We’ve already brought you many, many highlights from Wendy Davis’s poorly-considered run for Texas governor, starting with her decision to run on gun control in a state where even the livestock is heavily armed, her claim to be “pro-life” in her first campaign speech, the incredible compassion she shows to those less fortunate than her, and her stellar decision to call the state of Texas toxic while standing in SoHo art loft with a cadre of Yankee millionaires. We missed that one where she had trouble with basic math, but you get the picture.
Anyway, the Dallas Morning News finally caught on this weekend that Wendy Davis might be less of a fantastic role model for women everywhere, doing an expose of Wendy’s carefully-crafted background story about how she was a struggling single mother who put herself through school while living in a trailer park, only to carry herself to unprecedented heights, lifting herself up by her own stilettos until she finally achieved every little girls dream: a fake filibuster on the floor of a state legislature designed to preserve a woman’s right to have a procedure that even Europeans find barbaric. Turns out, Wendy Davis is only a brilliant, self-motivated up-and-comer, if you don’t dig too deeply into Wendy Davis.
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.
By “some facts,” the Dallas Morning News actually means, “basically everything.” The bones of the story are still intact, but when considering how to portray them to the media, Wendy glosses over some important details. A few highlights:
- Wendy was actually 21, not 19, when she got a divorce from her first husband and had to move back into her parent’s trailer park home, where she lived only a few months before finding an apartment of her own for herself and her daughter. Now that might not seem like a big deal, but Wendy testified under oath, in a federal lawsuit regarding redistricting, that she was 19 when she got divorced. She’s lucky that wasn’t material to the case at hand, but she might want to think twice about volunteering incorrect information after she’s sworn to uphold the truth.
- Jeff Davis, Wendy’s second husband, paid her way through Texas Christian University and then through Harvard Law School and cared for her first daughter and a second daughter they had shortly after they were married. He took out loans and cashed in his 401(K) to pay her way through school. They divorced in 2005, literally the day after Jeff Davis wrote his final check paying off her student loan:
Jeff Davis said that was right around the time the final payment on their Harvard Law School loan was due. “It was ironic,” he said. “I made the last payment, and it was the next day she left.
- When she and Davis got a divorce (the court documents cite adultery on Wendy’s part but the final divorce decree makes no mention of any infidelity), she handed full custody of their daughter to her now ex-husband, stating that he was a “nurturing father” and that it was just “not a good time” for her. Because when you have shared children, the very first thing you think about when deciding on their future, is whether they fit in to your busy schedule. A future colleague would put Wendy’s priorities in perspective to the DMN:
“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.”
Basically, every country music song that’s ever come out of Texas was written about Wendy Davis.
Wendy Davis’s decisions are hers to make, obviously, and all political candidates couch their personal histories in a light most favorable to whoring themselves out to people to whom they can no longer relate. After all, it’s not like Wendy Davis in her current incarnation, sporting thousand-dollar suits and five-hundred-dollar shoes is going to be able to convince anyone in Texas that she understands anything about their lives. But Wendy Davis has built her entire campaign on being a demi-goddess of women’s liberation, a self-made masterpiece of female empowerment looking to take women’s rights to the next level whether she has to do it in a pair of pink sneakers or a Reem Acra pantsuit.
And yet, the missing details and contextual omissions are what ultimately tank her carefully crafted life story. At he core, she’s a woman in power because she used a man’s money and influence to get her there. A little cliche, maybe, but not really very inspiring. Julia Roberts is going to have to play this very differently in the biopic Wendy Davis is no-doubt self-financing to console herself after her inevitable loss.