My dad says this any time one of us states the obvious in a self-important fashion.
He’s quoting A. R. “Babe” Schwartz, a beloved former state senator and representative in the Texas legislature.
Another senator, Wayne Connally, had stepped up to the mic to share his insight on the issue of the day. As so often happens when members of a legislative body convene, Connally’s point of view had already been adequately, and even thoroughly, represented. But, as so often happens when members of a legislative body convene, this did not stop Sen. Connally from launching into a lengthy explanation that essentially amounted to “me, too.”
“No shit, Wayne,” was Sen. Schwartz’s reply.
Fewer and fewer among us remember the bad old days filled with good old boys running the legislature like a men’s club fueled by bourbon, beef, and blondes.
We’ve exchanged them, it seems, for the bad new days filled with people intent upon dragging us back to that cliché-driven past.
People like Wayne Slater.
Earlier this year, the Dallas Morning News special correspondent for the early 1960s penned a hit piece that amplified what had been, to that point, a scurrilous whisper campaign. Wendy Davis was a bad mother and even her own children say so. She didn’t live in a trailer long enough to say she lived in a trailer, and she might have been separated, but not technically divorced, so was she really, really a single mother? Her second husband helped her pay for law school, after which she dropped him like he was hot. But maybe she was hot, amirite? Plus, claimed a source who opted for anonymity so he/she could give “an honest assessment,” she was ambitious.
A gold-digging, ambitious divorcée?
Andrea Grimes, Jessica Luther, and other journalists took Slater to task for the lazy sexism at work in his article.
We’ve since encountered a steady parade of bedraggled sexist tropes. She looks like a Barbie. Her hair used to be one color, now it is another. Has she had work done? Can Wendy Davis, lady politician, have it all? (No shit, that was pretty much the headline.)
Wayne Slater, at least, had taken a break.
I was awake early Sunday, expecting some real news, when this 6 a.m. tweet came across my feed:
Allow me to summarize for you:
- Wendy Davis used to serve on Ft. Worth City Council.
- She asked for guidance to be sure she did not run afoul of ethics laws.
- There were a few instances that were judgment calls, maybe, in some people’s opinion, as far as being a little uncomfortable, but everyone knew about them, and they’ve never amounted to anything. As in, no one ever filed a complaint or launched an investigation, even when it would have been politically expedient to do so.
- Repeat: her opponents accused her of using politics to benefit her business affairs, but no one ever sanctioned her for doing so, in a state that isn’t afraid to impose ethics sanctions (cf. Rick Perry and Ken Paxton).
- Now, she’s running for governor, so we’re “breaking” this story.
The story, being old non-news, did not garner nearly enough clicks.
To make their juice worth the squeeze, they called in the big gun, Wayne Slater, who obliged by stringing together some sentences that still didn’t really amount to much:
- She questioned the accuracy of the numbers in the report.
- They stuck by their numbers, although their source said their number might have been too low (i.e., not accurate), and she’s sticking by hers.
- She got a salary when she worked with the family business she ran with her husband.
- She worked while she was on city council, as do most politicians who serve in elected office in Texas, since their salaries are not, alone, a living wage.
- She got a share of the community property when they divorced. As does just about anyone divorcing in Texas.
- Two employees who did not manage her and were not parties to her business or personal relationship with her then-husband said she sure didn’t come to the office much. Considering her job was largely client cultivation and networking, it is unclear why anyone would have expected her to be in the office much, but Wayne didn’t ask that question.
Why was this even a story?
Let’s call it what it was—another excuse for Wayne Slater to clutch his pearls and remind everyone that she was divorced. To frame her as an unethical gold-digger for having the audacity, and ambition, to accept a salary, avoid being brought up on or sanctioned for ethics violations, and to receive a share of community property when she and her husband divorced.
That’s shit, Wayne. Chickenshit, even.
Senator Wayne Connally is no longer with us.
I’m sure Babe Schwartz would agree that we should not speak ill of the dead when there’s so much ill to speak of the living.
I humbly propose we re-purpose no shit, Wayne, and give it a new meaning for a new era.
Whenever a journalist goes for the lazy, sexist tropes when writing about a female candidate …
Whenever a female politician’s past marriages and divorce decrees are subjected to exegetical examination while those of male candidates go unparsed …
Whenever a woman in office is judged on her perceived level of womanly attainment instead of her legislative record, while the legislative records of their male counterparts go unchallenged …
… we should answer, in one voice, no shit, Wayne.
No more. None.
Enough, Wayne. You’ve stepped up to the mic before, and we know what you’re going to say.
Enough with stringing together a bunch of gender-driven slurs and innuendos and calling it journalism, or even commentary.
Enough with trying to revive scandals that weren’t even scandals the first time they came across the news cycle, just because you can’t find a legitimate reason to criticize a candidate’s legislative record or policy.
Because, you see, we know what would happen if you did.
If you spoke about Wendy Davis’s legislative record advocating for reform and regulation of the predatory lending market, you would have to acknowledge that Republican candidate for governor Greg Abbott can turn that industry on like a tap when he needs to fund his campaign.
If you spoke about Wendy Davis’s relentless focus on restoring multi-billion dollar cuts to the public education budget, you would have to acknowledge that Republican candidate for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick not only voted for those cuts, but that is campaign is pants-on-fire lying by claiming he lead the fight to restore the funds.
If you spoke about all of the times Wendy Davis played by the rules and didn’t do anything that violated any ethical canons, you would have to acknowledge that Ken Paxton, Republican candidate for attorney general, admitted to the elements of a third degree felony and waived his right to appeal this finding of securities fraud.
The Republican men running for office have essentially given a resounding no comment every time they have been asked to debate, or in many instances, even speak to editorial boards. Dan Patrick is hiking the Appalachian Trail, as far as anyone can tell, because he certainly isn’t showing up anywhere on the campaign trail.
Wendy Davis, meanwhile, has campaign exhaustively, talked with everyone and anyone, knocking on doors and making phone calls and bringing her heart, soul, and policy record to the table.
The next time, Wayne, you are tempted to write about anything other than that, stop.
The next time, Wayne, you get the itch to evaluate her on perceived level of adherence to a scale of womanhood that you got out of a 1962 copy of Ladies Home Journal, remember your new directive before your finger hunts or pecks one single letter.
No shit, Wayne. Texans deserve better.