A New Mayor for Houston, An Old Mayor of Houston

I watched KHOU last night, waiting for election returns and the moment we could finally say Annise Parker, next mayor of Houston.

During the lag between the early votes being released and election-day precincts beginning to report, Doug Miller interviewed Bob Lanier, the former Houston mayor whose not-so-invisible hand pulled for Gene Locke during this election.

Wikipedia calls Lanier “Houston’s oldest living mayor,” which makes him sound like he should be wearing some old-timey costume while sitting in a specially-oxygenated tent. Born in 1925, he is 84. So, old, but not so old that the mere fact of it is some great refutation of the laws of science or anything.

During what was less an interview and more a conversation with gentle but respectful prodding, Mayor Bob popped off some awfully interesting lines.

He acknowledged that the era of good ol’ boy government really is winding down, humorously admitting that he himself is sort of partial to old white guys. (For those of you who don’t know, he is, in fact, and old white guy.)

So, on the one hand, he gets it. And, last night was by no means the first time he’s indicated that he gets it, as he himself has campaigned against the good ol’ boy network when it suited him.

In analyzing this election, however, he betrayed his age and outlook with two toss-off references to some of the demographic groups which clearly had an impact on last night’s results.

He mentioned “the gays” and “working ladies” in a manner that struck me as being the way someone talks about groups of people they are not comfortable with and don’t quite understand.

My initial reaction was to laugh out loud, because “working ladies” sounds like a euphemism my mother would come up with for sex workers.

My second reaction was to feel a little sorry for Mayor Bob. When he said “the gays” and “working ladies,” he sounded like an old man who’d been passed by and didn’t quite understand how that had happened.

But that wasn’t right either, because Lanier knows exactly what is going on and has a better grasp on Houston politics than almost anyone.

My third reaction was renewed hope that Annise Parker would blow Gene Locke out of the water, and by proxy, blow the politics of Bob Lanier out of the water.

Here’s a man who still thinks he can talk about “working ladies” and “the gays” like they are monolithic groups of voters who somehow managed to bumble their way to the polls to vote motivated exclusively by identity politics.

It sounded so dated, and made Lanier seem so disconnected and disaffected.

It made the victory that much sweeter.

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