Texas Monthly’s Bum Steer Awards – the annual naming and shaming of people and institutions in the Lone Star State – arrived this week. The magazine calls out politicians, a bellicose billionaire and one of the state’s premier universities.
Deputy Editor Ross McCammon says the big ‘winner’ amassed more power this year than ever. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: For the folks who are unfamiliar, just briefly, how would you describe how the Bum Steer Awards work?
Ross McCammon: The Bum Steer Awards is something we’ve been doing since 1975. The Texas Monthly magazine was founded in 1974. So from the very beginning, we’ve been cataloging the worst of our state: the worst ideas, anything that embarrasses us to the rest of the country, and also just holding power to account – but hopefully in a funny way.
Tell us who took home the big prize this year and why you selected them.
Well, it was tough competition. We had Elon Musk heading down to the border in a giant black cowboy hat that was on backwards.
We had Texas A&M in the news for lots of reasons, but the most important one was that they said goodbye to [football coach] Jimbo Fisher for a cool $75 million.
And then there was [Attorney General] Ken Paxton, of course, who survived an impeachment trial. But it was the judge of that impeachment trial who we think is the most powerful man in Texas, most powerful politician in Texas. And that’s Dan Patrick.
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Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. OK, so make the case: Why is he the Bum Steer of the year?
Well, the ironic thing about choosing Dan Patrick is he’s actually had a very good year. And usually that’s not the case. Usually when we highlight a politician, it’s because they’ve done something embarrassing or they belittle themselves.
But Dan Patrick has actually had a great year and grown even more powerful. The reason why we focused on Dan Patrick is he is the most consequential politician there is. And so we always want to make sure we’re highlighting people who have actual real power.
But just, I think, the way that he comported himself during the trial, I mean, he wasn’t even off the dais when he was saying it was effectively a sham and that millions of taxpayer dollars had been wasted.
Dan Patrick – whatever your politics are – has a relatively narrow view of what Texas should be. And we think a lot of that is tied to what the donor class wants Texas to be. And he was focused on the school voucher fight. He’s focused also on in-fighting, you know, sort of a tit for tat or even like outright attacks with his fellow Republicans. It was an ugly, tough year for the Legislature. And that’s within the Republican Party.
I’d like to read a sentence or two from the last paragraph of this write-up y’all did on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in justifying this selection. The committee writes:
‘This place [meaning Texas] is too wild and weird to fit in Patrick’s narrow and exclusionary ideological vision. His failure to see Texas is a pitiable thing.’
And I think there may be some listeners out there who hear that and hear your rationale who think perhaps maybe Patrick sees Texas for exactly what it is and understands it clearly. And that’s demonstrated by how much power he’s been able to accumulate. I wonder what you think about that.
Yeah, and I think that’s a great conversation that we should all be having, is how representative is Dan Patrick – [or] Greg Abbott, anyone in power – how representative are they really when you see the coordination between big, big donors and the kinds of messages you’re hearing right there on the dais? I think you have to ask yourself, who are they really representing?