Who Really Controls Rick Perry and David Dewhurst?

Less than a day after pro-choice activists and Democratic state senators defeated a massive anti-choice bill designed to shut down all but five abortion clinics in the whole state of Texas, Republican Gov. Rick Perry announced he would force a second special session of the legislature to force the bill through. He then went on to rub salt in the wound, making mockery of and condescending to state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth), who conducted an 11-hour filibuster to keep the bill from a vote, a move that ultimately succeeded despite efforts by the GOP to rig the vote. Just in case you were unsure of Rick Perry’s apparent belief that the main purpose of government is control and surveillance of female sexuality, Perry went on to turn the creepy up to ten, saying, “The louder they scream, the more we know that we are getting something done.”

It’s hard to understand his belligerent, misogynistic behavior in service of a bill that only serves to hurt women’s health while creating a black market for abortion. After all, despite Texas’s conservative reputation, 80 percent of the voters in the state oppose calling special sessions to restrict abortion rights. Perry is doing this song and dance for only one out of five voters, the hardcore religious right, pretty much the only people who approve of this move by Texas Republicans to exploit a legislative loophole set up to deal with emergencies to cram through anti-choice bills that won’t pass regular legislative sessions. How has it gotten to the point where only 20 percent of the voters basically control the politics of a huge state like Texas, putting their vile obsession with punishing other people for sex above more pressing issues like jobs, infrastructure, and the economy? To understand how it happened in Texas is to understand why it is that anti-choice forces in general have so much power in a country where the majority of people are pro-choice and have been for decades.

In sum, the religious right is smart about exploiting the primary system, and your average Republican voter doesn’t know or care enough about how radical their politicians are to stop voting for them. Anti-choicers and hardline conservatives generally are way more likely to vote in primaries than your average voters, which means they consistently pick the most conservative candidate, even if the more moderate one has more experience or a better grasp on reality. The two most prominent voices on the anti-choice side during this abortion battle—Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst—both have learned in the course of their careers that you either pay fealty to the religious right because of this, or you will not be able to move forward in your political career.

Both Perry and Dewhurst have firsthand experience of how important it is for the hard right to like you if you want to run for major office as a Republican these days. Dewhurst learned the hard way, during a 2012 primary runoff against newcomer Ted Cruz for the Republican nomination to the Senate. Even though he’s been a pretty stalwart conservative for his entire career, the largely incorrect perception that he was an old school Republican who is more interested in business than the messy culture wars hurt him in the polls. As the New York Times reported, “Mr. Cruz relentlessly portrayed his opponent as a creature of the establishment who is too quick to compromise,” and primary voters, eager to prove their own culture war bona fides, rewarded Cruz for this posturing by giving him 57 percent of the vote.

Dewhurst learned the lesson: It’s not enough to, say, be anti-choice. You have to act like your very life depends on blocking as many women as possible from safe, legal abortion or the religious right will start to wonder if you’re just a pretender. In that light, Dewhurst’s behavior after the filibuster succeeded makes perfect sense. Most politicians would accept the defeat, read the polls showing most Texans support your opposition on this one, and go home. But Dewhurst likely doesn’t want another Tea Party insurgent running ads implying that he gave up easily, much less that he was beat by a woman. So it’s no surprise that he petulantly issued the threat for the second session as soon as he announced that the Texas senate missed the voting deadline and has run around posturing on this as much as possible for the media.

Perry learned that same lesson in his primary to keep his governor’s seat in 2010. His opponent, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, had a pretty solid anti-choice voting record during her many years in the Senate, but in the Texas primary to be the Republican nominee for governor, that wasn’t enough. After all, Hutchinson is pretty openly pro-contraception, which used to be a non-issue on the right, but recently the religious right has been upping the ante with demands that their politicians do everything in their power to cut off contraception. Perry, on the other hand, has declared a no-holds-barred war on access to contraception for low-income women, refusing federal money that pays for contraception with a bunch of irrelevant jaw-flapping about abortion, even though contraception prevents abortion. Perry got 51 percent of the primary vote, and would have gotten more, except that an even more conservative (apparently, this is possible) random Tea Party activists named Debra Medina chipped off some of his votes.

Hutchinson later defended Planned Parenthood against Perry’s various attempts to cut off funding to the organization, with the full knowledge of how many low-income Texas women use it for their birth control. “I do think that the governor needs to sit down with the federal government and work it out so that we can have our share, our fair share, not more, of money for Medicaid to help low-income women have their healthcare services,” she said. Half of self-identified Republicans agree with her, but those just aren’t the Republicans who bother to vote in primaries, meaning the more-misogynist-than-thou crowd has nearly complete control over the nominating process.

If you want to understand why Perry and Dewhurst want to ignore the wishes of four out of five voters, exploit the special session to pass non-emergency anti-choice legislation, and spend untold millions defending an obviously unconstitutional law in courts, this is why. The religious right controls the primary system. Perry and Dewhurst know who they answer to, and it’s not the 80 percent of voters who oppose this special session.

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  • Anon rust

    Moving the state of Virginia out of the religious zealots grasp this November.

    • Jennifer Starr

      Really hoping that we can do that this November–let’s make sure Cuccinelli doesn’t win.

  • montag2

    Oh, I think the answer is simple: Harold Simmons.

    The god-bothering is just to attract the low-information voters. Can’t sell off the state to one’s cronies unless you stay in office, and that’s what the religious right is for.

  • marse59

    The only thing these red necks value are their guns, Their agenda is to turn women into baby makers. Sending women back to kitchen to wait on their abusive husbands.

    • Rdzkz

      That is true but it is a bad plan because they would not want to Biblicaly ‘lay’ with women who were deformed by having had 13 children and lost a tooth for every child! It would also greatly reduce the money they could spend on their guns. Add to that no dental care or health care and the picture is really pretty.

      • RockheadedMama

        who says they plan on sticking around to take care of their brats? That’s what the wimmen is for…they’ll just go off to the next woman, and, let what is the hugely unreported story — these republicans BLOCK women collecting their child support. I know from personal experience. They cheat there in the courtroom because no one is watching and no one cares. They can get away with it much much much easier. So. Yeah.

      • colleen2

        Oh, come on. These are American conservative males. They think rape is a property crime and they don’t do monogamy. By the time her teeth start falling out they can marry a 19 year old. Saves on the long term care bills too. These guys don’t ever hold men responsible for anything.

  • Rachel

    I wish the media made a bigger deal out of Perry’s comment “The louder they scream…”. It is so disturbing in so many ways.

    • RockheadedMama

      Sounds like something a sociopathic killer would say…

      • Aloanstar

        A sociopathic killer DID say it…Perry loves to brag about his execution rate, even ignoring evidence by teams of experts who disagree the verdict. He wants those babies to be born so he will have more people to execute when they grow up.

  • theprinterlady

    The scary part is… if you look at the Catholic Churches stepping up of the purchase of medical facilities, and the Alec-like look of a lot of these laws… it’s hard not to think that the Church is not behind a lot of this. If we let the Catholic Church get control of our medical facilities, they won’t even need the law to change to implement what they want.

  • OGalaxy

    I think the biggest problem right now is that the average American doesn’t know all this is going on. Every single person I talk to is unaware of the anti-choice policies that are being enacted around the country. These are people who watch the news but don’t closely follow politics.

    Mainstream media does not report on the War on Women and when they do, they skim over the details. Even after I tell the pro-choicers about what’s happening–all the bills that have been passed throughout the South and Midwest–they still don’t seem to believe that Roe could ever be overturned or that reproductive rights are being threatened. I hear things like “it’ll never happen,” “the abortion issue was settled decades ago,” and (worst of all), “I’ve been hearing this abortion debate my whole life; the country’s split and it always will be.” Some literally don’t believe it is happening. This includes pro-choice Republicans, who are oblivious to the direction their party is taking and still vote conservative because they want a smaller government and lower taxes.

    Right now, what is needed more than anything is a nation-wide campaign to better inform average Americans about the extreme policies they’ve been passing and trying to pass. Voters need to know the Republicans are no longer the party of small government. There needs to be more pressure on the media and greater outreach to ordinary people.

    • nettwench14

      That is complacency and willful ignorance you’re talking about there, and I think you are absolutely right! I don’t even understand why the media won’t touch it, because this issue does not affect corporate profits. So what the hell is going on? Why don’t women believe you when you tell them? Is it because they live in blue states? Even northern blue states are starting to see these laws passed, like Wisconsin and Ohio. Wake up, people!! Meanwhile you have CONSTANT propaganda like “I don’t want to pay your birth control” courtesy of Rush Limbaugh, and they all start saying it!! I watched this happen on Huffington Post. Suddenly all of these posters started showing up saying “close your legs” and “don’t have sex!” Propaganda works, and works well, especially if it is not countered. I could not believe how stupid and gullible people were.

  • RockheadedMama

    So, progressives need to vote in the republican primaries?

    • Erika Frensley

      Actually, in Texas a Democrat can vote in the Republican primaries, but then cannot vote in the Democratic primaries. Considering the state of the Democrat primaries, I’m thinking about voting in the next GOP primary to try to get the sane ones on the ticket.

  • secrippen

    Sadly, so many of the people these laws effect don’t see the point of voting. They are of the mindset that ‘my vote doesn’t matter. What good will my vote do?’
    If only there were a surefire way to make these potential voters see that as a whole they have infinite power at the polls!!!

    • liberaldem

      I know otherwise thoughtful, intelligent people who do not vote because they’ve decided that their vote doesn’t matter. While we may have an imperfect and flawed political system, whenever someone decides to opt out of voting, then they make it that much easier for craven men such as Perry and Dewhurst to be elected, and enact policies that hurt people.

  • Ronald Maxson

    Since your article contends that Republican primaries can only be won by politicians whose policies are opposed by the vast majority of Texas voters, my question then is: What about the general elections? If 80% of Texas voters oppose the policies of those who win the Republican primaries, why aren’t Democrats winning in the general elections? Not being an expert re Texas voting patterns, I must be missing something here.

    • CriticalDragon1177

      Good Question. I think that in general Republicans try to move to the center after the primaries ( at least the smart ones ). But you’d still think it would make it very difficult for them to win in the general election.

      • Ronald Maxson

        So, then, why isn’t it very difficult? Do voters in Texas hate Democrats so much that they will vote for a Republican whose policies they disagree with?

        • CriticalDragon1177

          Maybe its because they don’t entirely disagree with the Republican candidates, and they happen to disagree with much of what the Democratic candidate says he wants to do. Than again, a lot of it maybe they believe a lot of the right wing propaganda about the other guys. If you can scare people enough about your opponent they may vote for you, just keep the worst guy out of office. It probably wouldn’t work, except there really aren’t any viable third parties in the US at the moment, so many people may just vote for the party that they for one reason or another see as the lesser of two evils.

          • Marty

            LOL. Good points all. As a Texan, I can tell you that the hard right (religious fanatics) here would vote for Satin himself if they thought their party wanted them to. In fact, I fully believe they have already. They do not pay attention to issues or what these idiots do after they are elected, they only know and believe what they are told during the campaigns OR what their neighbors told them. Somehow, actually paying attention to what is going on takes away form their time at the local bars or hunting trips. They would rather produce babies than support them. The women are supposed to raise and often support these offspring. Alone! The Courts are NO HELP! They will make a ruling regarding child support yet not enforce said ruling unless the woman has enough money to hire an attorney, find the deadbeat then go to court again….and again….and again. Perry is now and has always been out to turn this State into a radical, far right leaning State contolled by stupid laws that strip rights from the women of the State and he is succeeding.

        • Erika Frensley

          Many Texas voters regard their political party as a tradition. I’ve heard many moderate GOP friends say they can’t stand the current crop of GOP, but they vote for them anyway because their parents did, and their grandparents did, etc, and those same parents and grandparents hated Democrats, so they will too. Multigenerational pseudo-religious voting, you could call it. Since the Democrats have tended to run weaker candidates (and many offices don’t even bother running for), there’s not always a lot to vote for.

          • Ronald Maxson

            Immeasurably sad. This probably applies to the southern states and other red states as well. Hardly needs to be said that this is very bad for the nation.

  • Kristen Keith

    Great article Amanda. Sen Davis filibustered for over 12 hours though (almost 13). Starting just after 11am – 12am. Keep up the great work though, it is appreciated!!

    • Pixel

      Actually, no, she didn’t. She was cut off early because Dewhurst decided that her bringing up current abortion laws and policies wasn’t germane. So, only 11 hours.

      • deke4

        Isn’t it strange that ultrasound procedures for pregnant women are not germane to pregnancy?

  • Jane_NoDough

    Maybe we are missing something—how about giving us some background on EACH of the Koch Brothers——-their family life, their marriages and that family, if dear od daddy bought off people and how daddy ‘really’ got his money……now that would be some interesting reading!

  • deke4

    I know there has to be more middle of the road Texans smarter than those that
    elected such gross stupidities as the Governor and his ilk.

    • Erika Frensley

      When the primaries have produced such beauties as Dewhurst and Cruz, and the Texas republican voters mindlessly pull the lever for the GOP because that’s what they’ve always voted for, we get the stupidities like Perry et all. We have to get more Texans voting, and shift the moderates away from mindless GOP voting.

      • deke4

        Perry is a nonentity. There are I suspect, few women in Texas that will support Republican programs that heavily favor the rich. A case in point. Abortion banning only hurts the poor. Those with well-to-do parents, husbands, paramours who become pregnant are flown to Switzerlans, Denmark Japan or wherever to take care of their problem. He has alienated not only the female vote but the vote of immigrants and people of color. I suspect Texas will not be a Republican State much longer.

  • JackLinks

    “Who really controls Rick Perry and David Dewhurst?”
    The gay lobby’s!

    • goatini


  • Cindy

    Can’t afford to have a baby? Can’t afford contraception? The answer is simple- dont have sex. We shouldn’t have to provide free contraception…and abortions shouldn’t be an option. It’s called personal responsibility……the choice is made when you willingly have sex

    • nettwench14

      So married people shouldn’t have sex? Are you anti-abortion? Free contraception prevents abortion. And the people of Texas aren’t paying for it anyway. All the money they get is from taxpayers in blue states. Penny wise and pound foolish. What do you think the medical bills are like? I just read that it costs $30,000 to have a hospital delivery, and $50,000 for a c-section. Sounds to me like personal responsibility would not be having a baby you can’t afford, and the more you help them not have those babies all of those outrageous medical costs will not end up at the doorstep of the taxpayers because the mother cannot afford those medical bills. That’s the choice you have. Let the GOVERNMENT allocate resources to pay for contraception, or you will foot the bill for the medical costs.And the costs of sending that child to public schools and paying when their mother has to take their sick kid to the emergency room because she can’t afford a doctor.Being short-sighted doesn’t change that. People are not going to stop having sex – get a grip!

      • Cindy

        You’re right. People will continue to be irresponsible because that’s te American way. Instead of making smart choices ( like paying for their own contraception) they will continue to suck every penny out of te government and hard working people who pay their own way. It’s sad that the only argument to this is that I can expect people to make responsible choices in their life. Yes, married couples can abstain from sex, if for some reason my husband and I could not afford birth control and our only option would be abortion of I got pregnant you bet we would decide not to have sex until we could either 1) afford our own contraception or 2) afford the financial responsibility of a child. All it takes is adults making adult decisions, but you’re right, that’s askin too much

        • nettwench14

          People without health insurance have a difficult time paying for contraception. What if they can’t take the pill and need an iud? These things involve doctor visits and follow up. What you are saying is that people who are poor cannot have sex if they can’t afford it, even if they are married. You completely ignored what I said about the costs. It is either or. You can’t control other people’s behavior – that will never happen. You are whining about hard-working taxpayers footing the bill for stuff, and I just told you it will be a lot higher if we don’t make things accessible and affordable for people. You can live in your Ayn Rand dream world where everyone has the resources to take care of themselves, or face up to the facts that you are either paying for contraception, or more extremely expensive social services.That is the way it is. Not the way I say it is, but the way it is.

          Republicans used to understand this. They used to provide help for contraception without JUDGEMENT, but many Republicans today have stopped being rational about many things. Government is supposed to make society better for ALL people. It is an investment. If you want a dog-eat-dog world, that’s what you will get, and frankly I tell you you will not like it very much. More children growing up in poverty, unwanted or unhappy, means we spend more on social services because they are not gong to be productive citizens, when their parents are overwhelmed and these kids have no guidance. Jail is also a lot more expensive than contraception. We have to deal with the way the world IS, not the way we want it to be. Husbands used to turn to prostitutes when they wanted sex but their wife did not want more children, before contraception was available.That is the way humans behave, and I think we want better than that.

          And when people turn out to be criminals, you have no choice to remove them from society. The taxpayers will pay for the jails, and the fuller those jails are, the more you will pay. There is no alternative to that. There is no deciding oh, lets save money and not pay for jails. No one will tolerate a lawless society.

          TV pundits are constantly filling people up with wishful information these days, pat slogans that sound good but are not solutions to the problem. It might sound good “taxpayers don’t want to pay for sex” but these issues have already been figured out by people a long time ago. In the 60’s and 70’s were when these policies were first developed, and nobody had a problem with them until the Christian Right started their war on sex. It’s the same wishful thinking as abstinence education – which has been proven to get MORE teenagers pregnant than just regular sex education. You have to look at the actual RESULTS of these policies. You’re not, you are just parroting what you hear on television and blogs.

          • Cindy

            I’m not blind to the way the world is, but instead of just saying, ‘oh well, let’s just pay for everyone to do whatever they want’- i still hope parents will educate children on the concept of personal responsibility- and not expecting everyone else to take care of you. That’s how i was raised- you work your life to pay for everything you need, and if you don’t have the money for something you don’t get it. Your whole argument is people can’t be expected to make the right, responsible choices In their own lives so its up to everyone else to pay for their bad choices. Accept that if you want- embrace that people aren’t capable of running their own lives- and continue to defend the country lowering our standards to meet the lowest common denominator – I choose to push for something better

          • nettwench14

            Cindy, I was raised the same way. I was raised to have personal responsibility and to take care of myself, just the way you were. I am not advocating encouraging people to not make responsible choices. I am advocating HELPING them to make responsible choices. Not all children are raised by encouraging and loving parents who teach them good values. But you are saying it is ok to turn your back on these people and not to teach them any better, but just to shout moral platitudes at them. Some people never learned better. Do you think it helps our whole society to ignore it?

            And making services available to people who legitimately have no access to them is not “paying for other people’s bad choices.” Many people work very hard in this society but are still in poverty. Did you know that people who work full-time at Wal-Mart have to go to the government for food stamps to get enough to eat? And Wal-Mart encourages that, so they can have the government and the taxpayers foot the bill, instead of paying decent wages. And the owners of Wal-Mart are each personally worth BILLIONS of dollars. Oh, and they don’t get health insurance either. These people are not deadbeats, they are working. You can say, well they should just get a better job, but you and I both know that is not so easy in today’s economy. Many many good paying jobs have gone overseas, while the businesses pay no taxes, and expect you and me, middle class taxpayers, to foot the bill for the deficit and everything else in this country. That is why you are angry and feel like you are being squeezed, rightfully so. But you think the poor in this country are the ones squeezing you, and it is actually the businesses who are paying no taxes yet at the same time getting government subsidies and tax breaks.

            Helping the working poor in this country not fall completely through the cracks is really for our own benefit. Helping them when they are TRYING to be responsible, like wanting to have access to contraception, instead of just making it unavailable, will help them not have babies they cannot afford to take care of. Before contraception was available, that is what happened to families. They had 12 or 13 kids and became mired in worse poverty than they already were.. This has been true since the beginning of time.

            Not everyone has a good start in life. Bad things happen to good people every day in this country, like losing their job and their health insurance. Or families that have two incomes lose one, and can’t make it. Most people use government help for these things temporarily, when they are young and just starting out with no health insurance, or lose their jobs. I am standing up for those people. Not the lowest common-denominator. Throwing everyone in that basket is not fair and hurts our country. We should try to help people who WANT to help themselves, not kick them when they are down. I believe that you and I both want to push for something better, and I truly respect that.

          • Valde

            Cindy is saying that only the rich should be allowed to have sex.

  • ★ StaceinTexas ★™

    I don’t think anyone could be condescending enough to meet the ridiculousness of Wendy Davis.

    Besides Perry gave her a compliment, but she has to fake outrage. #Democraticdrama.


  • nettwench14

    This is an eye opener. The same thing also happens in Republican presidential primaries, so they end up with candidates like Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann.

  • gmac

    You guys are so ignorant. That statement was taken out of context as always he talking about the unruly mob screaming. Wow, you guys are bright. Take a bath and get off the dope idiots!