she made a difference

Jan Reid’s biography of Texas Governor Ann Richardson was one of the most interesting biographies I’ve read in some time.

From the Prologue: Glimpses

Tiresome a throwback as televised political conventions seem today, huge numbers of Americans still watch them every four years, and like Barack Obama and Sarah Palin in more recent memory, Ann Richardson demonstrated that a powerful and personality-enriched speech at either a Democratic or a Republican national convention can be a politician’s fastest climb up ambition’s ladder. Late in life as Ann got started in politics, and with the kind of base she possessed, it is almost inconceivable that she could have gotten elected governor of Texas in 1990 or any other year if she had not been handed that incredible lucky break in 1988. Boosted into contention by her celebrity and wit, she overcame long odds and brutal campaigns against two veteran Democrats and a rich, colorful Republican to become the first ardent feminist elected to high office in this country. Hillary Clinton was her protégé, even when she was the nation’s First Lady and then a U.S. senator from New York. Some of the cracks in the glass ceiling were put there by Ann.

. . . Ann knew she had that going for her, and she shrewdly used it to her advantage. She knew that a governor or president elected with a slim majority of less had better push an agenda hard at the start of the term, before the sheer gravity of governing starts its ineluctable pull. Her greatest accomplishment was to bring to positions of responsibility and power in Texas the women, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, gay men, lesbians, and disabled persons who had been so long denied. Because of that, the state government centered in Austin will never be the same. Whatever party wins elections and controls the appointed boards that keep the bureaucratic agencies and institutions of higher education running, democracy in Texas is better because she won.


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