Opinion | Could Matthew McConaughey Be All Right, All Right, All Right for Texas?
HOUSTON — When I first heard the rumors that Matthew McConaughey was considering a run for governor of Texas, my reaction was fury. Did he not recall Kinky Friedman, the musician-comedian-novelist-gadfly whose candidacy in 2006 helped blow up the Democratic vote and gave us Rick Perry as governor for 14 years?
Did he not understand that being governor of the second largest state involves a lot more than cogitating, as Mr. McConaughey does in a commercial sitting at the wheel of a Lincoln MKC, how to get around Old Cyrus the bull, who blocks his path on a desolate West Texas highway? You can’t always back up, turn around and “take the long way,” mister.
Just what, I wondered, has Mr. McConaughey been smoking?
Celebrities turned politicians have a very mixed record. See: Davy Crockett, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, Ronald Reagan and, of course, the 45th president. But in a state as dazed and confused as Texas, we don’t need David Wooderson sitting in the statehouse telling us everything is going to be all right, all right, all right.
Or do we? Our previous and current governors, Mr. Perry and his successor, Greg Abbott, have done nothing while claiming just that. Maybe Mr. McConaughey could do better.
It isn’t news to anyone that many Texans abhor government interference. Mr. Perry seems to think that extends to keeping warm when temperatures drop to record lows. After a cataclysmic storm knocked out the state’s power grid in February, he said, “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business” — a sentiment probably not shared by the friends and families of the 111 people (or more) who died of hypothermia and other storm-related causes.
The current legislative session — with Republicans in full control — has been grim. You can’t say they mind government interference when things like women’s reproductive systems or voting rights are involved.
What some Republicans call “election integrity” (and others call voter suppression) has been high on the agenda. Despite protests from once powerful conservatives in the business community, the Legislature is looking at proposals that would put new restrictions on early voting, empower partisan poll watchers and the like. And there are moves to make abortion even more difficult for women to obtain in a state that has already imposed severe limits on the procedure and to restrict the rights of Texas’ transgender children and their parents to make their own medical decisions.
It was amid this bleak news that I started reconsidering my attitude toward a possible Governor Bongo (For the uninformed: Mr. McConaughey was once arrested at his home in Austin, stoned and naked, for an exuberant session of bongo drumming in the wee hours).
Yes, thinking that things couldn’t possibly get worse is never a great way to choose a candidate. But I don’t seem to be alone in thinking that a man who has played a lawyer in the movies might be better for Texas than the lawyers who play at being leaders in the Capitol. An April poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler, revealed that Mr. McConaughey would trounce Mr. Abbott, 45 percent to 33 percent, with 22 percent opting for “someone else” — let’s hope Willie Nelson keeps his hat out of the ring.
Since last November, Mr. McConaughey has been hinting about a run. I didn’t consider his memoir, “Greenlights,” a campaign biography, but it could certainly serve that purpose. Some of his pals who interviewed him on the virtual book tour could even serve in his administration: Brené Brown, a self-help dynamo and research professor at the University of Houston, could bring shame awareness education to just about any regulatory board. The voluble Woody Harrelson could replace any Abbott toady remaining on the Public Utility Commission.
Mr. Abbott has categorically refused to tap the bloated Rainy Day Fund to help Texans who suffered in the storm, while Mr. McConaughey’s “We’re Texas” virtual concert raised over $7 million in a matter of hours for freeze relief. (A headline in Texas Monthly declared that “Matthew McConaughey and Beyoncé Did More for Texas Than Ted Cruz.”) He can also be a lot more inspirational than his predecessors on his YouTube channel and Instagram; when he wears his glasses and slicks back those sable waves, he looks at least as gubernatorial as Mr. Perry.
Mr. McConaughey’s politics are a bit of a mystery, though we can assume that marijuana legalization might get a boost if he were in charge. He’s been fairly vocal about gun control without going nuclear like Beto O’Rourke. But a recent review of Mr. McConaughey’s voting record by The Texas Tribune revealed he’s been a no-show for primary races since 2012.
Of the tactics on both sides of the politician spectrum he has said that “it curdles my stomach, man — I have not appreciated it.” Would Mr. McConaughey run as a Democrat or a Republican? That’s as much a mystery as the meaning of his soliloquy at the end of “True Detective.”
Texas may not be ready for a philosopher king as a candidate, much less governor, but it sure would be fun to watch Mr. McConaughey debate Mr. Abbott and ambush him with a sensible line like this one from “Greenlights”: “I’ve found that a good plan is to first recognize the problem, then stabilize the situation, organize the response, then respond.”
Or this one, delivered with Mr. McConaughey’s interstellar spelling: “Knowin the truth, seein the truth and tellin the truth are all different experiences.”
May the best man win, man.
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