President Obama‘s visit to Texas today is making big headlines, considering that the political and ideological divides could not be more stark between the Lone Star’s leading “red state” status and a President who is widely considered to be well left of center. In an administration that has emphasized big government through its political actions — accented by the government takeover of General Motors, a steady increase in federal spending, and the passage and signing of Obamacare — it comes as a surprise that Obama would travel to Texas to tout the state’s unbridled job growth, innovation, and education, all of which has been fueled in large part by Republican Governor Rick Perry‘s decidedly conservative approach to governance.
Yet, that is exactly what the President’s narrative will be as he traverses Austin.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney sought to characterize the President’s trip to Austin as an endorsement of the kind of success that he envisions for the future of America:
Well, why not Texas? Austin is a hub of innovation and technology. It’s also a hub of education. And the President, as you know, will have a series of events tomorrow that reflect these three areas that he’s talked about since the State of the Union — the need to make sure that we have these kinds of jobs of the future here in the United States, the need to ensure that our workers have the skills they need to fill those jobs, and the necessity that those jobs pay well enough to sustain a middle-class life. And Austin is a great place to go for that.
There’s no doubt that Austin is everything that Mr. Carney says it is. Here on BioNews Texas, we regularly cover a wide range of stories coming out of Austin about innovative biotech startups, trailblazing industry leaders, and a wealth of critical research and testing coming out of the academic institutions, such as the University of Texas at Austin. In some ways, having the President tout the state — and more specifically the city of Austin — is a major endorsement and confirmation that Texas is doing something right when it comes to attracting business, creating jobs, and fostering growth through smaller government, fewer regulations, tax breaks for companies, and incentives for business relocation into the state, all of which has led to more jobs and a low cost of living. It can be argued, after all, that the Texan economy has done the heavy lifting in keeping the U.S. economy from completely folding over the past five years. From a political perspective, it would make sense for the President to seek to get his fingerprints all over the success of Texas.
However, it may be a bit of a tough sell for a President who has governed at the national level in such a way that refutes the initiatives that Governor Perry and the GOP-dominant Texas legislature has championed over the past years.
Much like President’s recent trip to Mexico, where his gushing vision of contemporary Mexico fell flat for many Mexicans who toil amidst poverty, lawlessness, and joblessness, Obama runs the risk of once again appearing out of phase with his own message, touting the success of a state that has achieved prosperity through a governmental model that he himself would never implement at the national level.
Also at issue is the sense that Obama’s trip to Austin may be more politically subversive than meets the eye. According to the Dallas Morning News:
Some words you’re likely to hear tomorrow in Texas: middle class, economic opportunity, education, jobs.
Some words you won’t hear: Battleground Texas, an effort by several Obama campaign veterans to relocate in the state and begin a project aimed at turning reliably Republican Texas blue. Said Carney: “People sometimes in Washington see everything through an electoral lens are true, but I can guarantee you that is not what this is about.”
Coincidences rarely occur in politics, and one cannot ignore the fact that Obama’s trip to Texas comes just on the heels of Governor Perry’s high-profile biotech prospecting mission to the President’s once-home state of Illinois, as well as the Texas Governor’s trip to the Silicon Valley, both of which were considered to be successful in further advancing the migration of technology companies from struggling blue states into Texas. Wielding the bully pulpit, the President may seek to utilize his trip to Texas as a political gambit of sorts.
Regardless, a visit from the President — no matter what the motivations or consequences turn out to be — is yet one more solid piece of evidence that Texas continues to lead the nation, and that the biotech ndustry is playing a major part in the state’s economic development.