Their conservatism made them slow to change, but their pragmatism made them willing to change. Their faith and innate kindness made them compassionate and merciful even to people with whom they had deep disagreements or about whom they had doubts.
After all, when your closest neighbor is 60 miles away on the next ranch it makes no sense to be prissy about their politics, religion or choice of partners. They may be the only folks around when you need help.
But in recent years far too many Texans have been lured into the narrow-minded, xenophobic mean-spirited conservatism being peddled by the Republican Party. And among other bad side effects is a serious outbreak of sheer dumbness combined with breathtaking arrogance and total contempt for the voters.
The most recent case is that of Texas State Rep. Joe Driver of Garland, a Republican who has been in office for 18 years.
Let me introduce you to Driver. Here's what he says on his web site under "Protecting Your Money":
"Do you believe that government must tighten its belt just like we do at home? Joe Driver does. In 2010, taxpayers are in revolt against the big spending habits of the liberals in government. Joe Driver favors capping state government spending, cutting taxes and reducing government intrusion into our lives. The more money of ours they take and spend the more difficult they make it for us to solve our own problems. For our economy to recover, we need less government spending and less government, period."
Under "Defending the Constitution" it says:
"Texas thrives because legislators like Joe Driver protect our economy, our rights and our pocketbooks. In the midst of this recession, Texans know that Joe Driver is defending our jobs, our savings and our freedom."Under "On The Issues:"
"End reckless spending: Yes
Stop illegal immigration: Yes
Higher Taxes: No
More government regulation: No
2nd Amendment: Yes
Government controlled healthcare: No
Greater local control: Yes
Tough on crime: Yes
Helping small business: Yes
Government corruption: No
Restore our American values: Yes "
Sounds pretty good, don't you think? Well, it's all a lie.
Thanks to the Associated Press, we now know Driver, that ardent protector of our pocketbooks, has been double-billing his campaign and the State of Texas for expenses he incurred as a state rep. You can read the story here.
"For years," Jay Root of the AP wrote, "he has been submitting the same receipts -- for luxury hotels, airline tickets, meals, fees and other incidentals -- to both his campaign and to the Texas House. He has also been collecting thousands of dollars in state mileage reimbursements for travel in vehicles for which his campaign has shelled out more than $100,000 since 2000."
AP was able to document $17,431.55 in taxpayer money that Driver has pocketed. Driver's defense? Essentially it is, "I'm dumber than a box of rocks."
Driver, who is a former chairman of the House Law Enforcement Committee, claims not to have known that this practice is wrong. This elected official, who is on the powerful House Appropriation Committee that oversees the spending of state money, told the AP he thought "it was OK to bill two entities for the same expenses. He said he routinely pays hotels and airlines with donated political funds and then submits the same expenses to the state, taking the taxpayer money for himself.
"Now you're scaring the heck out of me," Driver told the AP. "It pretty well screws my week."
Awwww. Poor guy. Getting caught stealing from the taxpayers will do that for you.
He also said, 'If I knew it was wrong, I wouldn't have done it that way. I wouldn't have done it just to make money."
Ok. We'll pause here long enough for everyone to pull their jaws off the floor.
Now even though Driver may be ethically and intellectually challenged, he apparently has mastered the trick of bilocation -- being in two places at once.
Among the records Root examined were receipts Driver submitted for a trip to Memphis during the closing days of the 2009 legislative session.
Root write, "On that trip, House journals show Driver present and voting in Austin on April 30 at least two dozen times -- even though the travel records indicate he was traveling to Memphis during the proceedings."
The next day, Tryon Lewis, a Republican from Odessa, moved that Driver be excused to tend to "important business in the district." Not sure when Memphis, Tennessee, got moved into Texas State District 113.
So Driver steals and Lewis lies to cover up for him. Nice.
On his web site, Driver writes, "taxpayers are in revolt against the big spending habits of liberals in government."
If liberals do spend too much money, at least they do so openly and transparently in appropriation bills. Conservatives such as Driver just steal the money and blame the liberals.
Driver also says, "The more money of ours they take and spend the more difficult they make it for us to solve our own problems."
Driver is being opposed by Democrat Jamie Dorris in November.
Let's hope the voters in Garland are not as stupid as Joe Driver.
Texas deserves better.