Thursday, August 2, 2007

Texas--Becoming a No-Party State?

As discussed by our text book, there seems to be a trend of party dealignment (the weakening of party affiliation) occuring in Texas. Less of the electorate is relating to either of the two major parties, as the number of independents increases. In 2003, independents were the second biggest catergory, constituting 35% of the electorate, with Republicans at 41% and Democrats at 24%. What are the possible cuases of this dealignment? What could it mean for the future of Texas politics?
I believe there are a number of possible reasons that party affiliation has weakened in Texas. As the book suggests, the percentage of independents could be increasing because people are starting to care more about what the candidate stands for, as opposed to what his or her party affiliation is. Although both parties each have their own loosely defined ideologies, the spectrum of political opinion can be large within each party, and party affiliation is generally not enough information to know exactly what policies a candidate supports. The electorate may be focusing more on the individual than on the party, which naturally weakens party affiliation.
If this is the case, I believe dealignment may have an incredibly positive effect on Texas politics. It would mean that there are more independents because there is more independent thought occuring (i.e. determing your political beliefs separate of one major party or the other). This would likely decrease the tendency of candidates to move towards the middle on the political spectrum on particular issues in order to appeal to more members of their party. I believe this could be beneficial for politics because political ideologies would stem from many sources, as opposed to being concentrated in two central parties.
From this perspective, dealignment is positive. Although I do not dispute that the shifting focus from party to candidate has encouraged dealignment in Texas, I believe that there may be other forces at work. It is also likely that disenchantment with both parties, or the two party system as a whole, has contributed to dealignment. I believe that much of the electorate refers to themselves as independent not for specific political reasons, but because they are simply fed up with the Democratic and the Republican Party alike. Both commonly slander the opposing party to further their political causes. I believe that this slander, along with corruption within the parties (the Tom Delay scandal, for example) causes voters to loose trust in the parties as a whole. I know I myself have been wary of strongly affiliating with either party for reasons such as these.
If voter disenchantment is a main cause of party dealignment in Texas, I believe adverse effects may be associated with it. Widespread disenchantment with government is often accompanied by lower voter participation. If the Texas electorate is simply becoming more and more disappointed with its government as a whole, it's possible that this could worsen an already low voter turnout in Texas politics.

2 comments:

KSeago said...

Excellent post. Appropriate and very important topic. Do you think Independents are more or less informed than those with strong party identification? Do they need to be as well (or more) informed?

KSeago said...

Excellent post. Appropriate and very important topic. Do you think Independents are more or less informed than those with strong party identification? Do they need to be as well (or more) informed?