We here in Dallas must reserve some place in our hearts for the old-school white-shoe Republicans, because, after all, their leader and standard-bearer, Bush XLIII, lives quietly here among us. Perhaps it is appropriate that our city’s only daily newspaper is the one that has devised the template for white shoes everywhere in America as they approach 2020.
Well, I say devised. Maybe it’s more that they were the first ones to actually put it in print. The Dallas Morning News announced in an editorial last week that, in the upcoming presidential election, “rather than recommending one candidate, we will offer a vision for the country.”
So, in other words, they just aren’t going to say his name? Or, wait, what if they’re sincere? Could they really mean they’re going to endorse a vision for president of the United States?
I have to tell you, I know some of these people and have developed great respect for them over many years. If I thought for one moment they were sincere about endorsing a vision for president, I would go down to their offices myself and insist on an intervention. That’s not what they mean.
And here we come to the template, which I think will have meaning for white shoes all over the country. It’s clear from their editorials published soon afterward that the paper intends to use its editorial voice to campaign hard for Trump. They just won’t admit it.
Think of Trump as, that "fellow,” an old white shoe term. We have a wonderful fellow who does that for us. Just leave your things right there, the fellow will get them. Oh my goodness, what a mess. Someone call the fellow.
But don’t name him. That’s very important. If you name him, people might think he’s an in-law. Not naming is the way you maintain the proper distance. But you need your fellow.
The problem they have with the fellow in the White House is that everything he says and does heaps mud on them. President Donald Trump repeatedly defies and defiles the most basic principles that the white shoes want to claim as their own, especially concerning the rule of law.
Last week Trump referred to top officials of the FBI as “dirty cops.” Everybody knows what that is. It’s thug talk. Last week he fired the acting director of national intelligence after a subordinate briefed Congress on Russian efforts to help Trump get reelected. Who acts like that? A guilty person.
Last week an association of federal judges appointed by both Republican and Democratic administrations convened an emergency conference call to discuss Trump’s serial assaults on the federal judiciary. The white shoes cannot help but be deeply concerned by that kind of story.
But so what? What are they supposed to do about it? At this point what is their lane? They’re homeless.
With the entire Democratic field except Michael Bloomberg swimming hard to the left, moderate Republicans are never going to go knock on that door. In fact, they must sense that Trump’s behavior and the behavior of his ardent supporters may be pushing the nation toward the deluge. I wouldn’t be surprised if some white shoes aren’t bolting awake at night with nightmares of heads on pikes. I do that, but I would call mine more like just regular dreams.
The more egregious Trump’s behavior becomes, the more difficult it becomes for the white shoes to embrace him openly and look at themselves in the mirror. So, Dallas Morning News to the rescue. The Morning News is leading the way for white shoes everywhere.
In its recent “vision for president” editorial, the paper models a certain course of action. They will continue to obliquely root for a Trump victory without admitting what they’re doing publicly, perhaps not even to themselves. It’s kind of genius. After all, if your problem is looking in the mirror, why look?
To see how it actually works in practice, let’s drill down to the paper’s recent editorial endorsements for the March 3 Texas primary election. On the Republican side in the congressional 24th District (northern suburbs, mid-cities), the paper says, “We’re troubled by most of the five candidates’ blanket and unquestioning support of President Donald Trump’s policies and practices — including the administration’s most divisive policies on border enforcement. They mostly follow an ultraconservative line on big issues that adds to the polarization in this country.”
So they endorse Beth Van Duyne, the most identifiably and crazily Trumpian of them all. Running as a “Christian Conservative Mother” (easiest Mad Lib ever), Van Duyne is famous for stirring anti-Muslim bigotry when she was mayor of suburban Irving.
Trump subsequently rewarded her with an appointment as regional director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Fort Worth, kind of like sending the fox into the hen house with a rifle and a tote sack.
In the 26th House District (Denton, Lewisville), the paper endorses Michael Burgess, because, “Burgess is a strong conservative and ardent supporter of most of the Trump administration’s policies.”
In the 32nd District (Richardson, Garland, Wylie), the paper says candidate Genevieve Collins “supports President Donald Trump’s China trade tariffs but only as a temporary measure. She has no public policy experience.”
So they endorse her.
To be fair and balanced, the paper needs also to make endorsements on the Democratic side. So, for example, in the Democratic 26th District House race, they say of Democratic candidate Mat Pruneda, “We think he’s too much of a socialist to make a serious run for the district, but we like his enthusiasm.” So they endorse him. Kind of like the Republicans for Bernie thing.
This visioning business gives them a lot of running room. Endorsing a vision for president instead of a person, for example, allows the editorial page to set up false equivalencies between outrageous and crazy Trumpian positions and solidly mainstream Democratic proposals.
Last week the page urged readers to beware of polling questions on the primary election ballots on both sides that “amount to fear-mongering and pander to the issues that divide our communities the most.” They gave an example of such a question, taken from the Republican ballot:
“Texas should ban chemical castration, puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and genital mutilation surgery on all minor children for transition purposes, given that Texas children as young as three (3) are being transitioned from their biological sex to the opposite sex.”
As Stephen Young reported here three months ago, all of that is wild and crazy fear-mongering Trumpian looniness with no basis in fact, very much like Van Duyne’s campaign to protect Texas from being subjected to Shariah law (Muslim religious law, not to be confused with “Sherry,” the 1962 hit by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons).
So that’s the fear-mongering and pandering polling question on the primary ballot they’re worried about from the Republicans. And what is the equivalent fear-mongering, pandering question on the Democratic ballot?
“Should everyone in Texas have a right to quality healthcare, protected by a universally accessible Medicare-style system that saves rural hospitals, reduces the cost of prescription drugs, and guarantees access to reproductive healthcare?”
Oh, come on. Quality healthcare versus chemical castration? The Dallas Morning News really and truly sees an equivalency there? No, I don’t believe it. As I say, I have been reading the work of some of these people for years. These new editorials read like North Korean prisoner-of-war confessions. There’s something else going on.
In Trumpian circles since 2016, the identifying habit of speech and mind — the giveaway and red flag — has been the what-about. If I say Trump and Gerald Ford are the only major party presidential nominees not to release their tax returns, the Trumpians will say, “What about Hunter Biden? He tested positive for cocaine.”
If I say Trump expresses a fundamental antipathy for the rule of law, the Trumpians will say, “What about Anthony Wiener? He sent a picture of his PENIS (all caps).”
It’s a line of thinking familiar to anyone who has been the parent or teacher of a young child. Until they achieve the age of moral reason, children may reach far and wide to escape answering an uncomfortable question. The job of an adult is to respond with understanding and firm guidance.
But I have yet to figure out how I’m supposed to respond to totally crazy evasions from adults who are out walking around free. Before Trump came along, the only experience I ever had with this kind of thinking was in working on stories where I had to talk to criminals.
Criminals are very big on "what about," also on "everybody else does it," "that other guy did way worse than me" and "the guy behind the register started it when he didn’t give me the cash." Or maybe, in the unlikely event they watch TV news, "look at Anthony Wiener."
But until Trump, I just didn’t run into this kind of consistently deranged thinking from people who are supposed to be normal. I remember the first time I saw the phrase, “Trump derangement syndrome,” in print and thought, “Oh, good, the medical profession has found a name for it.” Then I read the story and realized it’s what the Trumpians call it when people express concern about Trump. Should. Have. Known.
On the one hand, the position the Morning News is taking on the 2020 presidential endorsement is evasive, cowardly and utterly disingenuous. On the other hand as you may have surmised, I kind of feel sorry for the people who have to write this crap, and I can even imagine the editorial board meeting:
“Can we just not say his name?”
“You mean continue to endorse him and campaign for him on the issues but pretend like he’s not a real person?”
“Yeah. Like he’s a ghost or something.”
“No, no, I’ve got it! A VISION!”
“Cool. All caps, man.”
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.