AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL 2012
By Don Simpson | October 21, 2012
Directors: Jack Lofton, Keith Patterson
Jack Lofton and Keith Patterson’s documentary hearkens back to happier times (at least for liberals), the years before George W. Bush entered the political spotlight. I am talking about those glory days when Texas had one of the most liberal governors in the United States, a female governor to boot. Considering where Texas politics stand today (in the far right corner), it seems utterly unfathomable that Ann Richards was the governor of Texas less than twenty years ago.
Ann Richards’ Texas begins like a Cliff Notes’ version of Richards’ personal history; but once it arrives at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, where Richards delivered the keynote speech for presidential nominee Michael S. Dukakis, Lofton and Patterson’s documentary begins to hunker down into the nitty gritty. Richards’ keynote speech was extremely critical of the Reagan Administration and then-Vice President George H. W. Bush; it not only set the tone for her political career but it also provided her with mortal enemies in Karl Rove and George W. Bush.
The next major event in Richards’s political career is her 1990 race for Texas governor. First, she won a brutal campaign against Jim Mattox and Mark White for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, during which Mattox accused her of having had drug problems beyond alcoholism. Next, Richards faced-off against a Republican multi-millionaire rancher, Clayton Williams. Williams was no less aggressive than Mattox’s primary campaign, but his propensity for making legendary gaffes (including a rape “joke”) eventually got the better of him. Richards won the gubernatorial election by a narrow margin of 49-47 percent.
Lofton and Patterson proceed to discuss a few of Richards’ successes as Texas Governor, but they seem quite anxious to get to her next big battle, her 1994 re-election campaign against George W. Bush. Avoiding the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories about Bush’s election, Lofton and Patterson opt to stick to the known facts. They do however make it abundantly clear that Richards’ loss not only changed the political climate in Texas, but the national scale as well. If Bush had lost against Richards, he would have never have been elected President of the United States six years later; the butterfly effects from that are beyond comprehension. Would the terrorist attacks on 9/11 have ever happened? Would we have ever gone to war in Afghanistan or Iraq? Heck, if the Republican landslide did not occur in 1994, there is a decent chance that Richards would have become the first female president of the United States in 2000.
Ann Richards’ Texas does provide a lot of worthwhile information about the three major events of Richards’ career; it’s only fault is that the rest of her life seems to be deemed not as important. I consider Richards to be one of the few admirable politicians of my lifetime; and, if you ask me, her 1988 Democratic National Convention keynote speech is one of the greatest political speeches of the last few decades. I just wish that Ann Richards’ Texas offered some more information about Richards that I did not already know; that said, this is a really great documentary for anyone who is unfamiliar with Richards’ political career.