Can Texas Shake off Progressive Government?

Progressivism is a term for a reform movement in the United States early in the twentieth century and progressivism in Texas led the nation in many ways¹. From Edward M. House, a Texan and influential politician a ‘cosmopolitan progressive’ advised many Texas governors and even was influential as a personal advisor to Woodrow Wilson. But frays of opposition started to root in progressivism by the Bourbon Democrats, but it was too late. The idea of progressive government set in a few progressive Texans would help to create an operational change to our founding document, the 17th Amendment.

The purpose of a university should be to make a son as unlike his father as possible. – Woodrow Wilson

Texas would continue to lead in progressive reforms, making schools ‘bigger and better’. In education reform they would dump more money yet Texas in the 1920’s would rank at the bottom among other states. Higher education wouldn’t only become swallowed up by government but its ideology would spread like wild fire. After more failure, the ‘New Deal’ would pile on more progressive reform, but scandal always follows.

We skip ahead toward Lyndon Johnson, more reforms come, the ‘Great Society’. But the ‘radical 60’s’ would generate radical ideas into progressivism. 

The start of the 1970’s, in Texas, would see its first conservative governor since reconstruction, Dolph Briscoe, but it would be short lived as the political shift would still teeter between Republican Clement and Democrat White. This period between Clement and White, seems to be the period when conservatives in Texas pushed against Progressive government. Ross Perot burst on the scenes. But again, political strife and scandal would follow. Ann W. Richards would step in and continue the need for more progressive reforms.

We witnessed a major power shift, progressive government always looks to power outside the will and consent of the governed. Now that the top is secure, progressives are now focused locally to secure more pockets of power. The point of this is to highlight a trend, has progressive government really worked? Today the Texas House of Representatives look to continue that trend.


¹ McDonald, A. P. (2007). Texas: a compact history. Abilene, TX: State House Press/McMurry University.
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