Page 11


educational opportunity” in the late Constitutional Convention. In general, the Lege will be about the same as it was last session not only in personnel, but in its conservative outlook. The superficial progressivism of 1973, the taking of positions on procedural reform that have long been identified with liberals, will be gone as both houses face social issues like school financing. None of the brown members will be Raza Unida folks. There was much grumbling among liberal Democrats this year that Raza Unida seemed to be taking special aim at chicano Democrats. Houston Rep. Ben Reyes and Austin’s Barrientos, for example, each had Raza Unida opponents, though Reyes was, and Barrientos is expected to be, a stalwart member of the left-headed coalition in the House. Rep. Joe Hernandez of San Antonio, who is a more moderate liberal, also faced a Raza Unida opponent. All three won, but that doesn’t resolve the debate over races like Reyes vs. Jimenez. Reyes said the contest split the brown community, that it removed from Democratic party politics exactly the people who could make the party more responsive to chicanos. While he obviously hoped to be reelected, he told the Houston Chronicle, he was afraid that “if we do beat Maria [Jimenez] badly, I’m worried’ they may bear grudges against us for a long time.” White liberals are considerably less sensitive: they see Raza Unida opposition as some kind of dirty trick played on folks like Reyes and Barrientos. And they point out that votes for Ramsey Muniz subtract clout from liberal constituencies’ participation in Democratic convention politics. Statewide, the difference of 5 or 6 percent may not mean much, they point out, but the 23 percent vote for Muniz in Corpus Christi, for example, could be significant indeed. When it comes time to hand out delegate spots in 1976 on the basis of votes for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate this year, libs in Corpus may find themselves on the short end of a very short stick. That ignores, first of all, the hard political fact that Raza Unida has to run legislative campaigns in brown communities if it is to run legislative campaigns at all and, given the electoral success of Jose Angel Gutierrez as opposed to that of Ramsey Muniz, small-electorate campaigns seem to be the more promising. But Raza Unida strategists see another reason for maintaining electoral pressure on chicano candidates from the major parties. Tatcho Mindiola, Harris County chairman of Raza Unida, has written, “If a Mexican politician decides to align himself with the Democrats or Republicans, that is indeed his privilege and prerogative. Raza There will be more women around seven in the House and one in the Senate, compared to five in the House and one in the Senate last session but the new female House members are split down the middle in traditional left-and-right terms. There will be nine black House members instead of last session’s eight. And there will be 13 Mexican-American members this session: the 1973 crop contained only 10. \(Aida will compete with him in the political arena, where the burden of justification for political party affiliation lies with the candidate. But the equivocating politician will find little solace in Raza Unida.” This year, as in 1972, most of the attention paid to Raza Unida was devoted to Ramsey Muniz’ race for governor. This Ramsey Muniz 5.6 Percent year Muniz won 5.6 percent of the vote, about half a percentage point lower than his share in 1972. The difference is that two years ago his showing was generally taken as a sign of the party’s strength; this year, 5 percent was being talked about as the end of Raza Unida’s statewide impact. Lauro Cruz of the governor’s office was saying that “the vacuum that existed between the Democratic Party and the Mexican-Americans has been closed by Governor Briscoe, and probably next time around we’ll see the Raza Unida party disappearing completely.” Tony Castro of The Houston Post \(and author of Chicano wrote, “Perhaps an obituary on Raza Unida is premature. But it is not too much to suggest that Raza Unida has no future as a statewide party or, for that matter, as a dominant political force outside a few strongholds in South Texas.” In part, this saying goodbye to the party was a conclusion based on the fact that Muniz’ 1974 campaign began the day his 1972 campaign ended a conclusion that he was , given an 18-Month headstart on everybody else and could still only convince one out of every 20 voters. But the decline in the party’s fortunes also served to place it in the classic third-party role, in many observers’ minds. “By their nature in the American political system,” Castro said, “third parties come along every so often to make a point on behalf of a dissatisfied or disenfranchised minority, and then they fade into oblivion.” Carlos Guerra, who ran Muniz’ -campaign, takes a more hopeful view. He calls the 1972 showing the “protest vote,” and the 1974 total “our vote.” Nonetheless, if “our vote” is 5.6 percent, the party faces a difficult choice. Should it continue its attempt to affect statewide politics, or should it move toward extending the kind of local victories it has shown it can accomplish? In part, Raza Unida’s exigencies are an intensified miniature of the problems facing the Texas Republican Party. This year’s elections showed the GOP what can happen to it in a bad year. On one hand, there are now clearly definable, safe Republican seats in the Legislature. On the other, U.S. Sen. John Tower, from whom all patronage and other blessings flow, will next run for re-election in 1978, which will be another non-presidential year. If you think the Texas Republican Party is in bad shape this year, imagine it without a U.S. senator. Which means that even for independent-minded folks, the Democratic Party looks more and more like the only game in town. M.I., J.F. November 29, 1974 9 The Outpost Austin’s Best Barbecue 11:3077:30 Daily, Except Sunday David and Marion Moss 345-9045 Highway 183 North MARTIN ELFANT SUN LIFE OF CANADA LIFE HEALTH DENTAL 600 JEFFERSON SUITE 430 HOUSTON, TEXAS 224-0686 La Raza Unida