POLITICS Texas is a struggling giant without a comfortable niche in tradition. For over two centuries diverse cultures have competed for the prairies, and the changes, though deep, have not been broad; Texas today is neither Mexican nor Southern nor Western, neither cosmopolitan nor provincial. The different intruding cultures have succeeded only in fragmenting the whole into distinctive parts, each part responding in its own way to different visitations from the past, each maintaining its own customs and values, each looking to the future through its own very special lenses. In East Texas stand the piney woods, fertility and shelter within easy reach of the plow and the ax, so that survival is not a desperate thing. There is time for procrastination and docility, time to incubate habit into custom, time for the sudden flashing of unreasoning violence that is a talent of some idle Anglo-Saxon provincials. In West Texas are the men, and the children of the men, who stepped out onto the plains, surveyed the miles, wrangled over the railroad routes, erected the court houses, all in the last half-century. There has been the struggle to avoid intimidation before the treeless land. In those who have continued to plot against the dry clouds, the sand, and the omnipresent wind, there is a heartiness and a thin braggadocio that has found a place in the legends and myths of the nation. In South Texas, a hinterland of brush, a semi-tropical feudalism supported by Mexican labor where “vaquero” means a small measure of dignity and “migrant” means none. On the upper Gulf Coast, a bristling industrial complex conceived in the oil of Spindletop, nurtured by the new bonanzas of sulphur, natural gas, and water. Here the Texas Manufacturers Assn. and the CIO match angry glares and the word both understand is “organization.” Today, there are nine million Texans black and white, Anglo and Latin, rural and urban, their habits and thoughts sharing in the folkways of Atlanta, of Detroit, of Mexico City, of the weary blacklands of the Mississippi Delta. Some, with names like Sepulveda, Garcia, and Ruiz, spend half their lives in the stooped posture of the farm laborer and want to learn the language. Some, with names like Washington Carve’ Brown, Jefferson Jones, and John Smith know the silent humiliations of the unadmitted; they want status. Some, with names like Anderson, Clayton, Florence, Murchison, Richardson, Hunt, and Brown see a pattern of life honored and traditional, passing from the contemporary scene; they want to hold what they have and regain what has been lost. Yet the Garcias, the Browns, the Richardsons are not the people; rather they are symbols of what divides the people. The people are the surging, sometimes inarticulate four million who live in Texas’ major cities, and a like number, less organized, flung out in the towns and hamlets and crossroads. They are southern people and western people and, in many cases, people with no sense of the past at all. . . . Yet the same rural population can join with the urban liberal movement to put Ralph Yarborough in the Senate and create an overall political climate that compels conservatives in self-defense to strike a more moderate public pose. Thus 1958 sees Price Daniel in the statehouse and Will Wilson standing impatiently in the wings. However unpalatable to liberals, each is a long call from Allan Shivers. Liberal strength, reflected in growing grass-roots representation in Democratic Party conventions, has elected a liberal national committeewomen from Texas and forced conservative leadership, however reluctantly, to accept the principle of free senatorial district caucuses, to be violated at the risk of widespread disfavor. The somnolent Texas liberalism of the forties and early fifties, which could not stir itself before such as the “Texas Regulars,” the “Dixiecrats,” “Democrats for Eisenhower,” and “Shivercrats,” has emerged from the long sleep of Southern tradition. Larry Goodwyn November 14, 1958 New Shapes in Texas Politics . . . A coalition of conservative Democrats and minorities will be attempted as a temporary buffer against the impatient Republicans and liberals, but it cannot save the conservative Democratic organization. The Republicans have sealed off too much of the rank and file conservative vote. If the G.O.P. consolidation in 1963 is successful, even more of it will be sealed off. This produces a new thesis which 1963 will test: the liberals, to hold firm, must be more liberal, more explicitly integrationist. Don Yarborough almost rode this thesis to a “sleeper” victory in 1962. His fault, if anything, was that he didn’t ride it hard enough in the face of adroit Connally competition in Negro and Mejicano precincts. In any case, Yarborough took the most advanced position on civil rights of any statewide Southern candidate in memory. In response, Connally was not explicit on civil rights issues, but he did something no other conservative in Texas has done he granted positions of status and some authority in his campaign organization to leaders and would-be leaders of the Negro and Latin-American communities. His civil rights pitch to the mass of minority voters consisted of the adroit use of civil rights symbols, such as Gonzalez and Kennedy, on campaign literature. Between them, Don Yarborough and Connally have changed the way the game will be played. Other statewide politicians will have to move much faster on civil rights than they have, just to keep up. Meanwhile, the conservative Democrats maintain their grip, however nervously, on the helms of state government. Some of their ablest political figures are plotting their own courses of action, and several of the more lightfooted among them may survive quite a while into a political future. But for the conservative Democratic organization itself, “quite a while,” in the new Texas context, may not be long. Larry Goodwyn December 13, 1962 Liberalism Reconsidered . . . Liberalism, the leading system of ideas and values for reform in the United States, has become bland, and full of lies, as the truth has become worse and worse and we feel less and From time to time, Observer writers have been able to remove themselves from the immediacy of everyday politics who’s in, who’s out, who’s bought, who’s buying in order to consider the larger picture. Most often this has meant taking a theoretical look at new directions for progressive politics. Texas and Politics The Old and the Changing Ways THE TEXAS OBSERVER 33
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.