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Texas Politics - Political Parties
  Key Words and Phrases

Short for 'weblog.' The internet has made it easy for just about anyone to chronicle and comment on current political affairs--or just about any topic imaginable--before a large audience. In the political realm, blogs and bloggers have become a regular source of fodder for more traditional news sources. They have also become an important part of electronic campaigning providing news, issue information, and calls to action.
Brown vs. Board of Education
Landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision which advanced the cause of civil rights by reversing the doctrine of separate but equal, the legal justification for racial segregation, as it applied to the American system of primary public education. The Court not only noted that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal, but ordered that desegregation must proceed with all deliberate speed. This key judicial decision energized the development of the civil rights movement and set the cornerstone for reconstruction of U.S. race relations in subsequent cases and in legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
classical liberalism
A political philosophy that places high value on individual freedom based on a belief in natural rights that exist independent of government. In its pure form, for example in contemporary libertarian thought, it holds that the best government is minimal in scope, providing security, but promoting laissez-faire policies toward morality, religion, the economy, and the rest of social life.
Compromise of 1877
The Compromise of 1877 resolved the disputed presidential election of 1876 and ended Reconstruction. Democrat Samuel Tilden won the popular vote and, initially, the majority of electoral college votes. Republicans backing their candidate Rutherford Hayes immediately contested the results in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina charging that Democrats had defrauded and intimidated black voters. Congress created a special electoral commission which decided along strict party lines in favor of Hayes. The compromise emerged as Republican negotiators obtained southern Democrats' acceptance of Hayes in return for removal of troops from the South, the addition of a southern Democrat to the cabinet, and a promise of legislation and aid to spur southern industrialization.
The successionist government formed in 1861 in reaction to anti-slavery candidate Abraham Lincoln's election to the presidency. Eleven southern states whose economies were heavily dependent on slave labor asserted a right to leave the Union, banded together under a constitution much like the U.S. Constitution, and elected a government. States joining the Confederacy were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennesee, Texas, and Virginia.
critical election
An election marked by significant shifts in established voting patterns signaling an enduring realignment of the electorate. Though some argue that 1968 was a critical election, the last election widely acknowledged as critical was the 1932 election which swept Franklin Roosevelt and the Democrats into power on the heels of the Great Depression after a long period of Republican dominance of national politics.
election judges
Officials appointed from nominees submitted by party officials whose job it is to oversee polling places at the precinct level and ensure fair and honest elections.
empresario contract
A form of agreement used by the Republic of Mexico to facilitate and regulate settlement of Coahuila y Texas. A contractor or empresario, such as Stephen F. Austin, appointed by the state as its agent, would agree to recruit a specified number of families to colonize an agreed-upon territory usually within six years time. Empresarios received performance incentives in the form of land holdings based on the number of settling families. They could also face penalities including termination of the contract and reversion of land holdings to the public domain if they failed to produce enough colonizing families within the period fixed. See http://www.tamu.edu/ccbn/dewitt/empresarios.htm for more information.
Jacksonian Democrats
The Democratic Party behind General Andrew Jackson ascended to national dominance beginning in 1828 marking the start of America's Second Party System. Competitive two-party politics dates from this period as well as development of the apparatus of modern mass-based political parties.
The dissociation of a political agent or activity from partisan politics. In reference to elections, non-partisan describes elected offices for which the use of party labels on the ballot or in campaigning is proscribed by law. Judicial or local elections are often nonpartisan. Voters must chose among candidates identified only by name without benefit of party labels.
party identification
A person's psychological attachment or habitual loyalty to a partisan reference group such as the Democratic or Republican party. For most people in the United States, this emotional bond rather than formal membership in a partisan organization is the primary link to organized politics.
party system
Historically enduring electoral arrangements in which two or more parties compete for the support of the electorate and control of government taking each other into account in their behavior in government and in election contests. In the competitive American two-party system in place since 1828 critical elections marking realignments of existing electoral arrangements signal a transition from one party system to another.
Broadly, a term used to describe any political movement having popular backing which is also perceived to be acting in the interests of ordinary people. Historically in the U.S., populist political themes emphasize government's role as an agent of the common man, the farmer and the worker, in his struggles against concentrated wealth and power.
The smallest electoral unit into which voters are grouped for purposes of voting, vote tabulation, and party organizing. Each county is divided into one or more precincts with a total of more than 8,000 across Texas.
Progressive Movement
Historically, a broadly based political, social, and business reform movement that arose as a response to the effects of industrialization after the Civil War and reached its height early in the twentieth century. Texas progressivism had a decidedly populist streak defending the citizenry from the evils of bigness--the railroads and other corporations, the wealthy, and even government.
Historically in the U.S., a significant and enduring shift in the party loyalties of the electorate occuring roughly once a generation. Such shifts have often been associated with a particularly momentous or critical election or sequence of elections in which new issues arise, a new party comes to power, and public policy changes decisively.
The Civil War was followed by a decade-long period attempting to reverse its physical and political ravages. Between 1865 and 1877 the nation ratified the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments ending slavery and extended citizenship and voting rights to former slaves. Former Confederate states, occupied by Union troops, rewrote their constitutions and were re-admitted to the Union. By 1876, the fever of Reconstruction had run its course and, in settlement of the disputed presidential election of that year, remaining occupying troops were withdrawn, southern politics was given over to southerners (and Democrats) once again, and the regional and racial divisions of war were institutionalized politically for a century.
social conservatism
A disposition or political outlook that prefers the status quo in social and political policies and practices to significant change. Currently associated chiefly with the Republican Party, social conservatism historically crossed party lines, most notably in the South where until the last quarter of the twentieth century race politics welded conservatives, moderates, and liberals together under the Democratic banner.
split-ticket voting
In contrast with straight ticket voting, i.e. voting for all the candidates of one party, split-ticket voters vote for candidates of different political parties for different offices
yellow dog Democrat
Description of a die-hard partisan loyalist who would Originally a term to describe the partisan loyalty of southern Democrats who would vote for a yellow dog if he ran on the Democratic ticket. It is now used to describe any staunch Democratic loyalist.

Texas Politics:
© 2009, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services
University of Texas at Austin
3rd Edition - Revision 116