strategy and only managing a tie in a debate with Abbott, a deer for whom the headlights are always a surprise, O'Rourke completed his losing hat trick and will no doubt either go to work for Amnesty International, or become a pundit on MSNBC.

"You guys don't have any plans for the next couple of years or so, do you?"

Abbott appears to have won over voters by managing to put an R beside his name. In Texas, that's all it takes, but he went farther. He managed to spend billions of their dollars on “Operation Lone Star,” the much touted program to send Texas National Guardsmen and women to the border to mill around in uniform. A large number of the apprehensions from the program were misdemeanor trespassing charges and the only drugs they found were No-Doz tablets from Walgreens to fight off boredom.

From the Texas Tribune...

Texas did not, in fact, arrest everyone coming across the border. Since Abbott announced the effort, more than 2,900 people have been arrested by state police for allegedly crossing into Texas via private property. Most of the arrests occurred primarily in two rural counties in the southwest part of the state, according to DPS data. Leaders of the state’s biggest border counties have declined to participate, saying in interviews that they urged comprehensive solutions, rather than the criminalization of immigrants. The news organizations found that misdemeanor trespassing charges made up about 40% of Operation Lone Star’s arrests from July through February. Hundreds of immigrants have since had their trespassing charges dismissed or rejected.

The federal Immigration and Border Patrol folks say the program that sends migrants to New York or Washington on buses is actually making their job harder. They are now far away from any immigration hearings and have to be tracked down. But hey, you can't make an election omelet without breaking a few eggs.

and leave the driving to us. Photo by Ash Gerlach on Unsplash

But we knew this was going to happen, so let Greg and Ron fight it out for the nomination in 2024. We in Texas are now used to the life-and-death struggles over bathroom choices and just get on with our lives. Nationwide though, indeed, it could have been worse. Of course, if that is the slogan democrats choose to fight under going forward, you can fully expect it to get worse.

"I won't watch Fox. I won't watch MSNBC. I won't, I won't."

But for now, MAGA has been held at bay, and if we have any sense at all, we will just not respond to the latest outrages from Greene, Boebert and the rest, and simply live our lives. Lauren Boebert's opponent put it well. It's “Angertainment.” It exists simply to get you riled up and this clown car has no intention of passing any substantive legislation. So, relax and bask in the realization that no civil war will occur, Trump won't be re-elected and this, too, shall pass. And maybe someday, we can get back to politics like this...

It's called civility, kids. Ask your grandparents about it.

Roger Gray has toiled at the journalism trade since 1970 and his first radio news job at KTRH in Houston. Over those woefully misspent years, he has worked in radio, TV and written for magazines. He was twice elected President of the Texas Automobile Writers Association and was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He covered the first Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, Oslo Accords in Israel and peace talks in Ireland. He interviewed writers, actors, politicians and every President from Ford to George W, and none of them remember him.
Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.