ustxtxb_obs_1991_08_23_50_00015-00000_000.pdf

Page 3

by

body, it’s not very interesting. Now, the machine can last forever…. Everyone would like to be immortal …. I’m afraid, unfortunately, that I am the last generation to die.” At this point, you get the feeling from Rifkin’s book that there is a very real, blunt, and ruthless historical force moving in for the kill. Even if downloading consciousness is not possible, the fact that our “best-trained” minds, want to do it and get lots of money to try is horrifying enough. This book is a wake-up call, a call to action, BY JOE FEAGIN Race and Class in Texas Politics by Chandler Davidson. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press 1990. 302 pp. $24.95 cloth. IT HAS BEEN WHISPERED. Now it can be said publicly and clearly: In recent decades the Republican. Party has be come the “White Party,” in Texas and in nation as a whole. At the 1988 Republican national convention, the Texas delegation, the largest in the South, had only one black delegate among its 111 members, the least black percentage of any of the large state delegations. Among the several hundred delegates from Texas at the last three Republican national conventions there have only been two black delegates. This nearly total lack of black participation in Texas Republican delegations contrasts sharply with the strong participation of blacks in Texas’ Democratic party delegations and illustrates well a central point of Chandler Davidson’s pathbreaking new book, Race and Class in Texas Politics that racist political appeals and racist politics have increased with the rise of the strong two-party political system in Texas. Examining Texas politics under a microscope, Davidson provides a primer for understanding the rise of right-wing Republicanism in Texas and across the country .. In Part One of the book he lays out V.O. Key’s theory of race and southern politics, criticizes the myth of overwhelming conservatism among Texas voters, and discusses the basis of the current conservative and liberal coalitions in Texas politics. After describing the class and race structure of Texas society in Part Two, which includes a sharp description of the mostly conservative white male Joe Feagin is a professor of sociology at the University of Floridsa to bio-regionalism, to green economics. It is a call to revolt against the numbing tyranny of the narcissistic isolation that our homogenizing culture convinces us to embrace. Ultimately, I can only applaud Rifkin for writing a book, that attempts to resuscitate our deep, stifled knowledge that we can again live elegantly, responsibly, and even ecstatically on this Earth that we can forget what we’ve memorized by heart and simply remember what we love. ruling class in Texas, Davidson proceeds in Part Three to a well-documented and hard-hitting discussions of the role of the civil tights revolution in creating a more liberal Democratic party and a right-wing Republican party in Texas. Davidson’s book, although a bit disorganized in a several places, reflects prodigious scholarship and demolishes several wrongheaded notions about Texas politics. One key notion is the myth of an overwhelmingly conservative electorate. While most white business leaders and the business-controlled media in Texas have certainly been conservative, and conservative political candidates have usually had more money to spend than moderates or liberals, the electorate in Texas is diverse ideologically. The electorate is not at all the conservative one por trayed in much of the media inside and outside Texas. Indeed, 55 percent of Texans in polls described themselves as liberal or middle-of-the road in 1968, and a bit higher proportion described themselves in those same terms later on in 1980. Davidson demonstrates the strength, cohesion, money, and power of the small reactionary business elite of Texas, the hundred or so white men controlling a huge share of the state’s business assets. Because of their resources, this mostly anti-democratic elite has distorted Texas politics in their ideological direction and tipped numerous elections toward conservative candidates. Perhaps most importantly, Davidson demonstrates graphically the mono-racial character of the Texas Republican party and the racial and ethnic complexity of the Texas Democratic party. The diversity of the Democratic party is the direct result of changes brought by the 1960s’ civil rights laws, which liberalized Democratic politics in Texas and the South. By bringing minorities, especially blacks, back into Texas politics in a major way, civil rights laws and enforcement ironically brought a dramatic resurgence of the Texas Republican party which now had racial issues to utilize. Focusing on the period since the 1950s, Davidson shows with voting data that Texas has become a state divided between a Republican party centered in white areas, especially middle-class areas, and a Democratic party that is multi-ethnic and centered in urban working-class and minority areas. Taking issue with V. 0. Key’s argument that “race” appeals by political parties would decline with the rise of a strong two-party system in the southern states, Davidson demonstrates how the Republican party in Texas, and nationally, brought about its resurgence by explicitly using the dirty politics of race. With the Goldwater campaign in 1964, the Republican party, including its major Texas contingent, intentionally abandoned black voters for a strategy targeting the concerns and interests of white voters, particularly middle-class whites. The explicitly prowhite political strategy put emphasis on whites in suburbia and in the southern states. Codewords such as “states’ rights,” “busing,” and “crime in the streets” were substituted for the more explicit racial terms of the days of segregation. Late Senator John Tower, a major force in the remaking of the Republican party nationally, was a key example of Republican segregationist sentiment in his opposition to the 1954 school desegregation decision, the 1960 and 1964 progressive Republican national platform proposals on civil rights, the 1964 and 1965 civil rights acts, and numerous other civil White Elephant Race and Electoral Politics in Texas rights laws and provisions. THE REPUBLICANS’ RACIALIZED national strategy could be seen in microcosm in Texas, where it worked well. As Davidson shows, by the late 1980s the majority of whites in Texas identified with the Republican party at THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15