Chris: The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy by Philip S. Gorski and Samuel L. Perry
Claire: Dopesick on Hulu
Nichole: The Bachelorette on ABC and Hulu
There’s big money behind the Texas Far Right, and it was Chris Tackett who exposed it. In this conversation with Claire and Nichole, Chris shares how he got his start in public life by serving on the school board for Granbury ISD and how what was meant to be a nonpartisan race became partisan despite the wishes of him or his opponent. That experience led him to follow the money trail in Texas politics and what he found was enlightening and frightening. Chris discusses the influence of money in politics and how it can make a few voices sound like many. He talks about the need for free and fair elections and how being consistent in his message lights the way for how he moves forward. This episode is a can’t-miss for anyone who wants a greater understanding of the relationship between money and politics in Texas elections today.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
Christopher Tackett Followed The Money And It Led Him To Uncover Two Texas Billionaires Controlling Texas’ Far-Right Political Agenda
Nicole, thank you so much for joining us for this episode of Go Behind the Ballot. We are going to be jumping into our elections series. We’re going to talk about why elections matter, why you need to vote and things that happen behind the scenes that you might not realize. That leads us to our guest for this episode, who is Chris Tackett. He served on the Granbury ISD School Board and he has this mission to help people understand money and politics.
Money is so huge when it comes to elections. Money equals communication and communication equals votes. He tells us about how these two billionaires in West Texas, Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks, have funneled millions of dollars into local races and so few people know that this is happening. Nicole, what did you think of this talk?
You know how excited I was that we got the opportunity to talk to Chris Tackett. I can’t even tell you how much I’ve looked forward to this interview. He shines a light. He makes things clear that seem muddy and unclear and helps everyone to understand them. Also, he is an excellent follow on social media on Twitter. He takes the fight to the issues.
He also has a great YouTube Channel where he makes these videos that allow people to speak for themselves so that you, as the viewer, can make your own choices and decisions about what you’re hearing people say. I think that highlights who Chris Tackett is. A guy who is making the things that we wonder about and have unclear information about making those things clear and obvious. Enjoy, it’s a great one.
I’ll lastly add, Chris Tackett is one of those people who ran because he wanted to level up his public service. He cares a lot about having a healthy democracy. This is so important when we talk about elections that we have good competitive races. He shows how having these super-rich billionaires very much goes against that and why we need to be aware of it. As Nicole said, this is a great read and we hope you will all enjoy it.
Chris, to get us started, we would love to know a little bit about you. Did you grow up in Texas? How did you start getting a little bit more politically involved?
I’ll say I can’t claim being a Native Texan because I was not born here. That’s one of the rules, but my parents moved us here to Texas when I was in the 4th grade. I have been here for the better part of my life. I went all the way through school here. I lived in other parts of the country. I lived in Canada for a couple of years but came back in 2008 with my wife and two kids to raise said kids and try and be close to family because we’ve been gone for a number of years. When we moved back to Grandbury, Texas, in 2014, I made the decision to run for school board with the support of my wife.
I was fortunate enough to get to serve. I won the election. I served on the school board from 2014 to 2017, but while I was there, I got a different sense of what was happening in the state and politically, had a newly elected House Representative, Mike Lang, in House District 60, which is where Grandbury is a part of. Had told us on the school board and the superintendent that he was a big supporter of public education.
We said, “When you go to Austin, here are the things that we think you should look at and support. They will help not only our district but other districts around the state.” He said, “Yes, no problem,” and then he got down to Austin and voted the opposite on every single one of those issues. It got me digging in, trying to understand why. To me, the obvious answer was money. I went into the Texas Ethics Commission website, started pulling campaign finance reports and saw massive amounts of money going to this guy from a handful of people.
Mostly, a gentleman from West Texas named Farris Wilkes, who is featured very prominently in the CNN documentary, Deep in the Pockets of Texas. As I figured that out, I started making pie charts to help make it easier for me to understand how much of this is coming from a handful of people but also to help others. I posted it on Facebook. People saw and started asking questions about, “What about my rep because they’re not supporting public education or all these other things either?” I started doing the research for candidates all over the state. It eventually led me to create a website ChrisHackettNow.com.
I have continued since that 2016, 2017 window ripping the entire Texas Ethics Commission database, repurposing it, putting it into a format where it’s easier for me and apparently, lots of other people around the state to leverage. It’s bar charts, pie charts, graphs so that you can go in and search for what you want and see who’s funding the politicians. The other thing it does is it helps you see very quickly what the web of money is. There’s a handful of people pulling a lot of strings in this state. That’s the abbreviated version of how I got here.
Thank you for sharing that. We want to talk about your website and the CNN documentary, Deep in the Pockets of Texas, but to rewind a little bit. I’m curious about your family growing up. Did you folks talk about politics? Would you consider your parents political because you went on to become a school board member, which is an elected office?
We weren’t political. It was one of those, you hear the things like you don’t talk about religion or politics at the table. I wouldn’t say we were hard and fast in that space, but politics wasn’t something we dove into. I grew up with my dad coaching my baseball team and being involved. With my kids, I took that space. When we moved back to Grandbury in 2008, I was the coach of my son’s team and my daughter’s teams.
I ran the local sports association for baseball and softball. I was the president there for about five years. To me, that serves not only to my kids but helping other kids in the community. The transition to school board felt like a reasonable push and between my professional space in the business world and again, my love of helping kids. It felt like, “This is a great place, a nonpartisan space that’s about community.” Going through that election changed some perspectives about the nonpartisan nature of elections, at least in modern times.
Were you prepared for that or was that surprising?
It was surprising because we hadn’t paid that much attention to politics. We had lived away for a number of years, so some of the local elements of things don’t happen. We had seen the rise of the tea party locally in Texas and across the country. Seeing that had been a little confused about some of the things that were going on, but it was one of those. It was like, “That was all big politics.” It wasn’t local stuff.
When I said I was going to run for school board, I very naively tried to schedule time to speak to all the various community groups n Grandbury. It was the optimist club and the Kawanas and all of these groups. Including the local democratic club, the local Republican club and the things you start to learn that are happening in the local politics as you go through that process. It was eye-opening.
Was your run competitive? What was that experience like when you decided, “I’m going to throw my hat in the ring and run for this position?”
It was myself and one other person. After the fact, as you go through the election, the other person who was running against me was a good guy who was trying to do it for some of the same reasons I was, wanted to contribute to the community. It’s one, the wife of the state Senator who lives in Grandbury, had somebody pull my previous voting record. I had voted in a Democratic primary in 2012 and because of that, I was a bad guy.
This state senator’s wife completely funded my opponent’s race, gave all the contributions to him and tried to do everything they could through the party and others to say some very not nice things about me. Including started running in what had been again, nonpartisan races locally, school board, city council and things, started running ads in the paper, as we were getting ready that was not authorized by the candidate.
That said, “Republican for school board and his name and everything.” I countered with, “Let’s not play politics with kids.” My opponent, at that point, as soon as they started running ads in his name that were making it very partisan, basically put his hands up and said, “I’m not participating in this.” Big kudos to him because this wasn’t what he wanted. It was the local political machine trying to take over and run this.
It was a 55-45 race in the end. He and I talked at length after the fact about, “We were trying to, again, serve the community.” The people we see at the grocery store, the people we run into at our kids’ schools, the softball games, or the baseball games. We were both trying to do it for the right reasons, but the politics on one side overwhelmed things. Luckily, I got the opportunity to serve the community in that space.
Now I understand why you say it was surprising because it sounds like that came out of nowhere. Talk about a political awakening that you may not have asked for, but here you are. I also respect your opponent that you both remained true to your original reasons for even running. I love these conversations we’re having because so much of my skepticism and cynicism is getting challenged for the best. It’s moments like that that give me so much hope. I keep saying this. This happens every time, but people who want to serve the public exists. They are out here and they’re running for offices. It gives me a lot of hope and optimism. It’s going to be okay, but we also have to expose and shine a light.
Yes, it’s making me think. When you started following the money, was that with your race or was it later on that you started digging into the Texas Ethics Commission reports?
It was after. Honestly, I did not know who was funding my opponent because I didn’t even think to ask for campaign finance reports because it was like, “What the heck?” It was only years later that I was like, “I’m going to go ahead and request those to see what happened.” Again, it was years later that I started digging into the Texas Ethics Commission. Again, I knew I had to turn my stuff in when I ran for the school board to the local district office. That’s where I was turning in my campaign finance reports. At the time, I had no clue that those reports don’t go to Austin and get loaded into a database. I figured that’s how it worked. You’re running for a public office no matter what level and everything goes to a central spot.
When I started polling from Austin and you realize, “This is only state-level races. Anything that’s local is maintained in these local spaces.” That’s what triggered me to say, “I want to find my race and understand this.” I think that one of the things people don’t understand is if you want to follow money, there are different places you have to go to be able to draw a complete picture. If you’re talking about city council races, county commissioner races, basically, anything that’s county level or below. It’s all maintained at those local spaces.
It’s generally if you’re in a small community, it’s not electronic. It’s one that you’ve got a request via a public information request. You can’t hop on the website and pull it. When you do get those, even from some of the larger places, it’s not like an excel type file where it’s easy to manipulate. You’re getting a scanned version of what was filed. Being able to connect dots and seeing who’s giving what, it’s hard. It’s easier at the state level because you can get an excel sheet and start to run these things together but following the money in this state, which also has no campaign finance contribution with it? It’s crazy.
We got to highlight this. I’m going to repeat what you said because I want to make sure I’m comprehending. Statewide races, that information is shared with must be reported to the Texas Ethics Commission. All of that is held in Austin and it is available electronically. Is that also true?
Correct. Anybody can go search for it, whether it’s the file or ID or the name and you can find those reports.
Now they may not be shiny and pretty, you’re also saying. The information is there, but it’s raw data, let’s say. For more local races, like you’re saying for trustees, for city council, that information is still kept at the local level and by who? Which office?
It’s all about what the race was. If you’re talking about a school board race, the school district offices maintain it. If you’re talking about a city council race, it’s the city offices. If it’s a county commissioner’s race, it’s the county offices. Somebody could be giving in all three of those spaces, but you would never know it because you’re only requesting this candidate’s reports, which aren’t indexed. They aren’t electronic in a database-type format. People can weigh in with money in lots of different places.
This might be jumping ahead, but is there any legislation to change this system or any movement to make it easier for folks to understand where money is coming from?
There has been some legislation filed. It hasn’t gone anywhere in the last few sessions to try and put whether it’s campaign finance, contribution limits in place or centralizing all campaign finance records in one place. I think the reality is that the people in charge now control some of the levers of power in the state. They’re pretty okay with the way things work. The idea that it’s hard to follow the money and that people can write a million-dollar check if they want to make it easier for them to do some of the things they want to do.The people who control the levers of power in the state are pretty okay with the way things work. So the idea that it's hard to follow the money, the idea that people can write a million-dollar check if they want to, makes it easier for them to do the… Click To Tweet
It means you don’t have to necessarily connect with the people you represent because you can get checks from all over the place. That may not be the people who live in your district, who may not be the people who, again, if you run into them in the grocery store, you would have any connection with. Stuff has been filed, but it hasn’t gone anywhere.
Maybe that will change with the information that more people are hopefully getting about what’s happening behind the scenes. A phrase that you said that stuck out to me was the people in charge. I wondered who are these people in charge? Is it even our representatives? I feel like that leads into the CNN special, Deep in the Pockets of Texas. Can you tell us a little bit about that special and the two people who are at the top, maybe the actual people in charge?
Now, Deep in the Pockets of Texas is a documentary that CNN put together. It’s an hour-long documentary that dives into if you’ve been following me on Twitter or Facebook or anything over the last few years that myself and my wife have been trying to yell about for a number of years. There’s not to say that we’re the only ones.
There have been lots of other people trying to highlight this, but it dives into not only what’s been happening with money in Texas politics and that two billionaires out of west Texas, Tim Dunn and Farris Wilkes, have very aggressively been investing millions of dollars in each electoral cycle in challenging and trying to get their people elected to then advance their ideology broadly across the state.
They put millions of dollars in, win some elections, lose some elections, but the whole time, they’re moving the Overton window. That idea of the way we look at things, what’s relative, pulling it further to the right and the documentary does a good job showing with the perspective of people who’ve been inside the Republican political machine and seen it with how they’ve been either marginalized or pushed to the sides because they haven’t been doing what these two billionaires wanted them to do.
It gets to this idea of a handful of people who are pulling strings on a lot of the politicians we see across the state. It’s not just them pulling the strings directly with the people they have. It’s also impacting other legislators who will vote the way they want them to vote. Maybe they’re not told directly, but they know this is what the conservative space is looking for because they don’t want to get a well-financed challenger in a primary.
Even though you have somebody who may not be aligned with the Wilkes-Dunn group, they’ll start to vote that way to avoid challengers as they go forward. That moves our overall Overton window in the state into a much more conservative space. What I did love about the documentary is it talked about not only the what, which is the money and the connections and such. It dives into the why, which is some of the ideology that comes from these billionaires.
I think that’s an important piece. For the folks, as they watch the documentary because it’s such a well-done document. It’s the tip of the iceberg. In an hour-long documentary, you can only talk about so much. There’s so much more below the water line that they haven’t been able to dive into, but I hope as people see it, it makes them more open to listening to the rest of the story. I can’t recommend that documentary enough.
For anybody who follows us on social media, on TikTok, it went across all of our social media handles and talked about where you can find it because Chris has it available on his YouTube Channel. Perhaps you’re like Claire and you were able to find it on YouTubeTV, but it can be found and we can help you find it if it isn’t simple for you. There’s something that you said that I’m hoping you can dig into a little more about. You talked about the tip of the iceberg. I’d be curious what else I think is where are we going?
It’s not only the ideology because that’s the space that starts to get scary on the why they’re doing these things. It’s also that understanding that. Again, the documentary is focused at the state-level type races but the reality is they are pushing, whether it’s public education and school boards, city councils or county commissioner races. The ideology that’s fueling all of this is one that aims to control all levers of government.
It’s not at the state house. It’s not at a federal level. It’s also those races, that again, historically have been nonpartisan, but they want to control. To touch a little bit on that ideology that’s mentioned in the documentary, it’s seven mountains dominionism. You may have heard Christian Nationalism as a term that’s leveraged. It was what fueled January 6th at the US capital. Seven mountains is the engine behind it.
It’s this idea that there are seven mountains or seven pillars of society. If you can gain dominion and again, it’s a biblical term. Gain dominion over those seven mountains, you can take a nation. When you start to dive into those mountains, it’s the church, the government, the family, education, the media, arts and entertainment and business. Those are the seven. That philosophy is to drive control. It is to own all levers of power. Not at the top levels, but it’s in all aspects of society. That’s the push to get these people elected so that they can pass the laws via the government to impose their version of religion on everybody else.The push to get these Far Right people elected is so that they can pass the laws that will impose their version of religion on everybody else. Click To Tweet
You see it when you look at the public education space, the push to ban books, the ridiculous CRT dialogue, which you can’t talk about history in what happened. It’s this idea of, again, porn and libraries, bathroom bills, anti-transgender students being able to participate in athletic activities. It’s all of these things come back to this push to devalue what we see for public education in people’s minds to create fear so that they can start to deconstruct it.
It comes down to money that comes down to this push for vouchers. It comes down to this push, they want the ability to indoctrinate kids in the way they talk about our schools or indoctrinating kids now, which is not true. Their real goal is that’s what they’re shooting to do in that one space. That’s some of the play in one of those mountains.
There’s so much about this ideology that’s very upsetting, but the thing that makes me very frustrated is they want to prioritize these things that it takes us away from what matters. Nicole and I read an article that Texas Tribune put out about how rural Republicans are holding back the floodgate for school vouchers and school choice.
They keep saying what we need to talk about is school safety, but we can’t talk about it because, somehow, they’re taking all the attention away. It’s so frustrating because it’s like we have the grid that needs to be fixed. We have to fix our schools. We’re losing our teachers. Our road systems aren’t the best and yet, what do we talk about session after session?
Trivial things or harmful things at worst and yet, that’s what that’s happening. As the documentary reveals, these two billionaires have had such influence and it’s been very much in the dark. We appreciate that you and other people are finally, it feels like getting some light on this so folks can know what is happening. Do you want this to happen? I don’t think many of us do.
There are so many people who, “I don’t want to talk about politics. I don’t want to wade into this space or that space.” We’re honestly at the point where if people don’t start talking about some of these things, the things that you value in your life, the things that you want your kids to have, the opportunity, the diversity that many of us celebrate, some of those things will go away and a lot of the public spaces. I think that’s pretty tragic. People do need to plug in and start paying attention to what’s happening in our communities, in our state and broadly in our country.
Such an important point. I found myself as you were sharing with us about the seven mountains, dominionism and philosophy and I watched your video, which was amazing. Here’s another plug for a Chris Tackett video. Here’s what I appreciate about your channel, which is that you don’t put commentary over the information you present. You allow people to speak for themselves, which means me, as a viewer, get to make my own choices and decisions about what they’re saying.
That is something that I appreciate. That’s one thing I want to say. I’m trying to make sense of it in my mind still. It’s like I can understand it on an intellectual level but what I’m trying to understand is like, if I were a believer in the seven mountains philosophy. If that was a rule that I lived my life by, I struggle and I don’t think anybody can answer this for me, but I feel the need to pause and say this.
I struggle with why there is such a deep desire to impose that on others and I get that it’s built into the philosophy. That it’s part of the thinking that it is your biblical duty to have dominion that’s part of what God has called you to do. Anyway, before we got on, Chris, I will also say I was watching another one of your videos. Maybe I won’t even get into the actual content of the video as much as to say there’s this scarcity also like mentality underneath it all I think that I find disturbing, which is this idea that only a certain thing can exist.
There’s a very specific way of life that is endorsed by them or that is put forth by them. Anything that is outside of that specific way of life, there’s no room for it. There’s no actual tolerance for anything that falls outside of this very specific way of living and philosophy. For me, the part that’s the most upsetting and disturbing is how narrow and specific and limited it is. Underneath it all is this idea that nothing else can exist because anything else takes away from their pie. It’s a real killer for me.
The reality is that you’ve had groups that have been marginalized. People who have not had that equal seat at the table and no one’s advocating that someone has to lose their seat. It’s, “Let’s make room for somebody else and somebody else’s voice and somebody else’s experience.” I went in South Beto’s Peak in Fort Worth.
He said, “It’s the philosophy we see from a lot of folks is you or me and rather than you and me.” That truly resonated with me as I was thinking about the things that we’ve been trying to talk about and what you articulated in what you’ve seen. It’s it is very much a you or me. It is not someplace that they can make room for anything that is different.
It makes me think in the documentary, there’s a woman who’s speaking and she is a theologian. It’s interesting because it comes down to theology. Do you believe in Genesis 1:28 to be interpreted that we’re supposed to have dominion over the earth and their sense of it, this domination? She’s saying not necessarily. It’s so frustrating that their theology is leading our policies when not even theologians are on the same page with this issue. We are the ones that they’re mercy, it feels like.
Without realizing it too.
Sure, because it’s all happening behind the scenes where we don’t understand who’s funding the politicians, who’s funding the packs. One of the things that I always touch on when I do my follow the money presentations is until you understand that when you go through a primary cycle and you’re getting ten pieces of mail in your mailbox every single day from all of these different groups. Until you realize that it’s the same handful of billionaires who are not only funding the candidates who are sending you stuff but also funding the packs who are sending you stuff, who are also on the board of directors of the nonprofit organizations who are sending you stuff.
It’s the same handful of people influencing so much of what we see in our politics in this state. Again, it’s not just Texas. It’s carried further, but it’s one for a low information voter when they see all of these mailings come in from these groups that have these names that sound like something you would want. Responsible government, “Yes. We want this.” Physical responsibility, yes. We should be physically responsible. Those things, you can get lulled into this space of, “This is a candidate I should be supporting,” because look at how many others are supporting them when the reality is, it’s the billionaires who have an ideology that they’re trying to advance. People don’t know.
Incredibly smart. It is very skillful to split that up into so many different entities that it feels like this is much bigger than it is.
Its voices being converted into a chorus. It’s not real.
That was probably my biggest takeaway from this documentary because I had seen you speak and you shared a lot of this amazing information. I had no idea how coordinated it was with these two billionaires giving to things like Texas right to life, Texas public policy foundation, the scorecard thing, defend Texas Liberty. I was like, “This is unreal.” It seems like you’re saying on its surface to be another group. It’s a nonprofit. Like, “This person’s got support and money and I’m getting these flyers. I’m going to vote for them,” but it’s all smoke and mirrors.
They try and present themselves as being grassroots, but they’re anything but.
What do we do?
That is the operative question. It all comes down to elections. It truly is about trying to make sure we’ve got people who believe in free and fair elections. We’ve got people who believe that a diverse society is a stronger society, who believe in public education, who, again, believe in LGBTQ rights, rights for the disabled, who believe in all of these things for separation of church and state. This is where getting people to take the blinders off and understand what’s at stake because all of the things I rattled off may not impact everybody’s life on a daily basis, but there’s probably something there. I didn’t even mention voting rights. That’s something that’s at risk too.
In any of those spaces, we have to help people understand what’s at stake and they have to show up in November. They have to show up in every election after that, whether it’s local or not or it’s a statewide or federal to make sure that we’re trying to put people in office who may not believe everything that you believe. There are almost no perfect candidates but trying to vote for people and help them move forward. That will represent the community that they’re supposed to be, therefore.
Whether it’s at the school board, city council, county commissioner, state rep, house rep, State Senator or the Governor’s mansion, we have to have people that truly represent us if we’re going to continue and continue to grow as a democracy, representative democracy. Whatever you want to call it but we have to engage. We’re like, what? Less than 90 days, I think, from the election at this point when we’re recording this. It’s now. We have to engage.We have to have people who truly represent us if we're going to continue to grow as a democracy. Click To Tweet
I was going to share with you all. When I was watching the documentary, one of the saddest moments to me and there were a lot of them. , the screen would go to black and the text would come up and say, “So and so is running in this election. They’re heavily funded by Dunn and Wilkes.” They don’t have an opponent. They don’t have a challenger. If I was someone living in these rural areas, seeing this documentary and I was like, “I’ll vote for the other person.” There is no other person in some cases. Can you talk about how that is damaging to our democracy?
In places like that, in the more rural spaces is where you especially see it happen. The activity isn’t in the general election. It is only in the primary. As we think about the redistricting process that we went through.
Which was sooner than it had to be.
We didn’t have all the information, and there were questions, especially about Texas, the numbers, and where things should have been. They did go through and redistrict and it was a very partisan push because there were a lot of districts across Texas that were competitive districts. That were leaning toward purple to where in the next cycle you could see some chick seats flip.
Districts were all drawn to basically maintain a status quo. Red districts got redder. They did draw blue districts bluer and created less purple. Less swing type districts with the idea of being, “As we go forward, we want to maintain control of those levers for any of these house races, these state Senate races.”
As it translates to the US House races as well, the congressional districts. It is to maintain the hold on power we have. What that does is in your districts that are those safe red districts like the one they talked about in the documentary because it is so red, there’s not a chance for somebody who’s a Democrat to win in that space. When you can’t win, it’s hard to get people motivated to run. To get the right people running for those.
It does take your politics ever further in an extreme direction because that’s who’s going to show up to vote. That’s the game that Dunn and Wilkes have played in very effectively over the last few years is taking those Republican primaries and making them more conservative, as the term I’ll use, all the way through. It hurts your democracy because you don’t get a balanced set of ideas talked about by candidates.
You don’t give the community broadly the ability to participate and influence who’s going to be representing them because there’s bad and worse, become your only choices as you’re going through this. To me, creating competitive districts where we will not be able to until the next census is completed. We’re plus years away from that next census starting, but competitive districts create dialogue in your communities. You will have what probably is the majority in most communities being able to make a real difference in that. You hear young people talking about, “It doesn’t matter for my vote. There’s no reason for me to vote.”
In certain districts, it’s hard to argue if you’re talking about an individual race because you can’t make a difference. You either may not have somebody on the ballot who represents you from your party or otherwise that’s out there. I think that’s where coming back to the issues at stake and understanding that whether it’s a local election talking about a school board or a city council or the bigger races, the statewide, Lieutenant governor, land commissioner, AG commissioner, governor’s race. You can make a difference in those races. It’s only by electing some of the people at a statewide level that truly represents us broadly. Will it enable us to get better people and more representative people running in these other spaces as well?
Yes, it’s like, I want to highlight to anybody reading who would consider sitting out any election that isn’t the solution no matter how defeated you might feel that your vote does matter. It matters even when it doesn’t feel like it. We can’t give up. Democracy is counting on every single person and every single vote.
To somehow find a way to encourage people to run even if they don’t win, but you never know if we’re going to win.
You might be surprised.
Magic could happen.
I believe in miracles.
That’s where finding good candidates who connect to their community should be supported. No matter which rates they’re running in. When you find good people, you support them and help them and shout their names from the rooftops in every single platform you have whether it’s online or in person. If you run into somebody at the grocery store, “Did you hear about this person’s running? They’re good. You should support them.” We all have to leverage our networks and, no matter where they are, to help these people make a difference.
I think also reminding people that when you run it, the wind can be something outside from getting that position. It can be Dunn and Wilkes have figured out, moving the conversation in the direction they want it to go. They have effectively done that by putting their money behind candidates who don’t even win. Their win rates like 50/50, but they’re getting what they want anyway. They’re getting people to move further to the ultraright. If we remind candidates, “You’re going to have a microphone,” and that is so valuable. If you can run for that reason, it could be worth the effort you’re going to put into it. It will hopefully help your community for the better.
I was thinking about how you said it so well, Claire, which is how can we redefine winning? In this case, I don’t even think what we’re talking about is a conservative versus liberal winning. What we’re all touching on is a democratic winning with a lower-case D. It’s what does a win mean in a democracy? It means having a conversation that is about issues that affect people. It means electing representatives who have your interests at heart and who will be responsive to you. That’s what the winning we’re talking about, having the conversations that we want to have.
As you’re saying, it does not have to mean that you win the office. It can mean at least having an agenda that is representative of the things that you care about and having conversations that matter to your community. Let’s focus on that. Redefining what winning means could be helpful. I know it’s shifting my brain because of that sense of defeat. If we could redefine like, “No, it wasn’t a defeat if we got to talk about these things that haven’t been talked about in forever.” Maybe some of the smaller communities that are unopposed races or whatever that picture could look like.
I would speculate, too, that this is what folks like Dunn and Wilkes are relying on. Tired of trying and trying that you’re like, “I got to step out and take a break.” What if no one’s there to pick up the baton then it’s game over. If we can find other ways to have our voices heard, maybe that’s the approach we should take until we can find a way to change the system the way they have. For some of our wrap-up questions, can you let us know what has been successful for you with your advocacy work? How have you managed to get people to listen to you?
It is be very consistent with message over and over. As I said, my wife and I have been beating this drum for a while now, a number of years. There are times when it feels like you’re screaming into the void. You’re putting this message out there. You’re trying to help people understand. It will get frustrating when you’re doing the advocacy work, when you’re trying to help people see things in a different way.
Sometimes it takes time and it takes lived experience in many cases, somebody feels personally, “Now I’ve experienced this. Chris, let me have a conversation with you because I have heard you talking about this. Is this what this was?” When you feel in your gut that something is right or something is wrong and you want people to hear about it. You have to be consistent in the way you’re talking about it. You have to figure out different ways to try and present it. I will tell you, the very first time I laid out the campaign information, the campaign finance numbers. I’m an Excel guy.When you feel in your gut that something is right or something is wrong and you want people to hear about it, you have to be consistent in the way you're talking about it and you have to figure out different ways to present it. Click To Tweet
I had my spreadsheets and my numbers and I showed my wife the numbers. She’s looking at this Excel sheet and it’s like, “You’re not helping me here. You’re telling me this is awful, but I’m not seeing it.” It was translating those numbers into a pie chart that gave a visual, which is not the way I intuitively processed things, but it’s the way she did. It’s figuring out how you can share your message with people and how you can repackage your ideas in a way that may connect with someone differently.
It is truly that consistency of what we’ve done. I hate to say build a brand, but that’s where we’ve been because it has been not only the what is happening. That’s the money but touching on to the why. I would love to say, “We talked about this and this thing went away and therefore, it was a win and we didn’t get any attention for these things.” These bad things from our perspective continue to happen, it has helped others see it. They’ve had that lived experience and it has the things we’ve been talking about and other experts whom we’ve learned from along the way.
All of the work being recognized is helping people put into context the things they’ve been seeing happening all around them the scary things going on. That’s where coming back to the documentary for a second, what it did is distilled a lot of the things that we’ve talked about over the last few years into a single narrative. That, again, it’s not the whole story, but it’s a big piece of the story that made it digestible to folks.
I think that was hugely important in helping that message get out there. When they reached out and said, “Chris, would you be interested in being involved in this?” I was like, “Oh my gosh.” This is because we had made enough noise for a long enough time, someone referred them to us and it helped to create a different platform and a different way to go about it. Be the little engine that could. Keep pushing, keep putting it out there because eventually, somebody may notice and help carry your message even further.
Do you have any final thoughts before we move into our last little ending segment?
I don’t think I do. This is one of those that is going to be playing on my mind. I’m going to have all these things that I.
That’s what we do, back and forth.
Before we let our guests go, what we like to do is our attention mentions where we mention something that has our attention, like a show or a movie or an article, something like that. I’ll go first because I’m dying to share it because it’s so connected to what the work you do. I found this show. I don’t know how I missed it in 20201, but Dope Sick on Hulu. Have you seen this, Chris?
I have not seen it, but I’ve heard good things about it.
You got to go watch it. It basically tells the whole story of how oxycontin rose in the United States and the family behind it, the Sackler family. It was Purdue Pharma that created oxycontin and marketed very aggressively, got many people hooked on it and addicted. I think ha half a million people have died from it since it rolled out in like 1996. It’s amazing because they put the pieces together and they show you how this family was so skillful in marketing this drug and making it seem like these other nonprofit entities were pushing the value of it, but it was them behind the scenes funding these organizations. It was incredible. Very much recommend Dope Sick on Netflix.
I was obsessed with it for a little bit. When Claire said she was watching it, I was pretty excited. Do you have one, Chris?
I’ll say the book that I’ve finished reading, which again, relates to all of this craziness that we’ve been dealing with. It’s called The Flag and the Cross. It’s by Samuel Perry and Philip Gorski. It connects Christian Nationalism broadly and the things that drive it using social surveys, real outcomes on what we’ve seen to again help drive context. If anybody who’s reading what we’ve talked about here is intrigued and wants to dig deeper into the science behind the realities of what we’re seeing around us.The Flag and the Cross by Philip S. Gorski and Samuel L. Perry broadly connects White Christian nationalism and the things that drive it. If anybody wants to dig deeper into the science behind the realities o f what we're seeing around us, this book is… Click To Tweet
That book is a fabulous introduction, which again, if what we’ve talked about peaks your interest. Go look up The Flag and The Cross because they draw connections between the things going on in the Trump presidency. The things that we have all as people who care deeply about our communities have mobilized to go push back on. It puts real research-type information behind it to show you the root of the route that we see happening in these places.
It’s this idea of Christian Nationalism and the fact that these things that we’re all fighting are the weeds that come out of this one route. Until you understand that all of these things are being driven by different fragments of the same ideology, it’s hard to go fight. It will help people understand the mountain we were up against. Until you understand it’s a mountain, it’s hard to go fight.
It sounds like you could get exhausted because you’ll be exhausted finding that little bit of thing when you’re not focused on the bigger.
I can’t recommend that book highly enough.
Very cool. I wrote it down, but it also will be in our episode description. I’m going to take it in a totally different direction. I’m going to bring the lightness and the mindlessness. I have been watching the Bachelorette. They have two this season, which is a little bit chaotic and crazy. There are more tears than I think I’ve seen in a while on that franchise. It is mindless and it is a relaxing time when you need to like step out of the craziness. You can watch it on ABC or you can watch it on Hulu when it streams.
I’ll say the Great British Bake Off is that show for me.
I hear good things about it. My family watches it. I haven’t seen it with them, though.
They’re so and happy even when horrible things are happening in their kitchen in front of them.
Our brains need the time to let it go and get back up to fight. Thank you so much, Chris, for your time. We appreciate you chatting with us and sharing more about your journey with your advocacy and the incredible documentary that you are part of Deep in the Pockets of Texas. If you haven’t seen it, go check it out. Let us know what you think and follow Chris on social media to learn more.
About Chris Tackett
Chris is a former school board trustee who decided to start following the money, to figure out not only what was happening with big money flowing into Texas politics, but also the why. He has been a source for the Texas Tribune, Austin, Dallas, and Fort Worth newspapers, and been featured in the CNN documentary “Deep In the Pockets of Texas”.