Is Trump Claytie’s Ghost?
By: Mark Crutcher
President, Life Dynamics
It’s often said that politics makes strange bedfellows. If so, the 2016 political season may have produced the strangest bedfellows in a long time, namely Donald Trump and Christian conservatives. The reality is, there doesn’t seem to be much that would attract either one of them to the other.
The interesting thing is, we may have seen this act before.
The year is 1990 and the race is on to become the next governor of Texas. The Republican primary featured a large crowd of candidates, some with impressive political backgrounds and healthy followings. One had no political background and no following. He was a grinning West Texas buffoon named Clayton Williams.
As the primary began, the media and the state’s political gurus were handicapping the race among the usual suspects and heavy hitters. The obvious favorites were a former U.S. Congressman, a former Secretary of State, a Dallas lawyer with close ties to the Republican Party and a sprinkling of other political insiders. In those rare moments when Williams was mentioned, he was generally dismissed as little more than a comical diversion who would soon be shuffling back to Midland. Early statewide polls seemed to bear this out as he checked in with less than one percent of the vote.
So the political pundits assigned “Claytie” a seat at the back of the bus, oblivious to the fact he had enough money to buy the bus and sit wherever he wanted. And that was the ace up Clayton Williams’ sleeve. Not only did he have somewhere north of a gazillion dollars, he was willing to spend it on his campaign.
As the primary moved along, he began to whistle past his opponents. But despite his successes, he had a problem. Texas Republicans tend to be a conservative bunch who embrace Christian values on social issues – especially abortion – and this guy had no street cred on those issues. This meant that the powerful “Christian Right” was not jumping on the bandwagon and it was obvious he couldn’t win without them.
Williams, however, didn’t consider this to be an insurmountable challenge, knowing that the careful application of enough money can solve most political problems. So a team of high-rolling consultants who specialized in capturing the Christian vote were flown in from out of state. In no time, these hired guns had their boy saying the right things, visiting the right churches, attending the right pro-life / pro-family events, and using all the right code words. And it worked. Pretty soon, the Christian Right was guzzling Claytie’s Kool-Aid by the barrel, and his opponents who had always stood tall on these social issues were getting smaller and smaller in his rearview mirror.
When the dust settled on the Republican primary, Clayton Williams had received more votes than all of his rivals combined. A guy who had never run for political office and who, just a few months earlier, was seen as a laughingstock, had won without a runoff. And exit polls showed that he did so with the support of conservative Christians.
Meanwhile, the Democrats were sticking to their time-honored script. They reached into their cesspool of godless pro-abortion liberals and dredged up Ann Richards.
And with that, the stage was set. It was going to be big ears versus big hair.
Again, the oracles chimed in, this time predicting that Richards would not be able to hold up against the stranglehold Republicans and conservatives had on Texas politics. And again, the polling backed this up with Williams piling up a big lead and Richards sucking air. But Texas politics is like Texas weather. One minute you’re basking in clear blue skies and an hour later you’re dodging boxcars flying out of an F5 tornado.
Before the general election campaign began, Republican leaders knew that, during the primary, Williams and his people had rubbed a lot of fur the wrong way and left behind a trail of bitter feelings. This caused them to worry that the people who had supported the traditional candidates in the primary would not vote for Williams in the general.
As it turned out, that would not be the problem. The real problem was that a different image of Clayton Williams began to emerge once he got into the fight with Ann Richards. Suddenly, stories began to surface about his trips to visit prostitutes in Mexico while he was a student at Texas A&M. On another occasion, Williams compared rape to bad weather saying, “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.” Then after a debate covered on statewide television, he refused to shake hands with Richards. This sort of nonsense went on and on, including one interview in which he bragged about the number of times his company didn’t pay any taxes.
His handlers finally had enough and tried to shut him up, but the damage was done and his poll numbers were dropping like hanged men. Personality traits Republicans had once found so folksy and colorful, were now just uncouth. At this point, Clayton Williams supporters were running away from him like their heads were on fire and, in some corners, he was even being referred to as “Satan Williams.”
What came next was completely predictable.
It’s important to understand that, in America today, the decline in voter turnout has reached the point that the country’s largest and most powerful bloc of voters is people who don’t vote. More than any other single demographic group, they determine who wins and who loses elections.
That’s what happened in this case. By the time the general election rolled around, it had dawned on the Christian Right that they had bet on the wrong horse in the primary. But by then it was too late; in effect, their own gullibility had left them without a candidate. That meant they had three options: stick with Claytie, vote for a morally bankrupt leftist Democrat, or stay home. For many, the least nauseating of the three was staying home.
The result was that Ann Richards became the governor of Texas, thus launching the most embarrassing four years in our state’s otherwise proud history. Of course, it is only fair to point out that once the race came down to Clayton Williams against Ann Richards, the next four years were going to be humiliating for Texas no matter who won.
Now comes the 2016 presidential campaign and it may be that we are seeing this same dog-and-pony show being played out on the national stage. Only time will tell, but there are breathtaking similarities between the Richards-Williams fiasco that Texas was dragged through 26 years ago, and the Clinton-Trump fiasco America has been dragged through for the last year and will have to endure for another six months.
Naturally, the American media is salivating over this matchup. They realize it’s going to be great political theater that’s going to be entertaining to watch and sell a lot of newspapers. But those of us in the pro-life movement need to make sure that we do not lose focus.
We need to be constantly reminding ourselves that, for the unborn, what’s happening in our country today is not a game – it’s life and death.