Politico Magazine published an article this morning featuring former darling of the left, Wendy Davis – famous for her pink sneaker filibuster moment on abortion.
I am a lifelong Democrat. I proudly boast an “F” rating from the NRA. And, yet during my 2014 gubernatorial campaign in Texas, I supported the open carry of handguns in my state.
It is a position that haunts me.
Why would that position haunt her? Because she dared support the option for people to protect themselves? Because she tried to do right by her constituents? No.
It’s because she had to make a choice: take a stand and reveal what your actual positions are, or pander. She chose to pander. She’s proud of her antigun record and refuses to acknowledge that being antigun in Texas is not a popular position to take.
Against that backdrop, I chose to do something that was cleverer than it was wise. I decided to take a position in favor of open carry, one which would include the caveat that any property owner who wanted to opt out should be able to do so, whether it be a school, hospital or a private business. Understanding that most of these property owners would likely take advantage of an opt-out provision if the legislature were ever even to agree to pass such a diluted version of the law, I thought I could go forward with a clear conscience.
Such was the dictate I gave my team from the Denver airport. But, as I hurriedly finished the conversation before boarding the airport terminal train, I couldn’t shake the shameful feeling that I had just done something I had never done before—I had compromised my deeply held principles for the sake of political expediency.
This is incredibly illuminating because it says what we already know: Antigun politicians will say anything to get themselves elected. Remember the mantra: “no one is coming for your guns” and how it is repeated ad nauseam?
She should have learned from her earlier experience with Texas gun politics as a Fort Worth councilwoman, but she didn’t:
When I discovered that Texas state law prohibited municipalities from enacting any ordinances regulating the sale of firearms, foreclosing my ability to pass an ordinance requiring universal background checks for gun sales in my city, I went a different route and sought instead to prohibit the continued use of our city facilities for these gun sales. (Fort Worth, like many cities, rents its exhibit halls for gun shows on a fairly regular basis.)
The public reaction to my proposal was swift and intense. Numerous letters and calls accusing me of violating the constitutional rights of gun owners and sellers flooded in. Angry protesters hurled unbridled insults my way, with heated accusations that I was trying to take their guns away from them. Even in the grocery story, I was confronted by an angry man, his face contorted and red as he screamed at me for trying to “take away his right” to own a gun. When I attended a gun show to see for myself just what went on there, two intimidating looking characters shadowed my every step, not at all happy to have me in attendance.
As you might guess, I lost that battle. My motion to pass the ordinance was tabled and it has been tabled ever since.
Of course, the lesson learned from this was not that she was out of touch with her constituents and their positions on the issue, but that she should try again, and just be more ‘clever’ as she phrased it.
She also didn’t learn her lesson during the battle for campus carry:
In 2008, when I was elected to be a Texas state senator, I became a key vote during three legislative sessions toward preventing the passage of a law that would allow guns to be carried on college campuses, a law that eventually passed in 2015 when I was no longer in office. I even came close to missing my youngest daughter’s college graduation ceremony in 2011 when the author of the bill refused the customary courtesy of delaying consideration of it in my absence. Thankfully, another colleague who supported the bill promised me his “no” vote on that day and I was able to watch my daughter walk across the stage.
This bill passed 24-7 which again shows that she doesn’t grasp the political realities of gun control in her state – her ulterior motive was to say anything in order to get elected.
In the end, there is no question in my mind that my decision to support open carry actually cost me votes that I otherwise would have had. As it should have. And I doubt that it gained me a single one.
But that’s not the point.
This ignores the political reality: pro-gun voters recognized her stance for the pandering it so obviously was. Her “newfound” pro-gun stance came out when her biography was being criticized and questions were being asked about deception in her background. In fact, gun rights weren’t mentioned anywhere on her election website – even six months after her “support” for open carry.
It’s doubtful that anyone that was already going to vote for her changed their minds over her supporting open-carry. Who were they going to vote for instead, unabashedly pro-gun Abbot? Of course not. Davis had a solid antigun track record and her lamely attempting to “support” open carry was obviously a ploy – one that failed.
I was a long shot to win—I would have been the first Democrat in the governor’s seat since Ann Richards in 1994—and I know that. But I was still a contender in a high-profile gubernatorial race, and I had a unique power then that I might not ever have again: I had the chance to challenge people’s thinking about unbridled access to guns and whether, in this age of increased mass shootings, elected leaders are responsible for striking a better balance. Perhaps I even had the chance to change a few minds and to help shape the growing younger electorate’s thinking about how political candidates ought to position themselves on this issue. It’s the kind of opportunity that someone like me goes into politics hoping for. But when it was my turn to move something so divisive, and so important to me, out in front of voters, I did whatever I could to keep people from talking about it instead. I hid from it. I chose the exact opposite of what I knew I needed to do, because my strategy team—and ultimately I—was too afraid. If I had chosen differently, might I have moved the needle just a bit on this issue, even in a very conservative state like Texas?
Poor Wendy. It’s not her that’s wrong, it’s everyone else. Shades of Principal Skinner