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How Texas Politics Turned Right

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News
House Speaker Joe Straus

From Texas Standard:

An article by New Yorker staff writer and Texas resident Lawrence Wright makes the case that Texas is a political bellwether. In "America's Future Is Texas," Wright argues that, indeed, as Texas goes, so goes the nation — politically speaking, at any rate.


At one time, Texas politics was controlled by Democrats. Beginning in the 1970s, the state underwent a sea change that ushered in a new era of Republican control. Wright's article tackles the extent to which the state's fast-changing demographics will actually affect the Republican's grip on power.

"Texas is a conservative state, but the people that are running the Legislature right now in the state are far more conservative than the actual demographics of the state," Wright says.

On what turned Texas red:
"Texas was at one time an entirely Democratic state. ...[Tom Craddick] did turn the House over and became the first [Republican] speaker of the Texas House of Representatives since reconstruction and immediately he began with the idea of redistricting."

On Texas' effect on the rest of the country:
"What happens in Texas doesn't stay in Texas. ... Texas is a behemoth and it has an outsize influence on the direction of America and we have a responsibility, I think, as Texans to make sure that we take care of our state in a way that would enable us to be the proper custodians of the future of America."

On House Speaker Joe Straus' being "disgusted" by the so-called "bathroom bill':
"[Straus said] 'I won't have the suicide of a single Texan on my hands.' What he meant by that is the testimony that had taken place during the arduous arguments over this bill. So many transgender people had committed suicide or attempted."

On the real-world consequences of Texas' politics:
"I think Texans like being amused by their politicians but some of the things that the politicians do are less amusing. ... It's going to be difficult for Texans. Our health needs, our insurance, our education. We came within a hair's breadth of having massive cuts in higher education, for instance."

Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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