Political Parties

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: July 21, 2021

Except for an interlude during Reconstruction, the Democratic party was the leading political party in Texas until the 1960s. In the nineteenth century, however, the Whig, American (Know-Nothing), Republican, Greenback, and People's parties provided at different times a formidable opposition, so that Texas did not become a real one-party state until after 1900, when the Republican party sank into insignificance and minor parties largely disappeared. In the first half of the twentieth century Texas voters came to look upon the Democratic primary as the real election, because its nominees were largely unopposed in the general election and because Democratic factionalism in the primaries in reality substituted for party politics. During the New Deal period Texas Democratic factions began to develop in a more pronounced form and to take on a definite pattern of conservatism versus liberalism (see GREAT DEPRESSION). In the 1930s and 1940s minor parties developed both to the left and to the right of the state's Democratic party-Jeffersonian Democrats in 1936, Democrats for Wilkie in 1940, Texas Regulars in 1944, and the States' Rights or Dixiecrat party in 1948. Texas support for Republican presidential candidates grew after 1932. Such supporters came to be called Presidential Republicans because they still voted in Democratic primaries and for Democratic candidates for state office. In 1954 a Dallas Republican, Bruce Alger, was elected to Congress, and in a special election in 1961 the first Republican United States senator since Reconstruction, John G. Tower, was elected. In 1978 William P. Clements became the first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Republican strength continued to grow in the 1980s and 1990s, and in 1994 Republicans held both senatorial seats and the governorship. While the Democratic party still held on to much-reduced majorities in the state legislature and still had a higher turnout in primary elections, Texas was clearly a two-party state, with many predicting that the Republican party would hold majority status by the turn of the century. See also RAZA UNIDA PARTY, SOCIALIST PARTY, AFRICAN AMERICANS AND POLITICS, TEJANO POLITICS, WOMEN AND POLITICS, MEXICAN-AMERICAN ORGANIZATIONS, WOMAN SUFFRAGEand PROHIBITION.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anonymous, “Political Parties,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 11, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/political-parties.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 21, 2021