Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Willful Ignorance Runs in the Family

This site is not usually used for national politics, but I learned something about the GOP primary in north Texas that brings back memories of one of my first elections in Texas. So bear with me as I remember Jim Collins.

What stirred the memory was learning a detail of the family history of Genevieve Collins, who is running for the GOP nomination for the Texas District 32 Congressional seat, currently held by Democrat Colin Allred. What I learned is that Genevieve's great-uncle is James M. Collins, who served eight terms in Congress from north Texas.

You might not remember the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan administration. It all started in the 1970s, when the Sandinista National Liberation Front fought against the brutal Anastasio Somoza regime in Nicaragua. Somoza was a right-wing dictator, but the Sandinistas were left-wing dictators, so the Jimmy Carter administration tried to perform a delicate balancing act of promoting human rights (i.e., opposing Somoza) without leading to another dictatorial regime (which is how it turned out with the Sandinistas).

Now what does this have to do with north Texas? Jim Collins was my Congressman when I moved to north Texas in 1978. He served eight terms in Congress from 1968-1983. In his re-election run in 1978 (I think; it could have been 1980), he ran a television commercial that, thinking back on it, might have presaged the war on intellectualism that has been a feature of Republican politics nationally ever since. The subject of the television commercial was Nicaragua.

The commercial presented the turmoil in Nicaragua as a mess created by the Carter administration. Jim Collins wanted nothing to do with Carter's emphasis on promoting human rights around the world. The commercial ended with a sound bite from a man on the street (almost literally; I think he was standing in his driveway in front of a pickup truck) saying in a Texas drawl, "Where the heck is Nicaragua anyway?" That was my introduction to Texas politics, a state where a politician featured a supporter admitting to an ignorance of sixth grade geography and thought it was advantageous to his campaign to do so.

Genevieve Collins, speaking of her great-uncle, told The Dallas Morning News, "You pay honor to the past. But really, double down and be present in your own voice." Maybe she'll run a commercial showing her saying, "Where the heck is Ukraine anyway?"

Early voting is underway, so you can now vote for or against Genevieve Collins as you wish. I make no endorsement in the GOP primary.

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