PaA 041 U rA “BOW” WILLIAMS When Your Home Policy Expires, Check With Us About Special Savings On Our Homeowners’ Policy GReenwood 2-0545 624 NORTH LAMAR, AUSTIN Let’s Abolish the Poll Tax! A Washington Perspective on Texas Election In our opinion the most penetrating post-mortem on the Senate race in any major newspaper was written by Robert D. Novak, Washington correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. To present the national perspective, we excerpt his article here.Ed. WASHINGTON Amid the Republican rejoicing over the election of the first Republican senator from Texas in 90 years, there are privately voiced murmurs of satisfaction from “liberal”-labor forces in the Lone Star State. At face value, liberals have small cause for self-congratulation over the election to Lyndon Johnson’s old Senate seat of Republican John Tower, an undeviating conservative. Moreover, liberal tactics can be justly blamed for the fact that the other contestant in the runoff election was equally conservative Democrat William Blakley. But the apparent debacle for Texas liberals may be a debacle only on the surface. For the strange political happenings in Texas over the past five months disclose two new political facts of life there: No Democrat can be safely assured of victory in a Texas statewide race without campaign help from liberal-labor forces. And these forces are unwill ing to do battle for the lesser of two evils; they can be counted to back only those candidates who will vote the liberal line on most central issues. These realities long have been a dominant political factor in New York, Michigan, and just about every other Northern industrialized state. But they represent the dawning of a new political day in Texas. The time may be corning to an end, if it is not already over, when a Democrat need merely raise high his party’s banner, shake hands, and orate in pretty generalitiesthe formula employed by Mr. Johnson and many another Texan to win electoral success. Even though Mr. Tower’s victory does not yet make Texas a genuine two-party state, the Democratic label by itself without liberal-labor support is not enough to insure victory. TO BE SURE, many of the regular Democratic courthouse polititians around the state regard the Republican triumph as a fluke not soon to be repeated. Because the state’s bizarre election laws put special elections to fill a vacant Senate seat in a non-partisan category, Mr. Tower was running without a Republican label. Democrats far more adept at votegetting than Mr. Blakley eliminated each other in the comic opera, 71-man, preliminary election April 4. And finally, taciturn Dallas multi-millionaire Blakley waged an inept campaign, scarcely making an effort to marshal the potential Democratic vote at hand. Nevertheless, no objective Texas politician would deny that liberal backing would have elected Mr. Blakley. The liberal-labor legions, manning whatever precinct organizations the Democrats can boast in the increasingly Republican major cities of the state, sat out the election. Not sharing the mystical allegiance of the Sam Rayburns and Lyndon Johnsons to the Democratic Party, they simply refused to support a conservative whose policies collided Sharply with their own. Stripped of its liberal wing, the remnants of the creaky state Democratic apparatus proved a relic of another age, unable to get out the vote and ill-equipped for two-party warfare. In contrast, the youthful Republican state machine compensated for numerical weakness by adeptness at modern organizational efforts. and freedom from philosophical splits. Even more politically significant is the part played by the liberal Democrats in setting the stage for the Tower-Blakley runoff. From the time that Mr. Johnson accepted the Vice Presidential nomination, the Democrat given the best chance to succeed him was 38-year-old Fort Worth Congressman Jim Wright, a bushybrowed L.B.J. protege and one of the best political stump speakers in the state. Starting out in politics as a true-blue liberal, he turned to the right when elected to Congress in 1954 and set up shop in the middle of the road. If elected to the Senate, it was predicted, he would gingerly begin moving leftward again. It is regarded as no coincidence that this course approximates the road traveled to political success by Mr. Johnson. To the surprise of many Texans, the liberal-labor forces refused to back Mr. Wright as a moderate with a good chance of winning, but instead endorsed Maury Maverick Jr., an uncompromising liberal. Lacking liberal backing, Mr. Wright was nosed out of a runoff spot by ‘Mr. Blakley. Lacking non-liberal support in the party, Mr. Maverick wound up a dismal fifth. “It’s a case of rule or ruin with my so-called liberal friends,” snorts a prominent Texas Democrat. “They let their emotions rule their minds.” . . . But talk to the hard-boiled political strategists in AFL-CIO state headquarters in Austin, and you hear not emotionalism or remorse but, instead, political realism. Although Mr. Wright has compiled a 50 per cent liberal voting record in Congress, he has been on the conservative side of late on the biggest issuespublic housing, urban renewal, labor reform, minimum wage liberalization, and federal aid to education. Texas labor leaders ask this question: Would any Northern labor groups have supported the Fort Worth spellbinder? “If we had backed Jim,” explains one AFL-CIO official, “we would have been saying in effect to all candidates that they merely had to vote with us once in a while and promise they might do better in the future to get our support. Every one of them would be playing footsie with the con just received an Americanism award from the Houston Jaycees. And the Houston Birchers are reported to have picked up considerable strength since the recent outburst of adverse publicity. A “conservative estimate” of their membership, informed Houstonians say, is 5,000, an estimate which would probably confirm Robert Welch’s contention that Houston is his strongest city in the nation. SO IT GOES, this renaissance of the radical right in the South’s largest city. How can the phenomenon be explained? Why is this proliferation of ultra-rightist organizations at its lushest in Houston, rather than Dallas, or Fort Worth, or Memphis, or Denver, or Detroit? And might not one conclude that Houston is beginning to replace Los Angeles as the traditional center of eccentric political activity? A number of Houston intellectuals and political leaders interviewed this week have different ideas about the curious and somewhat tormented atmosphere which now pervades the city, but they all agree that explanations should not be oversimplified. “It’s a kind of mass psychosis,” one well-known attorney active in Harris County politics told the Observer. “Everybody sees that communism is eating up the world. But these people are ,willing to fight it the way Hitler fought it, and right here in Houston.” “This has been an evolutionary thing over the last three or four years,” a young intellectual who has been compiling a study of the “Birch mentality” told us. “These people have inspired an atmosphere in which native totalitarianism becomes the only effective weapon to fight internal communism.” Only a vigorous climate of antiintellectualism, such as one finds in a burgeoning provincial metropolis like Houston, could have encouraged the present atmosphere. Perambulating preachers, insurance men, company executives, former doctorsthese are the accepted experts in Houston on the communist menace, the men who have so successfully equated American liberalism with socialism and communism, who servatives and just throw us a bone every so often.” True, Texas liberals do not now and may never control the state’s Democratic Party. Organized labor supplies most of the foot soldiers for liberal commanders in any campaign, and organized labor in Texas is short of dedicated troops. Success in expanding union membership in the state’s growing cities has been less than impressive. . . . Moreover, the dominant political wind blowing in Texas these days is conservative, not liberal. “I’ve never seen the state so conservative at any time during the last 50 years,” contends a middleof-the-road Democratic leader. The white collar workers of the big cities, many of them immigrants from the North, tend to be conservative and, more often than not, Republican. More and more graduates of the state’s colleges are entering politics as conservative activists. Extreme right wing organizations are popping up all over the state with the heaviest activity in Houston. ALL THIS MEANS that the liberal alliance of labor, intellec tuals, and minority groups cannot dictate party policy and candidates in Texas as it does in Michigan; obviously, it cannot elect a Maury Maverick Jr. without help from have denounced wholesale the recent actions of American politicians and intellectuals as treasonous, who have condemned as communist “dupes” anyone even vaguely left-of-center in the present American context. A man need not have the proper credentials to be an authority or an expert. His best equipment is a good speaking voice, a dogmatic consistency, and a dedication. It is no surprise that in the lore of the Houston rightists, “intellectuals” are peremptorily dismissed as either ineffectual or pro-communist. NOR SHOULD IT be surprising, since Houston geographically is a kind of metropolitan prop to -the East Texas “bible belt,” that the city’s extremist movements derive much of their native fervor from a mating of rigorous evangelical fundamentalism and “pro Americanism.” Protestant churches in Houston are often the centers of such activity. With rare exceptions, Protestant clerical leadership in the city has been reluctant to take a stand. Only last year the Houston Council of Churches changed its name to the Houston Alliance of Churches: the national Council of Churches has been a favorite target of the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade and the Birch Society. The literature of the extremist movements bristle with indictments of “liberal theology” and seek a return to fundamentalist doctrine. The intense emotionalism of a Houston “anti-communist” rally can be likened to that of a religious revival; the rhetoric is often biblical; the stress is on a dedication of souls to combat the communist conspiracy; only those who have departed from the simple faith of their fathers have been duped by the Reds. The stress on fundamentalist Christianity as a requisite to winning the world struggle has not been lost on some of the more poiltically active Jewish people in the city. A prominent rabbi, for instance, has been one of the THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 5 June 17, 1961 party regulars. But it is beginning to exercise veto power over the election of a Bill Blakley or even a Jim Wright. It is the hope of liberal leaders that this veto power plus the enhancement of Republican prestige gained by Mr. Tower’s election will gradually realign state politics into a strong conservative Republican Party and a strong liberal Democratic Party. They hope that unthinking alliance to the Democratic Party by Texans will keep even a liberal Democratic Party dominant in the state despite the conservative statewide trend. They recognize that traditional Democratic voting habits may fade away enough to some day establish the conservative Republican party as the majority party in Texas. But liberals would far rather own a vital voice in a strong minority party than an important role in a polyglot Democratic party. Such logic smacks of heresy to the sentimental, old-time Democratic politicians with their unbending party loyalty and abhorrence of Republicans. But freeand-easy, Southern-style politics where personality counts for more than policies is fading away in Texas. And what is happening in Texas today may well be repeated through the rest of the old Confederacy in the decades to come. most outspoken critics of the Birch Society. As one young Jewish leader asked, “Where are the Jews supposed to fit in? Aren’t we anti-communist? What will be the net effect of this equating of Christianity with anticommunism?” THE BIBLE BELT mentality is but a part of the total picture, however. In a world fraught with dangers and disappointments, unsophisticated and ill-informed people are genuinely concerned with their country’s future. “These groups draw for their rank-andfile on a generally uninformed middle-class,” a professor at the University of Houston said. “These people have suddenly looked up one day and seen the whole world going to pot. It’s not enough to vote. They want to do something.” He told the story of a young CPA he knew who had become increasingly worried about what he read in the newspapers. One night at a precinct meeting, during a prolonged discussion, the young man stood up and asked, “But what can I do?” He was approached after the meeting by a member of the Birch Society, who convinced him to sign up. He has been an active member ever since. Another ,Houstonian tells about a conversation with a young man who came to him for advice about joining the Birchers. He was advised not to do it “because those people are alarmists.” The man replied, “You’re right, they’re alarmists. But then, I’m alarmed.” W.M. Next Week: The influence of first-generation wealth. HOUSTON Another leaflet was being circulated in Houston this week. The news it bore was nothing too new. Billy James Hargis, “America’s dynamic leader in the fight against Godless Communism,” was coming to town for some speechmaking. The leaflet promised he would bring “documented, authentic facts about Communist infiltration in our churches, our schools, our government.” He would be sponsored by the Christian Crusade and the 8th and 22nd congressional districts’ American Legion counter-subversive committees. “Hear startling facts about the Supreme Court, the United Nations, Foreign Aid, Espionage, and many other vital subjects.” Meanwhile, John Birch and Christian Anti-Communism films continued to make their rounds,
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