I’ve spent so much time dismissing Wendy Davis, the content of this story from the Dallas Morning News almost leads me to be impressed by her:
Wendy Davis has made her personal story of struggle and success a centerpiece of her campaign to become the first Democrat elected governor of Texas in almost a quarter-century.
While her state Senate filibuster last year captured national attention, it is her biography — a divorced teenage mother living in a trailer who earned her way to Harvard and political achievement — that her team is using to attract voters and boost fundraising.
The basic elements of the narrative are true, but the full story of Davis’ life is more complicated, as often happens when public figures aim to define themselves. In the shorthand version that has developed, some facts have been blurred.
Davis was 21, not 19, when she was divorced. She lived only a few months in the family mobile home while separated from her husband before moving into an apartment with her daughter.
A single mother working two jobs, she met Jeff Davis, a lawyer 13 years older than her, married him and had a second daughter. He paid for her last two years at Texas Christian University and her time at Harvard Law School, and kept their two daughters while she was in Boston. When they divorced in 2005, he was granted parental custody, and the girls stayed with him. Wendy Davis was directed to pay child support.
In an extensive interview last week, Davis acknowledged some chronological errors and incomplete details in what she and her aides have said about her life.
“My language should be tighter,” she said. “I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail.”
The rags-to-riches story is still intact, and it does show that Wendy must have some smarts to do well academically (though I’m curious if we will ever learn about her record at Harvard). But it also shows amazing levels of ambition, including marrying an older man who was a major force in paying for her law school. It was not all her husband; she also contributed to the payments. She also left him the day after the last payment was made. She gave him custody of both daughters (one theirs and one from a previous marriage) and moved on with her career.
Reading about the layer of self-serving myth she attempted to spread over her life’s story reminds me of another Harvard Law graduate whose life still remains a mystery despite his writing two biographies (or because of them?).
It seems like there are two kinds of young adults in the world: those who assume that the American propaganda about work, education, and equal opportunity is true, and those who realize there is an east coast Establishment ruling class and who do anything they can or need to in order to go become part of it, working diligently to promote their interests if they have to move back to “flyover country.”
A former colleague and political supporter who worked closely with Davis when she was on the council said the body’s work was very time-consuming.
“Wendy is tremendously ambitious,” he said, speaking only on condition of anonymity in order to give what he called an honest assessment. “She’s not going to let family or raising children or anything else get in her way.”
He said: “She’s going to find a way, and she’s going to figure out a way to spin herself in a way that grabs at the heart strings. A lot of it isn’t true about her, but that’s just us who knew her. But she’d be a good governor.”
I’m sure Davis thinks she will be a good governor. I’m sure that conviction inspired her persevere through her pro-abortion filibuster.