The brim of his broad white hat defines the visual outline of his political persona. It is part of a concerted effort on his part to create a memorable and marketable image.
And a lot of the time, he succeeds. It’s a facet of his visual and literal associations with rodeo.
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Still, all of this has some less-desirable consequences for Texas agriculture.
He has recently faced national scrutiny and ridicule for using state funds to participate in a rodeo in Mississippi and to allegedly receive a pain-relief injection common to rodeo competitors called the “Jesus shot.”
From the first informal rodeos, where makeshift arenas corralled a diverse group of cattle workers for ranch audiences, the men at the center of rodeo were the same men at the center of the beef trade.
Both beef and rodeo became successful businesses. In the process, rodeo became a staging ground for conservative politics, as it mobilized a celebration of ranching “tradition” alongside a policy agenda that favored the growth of large cattle operations.
Miller’s heavy emphasis on his rodeo identity as his main public relations wheelhouse continues this disparity in the eyes of Texans who may not be aware of the actual and potential diversity of agriculture in the state.
Professional rodeo has been formed over time to reproduce the myth of conquest of the West, gradually erasing contributions from black, indigenous and Mexican influences to produce the spectacle we now recognize.
In conflating ranching with Texas agriculture, we similarly lose the historical contributions of enslaved cotton laborers, freed black horticulturists, women subsistence farmers and independent farmers.