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Political Parties in Texas


Political Parties in Texas GOVT 2305 We will explore areas of agreement and disagreement elsewhere. And a final thing parties do to influence the political process. 3 ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Political Parties in Texas

Political Parties in Texas
  • GOVT 2305

This is one of several sets of slides that
discuss political parties in Texas.This one is
designed to discuss general features of the
parties and provide an introduction to the rest.
It might be good to start with a definition
What is a political party?Heres a reasonable
definition A political party is defined as an
organized group of people with at least roughly
similar political aims and opinions, that seeks
to influence public policy by getting its
candidates elected to public office.
Notice the major point The chief goals of a
political party is to win elected office.Thats
how it seeks to influence public policy.
They are very similar to interest groups which
we cover elsewhere because they are private
organizations that attempt to influence public
policy by organizing like minded citizens. But
they are different because political parties
actually run candidates for public office while
interest groups simply attempt to influence them.
Heres another key point Parties are political
as opposed to governing organizations.
Heres a reminder of the definitions of
politics offered elsewhere in this class1-
The authoritative allocation of values in
society.2 - The struggle over who gets what when
and how.3 - Intrigue or maneuvering within a
political unit in order to gain control or
power4 The art of whats possible.
Parties attempt to organize groups in order to
control governing institutions so they can pass
laws that reflect their values and interests.
In this section well look at the basic features
of political parties, what functions they serve
and primarily - provide specific detail about
political parties in Texas.This section builds
off the section on political parties in GOVT
2305. Ill try not to repeat too much material
from that section, so you might want to review
that section, click here for it.
Consider this section to be an introduction.You
might also benefit from looking through this
online chapter on political parties in Texas.
Other slides about parties discuss the election
code, the state and county organizations, the
temporary and permanent party organizations,
parties in the Texas legislature and the
transition in Texas from Democratic to Republican
Heres a quick reminder of the place political
parties occupy in the federal system. Some of
this material was covered in GOVT 2305, some in
the introductory slides in this class 2306.
There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution about
political parties other than an indirect
reference in the First Amendment Congress
shall make no law . . . abridging . . . the right
of the people peaceably to assemble, and to
petition the government for a redress of
Theres nothing in the Texas Constitution about
them either.
Parties exist because elections exist.Elections
are won by whichever side is best organized.
Thats what political parties do. They organize
candidates for elective office. This allows
supporters of the party to dominate the policy
making.This is what has created incentives for
party formation and maintenance.
But the national government has very little
authority over them. There is no language in the
Constitution that authorizes Congress to pass
laws related to how parties organize outside
Congress. States do.
Since the U.S. Constitution reserves to the
states that right to pass laws related to
elections - and parties are responsible for
conducting elections states pass the laws
related to parties.
Laws related to political parties in Texas can be
found in the Election Code, especially Title
10.More on this in a separate section below.
Parties are effective ways of organizing
political and governing forces in order to
achieve or oppose certain policy
objectives.By taking positions on different
issues parties can allow people to identify with
whatever party takes the position they have
They simplify the political process for people
who are not attentive to politics. By
identifying with a political party, a person can
more efficiently make decisions about what
policies and candidates to support.
As discussed in GOVT 2305, political parties
developed quickly in the first U.S. Congress in
order to help organize supporters and opponents
of Washingtons policies. These were
respectively the Federalists and
Democrat-Republicans.Their divisions were
largely similar to the divisions between the
supporters and opponents of the ratification of
the U.S. Constitution.
For example, in the 1840s the Democratic Party
supported the annexation of Texas while the Whig
Party opposed it. Its little wonder the
Democratic Party was dominant in the state for
many years after that.
Over the course of American and Texas history two
large scale political parties since 1856 these
two have been the Democrats and Republicans
have dominated politics. Others come and go,
but only these two have grown to the point where
they become integral part of not only the
political process but of the governing process as
In 2305 we mention that this is largely a
consequence of the winner take all election
system which creates incentives for people to
cluster their support around two large parties.
Smaller parties are by definition
uncompetitive in this type of election, which
means that the two major parties are best
understood as being coalitions of like-minded
factions rather than solid groups.
This means that there can be always is actually
- conflict within each party over what the party
stands for.Parties will take the positions of
whichever faction within the party happens to be
strongest at a particular point in time.
The Democratic Party is generally composed of
members of various racial and ethnic minority
groups, in addition to those who promote
egalitarian policies and a more tolerance to
alternative lifestyles.Tension can exist within
the party general tensions between these groups.
The Republican Party is less racially and
ethnically diverse which can be an advantage
because it allows for greater solidarity but
conflict can exist between the business sector
and those who promote a more conservative,
traditionalist social agenda. Some argue that
party should be true to a limited set of
proposals and restrict participation to those
committed to those principles while others argue
the party should include more diverse views.
More on these conflicts in an upcoming set of
As mentioned earlier this semester, Texas had
already been populated by people who were
affiliated with the Democratic Party, and the
concept of Jeffersonian Democracy. This was the
political idea that governing institutions should
be closely connected to the people though it
had to be understood that the concept of people
was very restricted.
To drive home a point Heres a basic fact of
political life in Texas. It is dominated by two
major political parties. They are the conduit
through which all meaningful political action
The two major parties in the state are Texas
Democratic PartyRepublican Party of Texas
Each party is also organized at the county and
precinct level as well.Parties are very
decentralized entities, but this can help explain
their effectiveness since they are tied closely
into local concerns and allow for grassroots
For example, here are links to area county party
organizations Brazoria County Democratic
Party.Brazoria County Republican Party.Harris
County Democratic Party.Harris County Republican
In order to hold elective office in the state
and to have an influence in political in the
state in general one needs to be a member of
one of these parties. This is not a legal
requirement there are other political parties
in the state, and one can be a member of any
party or of no party but this is simply a
reality of political life in Texas. Parties
dominate the political process, and for that
reason they also dominate the governing process.
Every member of the Texas Legislature is either a
member of the Democratic or Republican Parties.
This tends to be true for county positions also
people run for county office in the state as a
member of a political party, and the members of
the Texas Democratic and Republican Party are
most likely to win. Those two parties have the
organizational capabilities to organize and win
But this does not apply to cities.City
elections are non-partisan.State and county
races are partisan.
Candidates for city offices mayor, city
council, city attorney, or whatever elective
offices a city decides to have do not have
party labels by their name. They run as
independent candidates, even though they tend to
have party affiliations.
A bit more on smaller parties. They do exist,
they just are not competitive. They tend not to
be able to win elections.
The smaller parties in the state include the
followingConstitution Party of TexasTexas
Green PartyLibertarian Party of TexasReform
Party of TexasSocialist Party of Texas
Of these, the Libertarian and Green Parties can
get a handful of votes in elections, but
generally the best they can do is draw enough
votes from one of the major parties to impact
election results. No Libertarian or Green Party
member has ever won election to the Texas
Legislature, or to statewide or judicial office.
The Libertarian Party has a long history in
Texas. Ron Paul who once represented the 14th
Congressional District ran as the Libertarian
Party candidate for the presidency in 1980. But
he switched to the Republican Party in order to
win office.
The people who join smaller parties tend to do so
because they are more interested in the
principles the parties stand for than the
potential competitiveness of the parties.While
the Democratic and Republican parties also
present a set of principles and policies, they
have the added advantage of providing to
candidates a recognizable brand that voters
accept as legitimate and an organization that
helps get them elected to office.
Smaller parties cannot offer that.We will
discuss the reasons for this elsewhere. Some of
this has to do with the very nature of winner
take all elections which tend to lead to the
development of two large political parties.
Another reason is that the major parties get to
pass the laws about party organization. They
can pass rules that preserve their power.
One of the reasons Texas has a two party system
and why the Republican Party now dominates is
because party members get themselves elected to
office and then get to make, implement and
adjudicate the laws related to political parties.
This includes laws related to registration,
finance, redistricting and all sorts of
things.We touch on these in the section on
It should be noted that smaller parties have had
an impact on Texas politics in the past. We
cover this material elsewhere, but an example is
the Peoples Party which was a populist
organization that promoted agriculture and
farmers. Other smaller splinter parties have
popped up whenever there has been internal
dissatisfaction with one of the major parties. An
historical example is Texas Regulars. The Tea
Party is a current example though it really
isnt a party. More on that elsewhere.
The lesson here is that if you want to be hold
office in the state of Texas you should be a
member of one of the two major parties.In the
section on the temporary and permanent party
organizations we discuss the ways that an
individual can get active in party politics.
Beyond that, it helps to be a member of the
majority party which in Texas is the Republican
Party. Since 1994, the Republican Party has held
all state wide offices in the state. The term
statewide office refers to those elected
positions that represent the entire state, as
opposed to those that represent smaller districts
like the Texas House or Texas Senate, or district
The following are considered to be state-wide
officesAll offices that are part of the plural
executive, the Texas Supreme Court and Court of
Criminal Appeals, and the three members of the
Texas Railroad Commission.
All of these positions have been held by members
of the Republican Party since 1994 we will go
into reasons for this later, as well as a
discussion of the prospects for a resurgence of
the Democratic Party.
Since 2004, the Republican Party has also had a
majority in both the Texas House and Senate.
Elsewhere we discuss the tendency of Texas to
be a one party state and try to determine why
this is the case.
Until the early 1960s the situation was reversed.
The Democratic Party was the dominant party in
the state so much so that there was little to
no organized Republican Party in the state. Some
sessions of the Texas Legislature had no
Republican members at all. This explains why
there is very little party organization in the
Texas Legislature though this can always
change. There was little reason for one to
develop if everyone was a member of the same
party. There were internal disputes, but these
were handled internally.
We can look at the eras of parties in Texas this
way 1845 1960 One Party Democratic
Rule.1960 1994 Two Party Competition1994
present Republican Dominance.
We will cover these changes elsewhere.
The previous material should give you a general
idea about why parties exist. Lets now turn
attention to what they do.
What do political parties do to win elections and
influence public policy?A variety of things.
Here are three 1 They provide means for
people to participate in the political system.2
They structure and present the issues of the
day to citizens.3 They provide the glue that
connects government vertically (federalism) and
horizontally (separated powers).
Lets look at the first1 - Parties provide
means for people to participate in the political
This claim supports the idea that political
parties are central to democracy. It is the party
that fosters political participation because it
makes them more competitive. Without viable
parties there is little incentive to expand
suffrage, or encourage participation.
Supporters of political parties argue that they
drove the expansion of political participation
and suffrage in the United States and are
primarily responsible for the development of
democracy in the country.
They argue No Parties, No Democracy
Heres a curve ball however.Its generally
assumed that the two major parties in Texas have
different incentives when it comes to
participation. Democrats do better when rates of
participation is high, Republicans do better when
rates of participation are low.
Here are four basic ways political parties
attempt to enhance participation
They help people get registered to vote. They
recruit people to run for public office.They
organize election precincts.They organize get
out the vote drives.
Lets look at each in turn
Voter registration drives
Each state requires that eligible voters register
prior to election day. Each state establishes its
own rules. In Texas people have to be registered
30 days prior to an election.Registration rules
of course are established by the state
legislature, which responds to the wishes of the
majority party. These can be impacted by laws
passed on the national level as well.
Registration is conducted by each county in the
state, but parties and other groups get involved
in encouraging people to register. Each party
attempts to ensure that potential identifiers
those they think are most likely to vote for them
are registered.The party with a higher
percentage of its supporters registered to vote
has an advantage over the other. Generally, the
Republican Party has advantages over the
Democratic Party in this regard.
Controversially, parties might attempt to
suppress registration among populations that are
not likely to support them. Again, this is
based on the idea that greater participation
benefits Democrats more than Republicans in the
Texas registration requirements have become more
lenient over the years.
Voter registration is officially overseen by the
tax assessors office in each county - Texas
SOS Voter Registration.- Harris Votes.-
Brazoria County Tax Assessor Collector.
But parties especially county parties and
affiliated groups do the leg work to ensure that
supporters are registered to vote prior to each
Candidate Recruitment
Parties are more likely to be successful if they
recruit quality candidates to run for office.
Each party is heavily involved in making sure
their candidates have name recognition and are
well positioned to win. They also get involved in
vetting candidates making sure that they have
clean backgrounds and are committed to the
partys positions on issues.
An example of a candidate recruited by the
Republican Party to run for office both for name
identification and to appeal to Latino voters
George P. Bush.
Political parties allow candidates the
opportunity to run with a label that grants them
a degree of legitimacy and indicates to voters a
minimal level of information about them. They
also provide a network and organization that can
assist with their campaigns.
Before becoming getting on the general election
ballot, one has to get on the primary
ballot.This is where things get interesting.
Here are links that outline what it takes to
become a candidate.
From the Secretary of States Office
Candidate's Guide to Primary and General
From Ballotpedia Ballot access requirements
for political candidates in Texas
See Title 9 of the Texas Election Code for
Specifics on how to become a candidate for one of
the major or minor parties.
In order to be listed on the primary ballot for
one of the two major parties - Democratic or
Republican - a candidate must either collect
signatures on a nominating petition or pay a
filing fee to the county or state chair of the
appropriate party. The number of signatures
needed and the cost of the registration fee vary
according to the level of office being sought.
Texas Politics.
This opens the door to almost anyone who wants to
run in a partys primary.
Problem Parties have little ability to directly
control who runs for office under their label, or
the positions their candidates take. There are
incentives for candidates to take positions that
the party stands for it increases the chances
that the candidate will be elected but an
individual candidate might stand for the specific
policies promoted by a faction within the party,
rather than the partys leadership.
For example, one of the current problems the
Texas Republican Party faces is the conflict
between moderates and conservatives.Conservative
s commonly argue that moderate Republicans are
RINOs (Republican In Name Only) that do not
really support the partys positions, they only
seem the partys nomination so they can run on
the party label.
Area Democrats have also has problems with
candidates who do not adhere to the partys
policies. Great example Kesha Rogers
Even if one isnt recruited to run for office,
the political party allows individuals the
opportunity to throw their own hat in the ring
and decide to run for office themselves.
Organizing Election Precincts
As we will discuss in several sections in this
class, the election precinct (sometimes called a
voting precinct) is the basic political unit in
both Texas and the nation.
Each county is carved into a number of precincts.
These help organize the electoral process because
it determines where one votes. We all live in a
precinct drawn up by county officials. When you
register to vote, you are notified which precinct
you live in and where you have to go on election
day in order to vote.
Brazoria County is divided into 68 precincts.
Click here for the maps each precinct. The map
is duplicated on the next slide.
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ACC is in precinct 41
You can find the sample ballots for the March
2014 primaries in Brazoria County here.
Harris County has over a thousand
precincts.Heres what they look like
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Each precinct may have a precinct chair from each
party that organizes party activities in that
precinct. This becomes the fundamental unit of
party governance. After each primary election,
the party chair organizes a precinct convention
that allows party identifiers to participate in
forming the partys platform, influencing party
rules and selecting the partys presidential
The major parties, over the many decades they
have existed, have organized down to the precinct
level. This is one of the many factors that
grants the two major parties considerable
advantage over minor parties in the state.
Heres a simple rule of thumb Wherever there
is an election, there is a party organization.
County parties recruit supporters to serve as
party chairs. This is a key responsibility of
the county parties.
We will discuss precinct chairs more thoroughly
in an upcoming section.
For now its best to think about the fact that
being a precinct chair allows people the
opportunity to get involved in the electoral
process.It can be a great first step in
developing the connections that can lead to a
successful political career.
GOTV Drivesget out the vote
Each party in cooperation with the campaigns of
each candidate organize ways to ensure that
registered voters who identify with their party
are able to get to the polls. This can be done in
a variety of ways depending on which type of
election the party wants to impact.Here are a
few examples
Vote by MailEarly votingElection day voting
Texas allows certain people notable the elderly
and handicapped the opportunity to vote by
mail. Click here for the application from the
Secretary of States office. County parties
encourage eligible voters to do so in order to
increase turnout.
For early voting and general elections, county
parties and candidates with the assistance of
precinct chairs identify party supporters that
need help getting to the polls and do whats
needed to get them there.
Heres a second thing parties do to influence the
political process.
2 They structure and present the issues of the
day to citizens.
The political environment can be very
complex.You probably have thought the same.
A political party can help simplify the political
environment to those who identify with that
party. By identifying with a political party one
can simply adopt the positions promoted by the
Many people identify strongly with one or the
other political parties. This can make it easier
for people to make a decision about whats going
on politically because each party attempts to
frame this for their supporters.
This introduces the concept of party
identification.What percentage of people in
Texas identify with the Republican Party, or the
Democratic Party? Heres a graph
Trends in Party ID from Texas Politics
Click here for the Texas Politics section on
Trends in Party Identification.Note that in
terms of percentages both parties are relatively
equal. The difference is in turnout. The
Republican coalition contains groups that are
more likely to vote than those that are part of
the Democratic coalition.
Since Texas is not monolithic, party
identification varies from region to region.
Here is the breakdown in each county in the
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Democrats are clustered in the major cities and
in the counties along the Mexican
border.Republicans dominate counties that
contain suburbs and in the rural areas.
It is simpler to figure out what news is
important and what opinion to have about them if
one identifies with a party. Independents have to
figure this out on their own. Of course, that
might be a good thing.
Parties often help determine what the dominant
issues of the day happen to be.
They can also provide supporters with arguments
in favor and against different issues.Example
What are the arguments for and against gun
control? School vouchers? Voter ID laws?
And of course parties can provide arguments for
and against certain people involved in the
political process. Generally these would be
candidates for public office, but it can include
others as well.
Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys?
Obviously this implies that independents will
have a tougher time figuring out what to make of
the political environment since they do not
identify with an organization that provides cues
for how to think about political issues.
A good way to figure out where the parties stand
on different issues is to look at each partys
platform. Heres a quick look at whats in each
partys 2012 platform.DemocratsRepublicans
We will explore areas of agreement and
disagreement elsewhere.
And a final thing parties do to influence the
political process.
3 Parties provide the glue that connects
government vertically (federalism) and
horizontally (separated powers).
A central theme in this class as well as 2305
is that government in the US is very
decentralized.This occurs both horizontally and
Horizontal decentralization refers to the fact
that governmental powers are separated into three
institutions that can then check and balance each
other.This arrangement can create gridlock and
make it difficult for anything to get done.
Vertical decentralization refers to the fact that
government is divided into three levels the
national, state and local. As we have seen
before, coordination can be difficult in this
While there are benefits in these arrangements
the separated powers prevent the creation of
tyrannies and federalism divides governing
authority along certain levels of government
each makes the governing process more difficult.
The most efficient governments are those that
concentrate authority in a few hands.
Autocratic, unitary governments for example.
One of the reasons we might complain that our
government cant get things done is that in many
ways it is designed not to.
Political parties are argued to be useful at
making the governing process more efficient.
A key benefit of political parties is that they
can provide coordination between these
institutions and levels.If one party does
especially well in a series of elections across
each level of government which generally means
that the general population supports their
policies more than the other then the
activities of each are more likely to be
Two concepts are important here Divided
Government Unified Government
Divided government refers to periods of time when
the parties only control one of the elected
branches or at least the legislative and
executive branches.
Unified government occurs when one party controls
both the legislative and executive branches,
meaning that they can also influence the
judiciary as well.
Its argued that unified government enhances
democracy because it allows for a clearer choice
for the voters. It is easier for voters to pin
responsibility for what happens in government
when one party is in charge than if each is in
control of one branch of government.
Governing is argued to be easier in unified
rather than divided government. Policies are
easier to pass, and the agenda of one party is
easier to implement. This is even easier to do
if the same party that dominates the national
government also dominates the state governments
as well.
In Texas its easier for parties to tie the three
branches of government together because all major
positions in each are elected. This gives the
majority party the opportunity to control them
Texas has a history of one party rule. From
annexation to the 1970s with the exception of
Reconstruction the Democratic Party dominated
elections. Since 1994 the Republican Party has
dominated state elections and has controlled the
state legislature since 2004.
The design of the Texas Constitution allows the
dominant political culture to dominate the
governing institutions. Texas government tends to
be unified.This is less the case on the
national level. Since 1968, control of the
national governing institutions has been split.
Congress tends to be controlled by one party and
the presidency by another. Sometimes each chamber
in Congress is controlled by a different party.
But there can be tension between the state
government and county and city governments
especially in the larger ones because citizens
in larger metropolitan areas tend to vote
This is enough to provide a basic look at what
parties do, and which parties exist in the
state.Additional material will be provided in
upcoming slides
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