Excerpt: 'Living History'

In 1972, Austin was still a sleepy town compared to Dallas or Houston. It was, to be sure, the state capital and the home of the University of Texas, but it seemed more typical of the past than of the future of Texas. It would have been hard to predict the explosive growth of high-technology companies that transformed the little city in the Texas hill country into a Sunbelt boom town. The McGovern campaign set up shop in an empty storefront on West Sixth Street. I had a small cubicle that I rarely occupied because I spent most of my time in the field, trying to register the newly enfranchised eighteen- to twenty-one-year-olds and driving around South Texas working to register black and Hispanic voters. Roy Spence, Garry Mauro and Judy Trabulsi, all of whom stayed active in Texas politics and played a part in the 1992 presidential campaign, became the backbone of our young voter outreach efforts. They thought they could register every eighteen-year-old in Texas, which would, in their minds, turn the electoral tide McGovern's way. They also liked to have fun and introduced me to Scholz's Beer Garden, where we would sit outside at the end of eighteen- or twenty-hour days trying to figure out what else we could do in the face of ever-worsening poll numbers.

Hispanics in South Texas were, understandably, wary of a blond girl from Chicago who didn't speak a word of Spanish. I found allies at the universities, among organized labor, and lawyers with the South Texas Rural Legal Aid Association. One of my guides along the border was Franklin Garcia, a battle-hardened union organizer, who took me places I could never have gone alone and vouched for me to Mexican Americans who worried I might be from the immigration service or some other government agency. One night when Bill was in Brownsville meeting with Democratic Party leaders, Franklin and I picked him up and drove over the border to Matamoros, where Franklin promised a meal we'd never forget. We found ourselves in a local dive that had a decent mariachi band and served the best — the only — barbecued cabrito, or goat head, I had ever eaten. Bill fell asleep at the table while I ate as fast as digestion and politeness permitted. Betsey Wright, who had previously been active in the Texas State Democratic Party and had been working for Common Cause, came over to work in the campaign. Betsey grew up in West Texas and graduated from the university in Austin. A superb political organizer, she had been all over the state, and she didn't disguise what we'd pretty much figured out — that the McGovern campaign was doomed. Even Senator McGovern's stellar war record as an Air Force bomber pilot, later commemorated in Stephen Ambrose's book The Wild Blue, which should have given his anti-war position credibility in Texas, was buried under the incoming attacks from Republicans and missteps by his own campaign. When McGovern picked Sargent Shriver to succeed Senator Thomas Eagleton as his Vice presidential nominee, we hoped both Shriver's work under President Kennedy and his Kennedy family connection through Jack and Bobby Kennedy's sister Eunice might revive interest.

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