I read a brief blurb about Ann Richards and decided to look up Texas line of Governors and was surprised to see the intolerant Republican sect had only been in power recently. Before that Texas was generally a Democratic state.
What happened to make Texas so Republican loony? I’m pretty angry at the Anti-American secessionist rhetoric coming out of Gov. Perry’s mouth. Especially since it’s people from his state who’ve fucked this nation to death.
It goes back to the Civil War. The Democrats were basically the conservative party (relatively speaking) prior to the Civil War and the Republicans were the upstart liberals, what with their anti-slavery stance and such. But after the Civil War the Republicans were pretty much the dominant party in the northern states and after awhile became the party of keeping things the same (in other words, conservative). Meanwhile the southern states hated the Republicans (because of the Civil War) and only voted Democrat, even as the Democrats in the north became the liberal party by the 1890s or so. The national Democrats basically accepted the southern wing, even though it was far more socially conservative, for a century, and didn’t make an issue of things like segregation. Even in the 1960s many pro-segregationist southern politicians were Democrat, including Alabama governor George Wallace, a prominent voice against the civil rights movement. Of course it was also a southern Democrat, Lyndon Johnson, who as president pushed most of that legislation through Congress.
After the 1960s it became pretty clear to consevatives in the south that the Republican party was closer to their viewpoint and they begin to migrate in that direction, a change that happened fairly quickly and was pretty much complete by Reagan’s election in 1980.
What he said. Remember, there’s a reason Southern Democrats were commonly referred to as “Dixiecrats”. They really weren’t Democrats in any modern sense except for the name–they were (often hardcore) conservatives who happened to be registered Democrat for historic reasons. The politics were quite conservative, though.
Someone who lived in Texas at the time would probably have a better sense of her, but my impression is that she was a realistic liberal in a generally conservative state. Keep in mind that while she was a pretty popular national figure, and was liked in Texas, she also only won election to governor by a fairly narrow margin (about 2.5%) in 1990 and lost to Bush by a pretty wide margin in 1994.
Ann Richards is the kind of democrat who, when facing opponent insano Clayton Williams, ran a commercial with pictures of all the people who had been executed on her watch (not that the Texas governor can actually do anything about executions - it’s one of the least powerful state governors). That and other policies made her more of a conservative democrat/liberal to moderate republican: decentralized education policy, expanding prisons, lottery for school financing, requiring proof of insurance to do anything related to a car or driver’s license, against semi-auto firearm sales (they’re all semi-auto, iirc, this was more ‘assault’-type stuff).
To even begin answering this question, one should probably go back and learn American political history from 1850 onward. I’ll try to hit the highlights, but really, get yourself a basic textbook and do some reading.
*1850, 2 major national parties: The whigs and the Democrats. The Democrats did a much better job at winning elections at the national level by uniting the rural south with northern urban political machines.
*1856, The issue of whether or not to allow slavery to exist in the “Western Territories” has torn the whig party apart. The Western territories, for those unfamiliar with American history, was land largely west of the Mississippi River owned by the U.S. and open for settlement but not admitted to the union as states yet. Southern slave owners feared that unless slavery is allowed to expand, than it will collapse. For example, historically states had been admitted into the union only in pairs, one slave and one free, to ensure a balance on this highly controversial issue. As the Whig party fell apart, the Republican party emerged as THE anti-slavery party and managed to win some state in the 1856 election, when the dems still dominated.
*1860, Republican party unites behind Lincoln and the increasingly unpopular issue of whether or not slavery should be allowed in the Western territories. Lincoln at the time said absolutely no, but was not willing to end slavery where it existed outright.
*1861-1865, In the wake of Lincoln’s victory, the South attempts to leave the Union and the American Civil War is fought. In the process, Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation effectively ending slavery in the South (As where Union Armies went, slavery quickly broke down). The North, of course, wins the war and slavery ends, but the question remains what to do with the formerly rebellious South.
*1865-1877, This is the “Reconstruction” Era, named for the Union states attempts to rebuild Southern society without slavery. Ultimately, the Congress decides to give full rights to the “freedman,” former slaves. The U.S. military is used to do things highly abusive of state rights like prevent disenfranchisement, shutdown the first Ku Klux Klan, and even found banks for blacks as the commercial banks refused to do business with blacks. The Republican party dominated national politics, though places like New York City remained “democratic.” Anyways, the Southern States hated Reconstruction, and in the disputed election of 1876 (more so than Bush and Gore in 2000), Southern states agree to let another Republican take the White House in exchange for the end of Reconstruction.
*However, its worth noting that the Republican party and somewhat shifted focus in terms of policy. With the slavery issue done and decided, the Republican party increasingly became the party of “big business.” It ran on issues such as be the party of Lincoln, preservers of the Union, etc. However, in terms of policy it kept things like high tariffs and let large corporations build with out regulation. Meanwhile, in response to Reconstruction and just having nothing to like about the Republican party, white Southerns had become overwhelmingly Democratic. Black Southerns, of course, were overwhelmingly Republican. When Reconstruction ended, Southern states employeed numerous means to keep blacks from voting and thus created the “Solid South,” where the states who sided with the confederacy voted as a block for Democratic Party.
*1929, I’m skipping over a lot of history, but this year is when I think the above dynamic changes. When the Great Depression hits, the traditional Republican hold on government (and by extension big business) ends and FD Roosevelt becomes President. Though FDR did not challenge Jim Crowe (the laws in the South keeping Africans Americans as Second Class Citizens), he did provide them some economic relief. Hence, African Americans begin to vote democratic. Make no mistake, however, Southern states at this time loved FDR for programs such as rural electrification.
*1964, Johnson, a white man from Texas becomes President and passes the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This basically makes Jim Crowe illegal (though enforcement is another issue). African Americans now firmly democratic. Meanwhile, Southern whites find new ways to break with Democratic party over passage of the Civil Rights Act. This includes trying third party, but ultimately it involves switching to Republican Party which quitely picks up the mantle of racial segregation by promising things like “law and order” and “states rights.” Local party aparatus (which is NEVER answerable to the national party) remains “conservative” on issues, hence numerous Southern states continue to have democratic congresses and governors.
*Beyond race, the 1960’s ushers in a host of cultural issues that create a further rift in America. Issues like killing the unborn, the role of government in world affairs (i.e. Vietnam), whether or not prayer should be conducted in schools, etc. Its important to note that neither party represents a clear support/don’t support dividing line on these issues. For example, the arch conservative and Republican Goldwater believed in abortion while no national democrat was ever a communist. Still, the Republican party jumped on these issues harder then the Democrats and picked up some conservative religious groups as well.
*1980, Ronal Reagan runs on an anti-government campaign promising low taxes and less government spending. He delivers the first and while trying to outspend Russia into democracy fails miserably at the second. Regardless, the Republican party is now also the paty of small government, though I do not believe it ever stopped (to this day) being the party of big business.
So, there you have it. I wrote most of that from memory and I know there is a room for a lot more nuance and probably a few factual errors and what have you, but thats the basic origins of modern American politics. As for Texas itself, I know little. Suffice to say Republicans=Bad and Democratics=Better is not a very useful metric, ever. Its a constantly shifting morass made more confusing by a commonplace descrepancy between national politics and local politics, even when it involves the same party.
You also need to be carefull in blaming a state for the acts of a few individuals. Should we hate California because it produced Nixon? Of course not, and neither should we hate Texas because of Bush. After all, nearly 44% of the voters there voted for Obama last fall, so even if the state is still solidly Republican, it’s nowhere near as unbalanced as some other states.
And Perry is probably motivated by his intention to run for a third term as Texas governor. He’s already the longest serving Texas governor ever and faces a variety of issues. Given that Texas has long had an active independence streak, he is probably trying to make sure he gets some of that vote.
What is interesting is that he is saying this stuff when at one point he was considered a potential national figure for the Republicans. He’ll have a hard time living this down if he wants to play on that stage now. As Ann Richards might have said, “that old dog won’t hunt.”
Hey – aren’t we forgetting someone? California has a lot more than just Nixon to apologize for!
After all, nearly 44% of the voters there voted for Obama last fall, so even if the state is still solidly Republican, it’s nowhere near as unbalanced as some other states.
Texas is rather unique in combining several large metro areas that vote either Democrat or at a 50/50 split, with vast tracts of rural wasteland full of people who vote the way most people think Texans vote. What’s more, Texas has so many people spread out in the sticks that those people end up being a significant force in state-wide elections. If California or New York were the size of Texas, they’d probably vote pretty much the same way.
Despite he recent secessionist pandering, he’s running for the VP slot in 2012, and needs to stay in office until then, lest he be forgotten and thus ignored. I’m just hoping he and Kay Bailey tear the Republicans apart and Kinky Friedman sneaks in.
Well, I was going to say Nixon and Reagan, but there are lots of people who like Reagan and don’t equate Watergate level shenanigans to anything Reagan did (yes, even IranContra). Nixon is an easily identifiable political villian along the lines of how Bush Jr. is viewed right now.