Vocabulary.com defines a grifter as: A grifter is a con artist—someone who swindles people out of money through fraud. If there’s one type of person you don’t want to trust, it’s a grifter: Someone who cheats someone out of money.
Historically, grifters have taken many shapes. They were the snake-oil salesmen who rolled into town promising a magical, cure-all elixir at a price. The grifter was long gone by the time people discovered the magical elixir was no more magical than water. They were the sideshow con men offering fantastic prizes in games that were rigged so that no one could actually win them. They were the Ponzi scheme operators who got rich promising fantastically high investment returns but returning nothing for those sorry investors at the bottom of the pyramid.
Over the last few years we have seen the rise of a new grifter—the political grifter. And the most important battle being waged today isn’t the one about which party controls the House or the Senate, it’s about who controls the Republican Party: the grifting wing or the governing wing.
In a lot of ways Austin is still the blueberry in the tomato soup.
Well, no. I had never planned to be there that day. We held the funeral service for my dad late that afternoon at Fort Sam, in San Antonio, and I was not planning on returning to Austin. My colleagues in the Senate, both Republican and Democrat, had told me that Wendy was supposed to start her filibuster and that they were just going to let her ride it out and then they would call a special session the next morning. I don’t know when that changed. But I do know that my family was gathered for supper, and my kids and grandkids had put together a photo montage of Bimple—that’s what they called my father. And about the time I was looking at that on my iPad, my chief of staff, Gilbert Loredo, who has been with me for seventeen years, came up and said, “I hate to tell you this, but they just called Senator Davis on the second point of order.” I said, “What do you mean, point of order? Isn’t she just talking?” He said, “No. They changed the plans. They’ve got two Republican senators on thirty-minute shifts, and one is watching everything she does and one is watching everything she says. They’ve decided they’re not going to let her achieve this.”
At that moment I looked up, and there’s a picture on my iPad from when I was governor for a day; I’d called out my dad, and he was standing up and blowing me kisses. And I thought of all the times that my dad stood up for me. The memories just kept coming back, of things like that he would do when I was introduced to his friends, you know, and they would say, “Oh, what a pretty little girl,” or in Spanish, “Oh, qué niña más bonita.” And my dad says, it’s the first thing out of his mouth, “She’s the smartest in her class. Es la más inteligente.” I wasn’t, but because my dad said I was, I thought I might be. And because I thought I might be, I studied a lot. And then I never had the Barbie girl figure, so I understand the little girl growing up in the fifties and the sixties who had big thighs. So what my dad taught me was that it wasn’t what I looked like, it was how smart I was and the strength that I had. My dad was so formative in those early years, when the messages to girls were very different. All that came rushing back, and I looked at Gilbert and said, “I have to go.” Then I said, “If they’ve already called the second point of order, I won’t make it.” He says, “I have DPS outside.”
I went because I thought that if Wendy saw me, she might get some strength from that, but I never intended to say anything, because I was at the bottom of an emotional well. I had nothing left. And it wasn’t just about my dad’s death—we had also lost our grandson during the session. I said what I said out of frustration. I wasn’t thinking about my political future. But it was a toxic summer. It was hurtful to see how the collegiality and the good work that we had done during the legislative session—and we did good work during the legislative session—was tossed aside.
I’m a small-business owner who is very proud to be a Democrat. I think that we do our state harm when we portray all Democrats as left-wing liberals or all Republicans as far-right extremists. I belong to a big party with diverse interests, and we’re not going to agree 100 percent on every single issue. But what we do agree on is that you move forward, and you do the things that are going to create success for the future. When I look at the Democratic convention, we were having fun, we were energized, we had hope. When I look at the Republican convention, they were mad, they were angry, and that was quite visible. Now, are both bases energized? Of course. But, you know, the Democratic party went through its own purity battles. It didn’t work out very well. When the pendulum swings too far to one side, in time the people will correct that.
Lord knows the Democratic Party is far from perfect. But House Democrats, when they were in the majority, at least understood that the government had to function, even if its policies were not those they preferred. When Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was speaker, for example, she made certain that bills funding the occupation of Iraq made it through the House, even though a majority of Democrats bitterly opposed the war.
Today’s Republican Party opposes the Affordable Care Act, so it refuses to work with the Obama administration in legislating technical fixes that would make the law work more smoothly. Is this in any sense patriotic? Having lost battles over the law in Congress and the Supreme Court, don’t Republicans have an obligation to make it serve their constituents as well as possible?
Both parties used to understand the need to invest in infrastructure for reasons of competitiveness and safety. Both parties used to understand that there could be no serious threat to send the Treasury into default. Both parties used to cheer the kind of good economic news we heard Thursday — 288,000 new jobs in June, unemployment down to 6.1 percent.
But now, one party — the GOP — cares more about ideology, reelection and opposing Obama’s every initiative than about the well-being of the nation. It is scant comfort, on Independence Day, to remember that the republic has survived worse.
One year ago.
The notion that the American Revolution was somehow against “government” and “taxation” in general, and not - as all the Founders said - against oligarchy and rule by monopolists and feudal lords - is among the most hilarious conflations and orwellian propaganda campaigns of our lifetimes.