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Democratizing Texas Politics

Democratizing Texas Politics: Race, Identity, and Mexican American Empowerment, 1945-2002

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  • Book Info
    Democratizing Texas Politics
    Book Description:

    By the beginning of the twenty-first century, Texas led the nation in the number of Latino officeholders, despite the state’s violent history of racial conflict. Exploring this and other seemingly contradictory realities of Texas’s political landscape since World War II, Democratizing Texas Politics captures powerful, interrelated forces that drive intriguing legislative dynamics. These factors include the long history of Mexican American activism; population growth among Mexican American citizens of voting age; increased participation among women and minorities at state and national levels in the Democratic Party, beginning in the 1960s; the emergence of the Republican Party as a viable alternative for Southern conservatives; civil rights legislation; and the transition to a more representative two-party system thanks to liberal coalitions. Culling extensive archival research, including party records and those of both Latino activists and Anglo elected officials, as well as numerous interviews with leading figures and collected letters of some of Texas’s most prominent voices, Benjamin Márquez traces the slow and difficult departure from a racially uniform political class to a diverse one. As Texas transitioned to a more representative two-party system, the threat of racial tension and political exclusion spurred Mexican Americans to launch remarkably successful movements to ensure their incorporation. The resulting success and dilemmas of racially based electoral mobilization, embodied in pivotal leaders such as Henry B. Gonzalez and Tony Sanchez, is vividly explored in Democratizing Texas Politics.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-75385-3
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    This is a book about Mexican American incorporation into Texas electoral politics after World War II. It is a study of social change in a state with a long and often violent history of racial conflict (Montejano 1987; Johnson 2003). The transformation of Texas politics is evidenced by the increase in Mexican American elected officials. In the 1940s the state had virtually none, even at the local level; but by the turn of the twenty-first century descriptive representation reached virtual parity in Texas and other southwestern states. By 1967 ten members of the Texas legislature were Mexican Americans, with one...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Mexican Americans and Social Change
    (pp. 14-20)

    During the 1950s Mexican Americans in Texas were marginalized in almost every respect. Discrimination was rampant in housing, education, and employment (Montejano 1987: ch. 4). Of the five southwestern states, Texas had the worst Anglo–Mexican American education and income differentials (Briggs et al. 1977: 20, 61). Turnout was low, and in rural areas of the states the Mexican American vote was manipulated through intimidation by law enforcement agencies or machine politics (Weeks 1930). Civil rights organizations and labor unions struggled for reform in an atmosphere permeated by racism (Mario García 1989). At the national level, racial inequality was further...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The 1950s—A Decade in Flux
    (pp. 21-55)

    The decade after World War II was a time when economic and demographic changes made viable the first Mexican American challenge to racial exclusion in Texas party politics. As theories of assimilation and incorporation predict, Mexican Americans began to participate in party affairs in greater numbers. The population was largely urban. The overwhelming number of voting-age Mexican Americans were citizens, inflating their potential as a voting bloc. But the first steps toward incorporation took place because Mexican Americans extracted them through strategic action, negotiations, and persuasion. The integration of the party system was neither smooth nor welcomed by Texas Anglos....

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Dilemmas of Ethnic Solidarity
    (pp. 56-94)

    The Texas Democratic Party of the 1950s was a formidable barrier to racial progress. Minorities, labor, and liberals had few representatives on the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) (Davidson 1990: 165–166). Conservatives dominated the party structure and liberals were so excluded that Democratic leaders even in places like San Antonio were “leery of anything pro labor or pro-Negro” (“Texas Liberals Argue” 1955). The party strongly supported the principle of state’s rights and opposition to racial integration, urging the state’s national representatives to restrict the power of the Supreme Court. Early in the decade the SDEC did not require loyalty...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Quiet Revolution
    (pp. 95-122)

    Albert Peña, who helped organize PASO and La Raza Unida, thought that the Democratic Party would only change with sustained outside pressure. He threatened party leaders with fragmentation, third-party revolts, and losses at the polls if they did not take the Democrats “to the people” (Peña 1972b). Peña never wavered in this belief, but when the Democratic Party began incorporating more Mexican Americans into its governance structure PASO and La Raza Unida were effectively neutralized. Moreover, Governor Briscoe only began reaching out to liberals and minorities when subjected to intense internal pressure and the threat of legal action for violating...

  9. CHAPTER 5 A Two-Party State
    (pp. 123-154)

    By 1978 Texas had a functioning two-party system, Republicans were winning elections, and the state Democratic Party finally began to resemble the national party in its ideology and governing structure (B. Carr ca. 1979a, ca. 1979c). Texas liberals increased their numbers and influence to the point that one activist characterized the 1978 Democratic state convention as a “real love-in.” The festivities were cut short, however, when Bill Clements stunned the Democrats by becoming the first Texas Republican governor since Reconstruction later that year (B. Carr ca. 1979b). The historic defeat gave greater traction to the argument that Democrats could no...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Tony Sánchez for Governor
    (pp. 155-169)

    Race politics in Texas was upended in 2002. That year Tony Sánchez, a South Texas businessman, won the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor. His nomination was a powerfully symbolic act, an affirmation of racial inclusion and power sharing sought by political leaders and community organizations for over fifty years. It was the culmination of a long trend toward political incorporation. Mexican Americans now participated at every level of Democratic Party politics, from the precincts to the State Democratic Executive Committee. They formed an influential party caucus, were appointed to high-level positions in state government, and were elected increasingly to local...

  11. CHAPTER 7 The Long and Grinding Road
    (pp. 170-178)

    The story of Mexican American political mobilization in the post–World War II era is one of success. The demand for racial incorporation resulted in representation at every level of partisan politics. By the 1980s Mexican Americans were being elected to public office at the state and local level in numbers equivalent to their proportion of the general population. But this transformation did not take place in a vacuum. Barriers to equal participation were rendered vulnerable to political pressure because of major economic and demographic upheavals taking place after the war. Industrialization and the mechanization of Texas agriculture drove thousands...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 179-242)
  13. Index
    (pp. 243-245)