Updated: Apr 9, 2022
Editor's Note: This article was originally written in 2019, and edited again on Feb. 7, 2022, to update some missing links. Hopefully, the socio-political atmosphere in Lakeway has changed for the better by now, but this piece tells the tale of why my husband and I left the lovely little burg of Lakeway, Texas.
This article in the Austin American-Statesman is one example why my husband Bill and I no longer live in Lakeway, Texas, a golf-resort community on Lake Travis outside of Austin. We lived there 13 years and thought it would be our forever home, but in Lakeway, if you're not a Trump-style Republican, you will be socially ostracized by the reigning powers that be, a gaggle of far Right Wingers who think they run the place.
For those who don't know, Lakeway is a lovely, lakeside community that touts four golf courses and many community activities. It seemed perfect for our retirement, and my husband and I were excited to move there. We plunged right in, joining the country club, golf group, dinner-speaker series, and several social and charity groups. But we quickly realized from the arch-right-wing conversations of our new "friends" that we must keep our political views to ourselves. In spite of Austin being a predominately liberal city, we had landed among a cadre of liberal-hating Republicans who watch Fox News 24 hours a day and spew misogynistic lies about Jane Fonda, Nancy Pelosi, Meryl Streep, and Hillary Clinton.
As middle-of-the-road independent voters, Bill and I fared fairly well socially by keeping our politics to ourselves. But the election of Trump made silence impossible, as Trump’s lies, porn-stars, and corrupt administration brought our nation to the brink of civil war. When we finally spoke up/spoke out against him, we were instantly black-listed by a bunch of old biddies and country club golfers who hate anyone who is not a Trumpster. And I do mean “hate.” These people seethe at the very words “liberal,” “Democrat,” or "Californians," as if they’re a disease.
Wanna Be Harassed at Your Own Country Club?
Bill and I have voted in Republican or Democratic primaries when it suits our purposes, like in 2016, when Bill voted Republican so he could choose someone other than Trump, while I voted Democrat so I could vote for Hillary. I have also voted in Republican primaries, and Bill has voted in Democratic primaries. Since this is America, we figured it was okay to vote for the candidates of our choice, except I didn’t realize it was not okay in Lakeway.
In 2016, at a Hills Country Club dinner where you were supposed to mingle with other members, a fellow next to me asked me who I supported for president. When I told him Hillary, he fumed until he almost exploded, then seethed viciously that she was a C-word and a lesbian. Shocked at his anger, I murmured flippantly, “Oh, you just don’t know her the way I do.” Then he got up and left. So much for making friends.
During our club membership there, I came to avoid the club's fitness center because FOX News pundits blared from each and every TV. And FOX News runs full-time in the bar areas of each of The Hills four clubhouses. When one of my friends complained to club management, she was told that club policy was to have one political news channel running in each clubhouse. Why is that? And why should it be Fox?
Far more recently, I went to the club with friends to celebrate my recovery from knee surgery. On the way in, I walked past a group of gray-headed biddies who call themselves "the Mafia" and often define themselves as the "influential women" of Lakeway. When one redhead noticed me passing by, she muttered loudly, "Is that ...?" Another said snidely, "It sure is." Then they shook their addled heads as though I didn't have the right to be at the club.
The redhead was one I remembered from a Gossip Club social who went on a diatribe about Jane Fonda, Vietnam, and so forth. Only recently in March 2022, a Facebook friend recently posted a photo of another social, where one attendee, dressed as a witch, hung a huge, defaced photo of Hillary Clinton to her chest. I swear, these women are stuck in the '70s and '80s, still fearful that Jane Fonda or Hillary Clinton will somehow destroy America.
"Us Christians will fall in and disappear . . ."
I used to dread voting in primary elections in Lakeway because you had to identify which party’s primary you were voting in. One time, after I picked up a blue (Democrat) sample ballot, the group behind us started directing loud insults my way.
One fellow said something like, "There used to be only about 10 percent of ’em [meaning Democrats] out here, but now it's something like 20 percent. I tell ya, the liberals and Muslims are going to dig ditches around our voting booths so us Christian Republicans will fall in and disappear before we can vote."
If my husband were not there to keep me calm, I would have given that guy a piece of my mind, or better still, contacted the voting judge. But this type of verbal harassment can be common at the polls in Lakeway. A politically active Lakeway friend told me recently that a former Lakeway mayor had walked up and down the early voter line in 2020, literally telling people how to vote on certain city issues. (His ballot is not the blue one.)
Republican or the Silent Treatment
I'm on a rant here, but I don’t want this to sound one-sided. During our 13 years in Lakeway, we did meet some wonderful, intelligent people who remain friends, and, yes, some are Republicans. However, these are members of the formerly civil Republican Party who are as disappointed as we are that the dominant tenor of today's Republicans has become downright fascist.
And I got caught in its grip. One time at a dinner-speaker event, I made the mistake of asking an elderly woman across our table if I had met her at a Lake Travis Democrats meeting, where I had attended a candidates' forum. It featured ALL candidates from both parties, including Republicans. But she glared disparagingly at me, stopped speaking to me, and, years later, when it was her turn to host a book club where I was to speak about my novel To Leave a Memory, she refused to host the meeting.
Although I ran into her frequently at the local Gossip Club—my pet name for the area's women's club—this same woman NEVER again spoke or even nodded in my direction. All I had done was ask her if I'd met her at a candidates' forum.
Things really went downhill after the Gossip Clubbers discovered that Bill and I were not in the Trump camp. The week after Trump was elected in 2016, the group hosted a fashion expert as keynote speaker for the monthly luncheon. This style expert raved about the return to fashion of Donald and Melania, then denigrated the Obamas and vocally disdained the millions of women around the world who had marched for women’s rights the weekend before.
When I spoke up afterward to the VP of speakers, as well as on my Facebook author page, that a non-partisan women's club should not host blatantly political speakers, all hell broke loose. How dare I say such things, publicly?
At this time, I was in line to become one of the club's VPs. Uh-oh. I was taken out to dinner by several powers that be and essentially told to shut up. One past president said in a very threatening voice, "You don't know the social culture." Another officer told me, "No more emails."
And Then the Lies . . .
Being that Lakeway is run by gossip, hundreds of mean-spirited emails and phone calls started flying around to denounce me, all a bunch of lies or political diatribes. One now former friend told me, “You said you want want to burn the White House down with Madonna,” which was ridiculous because I don't even like Madonna. However, the Gossip Clubbers thrive on these emailed lies. In fact, several grand dammes email hundreds of their minions, telling them what they see as fit or unfit, and how to vote on certain issues.
Soon after these attacks, the incoming Gossip Club president and the VP convinced one of their Republican gal-pals to run against me, although this new candidate was a member of the nominating committee. How could a member of the nominating committee choose who should be an officer, that is, if she is also running? This was a rules-testing situation that smelled like the garbage it was. Guess who the hand-picked, very Republican committee chose?
Angry at the unfairness, I told a few of them what I thought of their duplicitous behavior, especially those who pretended they had done nothing wrong. The incoming president even asked me to serve again as the club webmaster, so I told her my views in no uncertain terms.
As a result, my husband was taken aside by one of his buddy golfers and told that we would not be invited to one of Bill's golf pal's weddings because "they" were afraid I might ruin the event. Hello? I had no idea I had the power to ruin someone's wedding, not that I would have attended it in the first place. The very Right-Wing bride had made herself clear at a board meeting that if I were not pro-Trump, I was persona non grata to her.
What Can a Person Do?
Bill and I decided to put our home on the market. Because it was quite large and in an older neighborhood, it took us three long years, but we sold at a good price. Wanting to downsize, we chose a garden home in Steiner Ranch's UT Golf Club area, still near Lake Travis. We had no clue of the political tenor, so we invited neighbors on surrounding streets to drop by. We had two of these drop-by events, and I'm telling you, our new neighbors were far more friendly and open-minded than many of the arrogant people we'd met in Lakeway. In fact, Bill and I used to laugh about the night and day difference between our new neighbors and the sour old guard of Lakeway.
This Is Not Only Our Story
Because of the way liberals were treated in Lakeway, I know eight couples who've left for the same reasons. I'm sure there are more. Months ago, the Austin American-Statesman wrote an article about the political tenor of Lakeway, but that article gilded the lily. A more recent article did not. It’s about a Lakeway Swap page on Facebook that rejected anyone "who supports Democrats, Black Lives Matter, or Antifa."
In the article, which has since been edited, Lakeway Swap co-administrator Marty Hale, who runs the page, actually said in earnest, "This is a safety thing for us. The site has rules. It has no hate crime. It has no bullying. And that's what they were organizing. We have every right to protect the members of that site from bullies and organizations that do it."
An even more recent article reports that past mayors of Lakeway formed a political action committee to make sure Lakeway-area voters oppose whatever they oppose. And they will do so with an eye on anyone who doesn't.
This kind of illogical and fascist thinking must stop. Democrats are not Antifa. Black Lives Matter supporters are not saying that White lives don't matter. America is a democracy. There are laws against prejudicial treatment. There are laws against violence and crime. Lying is wrong, especially when elected officials perpetrate the lies. Truth matters. Kellyanne Conway's ‘alternative facts’ are lies. Almost every thing Donald Trump says is a lie, and that has been proven. But no matter where you live, it's NOT okay to harass or ostracize your neighbors, especially when they exercise their rights to vote, think, or speak freely.
Let’s return to the America we were, when we respected our differences but came together to make our nation and neighborhoods welcoming and just.