Kinky Friedman has been a very interesting figure in American culture. He is noted as both country musician and mystery writer. He also made an unsuccessful run at the governorship of Texas. Friedman was politically incorrect before the term existed. He's also been a very shrewd observer of our nation.


In You Can Lead a Politician to Water but You Can't Make Him Think: Ten Commandments for Texas Politics, Friedman writes about his campaign for governor. He provides background into why he made the decision to run. He explains that he dearly loves the state of Texas but hates what has been happening to the state. He was upset by the problems of illegal immigration, the poor quality of the education system and other issues. He held the view that both the Democratic and Republican parties were pillaging the state with the status quo and politics as usual.


 The idea to run for governor as an independent candidate was intriguing. He writes that no independent candidate made it on the ballot in Texas since Sam Houston. He ponders the 154 year gap between Houston's campaign and his own. He also noted that Texans have become very apathetic about voting. Most elections get less than 30% of the voters to come out and vote. After viewing all these problems, he decided to throw his ten gallon yarmulke into the race.


 Friedman recounts his run for the governorship. He notes that he slept in the White House during both the Clinton and W Bush administrations. This made it almost natural for him to wind up in the race. He noted that he had run for justice of peace in 1986 and also been chairman of the Gay Texans for Phil Gramm movement.


That led to a cigar chomping, singing Jewish cowboy running for governor. He had to try raising campaign money and found many of the musicians of Texas willing to back him.  Willie Nelson, Butch Hancock and Billy Joe Shaver among others were behind him and performed benefit concerts for the cause. He was supported by late columnist Molly Ivins. (There is a tribute to Ivins at the conclusion of the book.) He suggests that he is the only candidate ever supported by both Ivins and Bush.


The book is broken down into ten chapters. I guess each chapter represents a commandment. I won't list the commandments as a few of them have words that won't pass through the filters here. In the first chapter, he implores Texans to remember the Alamo and keep it holy. He writes of how this is a small mission in a state where most things are large. He also suggests that independence is supposed to be the spirit of Texas. Why then, would it be so difficult for an independent candidate to run? Voters in Texas are forced by an archaic rule to sit out the primary election in order to sign a petition to allow an independent candidate. He does dedicate the book to the 170,258 Texans who signed to petition for him.


Among Kinky's campaign themes were such ideas as “Slots for Tots.” He wanted to legalize gambling and use to proceeds to aid the school system. He also set out to fight the wussification of the state. Wussification is the weakening of fibers be they physical, moral or spiritual. His motto is WWWRD: What would Will Rogers Do? He quotes Rogers ”politicians are the greatest comedicans. The only trouble is ever time they make a joke it turns into a law. Everytime they make a law it turns into a joke.”


He does have fun ripping at political correctness. He states he is a Jew who has no problem with saying “Merry Christmas” and is not against praying in school. The Ten Commandments can be reintroduced to the schools but Kinky writes we should change the name to the Ten Suggestions. Of course, he also supported gay marriage because he felt gay guys should have just as much right to be miserable as straight guys.


Friedman uses the book for both comical purposes but also to outline many of his ideas. He was very interested in campaign reform. He notes how the system is structured to benefit the wealthy candidates. As he notes, “a fool and his money soon will be elected.”  He worked with Bill Hillsman and Dean Barkley who had worked on Jesse Ventura's successful run for Minnesota governor. He also received advise from former Cincinnati mayor Jerry Springer.


Although Friedman ran a serious campaign there was much humor to be found. He wrote about an incident when he was photographed during a parade. He was riding in the car and took a can of Guinness from a girl and took a few sips. The media was up in arms about him drinking alcohol in a moving vehicle. Friedman's response was to admit that he drank the Guinness but he didn't swallow.


This book is a very quick read. It's only 128 pages and includes numerous pictures. Some of the pictures are campaign ads. I do like one photograph of the Kinkster posing with a pig. The caption reads ”Meeting with a lobbyist.” This is a very funny read although the Kinkster makes a lot of good points about the problems facing this country. Some of his policies might not have been realistic but he is very correct in asserting that we need more independent candidates and thinkers in this country.  


I will highly recommend this book for Kinky fans. I also recommend this for readers who want to get a humorous view of the current political situation in America. Friedman pulls no punches. He writes honestly about his own experience running for governor and his views on how we have lost our way. I tend to agree with much of what he has written. Some may not agree with all or many of his arguments but I think most readers will find him to be a refreshing and wildly amusing writer.



Author's Notes/Comments: 

originally published on a now defunct website called epinions.  Kinky Friedman is still relevant today.

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Stephen's picture

I was proudly one of the170,258.


fuche_bu's picture

Not bad for John

Not bad for John Larroquette's muse.