Dogged Doggetts

Lloyd and Teresa Reveal What's In a Name

The Statesman tells us, every time it covers the District 10 race, that Lloyd and Teresa Doggett "are not related." This must be a running joke down at 300 S. Congress, because in ideological terms, the Democratic incumbent and his Republican challenger hail from different parts of the galaxy. Likewise, other star clusters are represented in the U.S. House race by Libertarian Gary Johnson and Natural Law Party (NLP) candidate Steven Klayman. And ultimately, all four candidates make some sense, unlike some of the yokels who've cluttered up this ballot in past years. If politics were really about ideas and philosophies, this could be a real horse race.

But it's not, and our man Lloyd is widely expected to make it back to the Beltway in a walk. And once again, discerning citizens have to combat cognitive dissonance as they cast their vote for Rep. Doggett, or else hold their noses. On the one hand, Lloyd has been a dedicated, productive, and at many points progressive public servant who has few apologies to make to the people. On the other hand, everything we know that is wrong and sordid about our democratic life -- the power of money, the partisan name-calling, the conversion of common-sense policy issues into tag-team bouts of legislative mudwrestling -- is neatly illustrated in the brief congressional career of Lloyd Doggett. One of the 50 wealthiest members of Congress, with a campaign war chest funded by PAC after PAC, Doggett has spent most of his freshman term as the fresh new face of the cranky opposition, riding the mike on C-SPAN to flail the GOP leaders of the Contract Congress, many of whom hail from his own state and hate him with unobscured vehemence. His vocal push for ethics reform -- which nearly got Sematech funding axed in retaliation -- should show us that Lloyd's heart is in the right place, he says, but not everyone is convinced.

Lloyd's newfound prominence as 1994's "Freshman All-Star" (so sayeth Washingtonian magazine) has nationalized our local contest in a way unknown during the lifelong reign of Lloyd's predecessor Jake Pickle, and judging from his ads you'd think Doggett was running against Newt Gingrich and not a woman who shares his last name. Not everyone here around town is happy about this, and of late Lloyd's gotten it from both sides -- from the Chamber types who compare him to Pickle and find him wanting in the pro-business pork-barreling department, and from the True Left who charge him with riding the pine on welfare reform and gay rights rather than risk being seen as an extremist. But no one is, apparently, so disappointed with Lloyd that they'd rather give the keys to District 10 to a woman with patchy public-policy experience who supports a flat tax, wants to kick all education funding back to the states, and is avowedly pro-life. And plenty of Texas Democrats, having spent the last two years cowering under the GOP's dinner table, are delighted to have one of their number reasserting the national prominence the Lone Star Dems used to hold as a matter of divine right, and have greased his campaign wheels accordingly.

Whether as a strategic move or as a reflection of genuine sentiment, the Democratic campaign is intent on marginalizing Teresa Doggett, playing up her similarities to the Gingrich golem (especially on abortion, which in the wake of Lloyd's third-down punt on the Defense of Marriage Act is about the only social issue upon which the Doggetts disagree) and breezing past her views on the environment, on job training, and even to a degree on gay rights, all of which would likely give Newt boils if she were elected. On top of that, the distaff Doggett has labored under the widespread presumption that she is a plant -- designed to confuse semi-literate voters into choosing the first Doggett they see -- or a token like her predecessor Jo Baylor, whose ethnic and gender status assumed front-and-center position in her 1994 battle with Lloyd. She has further had to cut through the lingering smell of the Clarence Thomas hearings, in which her husband John Doggett famously aired his soiled briefs. (Her husband is the one who bolstered the then-Supreme Court Justice wannabe's contention that Anita Hill was nothing but a hot-to-trot troublemaker.) Teresa has also had to defend a resumé that, while far more sound than Baylor's or any other recent GOP District 10 candidate, simply doesn't compare to that of Lloyd Doggett, who has held one elected office or another since 1975.

"She says she's a banker, but she has no bank," says Lloyd. "She says she's a lawyer, but she's not allowed to practice law in Texas. And she says she's a successful businesswoman, but I don't see any evidence of success. At least Jo Baylor was an assertive and effective campaigner, which I don't think Teresa Doggett has been. Aside from the name confusion -- which I think is the sole reason she's in the race -- what makes her a credible candidate? What has she done?"

To which Teresa Doggett replies that, for all his pedigree, Lloyd has not distinguished himself with his zealous forays into the partisan mosh pit. "He's busy running against Newt Gingrich, but he's just as big a part of the problem," she says. "People are frustrated with all the yelling and screaming; they want some civility, some sanity, some problem-solving based on common goals. That's what I want to do. I'll work with anyone in Congress -- and I'll fuss with anyone who's not doing the right thing, whatever party they're in."

Whether through a surfeit of savvy or an utter lack of guile, Teresa Doggett also spends much of her time running against Newt Gingrich, and so supplies plenty of cognitive dissonance of her own to this disordered race. "I definitely would oppose the Republican leadership on many issues," she declares. "Newt Gingrich doesn't know how to verbalize what he wants; he's too used to his professor role, and it's hurt his chances for long-term impact. And (House Majority Leader) Dick Armey -- I've argued with him over the flat tax; mine is a lot more friendly to the middle class than his plan is. But we've managed to be gracious."

By contrast, Lloyd Doggett feels it's incumbent on him, and expected by his Austin constituents, to not be gracious with the Republican leadership, even if his bacon-gathering potential is hampered as a result. "The days of judging legislators solely on their ability to bring in federal money are over," he says. "Am I hurting Austin in taking such a strong stand? The Sematech problem came about because I fought so hard against the `golf caucus' for the (lobby-reform) gift ban, not from attacks on Newt. And I don't think my constituents would want me backing off on something so fundamental as an ethical government. They want me to stand up to that kind of intimidation."

With both the Doggetts pointing to their different personalities and approaches to leadership as their salient qualities, actual issues have receded into the background, perhaps because, being such a political town, Austin is already familiar with the basically pro-forma platforms of Lloyd and Teresa. He voted for the supposed protection of heterosexual marriages and for welfare reform, but those were also President Bill Clinton's positions, and otherwise Lloyd has done everything a Democratic congressman from a leftie district should. Conversely, while Teresa is hip enough to local currents to know that opposing environmental protection or education funding would get her nowhere, her solutions contain the hallmark skews of the Grand Old Party -- increased involvement from and freedom for the private sector, more power to the states, less to the Feds, tax breaks for business, and government down-sizing.

Voters who think both of these approaches have gotten America stuck in the sump, and whose gorge rises at both Doggetts' self-centered campaigns (both have produced some fairly sickening ads, both print and broadcast), have the independents from which to choose. In past races, that has usually meant some off-the-grid anti-abortionist or late-model UT student body president, or the Libertarian, who this year is Gary Johnson, an active figure in the state party. Like most Libertarian candidates, Johnson's mission is to carry the party standard rather than his own, and while he doesn't project the mad-cab-driver mien of some Libs, he is otherwise pret-a-porter. Thus, your esteem of him is congruent to your sympathy with the Libertarian credo, which most discerning voters have found to be an acquired taste -- as good as unrestricted civil liberties sound on the menu, few are ready to cut the vast bulk of Federal activity from their diets. "Under the Libertarian program, the federal government would handle defense and its courts, and that's about it," Johnson says. "Balancing the budget becomes irrelevant. There would be no spending and no taxes."

How does this translate into service in a Congress where next to none of the Libertarians' hot agenda items are likely to be adopted, and where he would be the only representative of his party? (Ron Paul doesn't count.)

"When Andre Marrou (the Libs' 1992 presidential candidate) was elected to the Alaska statehouse, he was told by members of both major parties they wanted him to be the conscience of the legislature," Johnson notes. "Other members would speak out if he did first. As a member of Congress, I'd be free to take that kind of courageous stand."

The Libs have been around long enough to feel themselves the inevitable successor to one of the major parties when it inevitably collapses, just as today's GOP succeeded the Whigs and before them the Federalists. The Natural Law Party, however, is the new kid on the ballot, this being the first year it has run candidates at the local level. Forty-one candidates will appear on Texas ballots; other states with big NLP contingents include California, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington. An amazing number of NLP candidates are doctors, medical or otherwise, including Steve Klayman, a chiropractor, and issues of health and wellness turn up a lot in their program. "If we embark on a real program to promote wellness in this country, and if we use proven, successful methods for actually rehabilitating prisoners, we could save a lot of money that would go a long way to reducing the budget deficit," Klayman says. Another hot button for the NLP is organic farming and especially the threat posed by genetically engineered and irradiated foods, these being against natural law, of course.

Though the name, with its Cartesian and Jeffersonian overtones, conjures up sober images of the erudite Enlightenment from which the nation sprang, the Natural Law platform -- which you may have seen spelled out in an enormous special advertising insert to USA TODAY, paid for by the well-funded party -- leans fairly heavily to the New Age left, and the relationship between the NLP and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has raised more than a few True Left eyebrows. (Party founder and presidential candidate Dr. John Hagelin teaches at the Maharishi's institute-cum-ashram in Iowa, and the platform calls for a new "peace promotion" military detachment trained in TM-Sidhi techniques, among other Yogisms.) For more on the Natural Law Party see page 24.

But in a year filled with gurus and demagogues and ideologues, the Maharishi seems fairly tame and cuddly, the Billy Graham of the counterculture, and most of the NLP's "50-Point Action Plan to Revitalize America" is totally in synch with the prog-lib Austin scene, as if it could have been written by John Mackey. "Austin is a unique and special town," Klayman says, "and there's more of a consciousness here about the problems we face than in other places."

With all these candidates around, how can we forget?

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