2012 Archives

Texas' electoral process? Consider the history

Excerpt

The following ran in the March 17, 2012, edition of the San Antonio Express-News. Political Scientist Cal Jillson provided expertise for this story.

March 23, 2012

Three decades after Texas, seeking readmission to the Union, grudgingly assented to allow black men to vote, the county judge of Robertson County carried his six-shooter to the polls and stood there until they closed.
 
“Not a negro voted,” he later wrote.
 
At the time, in 1896, his actions were far from extraordinary. They echoed two principles embedded in Texas politics from its founding: that white men should doggedly cling to power, and the federal government was hellbent on persecuting the state.
 
This week, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott carried these principles proudly into the modern era.
 
He did so by arguing that Texas shouldn't have to prove to federal authorities that the state's controversial Voter ID law heads off minority voters at the polls....

Cal Jillson has.
 
A professor of political science at Southern Methodist University, Jillson has written a book, “Lone Star Tarnished: A Critical Look at Texas Politics and Public Policy,” that begins by tracing the state's roots.
 
“Texas was conceived and run as an Anglo republic,” Jillson told me, “a white man's republic, from its initial founding through the modern civil rights era of the 1960s, when the federal government came in and said, ‘Look, you've got to stop this.'”
 
Jillson writes that early Texas developers worked to attract “wealthy white men” along with their property and capital.
 
Texas at the time was a “bloody frontier” of Mexican incursions and Comanche raids, the latter stretching into the 1870s. Meanwhile, the Anglo elites staunchly defended their right to possess slaves.
 
After the Civil War, they chafed at the edicts of Reconstruction.
 
“Anglo Texans treated the very idea of black equality as deeply humiliating,” Jillson writes.
 
So the establishment fought the federal tide.
 
The Texas Constitution of 1876, which remains in force, affirmed “states' rights, decentralized government and the supremacy of the white race.”
 
In the first half of the 20th century, conservative leaders limited the electorate with a “network of elections laws and rules” such as the poll tax, which persisted until Congress and the Supreme Court struck it down in the 1960s.
 
“Texas fought each of these changes to the very end,” Jillson writes.
 
So why should we care?
 
Jillson quotes a federal judge, William Wayne Justice, who wrote that this history “stands as a disheartening testament to the perseverance and craft of the dominant political leaders, in their attempt to exclude minorities from participation in the process of self-government.”

Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/news_columnists/article/Texas-electoral-process-Consider-the-history-3414078.php#ixzz1pyIaqek2