Democrats held a lock on state politics and government throughout the first half of the twentieth century. But beneath the surface the party's dominance was crumbling. Political change in Texas and the nation eroded the conditions that fostered Democratic dominance. The feature The Texas Delegation to the United States House of Representatives 1845-2013 shows the effect of these trends on Texas congressional representation.
We can summarize the most important changes to influence state and national politics, though each of these brief descriptions is a story in itself:
- Support from liberal activists and African Americans for civil rights loosened the allegiance of conservative white voters, activists, and contributors to the Democratic Party.
- Highway construction and residential development patterns increased the suburbanized population throughout the nation, including Texas. Conservative whites from northern states migrated to "Sunbelt states," including Texas, as the economy diversified from raw materials extraction (the "oil business") and agriculture to service industries, aerospace, and, in some local areas, digital communications technology.
- Changes in party organizing and campaigning, including the shift to more expensive methods of campaigning, helped level the competitive landscape between the parties. The Republican Party, both in Texas and nationally, built a substantial advantage in fundraising, as this chapter's feature on Money and Votes illustrates.
All of these factors converge in the story of the contemporary party system, which has two interrelated plotlines: the decline of the Democratic Party and the dramatic rise of the Republican Party.