Ravenscroft Group | Mark Bousfield
21 May 20
That's right (You're not from Texas)
You say you're not from Texas
Man as if I couldn't tell
You think you pull your boots on right
And wear your hat so well
So pardon me my laughter
'Cause I sure do understand
Even Moses got excited
When he saw the promised land
Lyle Lovett, 1996
By David Chan
No, I’m not from the Lone Star State either (Jersey, actually), but I’ve been asked by Mark [Bousfield, Ravenscroft group managing director] to give you an expat view from the ‘flyover country’ so often ignored in the left-and-right-coast-dominated 24-hour American news cycle. Think of it as an anecdotal companion-piece to my old “Class of 1980” schoolmate Kevin Boscher’s Big Picture!
This is my second time living in the US. The first was deep in the heart of La La Land some 30 years ago while serving with the US Marine Corps – an altogether out-of-body experience for a Brit – made more surreal by the memory of driving though the Rodney King riots to pick up my mum from Los Angeles airport.
Now I am a hobby rancher raising grass-fed Wagyu/Longhorn cattle and olive trees on 100 acres outside a little town (of 30,000) called Seguin, in Guadalupe County. I use raise advisedly because my wife, the airline pilot, does all the planning, thinking and lots of the farming; I am just the retired (un)hired hand!
Given their Spanish/Mexican heritage, both California and Texas are very Latino – 38 per cent of the population in both states. A suntanned Anglo-Chinese bloke is therefore frequently assumed to be local-local until he speaks, at which point people often give up since they understand neither my English nor my dreadfully inadequate Spanish. Contrary to most expectations, the early settlers in this area were mainly Germans and Czechs, so the local beer is excellent and Texans eating Wurst while wearing Lederhosen is indeed a thing.
A lot has happened in the last 30 years in the US, although one might be forgiven for thinking nothing much has changed around here if you don’t go into the city that often (we’re 45 minutes from San Antonio, one hour from Austin and three hours from Houston). This is a ‘Big C’ conservative area in a Red state (political colours are reversed over here) complete with all the things that implies in terms of religion, politics and unfailingly polite manners. That’s not to say that Texans don’t come in all political shades: the rural/urban divide is just as defined as it is in the UK and the big cities are all left-of-centre. Which is why many Californians (including, allegedly, Elon Musk) are comfortable upping sticks to move to the Lone Star State in order to escape the cost of living, especially since there’s no state income tax in Texas. Not lost on old-timers is the irony that newcomers still insist on voting for the same high-tax measures, though, so it’s likely that things will end up going the same way!
Which brings me to the elephant in the room. Yep, plenty around here (along, of course, with many millions of others in the US) vote Trump and are not shy in so saying. My sense – and that of the bookies, if not yet the pollsters – is that they’re all going to do so again in November, if only because Biden seems literally not to know what day of the week it is. I would ask how it is that out of 200 million adults Biden is the best the opposition can do, but then I think back to the UK’s recent electoral history…
In the same way that media hectoring in the UK produces little change in voting intentions, the constant drone of talking heads, journalists and TV presenters complaining “orange man bad” has no impact on those I meet. There are undoubtedly shy black, white and Latino Trumpistas who will not declare their intentions to pollsters (or even their closest friends) simply because of the inevitable conventional browbeating it attracts in such a polarised environment. Moreover, there is also the view which, of course, is why Clinton lost last time; that the party of the working class continues to take more interest in social engineering than the challenges of living from payday to payday. This may or may not be true, but it doesn’t help when, for example, firebrand politicians celebrate COVID-19 joblessness in the energy sector because it is furthering the cause of the Green New Deal (as of mid-April the US unemployment rate had risen from 3.6 per cent in January to 14.7 per cent and is only going higher). Fair or otherwise, the image of the Limousine Liberal is alive and well.
Finally, it would be remiss not to mention guns as another huge indicator of voting intent. There are still plenty of Democrat-voting gun owners in the US, but every time a politician talks about taking some, or all, of their firearms away, there’s a strong likelihood that they’ve provided major pause for thought. Like it or not, the Second Amendment to the US Constitution is a big deal here and a subject bound to arouse intense emotion – either way
So, a brief and very superficial exploration of life in Texas. It’s huge, three times the size of the UK. It’s hot, averaging over 27 Celsius for seven months of the year (and over 32 Celsius for four of those). Because of its economic outlook, room and appetite for growth, it’s the fastest growing state in the Union – 367,215 people added to a population of nearly 30 million in 2019, projected to be at least 35 million by 2030. Despite its historical oil and cattle image, Texas is quickly becoming a technology-driven state. Perhaps the only limitation to even faster expansion will be access to water and it will be interesting to see how the politicians plan to resolve this universal constraint.
Life here is certainly different to that in the UK and the Channel Islands. It is (or was) a great pleasure to travel so easily between the two since it’s both stimulating and amusing to compare and contrast – especially in August! I note that Guernsey is also easing out of its lockdown and look forward to providing further Tales from Out West as the presidential race heats up.
David Chan is an old friend and colleague and remains a consultant to Ravenscroft Investment Management Limited. A former RAF fighter pilot, David was awarded an OBE in 2006 for his leadership of Eurofighter Typhoon entry-into-service operations.