James Henson, at Texas Monthly, with a review of Gail Collins' new book about Texas:

All of this adds up to a solid summary of the liberal critique of the Texas model. What Collins fails to do is get to the bottom of why things have turned out this way. She lays most of the blame on the state’s political culture, describing Texas as a place that is skeptical of government and dedicated to individual autonomy, which is fair enough as far as it goes. But though she’s attentive to the importance of Latinos in the state’s past and future, she never fully appreciates the class and ethnic divisions that have long defined political power here. This leads her to overgeneralize about what “Texans” think. The occasional interviewees on the left side of the spectrum are presented as lonely voices of reason in a state full of self-defeating nuts.

I'm a fan of Collins, and her take gets some things right, but I broadly agree with Henson's critique. My Texas book (which won't be out until next year) goes into some depth about how the state got to be the way that it is, which I think is critical for understanding what Texas is like today. If you look at the history of the state, it's clear that most of Texas's outlying traits were established before the state even joined the union. That doesn't mean those traits are all fantastic, or that things never change, but Texas is much more comprehensible than outsiders sometimes think. I also have fewer qualms about Texas than Collins does. It's not perfect, of course, but a lot of what Texas does works for Texas, even if it might not work elsewhere. And I think she slightly exaggerates Texas's capacity to mess with America. Yes, of course, it's a big, influential, state, but if Texas is leading the way on policy issues, it's because other states are following its lead, as it is, of course, their right to do.

But in any case, more on all of that later. In the interim, you can read an excerpt of the book at Slate.
 



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