Texas: The Emergence of the Christian Right
John M. Bruce
To the casual observer it would appear that politics in Texas operates according to the popular expression "Everything is bigger in Texas." The state's history is full of dramatic, if not exaggerated, political figures. From the days of Ma Ferguson through the time of President Lyndon Johnson, continuing into the recent past with Speaker Jim Wright and others, the state has engaged in politics with a flair.
Over the last decade or so, however, Texas has seen a powerful new voice emerge in state politics. Conservative Christian activists have emerged as a major political force in the state, especially within the Republican Party. Unlike the colorful figures that have existed throughout Texas political history, those associated with this movement seek to avoid attention. What the movement lacks in colorful leaders, however, it more than makes up for in passion and influence.
The mobilization of the Christian Right in Texas was several years in the making. This chapter will first attempt to place the Christian Right into historical context. Did the emergence of the Christian Right reverse an existing trend, clarify an uncertain pattern, or reinforce a trend already in motion? Next the chapter will focus on the 1994 elections, which represent the high-water mark to date for the Christian Right in the state. Just how powerful was the Christian Right, and how did it seek to influence the elections? Finally, the fate of the Republican Party in the face of this mobilization is considered. What is the relationship between the Christian Right and the Republican Party? What has happened to the party in the last few years, and what seems most likely to happen next?
The historical pattern of Texas politics resembles that of other southern states following Reconstruction. The Democratic Party was, in reality,