Bud Kennedy

Another speech? No, thanks: Voters tuning out Austin, D.C.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, right, gestures during the parade Tuesday.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, right, gestures during the parade Tuesday. AP

Once, a new Texas governor made headlines over a State of the Union address.

But in today’s America, we seem more interested in inflation. As in footballs.

A disappointing crowd for Gov. Greg Abbott’s inauguration was followed by lackluster TV ratings for the presidential address.

“Boredom has set in,” said Richard Murray, a 40-year University of Houston political science professor.

“Obama versus the Republicans … no new news there. Ditto in Austin — Republicans take control, what’s new?”

What’s new is Texas’ first governor of the 21st century. He won with about 2.8 million votes.

But even on a bright, warm Austin day, the inauguration crowd was skimpy: 12,000 by generous guess, with a scant few staying for the parade.

“The lesson is simple — folks are turned off by politics,” Texas Christian University professor Jim Riddlesperger wrote by email.

He’s seen nine statewide elections, eight national, and voters shifting steadily to party extremes.

“Democrats don’t want to celebrate Republicans, Republicans don’t want to celebrate Democrats, and independents are equally turned off,” he wrote.

The State of the Union address drew 31.7 million viewers, the worst since Bill Clinton’s 2000 swan song, according to Nielsen.

That’s down 40 percent from Obama’s 2009 debut.

Southern Methodist University professor Matthew Wilson sees not only fatigue but also cynicism.

“Obama can say whatever he wants, but there is no chance of that going anywhere in Congress,” he wrote by email.

“In Austin, the balance of power remains the same. Even for conservative Republicans who are happy, that’s not much to get revved up about.”

If you didn’t watch either event, there was one bit of very good news:

Neither involved an appearance by Ted Nugent.


Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter: @BudKennedy