The Strange World of Texas Politics

Excerpts from the book Confronting Complexity: X-Events, Resilience, and Human Progress by

John L. Casti

Roger D. Jones

Michael J. Pennock

preface

table-of-contents

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Texas Politics

We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills . . . critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education . . . which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the students’ fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

2012 Platform, Republican Party of Texas

In the US, congressional districts are redrawn at least every ten years after the national census. The districts may be redrawn more often. Each district is entitled to elect one member of the House of Representatives of the United States. There are two major political parties in the US, the Republicans and the Democrats. The demographics of the parties are such that the Republicans tend to be older and Caucasian males, while the Democrats tend to be younger, female, Hispanic, African-American, and other minorities. The districts are often redrawn to benefit one political party or the other by taking advan- tage of these demographic differences. In extreme cases, the process of redrawing district boundaries to benefit one party or the other is known as gerrymandering.

 

The state of Texas has a long history of gerrymandering. In the 1990s, the Democrats redrew district boundaries to benefit the Democratic Party. In the 2000s, the Republican Party gained a majority in the Texas legislature and redrew district boundaries to benefit their party. The ensuing political fight led to many Democratic legislators leaving the state so that there would not be a quorum for the vote on redistricting—thus making Texas politics a great source of entertainment for the rest of the US.

The Republican majority also passed legislation to require picture IDs from citizens before they would be allowed to vote. On the surface, this does not seem to favor one party over the other, however, discrimination surfaces when one digs deeper. For instance, the law permitted, as legal identification, expired gun licenses from other states, while not permitting student IDs and social security cards. This favored the Republican demographic.

By modern American standards, this behavior seems extreme. What are the forces driving this polarization? It turns out that the overall demographics of the state are changing. In 2000, 52.4 percent of the population was Caucasian according to the 2000 census. By the 2010 census, this number had dropped to 45.3 percent. Moreover, 65 percent of the population growth was Hispanic, which tends to vote Democratic. The Democratic base is increasing, while the Republican base is decreasing, leading to a loss of political power by the Republicans and a more visible polarization of the Texas population.

Change is bad for Texas Republicans in this scenario. The changing demography is driving behavior designed to prevent change—any change—from occurring in Texas. In 2012, a plank of the Republican platform opposed the teaching of critical thinking in Texas schools. Critical thinking was “challenging the students’ fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

Is the picture presented in this section factually accurate? The picture is one of cultural polarization, which expresses itself as political polarization. Is there polarization in mood—optimistic and pessimistic? Is an X-event imminent? Is the political process sufficient to contain the X-event? Are Texas politics an indication of a complexity mismatch in the entire US?

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