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Have You No Dignity, Mr. Abbott?

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Every man is like the company he is wont to keep.

— Euripides, Phoenix

Because of his appearances with Ted Nugent during the Texas spring primaries in the race for governor, people will, for good reason, assume that this is nothing more than another example of Greg Abbott’s never ending association with people who are red neck sexists and complete and utter boors.  Of course it might have been that they thought the Abbott supporter was a connoisseur of great art.  They were wrong.  She is not.

Ted Nugent is a faded Rock Star of the more unsavory variety.  He is an unabashed fan of any device that can dispense bullets and, as Mr. Abbott has repeatedly pointed out when on the campaign trail with Mr. Nugent, a devoted fan of the Second Amendment.  There was also a time many years ago when Mr. Nugent was a devoted fan of under-age girls.  As he explained in an interview:   “I was addicted to girls.  It was hopeless. It was beautiful.” That was, of course, 30 years ago, and he has outgrown that particular addiction and was never prosecuted for it.  His views on contemporary matters, however, remain on the lunatic fringe which keeps him in the limelight when he accepts the embraces of candidates seeking public office in place of embraces from under age-girls.

During the 2012 presidential election Mr. Nugent was an enthusiastic supporter of Mitt Romney.  While supporting Mr. Romney, Mr. Nugent said:  “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year . . . .”   He went on to refer to the Obama administration as “this vile, evil America hated administration.” His views have not changed.

In a January 2014 interview with Guns.com he reflected on the fact that Mr. Romney was not elected president:  “I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist nurtured subhuman mongrel like the Acorn community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America.”  Some candidates might try to put distance between themselves and the mouths from which that sort of language comes.  Mr. Abbott is not one of them.  When Mr. Abbott was confronted by reporters about his association with Mr. Nugent, Mr. Abbott said:  “I don’t know what he may have said or done in his background.  What I do know is Ted Nugent stands for the Constitution.  He stands against the federal government over-reaching.”  That is a terrific explanation for why it was helpful to have Mr. Nugent by his side at campaign rallies during the primary season.

Mr. Nugent’s talk may cause some people to attribute the latest Abbott flap to a kind of sexism and extremism to which associating with Ted Nugent gives rise. Others might conclude that it was nothing more than an artistic endeavor.  What I refer to is what happened in California when Wendy Davis, Greg Abbott’s Democratic  opponent in the race for governor of Texas, went on a fund raising trip to Los Angeles.

Upon her arrival Ms. Davis was confronted with posters that superimpose  her face on a Barbie Doll’s body that has a plastic baby coming out of its stomach. The San Antonio Express-News said that Texas resident, Kathryn Stuard,  is the Abbott supporter who commissioned the poster.  Ms. Stuard was quoted as saying of the poster that “It hits people with the truth.  The artist is very edgy.” That language suggests that Ms. Stuard is a great supporter of the arts who knows “edgy” when she sees it.  That is not the only thing that would lead an observer to that conclusion.

A few days after news of the California poster came out,  it was reported in the New York Times that Aby Rosen, a New York real estate mogul and art collector has placed a 33-foot painted bronze sculpture on his lawn in Old Westbury, New York.  It is a statue called “The Naked Virgin Mary.” It was created by the well-known sculptor, Damien Hirst.  It portrays a very pregnant walking woman whose skin has been stripped way from the right side of her body exposing her unborn fetus.

Those are the amazing similarities between the poster funded by Ms. Stuard and the “Naked Virgin Mary” statue that might cause some to conclude that Ms. Stuard is a devoted and knowledgeable supporter of the arts who was simply trying to carry Mr. Hirst’s creation one step further by creating a poster. There are differences, however. One of them involves putting Ms. Davis’s face on the poster instead of the anonymous face that appears on the statue. The other is adding the words “Abortion Barby Wendy Davis” across the bottom of the poster.  Those touches put an end to any notion that Ms. Stuard knows anything about art. Her poster makes no artistic statement.  Its only statement is that nothing is beneath the dignity of the Abbott campaign as it seeks to help Greg Abbott become the next governor of Texas.

Christopher Brauchli can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

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