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Texas Politics - Political Parties
classical liberalism
social conservatism
2.1    Economic Liberalism, Social Conservatism, and Populism

While Texas political parties have undergone profound transformation over the course of history, the ideological elements of the state's politics have remained remarkably stable.

In brief, Texas political culture and ideology are well described by the combination of three main philosophical concepts: classical liberalism, social conservatism and populism.

Classical liberalism places the primary political value on political arrangements that allow for the fullest exercise of individual liberty as long as the liberties of others are not unreasonably restricted. Classical liberal ideas often form the basis for opposition to the use of government to attain social objectives. They express instead reliance on private initiatives or the free market to determine the best outcomes.

Classical liberalism in Texas is usually invoked in economic discussions, less so when social issues are discussed. Here, the state's entrenched social conservatism, holds sway. Social conservatism derives from the classical conservatism of feudal Europe, which embraces traditional hierarchical social relations and opposes social change. Social conservatives tend to support the use of government to reinforce traditional social relations. They value established traditions that encompass religion and they respect traditional authority figures such as business, military, and religious leaders. While socially conservative views are associated primarily with the Republican Party, they dominated the Democratic Party in Texas through much of its history.

Populism is concerned primarily with the well being of ordinary people, and emphasizes the popular will as the chief virtue of a political position. Populism has both political and social dimensions. Politically, it tends to support involvement of the government in regulating society and the economy. But, populism also tends to be socially conservative. Thus, depending on the context, populist appeals may support very different political positions. At various times in the state's history, populist appeals have been used to advocate government action on behalf of poor farmers as well as to lower taxes for middle and upper class Texans.

Texas Politics:
© 2009, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services
University of Texas at Austin
3rd Edition - Revision 115
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