Presentation on theme: "The Transition from Democratic to Republican Control in Texas GOVT 2306."— Presentation transcript:
The Transition from Democratic to Republican Control in Texas GOVT 2306
The basic objective of this set of slides is to understand how Texas went from a one party state fully controlled by Democrats, to a one party state dominated – if not controlled – by Republicans.
Along the way we’ll touch on the political history of the state, the policy positions of the two parties, the relationship between the state and national parties, and various other topics.
This is a trend that has impacted most of the other southern states as well – so its not unique to Texas. This has been one of the more consequential political shifts in recent decades and it helps explain the current nature of the political climate – especially where tension between the states, and between the national and state governments play out.
Frontline: How Texas became a “Red” State.How Texas became a “Red” State
I want to make one key point about this shift before proceeding. It should help put in context.
The shift – in many ways – was an ideological shift. Neither major party was fully liberal or conservative prior to this shift in the 1960s. There were many reason a person might identify with a political party that had nothing to do with ideology. Regional identity, or group identity helped explain party identification just as much.
These matter less and less. What divides parties more today is the fact that the are more ideologically distinct. People have sorted themselves into parties that fit their ideological points of view.
Conservatives have gravitated to the Republican Party Liberals have gravitated to the Democratic Party.
And independents have tuned out.
Some commentators say that what ideologues have sorted themselves to parties based on the ideological nature of each party. Some argue that the dysfunction we see in politics today is a function of the shift we will be investigating in this set of slides.
Let’s have an overview of the shift before digging into details. Here’s a look at shifts in party identification in the state over the past 60 years.
Trends in Party ID from Texas Politicsfrom Texas Politics
Note when the shifts in identification occurs.
This graph shows trends in turnout for each party’s primary. The blue line is for the Democrats, the red line is for the Republicans. You might be wondering why Republicans do so well in elections given the even split in party identification. We hit this point elsewhere, but the answer is that the groups that identify with the Republican Party tend to vote at higher rates than those that identify with the Democratic Party.
There are three periods of party politics in Texas that matter here:
1845 – 1960: One Party Democratic Rule – 1994: Two Party Competition 1994 – present: Republican Dominance.
In 1845 Texas became a state partly because the Democratic Party ran on a platform in the 1844 election pushing for annexation. In 1961 Texas elected its first Republican Senator – John Tower – to replace Lyndon Johnson when he was elected vice president in electionJohn TowerLyndon Johnson
The Republican Party was largely a non- entity during this time. Any competition came between the conservative and liberal/moderate factions within the Democratic Party. Democratic primary elections were highly competitive, but general elections were not since the winner would inevitably be the Democrat.
Beginning in 1964 the Republican Party grew in strength slowly. Conservative Democrats began to switch parties, but only once it made sense for them to do so. In 1994 Texas Republicans swept all statewide offices, and have done so ever since.
We can quibble with the dates since the transition has been gradual. These dates matter as well:
1978: Texas elects Bill Clements, its first Republican Governor since Reconstruction. (Why does that matter? Because Ex- Confederates could not participate politically until Reconstruction was over. Texas was under the control of United States troops who also enforced voting rights for male ex-slaves. This made the Republican Party temporarily powerful, but that would change.)Bill Clements Reconstruction
1996: Republicans become the majority party in the Texas Senate
2002: Republicans become the majority party in the Texas House
2004: Republicans become the majority of the Texas delegation in the United States House of Representatives.
Click hereClick here for a good overview of when the shifts from Democrat to Republican happened in Texas’ governing offices.
For detail on the change read: Misunderstanding the Southern Realignment Misunderstanding the Southern Realignment
Question: Did the conservatives leave the Democratic Party voluntarily or where they driven out?
Here’s a look at the gradual shift in voting patterns for the presidency. When and why did southern states begin to change their votes from Democrats to Republicans?
Here are a few terms to get comfortable with first:
First: The Solid South. Related: Politics of the Southern United States.The Solid SouthPolitics of the Southern United States
Second: Realigning Elections. Related: Fifth Party System.Realigning ElectionsFifth Party System
Third: Civil Rights Act of 1964 Related: The Southern StrategyCivil Rights Act of 1964The Southern Strategy
Here’s a bit more on each.
The term Solid South specifically refers to the fact that southern states – generally defined as being the states of the old Confederacy, plus border states that were slave owning but did not attempt to secede – voted Democrat as a block for over a century. Now many of these states have switched over to voting Republican – which means that the term Solid South may best refer to the fact that the political culture within these states binds them together and leads them to vote alike.
This – by the way – is a reflection of the unique political culture of the south, as well as Texas. Which was a subject of some of the early slides.
To be more specific, five states – Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina – are argued to be the deep south. Southern values dominate more that in the neighboring states. The size of Texas means that it has areas where it is western, plains and Latino in nature.
These are considered to be the Southern States:
And again, these states being considered to be the Deep South.Deep South
A realigning election is an election where a major shift has occurred in voting behavior among key parts of the electorate. Generally its when one party’s dominance of the political process changes, and the other’s begins. We spent some time in 2305 discussing the concept. Researchers suggest that there have been six such elections in American history.
We will note that the shift in 1968 – when Democratic dominance ended and the two parties began splitting control of governing institutions – was driven largely because of changes in the voting behavior of Southern States. This begins prominently in 1964.
The reason 1964 sticks out is because that was the election immediately following the signing – by a Texas Democrat in the White House – of the Civil Rights Act. The relationship between the South and the Democratic Party was already frayed, but this marked a repositioning of the national party from supporting to opposing racial segregation.
The Republican Party would adopt the Southern Strategy where they made subtle appeals to Southern voters. These began with Richard Nixon in 1968 and continued with Ronald Reagan in Here’s an article that argues that this was an attempt to turn the Republican Party into the “White Man’s Party.” Here’s an article that argues
There is more to the story that civil rights, but essentially a repositioning on issues occurred that more firmly cemented the Democratic Party as the liberal party and created incentives for conservatives to gravitate towards the Republican Party.
This has lead to what are now two parties that are polarized ideologically. We will not discuss this concept here that much, but much of the “dysfunction” that is argued to exist in Congress and between the states is argued to be a consequence of the forces unleashed in the transformation we cover here.
Here’s a graphical evidence of the process
Let’s apply these concepts to an overview of southern – and Texas’ - votes for the presidency in key elections in American history.
And here are examples of them voting as a bloc for presidents over history. Source of maps: 270towin.com.270towin.com
Note that the red states are the Republicans and the blue states are the Democrats.
This was the election that led to the Civil War. Republicans developed as the abolition party. Democrats split into northern and southern factions. Texas joined the Southern Democrats who were more supportive of slavery as a right enshrined in the Constitution – as decided in the Dred Scott decision - and promoted its expansion into the Territories. Animosity towards Republicans would bind the South to the Democratic party for decades. The Democrats were the party that sought to preserved southern racial policies, as well as agrarian policies in general. This helps explain the party’s appeal.
But there was more than just that. Democrats continued to promote the interests of the agrarian sector while Republicans more fully promoted industry – which would have no real presence in the South for almost a century.
The 1880 election was the first presidential election after the end of Reconstruction, meaning that ex confederates could participate in elections and hold office. The dominant issue was the tariff, which pit the industrial, Republican north against the agrarian, Democratic south. Tariffs protected American industry, but increased costs to consumers and led to the imposition of tariffs on items agricultural items grown in the South and exported elsewhere.Tariffs
The tariff continued to be an issue, as did the gold standard. Industry backed Republican candidates supported the gold standard, which Southern Democrats – among others – opposed. They wanted money backed by a combination of gold and silver which they argued would increase the prices for their crops. This helped fuel the idea that the Republican Party did not care about the South and deliberately adopted policies that hurt it.gold and silver
– This was the last election of the fourth party system. Republicans had dominated elections since Herbert Hoover won a landslide. Democrats held their convention that year in Houston – the first time it was held in the South. Republicans benefitted from a booming economy that did not seem likely to end – but it did of course. Which lead to the fifth party system and the inclusion of the South in the New Deal Coalition and a seat at the table in the FDR administration.fourth party system
This was the first time Texas voted for a Republican for president. It would continue to vote Democrat for members of Congress and for state office though – more on that soon enough.
Note that Democratic leadership in southern states grew uncomfortable with the FDR’s support for labor unions and policies like social security, which they considered socialist. This was enough for some southern conservatives to start agitating within the party, but not enough to lead to an affiliation with the Republican Party. At least not yet.
Things would change when Harry Truman became president upon FDR’s death and began pushing more liberal policies nationally. This led to rebellion in some southern states.
The states in yellow voted for Strom Thurmond – a South Carolinian who ran as a Dixiecrat, also known as the State’s Rights Democratic Party. This demonstrated that the Democratic Party organizations in southern states were displeased with the decisions of national Democratic officeholders.Strom ThurmondState’s Rights Democratic Party
One of the principle reasons FDR was able to keep the New Deal Coalition together was that he did not push civil rights policies. He knew that would push the South from the party. His successor – Harry Truman – did not have the same reservations. His push not only for civil rights, but for Medicare and Medicaid led to a rebellion in some southern states – including Texas.
Southern states (not including Texas however) were back in the fold in the next election and voted for Stevenson over Eisenhower, who was very popular due to his leadership role in WW2. He was not especially liked by the conservative wing of the Republican Party. They wanted to abolish most New Deal programs – which he declined to do.
Southern Democrats were actually more conservative than Eisenhower. Note that Texas Republicans supported Eisenhower. They formed an alliance with Eisenhower and Congressional Republicans. This was called the conservative coalition. Despite the fact that Democrats continued to control Congress, the conservative coalition was able to dominate policy making. conservative coalition
This was the first election following LBJ’s signing of the Civil Rights Act. Doing so effectively repositioned the Democratic Party on the issue. After over a century of supporting slavery and segregation – or at least not actively opposing them – the party supported policies outlawing the practice. For the first time, the Deep South voted Republican – Barry Goldwater – who would help rally the increasingly strong conservative element in the party.Barry Goldwater
Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act. The southern states liked that. Here’s a video on the subject. Here’s a video on the subject
Texas goes back to voting Democrat (for LBJ’s VP Hubert Humphrey) but the South votes for American Independent candidate George Wallace – who was then a strong supporter of segregation. Too strong. His appeals turned many people off. But Richard Nixon would begin using the Southern Strategy, which was a way to make appeals to people in the South that he thought could be persuaded to vote for him. Direct appeals based on race were not used, instead coded language would be used to make the same arguments.Southern Strategy
Coded language is used to replace deliberately racist language that had been successful previously.
Instead of race, conservatives talked in terms of states rights, law and order, culture wars, entitlements, and welfare. This helps explain a lot of the political language that is used right now.
For a hint at how this strategy still influences contemporary politics read: Reagan’s Southern strategy gave rise to the Tea Party. And here’s a quick video: Ask Steve: Southern Strategy.Reagan’s Southern strategy gave rise to the Tea Party Ask Steve: Southern Strategy
A landslide for Nixon. Only Massachusetts and the Washington DC vote for his opponent. Internal fighting within the Democratic Party allowed the far left to dominate the party and created an opportunity for Republicans to further appeal to conservative Democrats. As we will see in a few slides, this shift did not happen in Congress at this time. It would take another 20 years for that to happen.
The Southern Strategy was bearing fruit.
The Nixon Administration made the decision to bug the headquarters of the Democratic National Party during the 1972 campaign in what became known as the Watergate Scandal. Nixon’s resignation set the effort to convert the South back an election cycle. Jimmy Carter – an ex governor of Georgia – won the 1976 race and southern states voted for him., including Texas. Watergate ScandalJimmy Carter
But an internal battle was developing within the Republican Party. Moderate to Liberal Republicans were being challenged by conservatives in the party. They first rallied around Barry Goldwater. They now rallied around Ronald Reagan. Reagan lost the race for the 1976 Republican nomination, but won it in 1980 along with the general election.Ronald Reagan
Texas has never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since. Though – once again – it would take a while for the Republican Party to become the majority party in the Texas Congressional delegation. 24 years.
While Texas made the shift in 1980, other southern states took a little more time because Democrats nominated an appealing southern candidate – Bill Clinton – in 1992 and Clinton took conservative positions on issues like federalism and law and order which helped him with southern voters.
Barack Obama was the first non – southern Democrat to win the presidency since Kennedy in His election – as well as that of George W. Bush of Texas before him – helped bind southern states together and make them a more permanent part of the Republican coalition.
This is obviously a very different map than what we saw from election in the 19 th Century. The 2012 map is almost exactly opposite form the one in 1896.
Keep in mind that the people in the states did not necessarily change their positions on issues – though those can be modified when people move into the state. Parties changed their positions on issues over time for political gain.
Some useful reading if you’d like more on this. Before and After: The 2008 Election and the Second “Solid South The End of the Solid South Before and After: The 2008 Election and the Second “Solid South The End of the Solid South
For full detail on presidential election results in Texas click here: Historical Presidential Election Results Historical Presidential Election Results
A quick look at partisan shifts in the U.S. Congress
The following graph charts the change in partisan composition of the Texas Delegation to the United States House of Representatives.Texas Delegation to the United States House of Representatives
Political party strength in Texas United States congressional delegations from Texas
Trend in partisan control of Texas’ congressional delegation.
The purple line reflects the fact that the number of seats from 2 to 36 over the course of history. Until the mid 1960s (let’s say the 59 th Congress) the Democratic Party dominated. Years would sometimes go by with no Republicans representing the state. 59 th Congress
1962 was the first year more than one Republican was a member of the delegation. In 1984, the year Ronald Reagan was re- elected to office, 10 Republicans were elected. In 2004, the year George W. Bush was re- elected, Republicans became the majority party.
Note that Republican members of Congress do well when a Republican presidential candidate does well. This is called the coattail effect.coattail effect
Click hereClick here for the Texas Delegation in the 113 th Congress. Click here for the history of Texas delegations to Congress. It currently has 24 Republican and 12 Democrats.Click here
Though Texas voters began voting Republican for president in 1980, Democrats continued to dominate the Texas congressional delegation, and would until The Democratic Party remained strong in the state not only in the U.S. Congress, but in the Texas Legislature as well.
One: A congressional or legislative candidate is able to make a greater personal connection with their constituency. While conservative Texas voters might start voting for Republican presidential candidates, their personal connection to local representatives kept them voting Democrat for some time.
This also illustrates the fact that – as a party – Texas Democrats could define themselves in a way that was different than how the national Democratic Party defined itself. This created the tension that would eventually result in the shift towards the Republican Party.
Two: The Democratic Party continued to be the majority Party in Congress until 1994 when Republicans – lead by Newt Gingrich and his Contract with America – nationalized the election and controlled both the House and Senate.
Before that happened, there was little incentive for conservative Democrats to change parties. By being part of the majority party, they could have a far greater impact on legislation and provide benefits for their constituents. This cannot be dome as a member of the minority party.
When Republicans became the majority party after the 1994 election, conservative Democrats were invited to make the shift. Many Texans did so.
Examples of Texas Democrats who switched parties. Phil Gramm Greg Laughlin Ralph Hall Allan Ritter Phil Gramm Greg Laughlin Ralph Hall Allan Ritter
Three: Texas legislators are unabashed, enthusiastic and skillful gerrymanderers. They can draw districts for political effect very well. As long as Democrats were the majority party in the legislature, they could prevent an increasingly competitive Republican Party from taking over Congress and the Texas Legislature.gerrymanderers
Democrats could draw districts minimizing Republican representation by packing as many as they could in a few districts as possible. This worked until Republicans took over both the Texas House and Senate following the election of 2002, and then redrew electoral maps to maximize Republican representation.then redrew electoral maps
It’s a brutal process, but that’s Texas politics.
These two maps give you an idea of the change that happened in Congress as a result of the redistricting.
After the 2004 Republicans were the majority party in the Texas delegation to Congress. In 2002 the Texas delegation to the House of Representative has 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans. In 2004 it has 11 Democrats and 21 Republicans.
As of 2014 – Texas Democrats are still recovering. More on this below: Can Democrats stage a comeback. Some argue that they can.
Texas became a much redder state, but it did not necessarily become more conservative. Conservatives simply continued their shift from the Democratic to Republican Parties. This was able to happen in Congress because the shift had already happened in the Texas Legislature. Remember that the legislature draws and redraws districts
Let’s look then at partisan shifts in the Texas legislature.
Here’s a graph showing the shift in partisan control since 1870.
Partisan Trends in the Texas Legislature
For sources of data: Party Affiliation in the Texas Legislature List of Governors of Texas Historical Texas Elections Party Affiliation in the Texas Legislature List of Governors of Texas Historical Texas Elections
You can see from the slides that there was some Republican representation early on during and following Reconstruction. By 1910, the party was effectively a non- entity. From 1934 to 1948 no Republican served in the Texas House. From 1928 to 1964 no Republican served in the Texas Senate.
This explains why there is little party organization in the Texas Legislature. There was never a real need. This might be changing, but more on that in a separate section.
As with the U.S. Congress, Republican representation increases in the early 1960s, specifically in the 58 th Session following the election of 1962.
Republican strength grew steadily until they became the majority party in the Texas Senate following the 1996 election – in the 75 th legislative session, and in the Texas House following the 2002 election – in the 78 th legislative session.
Republicans had an opportunity following the 2002 election to expand their lead over Democrats by redrawing legislative districts in the U.S. House, and Texas House and Senate. For a look at this read: 2003 Texas Redistricting.2003 Texas Redistricting
Here’s a look at the partisan breakdown in the Texas House following the 2010 election.
Notice that areas of Democratic strength are in the large cities and the Mexican border, while Republican strength is in the suburban and rural areas.
The fact that these areas are heavily Hispanic, along with the fact that the Hispanic population is the fastest growing segment of the Texas population has led some to suggest that Democrats have an opportunity to become more competitive in the near future. This assumes that Republicans will not be able to make inroads into this group. It also depends upon whether the political participation among Hispanics increases.
The important take-away here is to note that the shift from Democratic to Republican identification and voting does begin in the 1960s following not only the Civil Rights but a large number of other pieces of legislation designed to expand voting rights and deal with poverty. This supports the argument that partisan repositioning in racial matters was a driving force in this shift.
In the following slides lets look at a few key events a dates that help us walk through the change in party Identification over time.
Click on these for historical detail from the TSHA about the Texas Democratic and Republican Parties. DemocraticRepublican
Remember that political parties had evolved for several decades prior to when Anglos were invited to populate the Mexican state of Texas.
Prior to the 1828 US election, politics in the US was restricted to elites. Property rights requirements made mass participation difficult. Remember that this was one of the factors leading to the establishment of Texas.
The Democratic Party was first competitive in the election of It splinted off from the Democrat-Republican Party and was developed to support the candidacy of Andrew Jackson. It represented the interests of the agrarian states of the South and in many ways picked up the positions supported by the Anti-Federalists years before that.
Texas was populated with people that already identified with the Democratic Party. In addition to that, early Texas political leaders like Sam Houston had personal friendships with Andrew Jackson, who was the first Democrat in the White House.
Democrats opposed all of that. The Whigs would eventually split over slavery. The northern part would become the Republican Party.
The chief opponent of the Democratic Party was the Whig Party until the Republican Party developed in the 1850s. It supported the interests of the commercial sector – including protective tariffs, infrastructure development, and a central banking system.Whig Party
Mexican Texas: Immigrants were Jacksonian Democrats.
Prior to becoming a state, parties – unofficially – developed in the Republic of Texas. To a lesser extent, this also occurred when Texas was a Mexican state, but the legality of these groups was questionable. The right to assemble was not guaranteed by the Mexican government.
Republic of Texas
Personality, not party, dominated politics in the Republic of Texas. Sam Houston was the dominant personality, and political groups were usually foes or supporters of the hero of San Jacinto. - linkRepublic of Texas Sam Houstonlink
During the Texas Republic, groups tended to cluster around support for Sam Houston and his desire to join the union, and Mirabeau Lamar and his goal of maintaining Texas independence, and expanding the republic westward to California.
Houston’s faction would win out.
As discussed previously, the annexation of Texas was controversial and was a subject in the 1844 US election. The Democrats favored the annexation while the Whigs opposed it. The dispute hinged largely on slavery and what Texas’ annexation would mean for the balance of power between the slave and free states.1844 US election
Since Democrats supported Texas’ annexation, there’s little wonder the Democratic Party dominated the state from the start. It also helped that most of the emigrants to Texas were from southern US states that already identified with the Democratic Party.
From the TSHA section on the Democratic Party: “Before 1848, elections in Texas were conducted without organized political parties. Personality was the dominant political force in the state. Contests between factions evolved into a more defined stage of competition with the development of the Democratic party in Texas as a formal organ of the electoral process during the 1848 presidential campaign. Even so, it was some time before Democrats adopted any sort of a statewide network or arranged for scheduled conventions.”Democratic Party
The planter classes in East Texas held most of the power at that time in the state.
1850s Politics becomes affected by battle over slavery. Parties become more organized. Democrats begin holding state conventions – most counties begin attending them.
Late 1850s: Radical Democrats are dubbed the Fire-Eaters. They urge a re-establishment of the slave trade and start pushing for secession.Fire-Eaters
1859: The Constitutional Union Party attracts Democrats worried about radicalism within the Democratic Party.Constitutional Union Party
Battle over secession divides unionists – under the leadership of Sam Houston - over states rights Democrats. States rights Democrats win.
1860: The Democratic Party splits in two. Texas joins the Southern Democrats. Lincoln is not on the ballot. That’s how disliked Republicans were.
Partisan activity came to a halt during the Civil War. There was little party activity during reconstruction as well. Ex- Confederates could not participate unless they took a loyalty oath to the union. Republicans were able to become competitive briefly as a result.
For much of this time Texas was ruled by the United States military. It was placed in the Fifth Military District, under the control of a series of generals. There was little room for party politics.Fifth Military District
1867: The Republican Party of Texas is established. They held their first convention that year in Houston July 4 th. It was a result of the transformation of the political system in Texas brought about by the Congressional Reconstruction Act of The former Confederate states had to establish new governments and extend the franchise to freed adult male African Americans. This did not go over well.Republican Party of Texas
1867: The Union League used as a way to organize and mobilize black voters. They tended to vote for Republican candidates. This helps explain the strong relationship that existed for many years between the party and the African-American community, as well as the animosity towards the party from the ex- Confederates.
1868: The 14 th Amendment is ratified. Southern states had to ratify it in order to be re-admitted to the union. The amendment includes two clauses which expanded national power over the states.
The Due Process Clause which made the liberties established in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution applicable to the states. The Equal Protection Clause which required each state to provide equal protection of the laws to persons within their jurisdiction.
The problem with each was enforcement. Southern states, like Texas, were generally uninterested in enforcing them, and created barriers for the national government to enforce them.
Republicans had a brief period of power – 1869 to 1873 where they controlled the legislature and governor’s office. They were also installed in state and county offices by reconstruction officials, who were also able to prevent ex- confederates from being able to hold office. They pushed for equity in political power, state provision of education and law enforcement and civil rights for freed male slaves.
1869: “The 1869 election returns showed the sources of the new [Republican] party's electoral strength. The strongest backing came from counties with large black populations. White support came mainly from the German counties of Central Texas, frontier counties south and west of San Antonio, and some counties in Northeast Texas. The sources of white Republican votes were primarily areas that had shown Unionist strength before the war. Between 1869 and 1874 the Radicals pushed ambitious economic and social programs. They sponsored and secured railroad development financed by state support of railroad bonds, established a system of free schools, instituted a bureau of immigration, and formed the State Police to combat lawlessness. Despite the party's achievements, higher taxes and Republican racial policies produced strong opposition to the administration from Democrats (supported by Conservative Republicans who had reorganized as Liberal Republicans). The Democrats also charged the Republicans with dictatorial practices and corruption.” – TSHA.State PoliceTSHA
The only period of strength the Republican Party had (until recently) was during Reconstruction when union interests, immigrants from other states and African-Americans formed its core. Ex-Confederates had yet to be allowed to become politically involved again.Reconstruction
Previously we discussed how the 1869 Constitution was written by these groups and that the document reflected a desire to make Texas comply with national directives and to give the state power over local areas Constitution
1869: Republican Edmund Davis elected governor of Texas.Edmund Davis
1873: The Panic of 1873.The Panic of 1873
1876: Reconstruction effectively ends as the result of a deal following the disputed presidential election of The Democratic candidate won the majority vote, but the electoral college winner was unclear. Eventually a compromise was struck where the Democratic candidate would drop his challenge if the Republican candidate would pull federal troops from the south. This not only ended Reconstruction, it ended the brief period of Republican rule in the state. presidential election of 1876compromise was struck
Democrats returned to power. Antagonism to the Republican Party increased.
Identification with the Democratic Party became so strong that the term Yellow Dog Democrat became popular. This referred to a Democrat who would "vote for a yellow dog before they would vote for any Republican". There were many in Texas.Yellow Dog Democrat
For detail read: Death of the ‘Yellow Dog’ Democrat.Death of the ‘Yellow Dog’ Democrat
Since African-Americans were a key part of the Republican coalition – along with poor whites – laws restricting their participation was central to the re-emergence of the Democratic Party. Electoral laws would gradually change in order to solidify Democratic dominance of Texas politics. Examples include the white primary and the poll tax. Electoral lawswhite primary
1876: The Greenback Party is established and eclipses the Republican Party in the election of 1878.Greenback Party
1878: The Citizen’s Party of Harrison County.The Citizen’s Party of Harrison County
1883: Norris Wright Cuney – an African-American politician – becomes chair of the Texas Republican Party is the “Cuney Era” of the Republican Party.
1888: The Lily-White Movement. An attempts was made in the Republican Party to expel African- American delegates, called the “black and tan” faction. This reflects internal divisions within the party between white and black factions.The Lily-White Movement
1890: The People’s Party is founded. This was a populist party that reflected the concerns of small farmers, laborers and others further down the social food chain. They promoted regulation of railroads and corporations, looser monetary policy and protection from large scale landowners – notably the planter class that had traditionally dominated Texas politics.People’s Party
1905: The Terrell Election Law is passed which for the first time attempted to regulate the nominations process of each party. Previously parties developed their own rules, including rules associated with primaries. Now that state took this over. Since Democrats controlled the state, they were now in a position to dominate how all state parties operated – including the opposition.Terrell Election Law
Over this time, the Democratic Party solidified itself as the only party that mattered in the state. General elections did not matter, only the Democratic primary. If you wanted to hold office in the state, you had to run as a Democrat. To a large degree, this was true in other southern states as well.
This allowed them to amass a great deal of power in the US Congress due to strict seniority rules. The committee members who was also a member of the majority party and had the longest service on the committee automatically became the committee chair. Many Texans became committee chairs as a result could direct federal dollars to the state and their local districts.
Texas – businesses especially – benefited heavily from the situation. It helps explain the reluctance of the Texans to leave the Democratic Party as long as it continued to be the majority party in Congress.
This had an interesting benefit for Texas, and the rest of the South. It made the state more influential in Congress.
Why? Because congressional elections became very uncompetitive and members of Congress from Texas began to acquire seniority. Primary elections were more easy to control – so incumbents could be re-nominated – and since there was no Republican competition of note, they would be re-elected easily.
The rule of thumb was to elect people to Congress while young and keep them in office.
Seniority had major advantages at that time. The ability to automatically chair committees for example, which they could then control almost dictatorially. This meant these officeholders could ensure that benefits would flow to their districts, and some laws – like civil rights legislation – could be prevented from being voted on, much less passed.
Example: Sam Rayburn served in Congress from 1913 – He would serve as Speaker three separate times for a total of 17 years. Sam Rayburn
This created additional incentives to continue to vote Democrat. It also bolsters the argument made above about why it took longer for Republicans to dominate the Texas delegation to Congress than to dominate the vote for the presidency.
In the early 20 th Century the Texas Republican Party positioned itself as the party of business. Which would take a long time to reap benefits since Texas remained an agrarian state for a while longer, but emerging business leaders in the state began to gravitate towards the party.
Two men chaired the Republican Party from Cecil A. Lyon: Rentfro B. Creager: Cecil A. Lyon Rentfro B. Creager
While the Republican Party was not competitive in the state, these figures – and a few others – became active in national Republican politics. The party’s positions on national policies – especially its stand against regulations - became increasingly attractive to conservative Democrats.
“From 1901 to the party sought to enlarge its membership by appealing for support from Texans who were sympathetic with the national party's programs. The domestic agenda changed at times, but generally platforms were pro-business. This position was sustained by policies limiting government regulations and expenditures and reducing taxes, while providing aid to businessmen and farmers through extensions of credits and imposition of tariffs.” - TSHATSHA
Business interests in the state were growing – and they were drawn to the national Republican Party’s opposition to regulations and labor unions – but they were still a minority. Texas was still mostly agrarian, and the party could not overcome continued revulsion to it due to its history by Anglos.
1896 – 1932 The Fourth Party System The Fourth Party System
While the Democratic Party was consolidating its strength in the state of Texas, the Republican Party dominated politics nationally. It controlled the presidency except for when it split its votes in 1912 and Woodrow Wilson was elected President.
During this time the parties solidified themselves as being agrarian (Democrats) or commercial (Republicans). Regional divisions evolved in voting behavior based on the dominant industry in the state. Ongoing resentment to the Republican Party in the South also played into this. This map shows the strength of the relationship between the south and the Democratic Party during this period. The blue states are the Democrats.
During this time a split developed in the Republican party between the progressives and the business sector. Republican presidents like Theodore Roosevelt embraced progressive reforms and increased regulations over industry, but others – like William Howard Taft, and especially Coolidge and Harding – opposed them.
In the presidential election of 1912 Theodore Roosevelt ran as a candidate of the Progressive Party, and drew enough votes away from the Republican candidate to throw the election to the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson. This loss would eventually weaken Republicans because it created an incentive for the Progressive wing of the party to slowly pull away from it and realign to the Democratic Party.1912 Theodore Roosevelt
But Wilson’s election was advantageous to Texas and the Houston area because of the connections area politicians and business leaders had to the administration. Two key figures: Edward M. House and Jesse Jones.Edward M. HouseJesse Jones
1928: Jesse Jones is able to convince the Democratic Party to hold its national convention in Houston. It nominated Al Smith, whose name was introduced by Franklin Roosevelt.national convention
Ironically Texas voted for Herbert Hoover in that election, the first time Texas voted for a Republican president. Texas opposed Smith because he was opposed to the Ku Klux Klan, wanted to repeal prohibition, and was Catholic.
1932 – 1968 The Fifth Party System The Fifth Party System
The Great Depression ended the Republican Party’s string of success. In 1932 Texas and most of the rest of the nation voted for Franklin Roosevelt, the Democratic nominee. Roosevelt used the opportunity to assemble what became known as the New Deal Coalition, a large somewhat disorganized collection of groups in the nation. This included the South, which had been a part of the Democratic coalition already for a century.New Deal Coalition
What is the New Deal? It is the name given to a series of programs enacted when FDR came into office in 1933 to aggressively address the problems associated with the Great Depression. Many of these programs were promoted at one point by the progressive movement. The economic crash created an opportunity to enact these programs due to the overwhelming victory Democrats had in the 1932 election.New DealGreat Depression
While the Hoover Administration directly addressed certain aspects of the crisis, they largely left it to the economy to pick itself up. Many states – including southern states – felt deserted by Hoover, which further alienated it from the Republican Party.
The creation of the New Deal Coalition was essential to passing these programs into law. Members of the coalition included: “ Banking and oil industries, the Democratic state party organizations, city machines, labor unions, blue collar workers, minorities (racial, ethnic and religious), farmers, white Southerners, people on relief, and intellectuals [progressives].”city machineslabor unions
One of the ways that FDR ensured Texas’ support for his administration was to ask Texas – and Speaker of the House – John Nance Garner to run as his vice-president. Aside from helping him win the South – Garner helped ensure the passage of New Deal legislation through Congress. Other Texans – most notable Jesse Jones – were also involved in the FDR Administration.John Nance Garner
This would pay dividends when the decision was made to make Houston the center of petro- chemical production prior to and during WW2. This explains why Texas business interests continued their affiliation with Democrats – they received tangible benefits for doing so. Texas also became more attractive to business interests, which would eventually help the Republican Party establish itself in the state.
But this coalition included elements that did not always agree on all issues. The economic crisis allowed for the creation of temporary alliances among groups that otherwise did not see eye to eye. The coalition contained elements that would eventually splinter.
Oil interests and labor unions would come into conflict over whether forming a labor union was a right the national government could enforce.
Business interests would also come into conflict over various regulations that were intended to provide relief to the unemployed and to retired workers (social security). Texas business likes the contracts they received, but did not want to deal with labor unions.
Most importantly, white southerners existed uneasily in a party that also included racial minorities, as well as the progressive voices that started to agitate for meaningful civil rights legislation.
FDR was clever however. He did not push for civil rights legislation, and made compromises in other areas restricting benefits from African-Americans and the poor in order to keep southern politicians happy. See this description of The Segregated Origins of Social Security. The Segregated Origins of Social Security
As we will see, his successor – Harry Truman - would not hold back. He desegregated the armed forces and held civil rights conferences in the White House.
Slowly elements within the South – and elsewhere – started to break with FDR over the New Deal. Groups developed in the South to organize this opposition. Here’s a look at some of the reactions to it:
1936: The Jeffersonian Democrats were formed by business groups that were increasingly disaffected by the policies of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal in general.Jeffersonian Democrats
“The Texas membership of this anti-Roosevelt group was composed largely of lawyers, followed by businessmen, farmers, and ranchers. Their theme was that the New Deal was un-American and a threat to the institutions that Texans cherished and respected.... The Jeffersonian Democrats attempted to identify the Roosevelt administration with communism and made extreme charges against the president and his family. They also used religion, white supremacy, and prohibitionism in their appeals.” – TSHA. TSHA
The Texas Regulars
1937: The Conservative Manifesto is written by conservatives in both parties. It featured 10 points that sounds very similar to the points conservatives continue to make today.Conservative Manifesto
- lowering taxes on capital gains and undistributed profits - reducing government spending and balancing budgets - restoring peace to the relationship between labor and industry - resisting government competition with private enterprise - recognizing the importance of profit in private enterprise - protecting collateral as a prerequisite for credit - reducing taxes - maintaining states' rights - aiding the unemployed in an economical and locally responsible manner - relying on American free enterprise.
Southern Conservative Democrats agree with many of these positions and begin to pull away from the national party. Conflict builds between the national party and the state parties across the south, especially Texas. The state Democratic Party continues to adhere to strong conservative line, though a moderate faction begins to build slowly. State and local Democratic Party leaders and incumbents continue to receive support event though support for national figures begins to slip.
FDR’s decision to seek 3 rd and 4 th terms of office further alienated him from Texas Democrats. 1940: John Nance Garner chooses to not run again as FDR’s VP.
Click here for a descriptionClick here for a description of Garner’s increasingly contentious relationship with FDR. An extended quote:
In late 1936, Roosevelt's approach to labor strikes led to a heated exchange between the President and Garner, and from then on the vice president became more a figure of opposition than cooperation. Garner opposed Roosevelt's "court-packing" plan and was noticeably absent during the congressional debates regarding the proposal. Roosevelt also went against Garner's advice and aggressively tried to unseat conservative Democrats in the 1938 midterm elections. The President's intervention earned him substantial enmity from conservative members of his own party, many of them close friends of Garner, and helped stall his legislative agenda. When Roosevelt began to hint at the possibility of a third term, Garner was aghast and declared his own candidacy in December Although he attracted some support, Garner knew that Roosevelt would take the nomination if he sought it. The increasing instability in Europe assured Roosevelt's nomination and eventual election. Garner did not reconcile with Roosevelt, however, and did not even vote in the 1940 election.
Garner only received 6% of the vote in the 1940 Democratic National Convention. He was replaced on the ticket with Henry Wallace, who had been FDR’s Secretary of Agriculture and was far more liberal than Garner. This pushed the center of gravity of the Democratic Party further to the left.1940 Democratic National ConventionHenry Wallace
This would continue in 1944 when FDR selected Harry Truman, who would quickly become president following FDR’s death in 1945.Harry Truman
1944: Smith v Allwright decided. The white primary found unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court.Smith v Allwright
The Texas Democratic Party was still segregated at this time. Until the Supreme Court case Smith v Allwright, only whites could vote in the Democratic Party Primary. The party argued unsuccessfully before the court that they were a private organization and the federal government had no authority over it. The court argues that since they provided a public function, they could be.
1945: FDR dies and is replaced by his vice-president Harry Truman.
TrumanTruman desegregated the armed forces and promoted the development of a civil rights agenda. This led to the development of the States’ Rights Party (the Dixiecrats) with Strom Thurmond as its candidate in It was an early indication that southern state Democratic Parties were dissatisfied with the national party.civil rights agendaDixiecratsStrom Thurmond1948
Thurmond received a fair amount of votes in that election: Election, 1948 *Harry S Truman (Democrat) ,700 Thomas E. Dewey (Republican) ,240 J. Strom Thurmond (States Rights) ,909 Henry A. Wallace (Progressive) ,764 Claude A. Watson (Prohibitionist) ,758 Norman M. Thomas (Socialist) Total Vote ,147,245**
The Republican Party was beginning to make inroads in the state. But would have initial success only in national elections.
1950: A majority of Texans live in urban areas, both cities and suburbs. Demographic shifts fuel the transition.
1952: Texas Governor Allan Shivers clashes with the Truman Administration over many things. His followers were called the Shivercrats. Shivers supported Eisenhower over Adlai Stevenson. He helped use the Texas Democratic Party machinery for the Republican presidential candidate. clashesShivercrats
He was able to alter the law to allow Eisenhower to appear on the primary ballots of both the Democratic and Republican Parties.
This lead to a backlash within the Democratic Party. A liberal wing began to form.
Early 1950s: Moderates and liberals in the Democratic Party organize against Shivers. Internal competition between the conservative and liberal wings of the party intensifies. Competition started over control of the state Democratic Party.
1957: Ralph Yarborough – a member of the liberal wing of the party – is elected to the U.S. Senate. He would serve until 1971 when he was defeated in the Democratic primary by a more conservative Lloyd Bentsen.Ralph Yarborough
1960: Lyndon Johnson is elected vice president on a ticket with John F. Kennedy. He becomes president in 1963 when Kennedy is assassinated. His knowledge of the workings of Congress, along with the national mood, allows him to push into law a number of bills focused on poverty and civil rights. These would become the events that would transform the parties.
LBJ’s election vacated his Senate seat which was won by a Republican.
1961: The first Republican elected to high office was John Tower in 1961 who replaced Lyndon Johnson in the Senate after he became elected Vice-President. He was the first Republican Senator from the South since reconstruction. FYI: There were rumors Johnson supported Nixon over Humphrey in the 1968 election.John Tower
Click here for Slideshow: John Tower's Historic 1961 Senate Campaign.Slideshow: John Tower's Historic 1961 Senate Campaign
1962: The Republican Party holds its first primary.
1964: The major shift occurred with Civil Rights Act of When LBJ signed the bill it repositioned the national Democratic Party. Predictions were made that this would lead to a realignment of the South from the Democratic to Republican Parties. While it took time, it did come true.Civil Rights Act of 1964
Here is a more subtle development in George H.W. Bush – son of Senator Prescott Bush of Connecticut – had already moved to Texas. In 1964 he becomes Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party. The county organization becomes a force in developing not only the state Republican Party, but the national party as well.Prescott Bush
Bush helps continue building the infrastructure that would make it possible for conservative Democrats to see a reason to shift to the Republican Party. Without a solid organization that guaranteed success, there was little reason to change parties.
1966: Bush is elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the 7 th Congressional District – mostly in Houston. 1970: Is defeated by Democrat Lloyd Bentsen for U.S. Senator. Bentsen campaigns on the idea the Bush is too liberal for Texas. Lloyd Bentsen
1971: The Sharpstown stock-fraud scandal breaks. Top Texas office holders – all Democrats – are implicated in it, which decimates the party. This creates opportunities for challengers – notable Republican challengers.Sharpstown stock-fraud scandal
1978: Bill Clemens is elected as the first Republican Texas governor since Reconstruction. He had served in the Nixon Administration. He would be defeated by Democrat Mark White in 1982, but reelected in 1986.Bill Clemenselectedreelected in 1986
Clemens would hire Karl Rove as an advisor. Rove would be instrumental in developing tactics that would drive the switch from Democratic to Republican dominance.Karl Rove
One of Karl Rove’s early successes in flipping seats from Democrats to Republicans happened in the local area when he recruited Buster Brown to run (successfully) against long time Democratic State Senator Babe Schwartz in 1980.Karl Rove’sBuster BrownBabe Schwartz
1983 – U.S. House Representative Phil Gramm switches from the Democratic to Republican parties. He would serve in the U.S. Senate from 1984 to 2002.U.S. House Representative Phil Gramm
1984: Rick Perry elected to the Texas House of Representatives as a Democrat. 1989: Perry switches to the Republican Party, wins race for Agriculture Commissioner in 1990.Rick Perryelected
: Republicans win control of the US House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. Many Conservative Texas Democrats take the opportunity to switch parties. It made sense now because they could continue to chair committees and use their seniority to benefit their constituents.
Some of the leaders of the Republican majority were from Texas and the local area. Examples: Tom Delay Dick Armey Tom Delay Dick Armey
1995: The Formation of the Blue Dog Coalition in Congress. These were Yellow Dog Democrats who had been "choked blue" by extreme Democrats from the Left.Blue Dog Coalition
Many Blue Dog Democrats would eventually switch over to the Republican Party.
1997: The Republican Party becomes the majority party in the Texas Senate for the first time since Reconstruction.
2002: The Republican Party becomes the majority party in the Texas House for the first time since Reconstruction.
2003: Now that Republicans controlled the Texas Legislature, they held several special sessions to redraw congressional districts. This was very controversial since districts are normally just redrawn once following each apportionment after the census is taken every ten years.redraw congressional districts
2004: In the first election following redistricting, Republicans defeat 7 Democrats in the U.S. House and become the majority party in the Texas Delegation.
The Republican Party has been dominant in the state ever since. It does not completely control the state – as Democrats had done previously. Republicans tend to win stateside offices by 15 – 20 percentage points. Republican also tend to hold around 2/3rds of the seats in legislative assemblies.
2009: The Tea Party movement heats up across the nation, and becomes especially influential in Texas. The principle focus of the group was to rally conservative forces within the Republican Party and push for policies that were further to the right than those already in place. Tea Party candidates focused their energies on challenging Republican officeholders they deemed insufficiently conservative.Tea Party movement
RINOs Republicans In Name Only Republicans In Name Only
What might the future hold? Will Republicans continue to control the state or can Democrats stage a comeback?
There are two factors to look at here.
The first is demographic changes within the state that might be advantageous to Democrats. Specifically the fact that the Hispanic population in the state is the fastest growing segment of the population, and they tend to vote Democrat.
Here are few items on whether Democrats can become competitive again in the state:
- Am I Blue? - Analysis: For Democrats, a Long Game and a Short One. - How Democrats Are Aiming to Make Texas a Swing State. - Texan Hispanics Tilt Democratic, but State Likely to Stay Red.Am I BlueAnalysis: For Democrats, a Long Game and a Short OneHow Democrats Are Aiming to Make Texas a Swing StateTexan Hispanics Tilt Democratic, but State Likely to Stay Red
The second has to do with the internal dynamics within the Republican Party that followed the rise of the Tea Party. Their efforts to force their agenda may force moderate Republicans out of the party, which can make it less competitive in the long run.
Tension has increased within the Republican Party between the Tea Party and what is called the “establishment” over how ideologically extreme the state’s agenda should be.
How much money should be spent on infrastructure development and education for example. The establishment Republicans tend to be business oriented and see a reason to spend money in those areas and do not mind compromising with Democrats to attain their objectives.
This appalls the Tea Party. The only questions are which of these factions will control the party, and whether the Tea Party’s agenda is extreme enough to drive moderate Republicans to the Democratic Party.
Some readings: - Texas Takes A Hard Right Turn. - Fed up with tea party extremism, Texas GOP judge bolts for Democrats.Texas Takes A Hard Right TurnFed up with tea party extremism, Texas GOP judge bolts for Democrats
But these are simply guesses at this time. How these play out in the future is up in the air.