The Moose mourns the death of a great Texas Democrat.
The Moose's initial memories of the late Lloyd Bentsen were not necessarily positive ones. In 1970, Bentsen defeated his boyhood hero, the great Texas populist Smilin' Ralph Yarborough in the Democratic Senate primary. The Moose took it hard and for years could not forgive Senator Bentsen . However, if Bentsen had not defeated Yarborough, the victor in the general election would have likely been none other than George H.W. Bush, the Republican nominee that year.
With age and experience, the Moose came to recognize that Lloyd Bentsen was the only type of Democrat who could prevail in an increasingly conservative state. And, of course , the Moose moved to the right, as well.
When the Moose came to D.C., he came to admire Senator Bentsen as a genuine statesman with charm and grace. Senator Bentsen was a hawkish, pro-business, social moderate. He was never seriously challenged for election, because he never lost touch with the state even when he served as the national party's Vice Presidential candidate.
One of the most unfortunate political developments of the last thirty years has been the decline of the Southern Democratic Party. That decline has influenced the left-ward shift of the national Democratic party. It is no accident, though, that the last three successful Democratic Presidential candidates hailed from the South.
Unfortunately, today, there are only four Democratic Senators representing that region in the Senate. The good news is that Democrats are making inroads in the Governors' offices south of the Mason-Dixon line. And hopefully Harold Ford will soon represent Tennessee in the upper chamber.
The national party desperately needs the voices of Southern, moderate hawks. The Senate Democratic caucus increasingly is dominated by Northern liberals who create the perception of the left wing party.
And maybe in a few years there will be a revival of Lloyd Bentsen-type donkeys in the Moose's beloved Lone Star State. That would be a great tribute to him.
Rest in peace, Senator Bentsen. --