Chapter Summary

There are a variety of topics that are covered in this first chapter, primarily Texas’s geographic and demographic shape, its history, its political culture, and its diverse population.

To begin, early Texas history shows that the Spanish explorers encountered a variety of both notorious and sophisticated native peoples in the 15th century. As the Spanish sought to expand their empire, they introduced Catholicism and the horse to the region. Spanish authorities encouraged settlement in what is now Texas from the U.S., from Europe, and from south of the Rio Grande. By the 1800s, Texas, especially its central and southeast portions, was occupied by settlers from various areas of the U.S., Europe, and what is now Mexico. Between 1820 and 1836, Texas went through great changes that helped shape its own evolving political culture and mystique. Mexico gained its independence from Spain. As more and more Anglo settlers made their homes in Texas, they began demanding more of a say in their own affairs, seeking to be free from the whims of the Mexican government. Due to this desire for independence, Texans began to organize politically and by the fall of 1836 had gained independence and ratified a constitution for a new republic.

While Texas has been shaped over time by the dynamic interaction between so many rich cultures, the influence of the land itself cannot be ignored. From east to west the state spans 773 miles and 801 miles from north to south. The size of the state adds to the costs and complications of both campaigning and governing. The diverse climate and presence of both urban and rural communities impacts the economic and social concerns of Texas voters. Change has been the norm in Texas politics since the state’s independence. Changes in demographics, the structuring of state government through new constitutions, and the evolution of the economy have all redefined the Texas political atmosphere. The Democratic dominance that drove Texas politics starting from the 1875 Constitutional Convention has eroded from the New Deal era on, as has the conservative Anglo majority in the state that enjoyed unrivaled success in electoral politics and policymaking. With the success of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, involvement in Texas politics is now the province of a much more inclusive collective, as no ethnic majority now exists in a massive, diverse state with the nation’s second-largest economy, population, and geographic area.