I wish Ann were here

Over the past year, as Hillary
Clinton
has emerged as the first serious female contender for President
of the United States, a lot of us in Texas have said the same thing:

"I wish Ann were here."

Ann Richards would be
riding high right about now. Because whatever happens in the next few
days and weeks, this is a historic time for women. And Ann had a lot to do with getting us here.

Most everybody in Texas has
an Ann Richards story. I got to be a part of her gubernatorial inauguration,
when she led a parade down Congress Avenue to the capitol building —
her way of showing the Bubbas that a new sheriff was in town. For those
of us who were young adults when she was elected governor, she was a
symbol of hope in a state where good ol’ boys had always been in charge.
Since she carried the women’s vote by 60 percent, seems that a lot of those
good ol’ boys’ wives voted for Ann.

Ann had already made an impression
on the rest of the country. At the 1988 Democratic National Convention,
her opening remarks included a sound bite that is Ann at her best.

"Twelve years ago Barbara
Jordan
, another Texas woman, Barbara made the keynote address to
this convention, and two women in a hundred and sixty years is about
par for the course.

But if you give us a chance,
we can perform. After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that
Fred Astaire
did. She just did it backwards and in high heels."

The whole speech is a gem. Take a listen when you have a few minutes. Get ready
to be inspired — and irritated that so much of what the Republicans
were doing 20 years ago, they’re still doing today. Same song, second
Bush.

A few days ago, AfterEllen.com
blogger Ace told me she always wanted Ann to be president, with Molly
Ivins
as White House spokesperson. What an administration! We’d
actually look forward to the State of the Union address.

Molly herself said that if Ann had been 10 years younger,
she could’ve been president. Instead, she spent her career using her
fabulous wit and down-to-earth manner to combat sexism and racism. And
at every juncture, she’d step back, smile, and say, "Idn’t it wonderful?"

This week, the Hillary campaign
in Texas put together a video with highlights from Ann Richards’ career.
It has sparked controversy, since it assumes Ann would’ve campaigned
for her friend Hillary. Ann’s youngest daughter, Ellen, thinks that
indeed she would. In a statement, she said, "I believe that if
my mom were alive today that she would be stumping across Texas and
around the country supporting Hillary for president."

Ann’s boys, Dan and Clark,
aren’t so sure. "As her children, we never presumed to know her
mind when she was alive and we are not prepared to make a claim as to
who she would endorse or what she would do if she were still with us."
Fair enough. Predictable, Ann was not.

The blogosphere is ablaze with
opinions on both sides. Hillary supporters, especially women, think
the video is a grand tribute to Ann and to the progress of women. Obama
supporters are outraged that Hillary claims endorsement from a dead
person (apparently forgetting that Barack never shies from invoking
the spirit of JFK).

Whatever your opinion, set
it aside for a few minutes and enjoy the greatness of Ann Richards.



Would Ann have supported Hillary?
We can’t know. My suspicion is that if Ann were alive, Hillary would
be a much different candidate, thanks to a straight-shooting friend
who got in her face when she veered off-course. And Ann wouldn’t have
hesitated for a minute to call out the media for its sexism.

One thing’s for sure. Ann would
have been tickled to death that the choice for the Democratic nomination
is between a woman and an African American. I can almost hear her, watching
the debates, taking it all in and saying, "Idn’t it wonderful?"

And you know, it really is.

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