Texas

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Texas is the second largest state in total territory in the United States with 268,601 square miles. Alaska is the largest with 656,425 square miles. Texas is also second largest in population with 20,851,820 people (2000 Census). California is the largest in popualtion with 33,871,648 people (2000 Census).

Texas has an increasingly ideologically conservative reputation, but it is not entirely Republican. Many observers cite Austin, the state capital, as a liberal oasis, and there are many other strongly Democratic areas of the state such as El Paso, parts of San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas, and heavily Latino South Texas, near the Mexican border.

Contents

Government

To understand Texas State Government one must firmly grasp two key aspects of 19th century Texas history:

1. Reconstruction

2. The desperate need for entertainment in small, isolated agrarian communities

1. The experience of reconstruction and how this led to the Constitution of 1876 is throughly covered elsewhere. As a reaction to Occupation by the Union Army and the "Radical" policies of the Republican administration Texas Democrats drew up the Constitution of 1876 with the explicit intent of limiting government power, and the power of the Governor in particular. Hence the quip that the governor is the "third most powerful" person in Texas government, after the Lieutenant Governor (who leads the state senate) and the Speaker of the House. By design, the governor can do little without the consent of the Legislatative leaders. Even powers of appoitment, like judgeships, are denied the governor. The Democrats of 1876 went further, however. They also created a weak Legislative branch by only allowing the Legislature to meets fives months every two years, and by making it difficult for Legislators to be paid more than nominal amounts. As a result the Legislators have generally been something else first (eg. business proprietors or lawyers) and lawmakers second. Add in an executive branch perpetually and intentionally starved of revenue and one has precisely what those 1876 Democrats sought: a weak government divided against itself.

2. Point 1 can be found in any decent Texas Government textbook. Having grown up in a small Texas town I'd like to add another aspect of Texas State governance that sets Texas apart from its fellow members of the former confederacy. An odd quirk of living in a small Texas town was the immense number of elections. When I was growing up, it was unusual to go three months without voting on something. School board elections were held at a different time from City Council elections which were held distinct from the "partisan" offices like State and Federal contests. Or I should say, odd to a modern, truck-drivin' movie watchin' city-dweller. In the 19th century, Texas counties were generally laid out so that the principal towns/county seats were a day's horse ride apart. Telegraph wires did not reach these places, nor did much else. So Texas communities had to rely on their own resources for entertainment — and it's hard to come up with a more reliable and cheaper form of entertainment than the local election. Speeches, debates, editorials in the town paper, gossiping with friends. Each election promised weeks of diversion.

But what does 19th-century isolation have to do with a 21st century Texas blessed with superhighways, cable TV and a streamlined electoral calendar? The ethos that politics should be as much about diversion as governance still echoes. The only unforgivable sin in Texas politics may be to be boring — with Dolph Briscoe being the exception that proves the rule. From John Nance Garner declaring the Vice-Presidency was "an office not worth a bucket of warm spit" to LBJ showing his surgery scar to Jim Hightower getting his own radio show to Democratic Legislators fleeing to Oklahoma pursued by Texas Rangers, Texas politics and its politicians still relish the theatrical and are, if nothing else, entertaining.

Which, if you pay attention to what happens in Austin, would seem to explain a lot.

Also worth noting --

1. Texas has some quirks of geography. It is so large and situated on the southern tier of the United States (practically dead-center) that El Paso in the westernmost corner of the state is closer to San Diego, California than it is to Beaumont, Texas near the Louisiana state line or Texarkana which lies on the Texas/Arkansas state line. In turn, Beaumont is closer to Jacksonville, Florida than it is to El Paso. It is large enough north and south that Dalhart, in the northwestern part of the state, is closer to the state capitals of New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma than it is to the state capital of Texas.

2. Texas is large enough to be a region unto itself, but it not a region in its own right. Eastern Texas is in many ways an extension of the American Southeast (also known as Dixie -- like Dixie it is cotton country) in topography and economics as well as culture and politics, and have large concentrations of blacks who are not in large cities. It is rural and politically conservative and was so even when Democrats won votes there. Border areas have a large Mexican-American population that tends to be much more liberal than white Texans. Almost everything to the north and west of the Dallas-Fort Worth "Metroplex" that isn't too dry is ranch-and-wheat country is decidedly Midwestern; indeed, the state university in Wichita Falls is known as Midwestern State University. The urban core of Texas, including the Dallas-Fort Worth "Metroplex" in the north and San Antonio and Galveston in the south, is a transition era between the American Southeast, the Midwest, the American Southwest, and the areas near the Mexican border.

3. All of Texas used to be Mexican territory. The Mexican government never had firm control of Texas and allowed immigrants from the United States to settle in Texas. Although the Mexican government outlawed slavery, many of those immigrants smuggled slaves into Texas. In 1836, much of what would become Texas rebelled against the dictator Santa Ana and achieved independence as a republic. The independent Republic of Texas lasted nine years when, due to its precarious financial position, it joined the United States as a State of the Union as a slave state. It never was a territory of the United States. Some parts of the republic were ceded to the United States (as a rule to the north and west of the Texas Panhandle) that would later become about a half of New Mexico, about a fourth of Colorado, southwestern Kansas, and small parts of Oklahoma and Wyoming.

In accordance with the Treaty of Guadalupe that ratified the permanent severing of Texas from Mexico, Mexican-Americans and their descendants were to be treated as "white" for legal purposes. African-Americans were not so fortunate. Texas would be a slave state until the end of the American Civil War, and parts of Texas would be under "Jim Crow" tradition.

4. A Texan, Lyndon Baines Johnson (often known by his initials LBJ), would become the 36th President of the United States after the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 in downtown Dallas. Significantly, LBJ pushed for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that would outlaw almost every form of legal discrimination against African-Americans in all states, including Texas.

5. Although not born there, two Presidents have since called Texas home: George Herbert Walker Bush (the 41st President of the United States from 1989 to 1993), and George Walker Bush (43rd President of the United States, 2001-2009). The 41st President, the elder Bush, gets credit for competently handling the decay of communist rule in Europe but mediocre results for handling of the economy. Liberals generally consider the younger Bush (often called "Dubya" for his middle initial) a disaster as President.

Texas Congressional Delegation

Texas State Government

Texas Cities & Counties

Elections

Texas Democratic Party

Texas progressive resources

Texas News, Etc

Political Blogs

Links

External links

See also

v·e·d

Texas


President: 2004, 2008


Congress: TX-Sen, TX-01, TX-02, TX-03, TX-04, TX-05, TX-06, TX-07, TX-08, TX-09, TX-10, TX-11, TX-12, TX-13, TX-14, TX-15, TX-16, TX-17, TX-18, TX-19, TX-20, TX-21, TX-22, TX-23, TX-24, TX-25, TX-26, TX-27, TX-28, TX-29, TX-30, TX-31, TX-32,


State: TX-Gov, Texas Senate, Texas House, Texas elections, 2008


Counties: Anderson, Andrews, Angelina, Aransas, Archer, Armstrong, Atascosa, Austin, Bailey, Bandera, Bastrop, Baylor, Bee, Bell , Bexar, Blanco, Borden, Bosque, Bowie, Brazoria, Brazos, Brewster , Briscoe, Brooks , Brown, Burleson, Burnet , Caldwell, Calhoun, Callahan, Cameron, Camp, Carson, Cass, Castro, Chambers, Cherokee, Childress, Clay, Cochran, Coke, Coleman, Collin, Collingsworth, Colorado, Comal , Comanche, Concho, Cooke, Coryell, Cottle, Crane, Crockett, Crosby, Culberson, Dallam, Dallas, Dawson, Deaf Smith, Delta, Denton, DeWitt, Dickens, Dimmit, Donley, Duval, Eastland, Ector, Edwards, El Paso, Ellis, Erath, Falls, Fannin, Fayette, Fisher, Floyd, Foard, Fort Bend, Franklin, Freestone, Frio, Gaines, Galveston, Garza, Gillespie, Glasscock, Goliad, Gonzales, Gray, Grayson, Gregg, Grimes, Guadalupe, Hale, Hall, Hamilton, Hansford, Hardeman, Hardin, Harris, Harrison, Hartley, Haskell, Hays, Hemphill, Henderson, Hidalgo, Hill, Hockley, Hood, Hopkins, Houston, Howard, Hudspeth, Hunt, Hutchinson, Irion, Jack, Jackson County, Jasper, Jeff Davis, Jefferson, Jim Hogg, Jim Wells, Johnson, Jones, Karnes, Kaufman, Kendall, Kenedy, Kent, Kerr, Kimble, King, Kinney, Kleberg County, Knox, La Salle, Lamar, Lamb, Lampasas, Lavaca, Lee, Leon, Liberty, Limestone, Lipscomb, Live Oak, Llano, Loving, Lubbock, Lynn, Madison, Marion, Martin, Mason, Matagorda, Maverick, McCulloch, McLennan, McMullen, Medina, Menard, Midland, Milam, Mills, Mitchell, Montague, Montgomery, Moore, Morris, Motley, Nacogdoches, Navarro, Newton, Nolan, Nueces, Ochiltree, Oldham, Orange, Palo Pinto, Panola, Parker, Parmer, Pecos, Polk, Potter, Presidio, Rains, Randall, Reagan, Real, Red River, Reeves, Refugio, Roberts, Robertson, Rockwall, Runnels, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, San Patricio, San Saba, Schleicher, Scurry, Shackelford, Shelby, Sherman, Smith, Somervell, Starr, Stephens, Sterling, Stonewall, Sutton, Swisher, Tarrant, Taylor, Terrell, Terry, Throckmorton, Titus, Tom Green, Travis, Trinity, Tyler, Upshur, Upton, Uvalde, Val Verde, Van Zandt, Victoria, Walker, Waller, Ward, Washington, Webb, Wharton, Wheeler, Wichita, Wilbarger, Willacy, Williamson, Wilson, Winkler, Wise, Wood, Yoakum, Young, Zapata, Zavala,

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