Wendy Davis and the Amazing Media Mobile Home Mystery

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 05:  Texas State Sen. Wendy David (D) speaks at the National Press Club August 5, 2013 in Washington,
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 05: Texas State Sen. Wendy David (D) speaks at the National Press Club August 5, 2013 in Washington, DC. Davis, who entered the national spotlight after holding a filibuster on a Texas abortion bill, spoke on the political climate in Texas and Washington during her remarks. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The story is true. Every damned bit of it. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, Texas was a single mother. A teenaged mom. She lived in a mobile home. And went to Harvard. Also, she got help along the way. Can you believe it?

Wayne Slater's recent report in the Dallas Morning News was turned into shorthand by Davis' opponent in the Texas gubernatorial election. And the glaring result seemed to be a series of biting questions from a CSI forensics expert.

"Mam, exactly how long did you live in that mobile home? Was it two months or two years? Understand, mam, this will go to your qualifications to be governor."

This is Texas, of course, and political idiocy is a bigger bumper crop than oil. When someone figures out the relevance of her time in a mobile home, please advise the constituency. Hell, I lived in a mobile home in the desert outside of Laredo, Texas for almost two years. The air conditioner was not dependable. Let me state here unequivocally that living in a mobile home, (see also "trailer"), is something one makes an effort to forget, not remember. (We dreamed of a double wide.)

There is nothing untrue in the Wendy Davis narrative. But there is something unfair. Consider that she got loans and assistance and got into Harvard Law. Her husband helped. He knew her potential. He said as much in Slater's article. He introduced her to people. Wendy took her children with her to Boston but, undoubtedly, discovered it is hard to do Harvard Law and raise kids. They went home to their dad. She commuted as often as affordable to be with them. She got a by-god Harvard Law degree.

Quite a tale, eh? Reframe it around a man. And here's the interpretation: Can you believe the sacrifices he made for his family, to get his degree, and lift them out of their situation? Lived in a mobile home a few months, lived with his mother, lived in a small, cheap apartment, went into debt, paid off his loans, endured long weekends to make sure he was involved in the raising of his children while reading the law, and managed to eventually become a Texas State Senator and run for governor. The marriage didn't survive but the couple separated amicably and continued to raise their children together and still have mutual respect. Who is this great man?

He's a woman. Name of Wendy Davis. Democrat of Fort Worth.

This isn't to say her campaign hasn't bungled a few things in its early stages. Details would have prevented the current attack. But one of the more astonishing, and, yes, ignored elements of the Morning News piece is the fondness Davis' ex-husband Jeff expresses for her. This is not an angry man. He assisted Wendy. He's proud of her. And the children they raised together. Maybe there's a story here in how to properly end a marriage, save relationships, and protect children from adult vitriol.


The Republican candidate for Texas governor, Greg Abbott, has decided to attack Wendy's story. Well, really, just the details of the story. "How long did you live in that mobile home, mam?" Which is utterly stupid. Utterly. Every woman he wants to vote for him has likely struggled with the questions of family and career. Yes, even down yonder in Texas. And every one of them will be offended by him suggesting there is no validity to Wendy's story. Because a lot of them have been to that rodeo. The question they will ask of themselves is along the lines of, "Well, if a Harvard Law grad who became a state senator after being a teenaged mom doesn't measure up, what the hell might Abbott's people think of me and my accomplishments?"

The Davis Campaign should have come up with something considerably better for a response than having an articulate candidate say she needed to use "tighter language" because it suggests there is a marketing team at work and not a basic truth: A single mother endured difficulty to raise her family and succeed. That's it. It's a hell of a story.

And it will abide.