Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Many Despise Political & Intellectual Freedom

Many people despise political and intellectual freedom because they believe the average person can make no good use of it, or, they believe that they themselves are not up to the challenge of using such freedoms well.

Most people yearn to breath free, but it would be a mistake to assume that all do.

March 31, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , | Leave a comment

How Can A Politician “Listen” to His Or Her Constituents?

It is difficult for politicians to really ” listen” to their constituents.

Many constituents don’t vote, have conflicting views and are self-centered.

The best any elected official can try to do is balance the general consensus, to the extent it can be determined, with the public interest and, also, his or her own beliefs.

March 22, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , | Leave a comment

Basic Questions Of Democracy From Sand Dunes Of North Padre Island


I recently read an article in the North Padre Island Moon about a new political action committee called Island United. North Padre Island is part of Corpus Christi, Texas.  

A purpose of this PAC is to encourage island residents to vote as a block in order to influence the outcome of elections for the Corpus Christi City Council and Mayor of Corpus Christi.

(Above is a Padre Island sand dune though I’m not sure how you’d prove otherwise if I’m making its location up. Here is information on sand dunes.)  

Some N. Padre Island residents feel a divided vote from the Island weakens the clout of the community at Corpus Christi City Hall.   

Here is the full article.

Please click here for a political map of Corpus Christi. 

The presumption of this PAC is that highly localized issues should be the guiding factor in how residents of this area cast votes for city council and mayor.  

Given the existing reality that Island voters have a history of differing opinions on who should be elected to municipal posts in Corpus Christi, this seems to be a tenuous assertion.    

What are factors beyond North Padre Island issues that could impact how people there vote for council and mayor?

1. How will candidates for city office administer Corpus Christi as a whole? Just as no man is an island, we can also say that not even an island is an island.

2. While I’m going to guess these council elections are officially non-partisan, voters likely have some sense of the state and national party affiliations of the candidates. Party matters at all levels of politics.

3. Voters may have competing loyalties. Endorsements from local unions or police groups or gay groups may count as much or more to some than where exactly in the city they live.          

4. The race, ethnicity, religious preferences, or gender of candidates may be a positive or a negative to some voters.

5. Especially in the one district-level council seat described in the article, some voters may know the candidates. They may like or dislike the candidates on a purely personal level.

6.  Even on issues meaningful only to North Padre Island, voters there are likely to have differing views.   

I think the basic assumptions of the Island United PAC are flawed.

First, they are asking voters to put narrow interests in front of city-wide concerns. That might make sense for a district seat, but not for city-wide at-large seats and for the mayor’s office.

Also, Island United is asking voters to file away long-standing party choices, various competing loyalties beyond a street address, and the aspects of human nature that influence how people vote.  

In suggesting voters put aside all these factors for highly local concerns, Island United is at one time asking too little and too much of the people of the North Padre Island area of Corpus Christi, Nueces County, Texas, U.S.A.

March 19, 2008 Posted by | Politics, Texas | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Differences In How Liberals And Conservatives Think

The  following is from a recent article in The Economist magazine about the origins of human morality. This excerpt has to do with the differences in how liberals and conservatives think.  Here is the full article

….. Liberal teenagers always felt more stress than conservatives, but were particularly stressed if they could not decide for themselves whom they spent time with. Such choice, or the lack of it, did not change conservative stress levels. Liberals were also loners, spending a quarter of their time on their own. Conservatives were alone for a sixth of the time. That may have been related to the fact that liberals were equally bored by their own company and that of others. Conservatives were far less bored when with other people. They also preferred the company of relatives to non-relatives. Liberals were indifferent. Perhaps most intriguingly, the more religious a liberal teenager claimed to be, the more he was willing to confront his parents with dissenting beliefs. The opposite was true for conservatives.

Dr Wilson suspects that the liberal package of individualism and confrontation is the appropriate response to survival in a stable environment in which there is leisure for learning and reflection, and the consequences for a group’s stability of such dissent are low. The conservative package of collectivism and conformity, by contrast, works in an unstable environment where joint action, and thus obedience to their group, are at a premium. It is an interesting suggestion, and it is one that plays into the question of how morality actually evolved.

I know this mix of seeking time alone and sometimes finding myself in a confrontation matches some of my own experiences. Its also so that family has not been the center of my life.

Like anything that deals with many people, these findings are generalizations.  Still, they appear to hold some truth.

Any thoughts?

March 18, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , | 5 Comments

A Good Way To Measure Freedom…

A good way to measure freedom is the extent to which one can live in a way that does not harm her interests or violate her beliefs. 

How many can say they live a life that meets this test?

March 10, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , | Leave a comment

A Good Personal Life Requires A Well-Functioning State

A good personal life requires a well-functioning state. People need police and fire services, roads, clean water and parks and playgrounds. It’s difficult to have a good private life when the basics are not provided.

The personal and the public are far more connected than many people are willing to acknowledge. 

March 9, 2008 Posted by | Politics, Relationships | , , | 4 Comments

Decide What In Life You Have The Ability And The Resources To Influence

Decide on what sphere–narrow or broad–you can influence with your knowledge and beliefs.  

You may be able to make the difference among a few friends, with family, within a neighborhood or city, or for the entire country or world.

Determine the trade-offs and the extent of your abilities, ambition, resources and time.  

February 28, 2008 Posted by | Politics, Relationships | , , | 2 Comments

Ideology is Essential To Democracy

Ideology is essential to democracy. There must be competing ideas for people to choose between. 

However, ideologies should not be adhered to so rigidly as to prevent action.

Strict adherence to an ideology makes one incoherent and unlikeable.

At their best, ideologies provide a loose but solid and necessary framework for seeing the world.    

February 26, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , | 2 Comments

If People Are Not Interested In Their Political Freedom….

If people are not interested in their political freedom, it’s certain that whatever they are interested in instead, such as entertainment, will be provided at the expense of their rights and at the expense of democracy.

February 25, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , | 1 Comment

Republicans Won After Civil War Was Over—Can Modern Republicans Win Without 9/11?


I recently read the following in Congressional Quarterly’s Guide To U.S. Elections. It is about the 1868 election of Republican Ulysses Grant over Democrat Horatio Seymour of New York–  

With Grant’s ascension to the presidency in 1869, the Republican Party entered a new era—what the German sociologist Max Weber would have called a shift from “charismatic” to “rational” institutional authority. In other words, the party shifted its devotion from a great moral cause to its own survival as an organization. It had begun as a coalition of activists fervently opposed to the expansion of slavery (many opposed slavery itself) and to the rebellion of Southern states from the Union, The Republicans 1868 victory under Grant was the first not dominated wholly by crisis conditions. 

Reading this got me thinking about Republican success in the elections of 2002 and 2004. Those elections, especially 2002 when Republicans won back the Senate, seemed to be run under the shadow of the events of September 11, 2001.  

In 2006, with 9/11 five years past and the War in Iraq going badly, Democrats made strong gains in both Houses of Congress. The crisis atmosphere from 9/11 was gone and with it , so it appears, was the Republican advantage President Bush gained after the attacks.    

President Grant won reelection in 1872 and Republicans held the electoral upper-hand for much of time until the Great Depression. Republicans had the electoral base to withstand the passing of the crisis.

While it’s early in this campaign season and a national security type issue –either real or contrived by the Bush administration—might help Republicans, the 2006 election, and the early indicators for 2008, suggest that Republicans may struggle for a time without the ability to run on 9/11.

January 16, 2008 Posted by | Books, Campaign 2008, Elections, History, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

A Difference Between Martin Luther King And MoveOn’s Eli Pariser

I just finished reading The Argument—Billionaires, Bloggers and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics by Matt Bai of The New York Times. 

The title of this book, published in 2007, gives the idea of what it is about.

The future direction of the Democratic party is the subject of a struggle between wealthy activists, bloggers who represent the so-called “netroots”, and the old-line party establishment.

Representatives of these factions might be, among a number of others, George Soros for the billionaires, Daily Kos for bloggers and Congressman Rahm Emanuel from Chicago for the party establishment. (The Emanuel story I’ve linked with is two years old, but is still useful to read.) 

If you care about the subject beyond this brief summary, you can click the book title above, read the review and figure out what you think.   

Personally, I see it as an interesting question and I’m glad I read the book. However, until new ideas emerge instead of what often seems to be a zero-sum quest for power, what I feel I’m seeing is a circulation of elites and insiders (even if they are now sometimes self-created elites and insiders drawn from a somewhat wider base of people) and not real change.   

What caught my eye most in The Argument was a quote by MoveOn.Org‘s Political Action Executive Director Eli Pariser. He said the following- — (To be clear, I like MoveOn and Eli Pariser just fine.)

The vision of Democrats controlling all three branches of government—That’s not the vision I’m in it for. The vision is to actually to get somewhere on the issues we care about. Democrats are a vehicle. But if I’m trying to got to Boston, you know the vision isn’t Hartford.

Contrast that to what Martin Luther King said in his great sermon Unfulfilled Dreams

There’s a highway called Highway 80. I’ve marched on that highway from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery. But I never will forget my first experience with Highway 80 was driving with Coretta and Ralph and Juanita Abernathy to California. We drove from Montgomery all the way to Los Angeles on Highway 80—it goes all the way out to Los Angeles. And you know, being a good man, being a good woman, does not mean that you’ve arrived in Los Angeles. It simply means that you’re on Highway 80. Maybe you haven’t gotten as far as Selma, or maybe you haven’t gotten as far as Meridian, Mississippi, or Monroe, Louisiana—that isn’t the question. The question is whether you are on the right road. Salvation is being on the right road, not having reached a destination.

On this question, more relevant to daily life and to the goals we set for ourselves in our private and public lives than what group of elites controls the Democratic Party, I stand with Reverend King.

It’s okay if we don’t reach a final destination as long as we have made a good faith effort. I say this even though Mr. Pariser’s point is well-taken. In the end it is not about the Democratic Party, it is about the things that will make people’s lives better.  

Still, life is such that many aren’t going to reach the goals they set for themselves. Reverend King’s message on this fact never loses it’s resonance.

Above is a picture of Downtown Hartford. Here is a link to the tourism attractions of Hartford.  

Please click here for other Texas Liberal posts on Martin Luther King including a post on his Unfulfilled Dreams sermon.    

December 26, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Books, Politics | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Defining Characteristics Of A Political State

It would be an act of vanity to tell you I’ve read all three volumes of Oxford scholar S.E. Finer’s The History of Government From Earliest Times.

However, since blogging is an act of vanity, I will indeed tell you that I have in fact read all three volumes.

Samuel Finer was a student of government at Oxford who lived between 1915 and 1993. Earliest Times was published after his death. He had finished all but two of the 36 chapters. The Economist saw Earliest Times as a work of political science equal to Aristotle’s Politics.

Below are Professor Finer’s five defining characteristics of a political state—

1. They are territorially defined populations each recognizing a common paramount organ of government.

2. This organ is served by specialized personnel; a civil service, to carry out decisions and a military service to back these by force where necessary and to protect the association from similarly constituted associations.

3. The state so characterized is recognized by other similarly constituted states as independent on its territorially defined—and hence confined—population, that is, on its subjects. This recognition constitutes what we would today call its international sovereignty.   

4. Ideally at least, but to a large extent in practice also, the population forms a community of feeling—A gemeinschaft based on self-consciousness of a common nationality.

5.  Ideally at least, and again to a large extent in practice, the population forms a community in the sense that its members mutually participate in distributing and sharing duties and benefits.

Consider your own personal favorite nation and ponder if it meets these tests.

If it were an independent state, I’m not sure my home city of Houston, Texas would pass the fourth and fifth standards.

Here is some of the 1997 review of this title from The Economist

IF THERE were a Nobel prize for political science, Sammy Finer would deserve to win one for this extraordinary trilogy—a work of scholarship so broad in its sympathies, so ambitious in its scope and so elegantly crafted that it leaves the reader gasping, literally, with astonishment and delight. To read it is like seeing the pyramids or the Taj Mahal for the first time. Sadly, Finer—who taught politics at Manchester, Keele and Oxford before retiring—died four years ago. Happily, before he died he had completed all but two of his projected 36 chapters.

The task he set himself was nothing less than to describe and account for the principal forms of government that have existed on this planet since “the first unambiguously attested states yet known emerged round about 3200 BCin the Nile Valley and southern Mesopotamia.” The sweep of his reading and research encompassed—but was far from exhausted by—the ancient states of Sumer, Egypt, Persia and Assyria, the classical states of Greece and Rome, the Byzantine and Caliphate empires of the near east, the Han, Tang and Ming regimes of China, Tokugawa Japan and the emergence of the so-called “modern” states of Europe and North America.

Earliest Times must be bought used now. I hope it is reissued. It’s well worth the effort and money to track down and buy all three volumes.

December 20, 2007 Posted by | Books, Political History, Politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mickey Leland In The Texas Observer On Party Loyalty

Though I am of the left, I believe in a big tent Democratic party. In America we have two main parties for 300 million people and people will differ and disagree. In Texas, we have over 23 million people and again, people will differ and disagree.  

A workable standard for party loyalty was well-established 26 years ago by late Houston Congressman Mickey Leland.

Mr. Leland wrote an article for The Texas Observer in 1981 called The Tumor in the Texas Democratic Party. The article is reprinted in the book Fifty Years of the Texas Observer

Mr. Leland wrote about Texas Congressional turncoats such as Phil Gramm and Kent Hance who helped sponsor the poor-bashing tax cuts and budgets offered by Ronald Reagan.

Here is what Leland said—

Now, I want to carefully distinguish between those members of Congress who have or who will vote contrary to the Democratic position either out of personal belief or because their districts demand it….and those few members who go far beyond a vote and undertake a leadership role in sponsoring and working for the Republican program.

Mr. Leland got it exactly right. You don’t have to vote with the majority of Democrats every time, but you do have to have a good reason to bolt the party. If you vote the other way out of conviction or for survival, we can still work together at the end of the day.

If you’re selling out your colleagues for personal political gain or you’ve moved impossibly far away from the positions of your party, then you’re no longer welcome.     

October 4, 2007 Posted by | Books, Houston, Political History, Politics, Texas | , , , , | Leave a comment