The Guardian’s Amanda Marcotte argues that the election of openly gay mayor Annise Parker shows Texas is not a conservative monolith. But asks why the media can’t accept that?

“Some local news stories go nationwide and cause a national alarm, and some simply go nationwide and then sink underwater unnoticed. But on the very rare occasion, a news story goes nationwide and is received with a double take and a “come again?”.

“That’s what happened when Houston became the biggest city in the US last week to elect an openly gay mayor, Annise Parker. Yes, that would be Houston, Texas – the largest city in a state that’s assumed worldwide to be nothing but a hot bed of gun-toting, Bible-thumping rightwing reactionaries. Obviously, it’s time for the rest of the world to start taking a more complex view, and start thinking of Texas as more than the home of George W Bush.

“Parker’s election inadvertently revealed the dirty little secret that native (and liberal) Texans like myself have known and been trying to publicise for a long time, which is that Texas is far from a conservative monolith. On the contrary; not only do all the major cities in Texas vote consistently for Democrats, but some rural areas on the Texas-Mexican border have been marginal to consistently “blue” for some time now.

“This lines up with the larger national trends in America. Republicans only win elections by controlling white-dominated rural and suburban areas, and almost all other parts of the country lean towards the Democrats. And thus Republican power is being chipped away at slowly through pure demographics, as the nation as a whole grows more racially diverse and more urban. In many ways, Texas is ahead of the trend, since the state has not had a white majority since 2005.

“Despite the cold, hard facts, however, Texas is still seen as the old conservative stereotype. In fact, the mainstream media went to some lengths to downplay the significance of Annise Parker’s election. The initial AP story covering the victory dedicated a lot of ink to the low voter turnout, without noting that this is typical in an off-season run-off election. It failed to mention that both candidates in the run-off – Annise Parker and Gene Locke – are Democrats, or that Locke also brings liberal bona fides to the table as a former civil rights activist. Anyone reading Andrew Malcolm’s account of the election in the LA Times, in which he calls Parker “conservative” and refuses to mention that the actual conservative candidate, the Republican, got knocked out of the running in the first election, would not get a true picture of Houston politics. So wed are many mainstream media writers to the “Texas is a conservative monolith” narrative that Democrats are being turned into Republicans in order to make the story work.”

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Credit: Guardian Open Platform