Texas may well be America's most controversial state. Evangelicals dominate the halls of power, millions of its people live in poverty, and its death row is the busiest in the country. Skeptical outsiders have found much to be offended by in the state's politics and attitude. And yet, according to journalist (and Texan) Erica Grieder, the United States has a great deal to learn from Texas.
In Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right, Grieder traces the political history of a state that was always larger than life. From its rowdy beginnings, Texas has combined a long-standing suspicion of government intrusion with a passion for business. Looking to the present, Greider assesses the unique mix of policies on issues like immigration, debt, taxes, regulation, and energy, which together have sparked a bonafide Texas Miracle of job growth. While acknowledging that it still has plenty of twenty-first-century problems to face, she finds in Texas a model of governance whose power has been drastically underestimated. Her book is a fascinating exploration of America's underrated powerhouse.
Journalist Grieder (a senior editor at Texas Monthly and former Southwest correspondent for The Economist) pens a primer on Texas that is serious and lighthearted in turn. She might as well have referred to the "strange genesis" of Texas in her subtitle, as she runs through historical highlights and lowlights from the state's beginnings to explain its present. Grieder's account includes notably bizarre episodes, including the 1951 election in which both the governor and the state attorney general ran on both Democratic and Republican tickets, with the Democratic incarnations of each pulling easy victories. One of the book's main themes is that by its annexation, "every single weird thing about Texas... was already established." Another is that, despite its reputation, Texas is more than simply a bastion of conservative values, although the vaunted "Texas model" is basically defined by a "commitment to small government" as well as broad support for business. Grieder is never clear on whether this model is applicable or even appropriate for other states, but it works for Texas. Late in the book, she discusses the possibility that Texas might someday flip from being a red state to being a blue state. Anyone curious about or proud of Texas will find something of interest, as will readers of current politics.