My first-hand knowledge of Texas is pretty slim. I know I hate the Cowboys and loved “No Country for Old Men.” The extent of my time in Texas consists of a few hours at the Bennigan’s bar at the Dallas airport during a layover.
But from what I’ve read, Texas seems to be a booming state with a vast pool of a cheap labor and a diversifying economy. Its population surged 84 percent between 1965 and 1997 and it surpassed New York as the second most-populous state in the mid-1990’s. Texas is also slated to add another four congressional seats after the 2010 reapportionment, which is more than any other state.
But the state also seems to be in a political and economic ebb. The exurban sprawl around Dallas has stalled thanks to widespread home foreclosures, and Texas’ clout in Washington is the lowest its been in decades. The AP reported in January:
“For much of the 20th century, Texans also held power positions in congressional and executive branch. Before [George W.] Bush, [Lyndon] Johnson and his father George H.W. Bush held the White House. Johnson and the elder Bush had also served as vice president and in Congress.
“Texans Sam Rayburn, Jim Wright and Dick Armey were majority leaders in the House, followed by Tom DeLay. At mid-century, some half a dozen committee chairmanships belonged to Texans.”
In anticipation of Texas’ March 4 primacaucus, the New York Times produced a comprehensive primer of the state’s demographics. Asking “Will Obama’s Momentum Dent Clinton’s Dominance Among Latinos and Rural Voters,” the paper analyzed where the candidates can expect to do well.
In doing so, the Times defines and explains the many regions in the Lone Star State from “the frontier-conservative Texas of Amarillo, in the Panhandle” to the “vast, immigrant-heavy Texas of Houston.”
One new fact I learned was that “Congress decided in 1845, the year [Texas] joined the Union, might well be later divided into four more states should it consent.” Times reporter Randy Kennedy adds that the “provision stemmed from the debate over slavery, but it was an acknowledgement of the state’s unwieldy size and stark geographical differences.”
In his 1981 book “The Nine Nations of North America,”Joel Garreau envisioned Texas as a crossroads between three civilizations. He argued that the lands of “MexAmerica,” “The Breakbasket” and “Dixie” all converge in the Lone Star State.
Speaking about Texas, Garreau once told a panel:
“One of the most interesting triangles in the continent [is] the one between Dallas-Fort Worth in the north, Houston in the southeast, and San Antonio to the west. These three are among the 10 largest cities in America. And there is a great battle going on for who is going to be the dominating influence in this triangle.
“San Antonio is clearly MexAmerica. This is a majority Hispanic town…. Dallas-Fort Worth has some of the charm so that you could marginally consider it Dixie, but it also has this cheerful arrogance that marks it to a certain extent Breadbasket.
“And there is Houston, where you have the Dixie influence in that there is still a very large black minority…. And of course you also have the Hispanic influence. And so these three nations – the Breadbasket, Dixie, and are warring over this important triangle. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure who is winning.”
Times reporter Kennedy divides the state in smaller subsets, noting that Texas is “separated in 20 media markets, the most of any state of the county.”
Any way you slice it, Texas has some of the best (TexMex food) and the worst (the Cowboys) to offer the country, and it’s gotta be a hell of a tough time to campaign there.
Texas Demographics (New York Times)
Nine Nations of North America
Religion in Texas (The Association of Religion Data Archives h/t Jonathan Martin) Martin: “The brigher the shade of red the more Southern Baptist congregations (naturally metro Houston and Dallas have more in pure numbers).”
2004 Texas Electoral Map (CNN.com)
National Media Markets (Wikipedia)
Dallas-Fort Worth Media Market