the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards|
By Jan Reid
The Economist reviews Let the People In:
“FEW people watching the Democratic convention in 1988 would forget the sight: a silver-haired grandmother named Ann Richards delivering rousing oratory with a Texas twang. An attack on George Bush senior, then running for president, brought the house down. “Poor George,” Richards intoned. “He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”
Thus did Richards, then merely the state treasurer of Texas, burst into national politics. Two years later, she became the state’s first female governor in over 50 years. Higher office seemed within reach.
And yet, nearly a quarter-century after the Democrats’ convention, Richards’s influence seems all but extinguished. In 1994, after just four years as governor, she lost her re-election bid to George Bush junior. The liberal causes she fought for, including better conditions for prisoners and a ban on concealed handguns in Texas, now languish in a state thoroughly dominated by the Republican Party. No Democrat has been elected to statewide office since the year she fell to Mr Bush.
Richards’s rise was extraordinary, and her story is sympathetically, if sometimes flatly told by Jan Reid, a one-time adviser to the governor. Born in small-town Texas in the teeth of the Great Depression, Richards married young and bore four children. But she chafed at convention and eventually got involved in small-time campaign and policy work in Texas. Once running for office herself, she climbed swiftly from local to state posts. Along the way, she suffered alcoholism and a divorce.
Richards is a vibrant character, who bubbled with wit. “It’s about time we put somebody in the governor’s mansion that knows how to clean it,” she told a reporter who inquired about the governorship. In an earlier government job, she made occasional use of a rubber stamp that simply read: “Bullshit”. She once hosted a party dressed as a tampon, complete with fake blood and a string. Abe Rosenthal, a New York Times editor who was there, never forgot the sight.”