Pulitzer Prize winner explores Texas’ political climate in SMU lecture

Pulitzer Prize winning author Lawrence Wright spoke about Texas’ ever-changing political landscape in Dallas Hall on Sept. 5.

Lawrence Wright gave audience members political insights from his newest book, “God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State.” He used these insights to predict the future of Texas politics.

While doing so, he frequently mentioned California, a state that is generally looked at as the political opposite of Texas.

“These two states are mirror images politically,” Wright said. “California is entirely democratic throughout state offices, and we haven’t elected a Democrat to state office in over 20 years.”

Despite their differences, the two states seem to be closing the gap between each other. Wright joked about the “Californication” of Texas as the two appear to be growing similar in terms of diversity, economy and opportunity.

“So, will Texas turn purple, or even blue?” Wright asked. “The answer is yes, one day.”

This garnered murmurs throughout the crowd.

Les Swanson, who attended the lecture with his wife, was shocked yet excited to learn about the current state of Texas politics.

“I didn’t read his book beforehand, so I didn’t know what to expect tonight,” Swanson said. “But, I love all things Texas and all things current events, so I’m excited about it.”

The lecture, which was put by the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies and the Center for Presidential History, was fully booked weeks in advance.

The overflowing auditorium didn’t dissuade audience members from hearing Wright speak, as the crowd consisted largely of people who have been fans of Wright for years.

“He was so much more approachable than I was expecting,” attendee Jaime Bennett said. “He was very funny. He had a great sense of humor.”

Wright used his humor to note the significance of the upcoming midterm elections this November.

“The future of America in so many ways lies here in Texas,” Wright said.

The potentially close Senate race between incumbent Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke was a hot topic, as it seemed to prove Wright’s point that Texas is no longer as conservative as it has been historically.

The lecture was followed by a question period, where audience members had the opportunity to pick Wright’s brain.

One man asked about the demographics of Texas and how they might relate to how the state votes. Laughing, Wright noted Texas, like California, has become a majority-minority state, meaning racial and ethnic minorities make up the majority of the state’s population. He attributed this as the main cause of the liberal shift in Texas voters.

The contemporary nature of Wright’s lecture differed from past events hosted by the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies.

“I love coming to the lectures here at SMU,” attendee Swanson said. “The Clements Center usually does more historical lectures, so I’m happy that this one was more current.”

While the lecture was focused on current events, Wright made sure not to forget about Texas’ significant history, bringing it up often in both his political analysis and witty remarks.