martes, 11 de abril de 2006

Third Parties in Texas

Daniel Franco

Government 2301-2460

Dr. Eileen Lynch

April 2006

22. Third Parties in Texas

Assess why third parties appear, and give three reasons to explain their limited successes in Texas.

Historically, the United States political system is a two-party system. And, although many different stances in public issues are taken creating varied factions within a party, often these factions end up endorsing the general party’s platform when pitching against the other team during election time. And sometimes these factions fail to address a specific combination of concerns for groups of people, and those people react by creating a coalition of interests with the purpose of influencing and changing the government to solve the issues that motivate them. These are the so-called third parties.

And in the state of Texas these third parties have made their appearance, briefly, but sometimes with lasting effect.

Texas has the peculiar history to have been mostly a “one-party state” in its politics (or, as the textbook describes quite forlornly, a “no-party” state), where politicians label themselves Democrat but in reality are out for themselves. However, since the end of the Twentieth Century, Texas has become more and more a Republican state, where the majority of people would vote Republican even if they didn’t know the issues at hand. In this climate of conservative unilateral focused perspective of the public issues, the third parties have a particular difficult challenge, since they are virtually the second party, albeit one without equal representation or support.

Specifically, Texas has some of the most unforgiving ballot access laws in the nation. If a third party wants to place its candidate in a statewide office ballot, the independent candidate must collect signatures that should equal in number the 1% of all the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. Not only that, but the signatures have to be from registered voters who did not participate in a primary or runoff that year, and verified by the voter’s registration identification number. If the candidate manages to get himself in the ballot, and receives at least 5% of the vote for a statewide office or a 2% for a gubernatorial vote, the party can earn a place the next election. All these laws are a big deterrent for third parties to just sprout into the political scene. Understandable, in the context of providing an orderly transition of power, but still a clear example of discrimination, an example of the big boys laying down the ground rules so that little players can’t get on the playfield.

Also, when third parties manage to bring a valid point of contention that actually resonates with the electorate, even so, they might fail to achieve permanence and are often subsumed into one of the two major political parties, like when the Populist positions were adopted by the Democrats.

And another way third parties crumble out of existence can be exemplified by the political party La Raza Unida, who managed to win some local elections and to send their own candidates for governor and other statewide offices. Their demise as a political party was brought about by their internal contentions and feuds, and also by the infiltration of the party by the FBI for alleged radicalism.

The third parties in Texas are often effective in bringing to the forefront of the political scene points of variance that the electorate might hold against the other parties, and changing the approach of main parties’ platforms in occasions. However, third parties in Texas have not achieved staying power, and in the present political climate, they seem to be doomed to never stay long among us.


Texas Politics, 9th Edition, Richard H. Kraemer, Charldean Newell, David F. Prindle, Thomson Wadsword, © 2005

United States and Texas government I. Programs 1-26 [video recording], Presented by Dallas TeleLearning DCCCD, © 2005

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