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The History Of The Texas Right Wing

Texas A&M University Press

Texas Matters: Republicans have dominated statewide elections in Texas for two decades, so what is the secret to their success? A new book examines their sometimes controversial journey to statewide domination. Also on this show: A new campaign is trying to sway lawmakers into expanding Medicare under the ACA.

How do they do it? Republican domination in Texas

The winning ways of the right wing in Texas have to be admired. Since 1994 the Republican Party has shut out Democrats from statewide office. 1976 was the last time that a Democrat presidential candidate won the state -- that was Jimmy Carter.

This is a streak of victories that any political party would envy and dream to duplicate. And one that is certainly worthy of dissection and study.

But the successes of the right wing in Texas go back much further than 1994 according to the new book "The Texas Right – the Radical Roots of Lone Star Conservatism," which is published by Texas A&M University Press.

The book is a compilation of essays exploring the origins of Texas right wing ideas, rhetoric and practices that precede the Reagan revolution, FDR’s New Deal and even the Civil War -- and remain present in the current election cycle.

The authors find that the concerns of the right weren’t locked into party labels and for much of the timeline the proponents of the right agenda were in the Democratic Party. They then began converting to Republicans after the civil rights reforms of President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960’s and that conversion continued with Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign in 1980 and finally George W. Bush’s gubernatorial victory over Ann Richards in 1994.

The book’s authors find that the right wing actors in the Texas political theater frequently resorted to “eliminationism” to root out progressive movements -- using strong-arm tactics of shutting down liberal newspapers, voter intimidation, anti-voter laws, segregation and lynching to vanquish competing concepts.

Kyle G. Wilkison and David O’Donald Cullen co-edited "The Texas Right." Wilkison, who is a professor of history at Collin College, joins us on the show.        

"There are two different sides to this. One is the repression of opposition...the other side of the coin is: What was the appeal? What were the roots of this strongly-conservative tendency in Texas politics? And we tried to show that it had a broad appeal that was rooted pretty deeply in Texas culture."

The book is a follow-up to their previous book “The Texas Left – The Radical Roots of Lone Star Liberalism.”  Both are published by Texas A&M Press.

Also on this edition of Texas Matters:

What happens to the uncovered in Texas?

Texas Left Me Out is the name of a new campaign launched this week by progressive groups in Texas trying to build political pressure on the Texas legislature to expand Medicaid in the state through the Affordable Care Act.

The campaign will highlight the Texans who could benefit from getting health coverage had the expansion been approved by Austin but are now left in coverage gaps.

Tiffany Hogue is the health care campaign director for the Texas Organizing Project.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi