Political primaries define candidates in the most extreme ways, and that usually isn’t good for governing.
But general elections, when they are competitive, can be moderating influences on governing. Yes, the races get ugly, but much of the mudslinging is about painting the other guy as a radical and presenting oneself as the sensible alternative.
And that’s what we expect to emerge in the race pitting Gov. Greg Abbott against Beto O’Rourke.
Make no mistake, Abbott and O’Rourke are ideological opposites, and Texans will have a clear choice come November. Both bases will be energized. But the fight very likely will be for the state’s moderate suburban middle.
Cue the predictable political plots: Within hours of O’Rourke’s entry into the race, he and Abbott were trading barbs describing the other as an extremist and out of touch with Texas.
It won’t be long before we are drowning in such attacks. But the competitiveness of this election, and the need to attract suburban voters, will force both men to be careful of what they promise and what they say to appease their bases.
O’Rourke knows a majority of Texans won’t accept deeply progressive pledges. And Abbott knows he will have to answer for his hard shift right over the last legislative sessions.
We won’t pretend politicians stick by their campaign statements — we won’t even call them promises. But we do expect this election to give Texans a place to start to hold the winner accountable for putting party over people and creeping ever further to the extremes.
We believe that most Texans want to live in the middle, away from endless political war and the ever more poisonous fringes.
If this race turns out the way it is shaping up, it might give us a chance to get there.
And if that’s the result, Texans will be the real winner.