This Year’s Midterm Gains For Liberals Mirror An Earlier Time In Texas Politics

A Texas Christian University historian says a coalition of New Deal Democrats, Mexican-Americans, labor leaders and others changed Lone Star State politics in the 1960s, just as they hope to do today.

By Joy Diaz & Michael MarksNovember 12, 2018 7:10 am

It’s nearly a week after midterm elections, and the dust is still settling. Many are calling Election Day 2018 a historic moment.

But Texas Christian University history professor Max Krochmal, the author of “Blue Texas: The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era,” says that while this year’s elections were historic because they represented a shift toward more liberal-leaning politics, the results weren’t unprecedented. During the civil rights movement era, liberal politicians made their presence known in conservative Texas. But also, the conservatives and liberals in Texas, at that time, were all Democrats.

“Fifty, 60 years ago, the politics of Texas was different,” Krochmal says. “It was a solid Democratic state, but there was, within that, a liberal faction of the Democratic party that was multiracial, multiethnic, and it was committed to civil rights, to liberal politics and to labor rights.”

Krochmal says being a Democrat in the South in the mid-20th century “could mean anything, really.”

The party contained segregationists, states’-rights advocates, union organizers, New Dealers and more. Krochmal says northern Democrats wanted to bring more liberal policies to the South, which was at odds with the position of the Dixiecrats who were far more conservative about race and the economy.

In Texas, racial segregation went beyond Jim Crow: state laws codified discriminatory practices and and unequal treatment for African-Americans. Also, so-called Jaun Crow disenfranchised Mexican-Americans.

“[It] was very much rooted in state power, in laws, in legal enforcement and in schools, which were very often segregated in south and west Texas very clearly between Anglo Neighborhoods and Mexican neighborhoods,” Krochmal says.

Krochmal says that like the political changes during the 1960s, the 2018 midterm election results have their roots in a resistance to the dominant political culture – one that is far more conservative and dominated by older, whiter Texans.

“A lot of organizing that’s been taking place on the ground in the last two years, since [President Donald] Trump’s election – the Indivisible chapters that have cropped up in every congressional district, the immigrant-rights movement that’s been led by young people fighting SB 4 [known as] the ‘show me your papers’ bill – they all came together,” Krochmal says.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.