People Political

Good-bye Ann Richards

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Don at Hands in Dirt has a lovely and very personal remembrance of Ann Richards, former governor of Texas, who passed away on Wednesday.

I don’t think there’s a feminist who doesn’t remember one of Richards most famous quotes, from the 1988 Democratic Convention:

Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.

Others remember her for another quote, about the then Vice President George Bush:

He can’t help it–he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.

(Audio recording of speech.)

Both Don and a person in Don’s comments mention about how Richards would encourage young women to speak out. They couldn’t ask a question through their Moms or Dads, they had to ask directly themselves. She fought for women and minorities, but she also believed we had to fight for ourselves.

Richards didn’t always toe the ‘progressive’ line. She defied the ACLU once to defend a religious Christmas scene at the Capital, quipping that the three wise men represented were probably the only wise men that close to the legislature. After she left office, she worked as a lobby for the tobacco industry, to help bring about a settlement that would avoid the potentially more devastating lawsuits. She didn’t follow a course because others laid one out; she followed her own will.

The fact that Richards won the governor’s race–a woman in a state where the women were good, little women and purty to boot–was astonishing. Richards would ultimately serve just one term, though, defeated by the son of the man with the silver foot, who went on to a sad reign that left the state in shambles, before moving his ineptness to a national, and eventually international, level.

If only Richards had been president these last few years, things would have been different. Things would have been better. She was smart, she was strong, and she was fair. Richards was an old school Democrat, the kind that walked the talk. As Don wrote:

Nearly half of all her appointments were women and minorities. She appointed five openly gay people to government positions. Bob Bullock, the Lt. Governor who always felt that Ann was not deserving of office, said that he thought that was her downfall, appointing gay people. She wanted government to represent the people it served, thinking that if people had an investment, a voice in the system, they would see that they are part of it and could make it more responsive.

I’m not sure what Richards would make of today’s new Democrat, with their ‘balanced’ agenda. I think she would be disappointed, though, because she never made deals, and never worried overmuch about how she appeared in the press. Doing a good job was more important than being re-elected.

She was a true American hero. And I bet she’d hate being called that.

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