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It Is Up To Us To Act—The Extreme Right Will Always Be With Us

Here is a Rick Santorum sign and a Tea Party sign that I saw in Cincinnati today.

No matter if it is the 40% that voted for Barry Goldwater in 1964, or right-wing extremists today, these folks are always with us. They steal our time and resources with ceaseless efforts to move the nation backwards.

We can’t deny that these folks are here, and that they have the right to proceed as they will. Yet the bottom line is our own actions as liberals and progressives.

The evidence is all around us as to the presence and actions of the crazed right. It is incumbent upon us to equal and to exceed the efforts of these dangerous zealots.

March 6, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Conservative Leader William Rusher Dies—Let’s Learn From Someone Who Sometimes Got The Better Of Us

Conservative political leader William Rusher has died at the age of 87.

Mr. Rusher was a columnist and activist who played a prominent part in the gains of  American conservatism over the past 50 years. Mr. Rusher played a leading role for many years for the important  conservative magazine The National Review.

Portions of Mr. Rusher’s obituary from the New York Times are worth considering.

From the Times–

“Mr. Rusher championed postwar conservatism as a mainstream political movement that first tasted national success in the Republican presidential nomination of Barry M. Goldwater in 1964, and fulfilled its dream with the election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980.”

Mr. Rusher was a vocal conservative who trumpeted his cause when his views were not widely held. He stuck with his beliefs and realized great victories.

“He and two colleagues founded the draft-Goldwater movement in 1961. With other prominent conservatives, he opposed the re-election of Richard M. Nixon in 1972 because of the president’s overtures to China. He started a third party that faltered in 1976, and was an adviser in Reagan’s presidential campaign four years later.”

Mr. Rusher was willing to go against his party for his beliefs. You have to be willing to chart your own course.

“… in 1975, Mr. Rusher explained how (a third-party) might work. “The only practical solution, therefore, is for conservative Republicans (broadly represented by Reagan) and conservative Democrats (most of whom have in the past supported Wallace)” — a reference to Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama — “to join forces in a new majority party, designed to win both the Presidency and Congress and replace the G.O.P. in toto as one of America’s two major parties.”  In 1976, putting his ideas into practice, Mr. Rusher and several colleagues founded the New Majority Party. But it collapsed that summer at a convention in Chicago after a rival group pushed through the presidential nomination of Lester G. Maddox, the former governor of Georgia and an avowed segregationist.” 

Mr. Rusher was right that there more conservatives than people realized. And he thought big. The emergence of the Tea Party has not replaced the Republican Party, but it has, for the moment at least, changed how Republicans operate. Mr. Rusher saw that one of the two major parties could be challenged.  Of course, as we are dealing with the American right, the nomination of Lester Maddox in 1976 is a perfectly apt cautionary tale right up the current day.

“…He ended his syndicated column in 2009. “Undoubtedly,” he wrote in a farewell, “the most important single factor in the growth of conservatism has been the realization, on the part of individual conservatives, that their views were shared by others, and constituted collectively a formidable national influence.”

This is just so important. Winning elections and swaying the political debate can hinge on committed everyday people thinking things out and taking action. This was one way, along with the support of billionaires, that the Tea Party made an impact in 2010. It was a sense that things could different that helped Barack Obama win in 2008. In my view, there is no ideological majority in the United States. There are many factors that impact elections. But one of the most important things, and one thing every person can control, is what effort individuals make for their beliefs.

Here is the National Review on Mr. Rusher.

There can be no doubt that conservatives and the far-right have won many battles in the half-century since the early 1960’s. Just as liberals and progressives have won many battles. There are many battles ahead and we all have the ability to take part and move forward. Let’s take to heart the lessons of a man who sometimes got the better of us.

April 20, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog Readers Demand To Know—How Has Texas Voted In Recent Presidential Elections?

A kind Texas Liberal reader by the name of Kathleen has e-mailed me asking the results of recent Presidential elections in Texas.

You will see that Texas has voted Democratic for President just once since Lyndon Johnson of Texas left the White House. Regretfully, 2008 seems likely to continue that pattern.  

Here is how Texas has voted for President since 1948.

1948

Truman (D) 65.4%

Dewey (R) 24.6%

Thurmond (Dixiecrat) 9.3%

(Below—Harry Truman)

Truman pass-the-buck.jpg

1952    

Eisenhower (R) 53.1%

Stevenson (D) 46.7%

1956

Eisenhower (R) 55.3%

Stevenson (D) 44.0%

1960

Kennedy (D) 50.5%

Nixon (R) 48.5%

(Below–Richard Nixon in World War II.)

1964

Johnson (D) 63.3%

Goldwater (R) 36.5%

1968

Humphrey (D) 41.1%

Nixon (R) 39.9%

Wallace (I) 19.0%

1972

Nixon (R) 66.2%

McGovern (D) 33.3%

(Below—George McGovern)

George McGovern bioguide.jpg

1976

Carter (D) 51.1%

Ford (R) 48.0%

1980

Reagan (R) 55.3%

Carter (D) 41.4%

Anderson (I) 2.5% 

1984

Reagan (R) 63.6%

Mondale (D) 36.1%

1988

Bush (R) 56.0%

Dukakis (D) 43.3%

1992

Bush (R) 40.6%

Clinton (D) 37.1%

Perot (Reform) 22.0%

(Below–Clinton, Bush and Perot in 1992.)

Debates.jpg

1996

Dole (R) 48.8%

Clinton (D) 43.8%

Perot (Reform) 6.7%

2000

Bush (R) 59.3%

Gore (D) 38.0%

Nader (G) 2.2%

2004

Bush (R) 61.1%

Kerry 38.2 %

(Below–George W. Bush)

 

Thanks to Kathleen for the question.

I have many reference sources on politics and would be happy to reply to any question on American political history that you the blog reader might have. Just leave a question in the comment space.

Thank you for reading Texas Liberal.

( Please click here for one of the most popular posts ever on Texas Liberal—Blog Readers Demand To Know What Is Done With Shamu’s Body After He Dies.)

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Political History, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

History Of The Pennsylvania Primary

The Pennsylvania presidential primary has a history that goes back to the Progressive Era origins of presidential nominating primaries.

In 2008, the Pennsylvania primary will be held April 22. Here is a selected history of the Pennsylvania primary, and, at the end of the post, some basic facts about Pennsylvania.

( Texas Liberal is leading the way in political history blogging in 2008. Please click here for other political history posts.)

1912—The Republican fight between President William Howard Taft of Ohio and former President Theodore Roosevelt of New York, was a test between the more conservative wing of the party, represented by Mr. Taft, and Mr. Roosevelt’s progressives. Mr. Roosevelt won 60%-40%.

Pennsylvania was at the time the second largest state in the nation and an anchor of Republican support in general elections. But primaries were not as important as they are today, and Mr. Taft won the Republican nomination despite a string of losses to Mr. Roosevelt. Mr. Roosevelt on the Bull Moose ticket won Pennsylvania in November of 1912.

1916Henry Ford of Ford Motor fame won 7.5% of the Republican vote as a write-in. Mr. Ford had already won his home state of Michigan and finished strong in Nebraska. Though in the end his campaign stalled.

1920-–The terrible Mitchell Palmer won the Democratic primary. Mr. Palmer had been a Congressman from Pennsylvania and Attorney General under Woodrow Wilson. As AG, he rounded up American Communists and others on the left during a World War I “Red Scare.” He did this with a frequent disregard for the basic rights of Americans. Mr. Palmer did not win the 1920 nomination.

(Photo is of former steel plant in Bethleham, Pennsylvania that has closed and has been replaced with a casino in the same location.)

1932—Governor Franklin Roosevelt of New York scored an important  57%-43% win over 1928 Democratic nominee former Governor Al Smith of New York. Mr. Smith had been the first Catholic to win the nomination of a major political party.

On the same day in 1932, April 26, Mr. Smith beat Mr. Roosevelt in Massachusetts. Irish-Catholic Democrats in Boston carried the day for Mr. Smith in Massachusetts. Mr. Roosevelt was the winner just about everywhere else in 1932.

1948—Governor Harold Stassen of Minnesota was the 32%-30% winner over Governor Thomas Dewey of New York in the Republican primary. Many know of Mr. Stassen as a perennial candidate who would announce a White House bid every four years until the 1990’s. He was at one time a serious candidate. Not serious enough though. Mr. Dewey was the 1948 Republican nominee.

( Below is a photo of Mr. Stassen from his service in WW II.)

1964—Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton was the 52%-20% winner over Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. This was part of a fight within the Republican party, as seen in 1912 and to some degree in 2008, between more moderate conservatives and the red meat types. After Senator Goldwater’s 1964 win, the red meat types would hold an edge they’ve yet to give up.

1972—Senator and former Vice President Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota won 35% against 21% for Governor George Wallace of Alabama and 20% Senator George McGovern of South Dakota. Senator McGovern’s anti-war liberalism was not a good match for Pennsylvania Democrats. 1972 was a long time ago, but you get a sense of the challanges faced by Senator Barack Obama of Illinois as he competes in Pennsylvania.

1976–-Former Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia took 37% against 25% for Senator Scoop Jackson of Washington and 19% for Congressman Morris Udall of Arizona. This win was a big step in Mr. Carter’s nomination fight. While the late entries of Governor Jerry Brown and Senator Frank Church of Idaho gave Mr. Carter a bit more trouble down the road, Pennsylvania turned out in retrospect to have ended the process.

1980—Both the Republican and Democratic primaries produced interesting results. For Republicans, the more moderate George H.W. Bush of Texas beat former Governor Ronald Reagan of California 51%-43%.  This in a year that Mr. Reagan won 61% of all Republican primary votes against 23% for Mr. Bush. Pennsylvania was a late arrival to the Reagan Revolution.

Among Democrats, Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts beat President Carter by the small margin of 45.7% to 45.4%. Any time an incumbent President loses a primary, he has trouble. Mr. Kennedy , like Senator McGovern in 1972, was the more liberal candidate. And as was Mr. Smith in 1932, he was  Catholic. Yet unlike those two men, he won the Pennsylvania primary.  This reflected a changing Democratic electorate, a tough economy in 1980, and the political weakness of President Carter.

The victories by Mr. Bush and Mr. Kennedy in 1980 were the last time Pennsylvania primary voters did not support the eventual nominee for either party. The Pennsylvania primary has taken place late in the process after the nominations have been wrapped up and not been important since 1976 and 1980.

Jesse Jackson won 18 % in 1984 and 27% in 1988 in Pennsylvania. These were showings consistent with his national showings in Democratic primaries.

In John McCain’s previous run on the Pennsylvania primary ballot in 2000, he lost to George W. Bush by 74%-23%. Mr. Bush had clearly won the nomination by that point.

12.4 million people live in Pennsylvania. It has the 6th largest population. Just under 10% of its people are black and just over 3% are Hispanic. John Kerry won Pennsylvania 51%-48% in 2004. Here is some more basic information about Pennsylvania.

Here is some information about presidential politics in Pennsylvania from the 2008 Almanac of American Politics—

For the last 70 years Pennsylvania has been a swing state in every close presidential election and even in some that were not close. Yet it is not typical of the country. With its older, deeply-rooted population, it tends to be culturally more conservative than the rest of the country; with its long-dying blue-collar communities, it tends to be economically more liberal—though both tendencies have been muted with time. But it does present a problem for political strategists of both parties: Combinations of issue positions which work for Democrats on the East and West Coasts or for Republicans in the South and the Heartland do not work well here. 

Here is a history of Pennsylvania.

The Field Negro is my favorite Pennsylvania blogger.

April 7, 2008 Posted by | Books, Campaign 2008, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Louisiana Primary Is February 9—Facts, History & Links About Louisiana Politics & The Primary

The Louisiana primary will be held for both parties this upcoming Saturday, February 9.

Democrats will award 56 delegates and Republicans will have 20 delegates at stake. (Though some of these Republican delegates have already been spoken for in an earlier caucus.)

For Democrats in the South in 2008, Senator Barack Obama has so far won the Deep South states of South Carolina,( Here is a Texas Liberal history of the South Carolina primary.) Alabama and Georgia. Hillary Clinton has won Arkansas, where she lived for many years, and the border state of Tennessee.

Mrs. Clinton was the winner of the Florida poll, but due to a dispute over the date of the primary, a full campaign was not fought in Florida.  ( Here is a Texas Liberal history of the Florida primary.)

Senator Obama does well in states where much of the primary electorate is black.

For Republicans, Mike Huckabee has been the strongest candidate in the South. Though John McCain’s wins in South Carolina and Florida have been very important to his campaign.

( Satellite image of New Orleans.)

In November, Louisiana has gone Republican in the past two elections. Going back a bit further, after many years as a “Solid South” one-party Democratic state, Louisiana has mostly voted for Republicans for President beginning with Barry Goldwater in 1964. Southern Democrats Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 were able to carry the state.

Louisiana has not played a large role in the recent history of the presidential nominating process with one positive exception. In 1996 the forces of the far right-wing Texas Senator Phil Gramm  arranged for early caucuses in Louisiana to help the Gramm campaign. That was a bad move. Turnout was low and Pat Buchanan won the most delegates.

Louisiana did not hold its first Presidential primary until 1980. Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter were the winners.

Indicative of the strength of black voters within the Democratic Party there, Jesse Jackson was the Louisiana Democratic primary winner in both 1984 and 1988.

The Obama campaign must be aware of that fact.

( Photo below of Bald Cypress Swamp in Louisiana.)

Here is an excerpt from the Louisiana entry in the 2008 Almanac of American Politics—-

Louisiana often seems to America’s banana republic, with its charm and inefficiency, its communities interfaced by family ties and its public sector sometimes laced with corruption, with its own indigenous culture and its traditions of fine distinctions of class and caste. It is a state with an economy uncomfortably like that of an underdeveloped country, based on pumping minerals out of soggy ground and shipping grain produced in the vast hinterland drained by its great river, an economy increasingly dependent on businesses typical of picturesque Third World countries—tourism…. and gambling…..Louisiana has a hereditary rich class and a large low-wage working class. It has conservative cultural attitudes….but Louisiana also has a lazy tolerance of rule-breaking.

Louisiana has a lower population today than it did in 2000. This is because, of course, of Hurricane Katrina. The 2000 population was 4.468 million. The 2007 estimate was 4.293 million.

Here are some basic facts about Louisiana.

The population of Louisiana is around 30% black. The Hispanic population is much smaller. If it has gone up since Katrina, it is unlikely that many of the Hispanics involved in rebuilding New Orleans are registered to vote. Hispanic voters have been supporting Hillary Clinton so far in the Democratic race.

It was not just New Orleans proper that lost population after Katrina. Strongly Republican Jefferson Parrish in the New Orleans suburbs has also lost people and this fact may offset at least some of the black population decline.

Here is the Louisiana progressive blogger Moldy City.

Here is the Louisiana progressive blogger CenLamar.

Here is the Louisiana progressive blogger Library Chronicles.

Here is the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper.

Here is the Louisiana Democratic Party.

Here is the Green Party of Louisiana.

Here is the Louisiana Republican Party.

(Texas Liberal is leading the way in political history blogging in 2008. )

(Does this unique Louisiana cuisine make up for years of poverty and racism?)

February 6, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Books, Campaign 2008, Hurricane Katrina, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

History Of California Presidential Primary

Texas Liberal live blogging of Super Tuesday  results is up and running. 

The California Presidential nominating primary, which will be held for 2008 on February 5, has a history that goes back to the Progressive Era. The first California primary was held in 1912.

The Presidential nominating primary, however regressive it may seem at times today, was a Progressive reform. It was step away from the smoke-filled rooms.

California was a big part of the Progressive Era. Progressive Bull Moose candidate Teddy Roosevelt carried California in the 1912 general election and the great Progressive Hiram Johnson was Governor of California from 1911 until 1917 and Senator from 1917 until his death in 1945.  Johnson was Teddy Roosevelt’s running mate in  1912.

(Here is an article from USA Today about the 2008 primary.)

(Here are some basic demographic facts about California.  )

Over 36 million people live in California. John Kerry won California 54%-44% in 2004.

In that first 1912 primary, Roosevelt defeated incumbent President William Howard Taft of Ohio among Republicans by a 2-1 margin. That gives you a sense of where the Republican electorate of California stood at that point in time.

For Democrats, House Speaker Champ Clark of Missouri beat Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey 72%-28%.

1912 was long before primaries had the decisive role they do today. It would be 1972 and the years after 1972 that primaries took on the role they play today.

In 1920, California Senator Johnson took the Republican primary over Herbert Hoover.  Hoover also has California connections as a Stanford graduate. Senator Johnson objected to Hoover’s position in favor of U.S. entry into the League of Nations and worked hard to deny Hoover the nomination.

Senator Warren Harding of Ohio won the 1920 nomination at a deadlocked Republican convention.

Senator Johnson was asked to be Harding’s running mate. He said no. Harding died in 1923 and Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts became President.

Incumbent President Coolidge beat Senator Johnson in the California republican primary of 1924.

The Democratic primary of 1932 was of some note. Reflecting the Southern origins of many California Democrats, House Speaker John Nance Garner of Texas won the primary over New Yorker’s Al Smith, the 1928 Democratic nominee and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Very different from the results you would get today.

Roosevelt selected Garner as his first of his three Vice Presidents.

In 1936, Democratic voters gave the novelist Upton Sinclair 11% of the vote against FDR. Mr. Sinclair had run a left-wing campaign for governor in 1934 and almost won.

Mr. Sinclair is most famous for writing The Jungle.

(San Diego is closely contested between the two parties.)

In 1936, 1948 and 1952, Earl Warren was the winner of the California Republican primary.

Try to imagine Mr. Warren as  a Republican today!

The future liberal Chief Justice was Governor of California from 1943 until 1953, He was also the running mate of Thomas E. Dewey of New York in 1948.

Warren never won the Republican nomination. Though arguably he got the only job better than President.

For all this time and beyond—from 1912 until 1992— the California primary was held late in the process. Often favorite son candidates, such as Mr. Warren, were the winners.

A favorite son candidate is a  statewide figure who runs in the primary and then passes on his delegates at the convention in exchange for an office or for influence.

The 1964 Republican primary brought a clear test of ideological strength within the party. Much like in 1912.

This time though, the right-wing won.

Conservative Senator  Barry Goldwater of Arizona defeated Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York. Rockefeller was a liberal Republican and the party was badly split in the early 60’s between these competing wings of the party.

The future was with the conservatives as the 1966 election of Ronald Reagan as Governor of California established.

It was on the night of his California 1968 Democratic primary win that Senator Robert Kennedy of New York was assassinated.

The 1972 California democratic primary was significant. Senator George McGovern of South Dakota defeated former Vice President Humbert Humphrey by 44%-39%. Mr. McGovern’s win gained him delegates and momentum that made a difference in taking the nomination.

(The Sacramento area is inclined towards Democrats.)

In 1976, home state candidate Ronald Reagan won a big victory over President Gerald Ford. But the 65%-35% win was not enough for Reagan to win the nomination.

California Democrats in 1980 voted for a slate of delegates committed to liberal Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts over incumbent President Jimmy Carter of Georgia. This provided a sense of what ideological tint held sway among California Democrats.

In 1992, California was the only one of 7 states voting on June 2 that came close to rejecting Bill Clinton of Arkansas. Former California Governor Jerry Brown, fighting to the end, lost 45%–40%. Mr Clinton had pretty much wrapped up the nomination before California.

In 1996, California finally moved its’ primary up to March. ( Please click here for a Texas Liberal history of Super Tuesday Primary Day.) Though all voters did was ratify the foregone conclusions of Bob Dole of Kansas and President Clinton.

California moved up its primary to March 7 for 2000 and March 2 in 2004.

In neither case did the California result make a difference.

(Texas Liberal is leading the way in political history blogging in 2008. Please click here for much more. Thanks for reading the blog! )

(No voting in Death Valley)

January 29, 2008 Posted by | Books, Campaign 2008, Elections, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

History Of Florida Nominating Primary

The Florida Presidential primary has a long history. 

In 2008, it is a big contest for Republicans with all the major candidates in the mix for the first time in the nominating season. For Democrats, a silly dispute over the timing of the vote means there will be no meaningful Democratic primary competition in the fourth-largest state.    

Here is the U.S Census Florida quick facts page.  Just over 18 million people live in Florida.

The first contested Florida primary took place way back in 1932. This before primaries had the decisive role they have today in selecting nominees. In 1932 Governor Franklin Roosevelt of New York won 88% of the vote against Governor William H. (Alfalfa Bill ) Murray of Oklahoma. (Photo Below)    

Governor Murray was just the piece of work he appears to be in the photo. 

The next contested Florida primary was in 1952. This was again on the Democratic side.

Senator Richard Russell of Georgia won 55% of the vote against Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee. Neither of these men would win the nomination. The honor of losing to General Eisenhower would go to Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois with Mr. Kefauver as his running mate.

Richard Russell (photo below) is seen by some as a “Giant of the Senate.” What he really was though was a segregationist who held up progress and freedom for millions of Americans.

In 1956, Mr. Stevenson contested Florida and beat Mr. Kefauver 52-48.

In 1960, “favorite son” candidate Senator George Smathers was the only name on the Democratic Florida ballot. A “favorite son” candidate is one favored almost exclusively in his or her own state. That candidate will then often have a great say in how that state’s delegates will vote at the convention. In 1960, Florida’s first-ballot delegates went to Smathers’ fellow Southerner Lyndon Johnson of Texas.

The Florida Republican primary was the one of greater interest in 1964. Here a slate of uncommitted delegates won 58% of the vote against Barry Goldwater. That suggests that even as late as May 26, when the primary was held, Florida Republicans were not yet sold on Mr. Goldwater. No doubt many Florida Republicans were ex-New Yorkers who did not flock to Mr. Goldwater. ( Ex-New Yorkers are part of Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 strategy in Florida.) 

Also interesting in 1964 was the respective vote totals in the two party primaries.  An unchallenged Lyndon Johnson won 393,339 votes.The Republican primary drew 100,704 votes. This long-standing Democratic partisan advantage would not last.     

Another thing that would change was the date of the primary. The Florida primary had always been held late in the process and did not much effect the outcome. For 1972,  just at the time when primaries began to take a larger role in the nominating process, Florida moved the primary up to March 14. This made it the second primary—One week after New Hampshire.

The primary has kept an early date ever since.  

This change did not change the party. The segregationist wing of the Democratic party took the day as George Wallace  of Alabama won the ’72 primary with 42%. (Wallace is shown here with James Webb of NASA –center–and Wernher Von Braun hugging the rocket. No matter how much Southerners say they hate the federal government, they are always willing to take the federal money) 

However, by 1976 things had changed for the better. (Putting aside the national regression of Reagan 80’s and beyond.) Jimmy Carter beat Governor Wallace 35% 31% in Florida. This marked a New South and a switch in control of the Democratic Party.

In the legendary Ronald ReaganGerald Ford (photo of Ford below) race of 1976, President Ford won Florida 53-47%.  The “Reagan South” would arrive a few years later.  Governor Reagan beat the first George Bush 56-30 in the 1980 primary.

After 1980, the Florida primary became part of the Super Tuesday and large Southern regional primaries and did little to alter the outcome of the nominating races.

Gary Hart beat Walter Mondale in 1984–Though that did Mr. Hart little good.  

2000 was the first time there were more Republican voters in a Florida Presidential primary than Democratic voters. Though Republicans had been doing quite well in Florida long before this point. 

John Kerry was the easy 2004 Florida Democratic winner. The Republicans did not bother with a primary in an uncontested race.

Below is a Florida Scrub Jay. This bird is found only in Florida.

Texas Liberal is going to be your leading source for political history blogging in 2008.  Please click here for a history of the South Carolina primary.  Please click here for a variety of political history posts on this blog.  

January 22, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An Explanation And A History Of Presidential Nominating Caucuses—With Pictures!

With the Iowa Presidential nominating caucuses due up on January 3, 2008, here is an explanation and a history of the modern caucus process. The source is the Congressional Quarterly Press Guide To U.S. Elections Volume I.

Does the caucus system exclude the public to the benefit of ideologically extreme and unrepresentative individuals? Or does the caucus system rightly allow for well-informed party activists to have a strong say in who will win Presidential nominations and help build strong parties after the caucus is completed?

Read the following and see what you think.

From the book

In the current primary-dominated era of Presidential politics, which began three decades ago, caucuses have survived…The impact of caucuses decreased in the 1970’s as the number of primaries grew…Previously, a candidate sought to run well in primary states mainly to have a bargaining chip with which to deal with powerful leaders in the caucus states. Republicans Berry Goldwater ( photo above) in 1964 and Richard Nixon(photo below) in 1968 all built up solid majorities among caucus state delegates that carries them to their parties’ nomination. Hubert Humphrey did not compete in a single primary state in 1968. 

After 1968, candidates placed their principle emphasis on primaries…More recently, there has been an increase in the number of states employing caucuses…mostly in smaller states. The increase was slight among Democrats, but more extensive in 2004, when Republicans  saw little reason to spend money or time in an uncontested renomination… 

Compared with a primary, the caucus system is complicated. Instead of focusing on a single primary election ballot, the caucus system presents a multitiered  system that involves meetings scheduled over several weeks, even months. There is mass participation at the first level only, with meetings often lasting over several hours and attracting only the most enthusiastic and dedicated party members.

The operation of the caucus varies from state to state, and each party has its own set of rules. Most begin with precinct caucuses or some other type of local mass meeting open to all party voters. Participants, often publicly declaring their votes, elect delegates to the next stage of the process.

In smaller states, such as Delaware and Hawaii (photo above), delegates are elected directly to a state convention, where the national convention delegates are chosen. In larger states, such as Iowa, there is at least one more step, sometimes two. Delegates in Iowa are elected at the precinct caucuses to county conventions, which are followed by the state convention….

Participation, even at the first level of the caucus process, is much lower than in the primaries. Caucus participants usually are local party leaders and activists. many rank-and-file voters find the caucus complex, confusing or intimidating.

As a result, caucuses are usually considered tailor-made for a candidate with a cadre of passionately dedicated supporters. This was evident as long ago as 1972, when a surprisingly strong showing in the Iowa precinct caucuses helped propel Senator George McGovern (picture above) of South Dakota, an ardent foe of the Vietnam war, toward the Democratic nomination.

In a caucus state, the focus is on one-on-one campaigning. Time, not money, is usually the most valuable resource. Because organization and personal campaigning are so important, an early start is…crucial.

The lone exception is Iowa (Great Seal above). As the kick-off point…Iowa has recently become a more expensive stop…But the accent in Iowa…is still on grassroots organization.

Although the basic steps of the caucus process are the same for both parties, the rules that govern them are vastly different. Democratic rules have been revamped substantially since 1968, establishing national standards for grassroots participation. Republicans have remained largely unchanged, with the states given wide latitude in drawing up their delegate-selection plans.   

For both Republicans and democrats, the percentage of delegates elected from caucus states was on a sharp decline throughout the 1970’s. But the Democrats broke the downward trend and elected more delegates by the caucus process in 1980 than in 1976. Between 1980 and 1984, six states switched from a primary to a caucus system; none the other way.

A strong showing in the caucuses by Walter F. Mondale (bust above) in 1984 led many Democrats—and not only supporters of his rivals—to conclude that the caucuses are inherently unfair. The mainstream Democratic coalition of party activists, labor union members, and teachers dominated the caucuses on Mondale’s behalf.   

The major complaint about the caucus process is that it does not involve enough voters, and that the low turnouts are not so representative of voter sentiment as a higher-turnout primary.

Staunch defenders, however, believe a caucus has party-building attributes a primary cannot match. They note that several hours at a caucus can include voters in a way that quickly casting a primary ballot does not. Following caucus meetings, the state party comes away with lists of thousands of voters who can be tapped to volunteer time or money, or even run for local office. 

Here is a link to some more specific history of the Iowa caucus.

Here is a link to the State Historical Society of Iowa which has a new Iowa Caucus exhibit.

What do you think? A good way to go or not? I feel a mix of the primary and the caucus is as good as anything else. There is a place for party activists and a place for a broader electorate.

Though public funding would make it all a lot better.

Texas Liberal is leading the way in political history blogging in 2008.

December 28, 2007 Posted by | Books, Campaign 2008, Elections, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments