Texas Political Culture in the Age of FDR
Sales Date: April 21, 2022
328 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: April 2022
- Published: April 2022
Has Texas always been one of the United States’ most conservative states? The answer might surprise you. Bootstrap Liberalism offers a glimpse into the world of Depression-era Texas politics, revealing a partisan culture that was often far more ideologically nuanced and complex than meets the eye.
The Lone Star State is often viewed as a bastion of conservative politics and rugged “bootstrap” individualism, but that narrative overlooks the fact that FDR’s New Deal was quite popular in Texas, much more so than previous histories of the era have suggested.
While it is true that many Texas Democrats remained staunchly conservative during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, and it is also true that many of these conservatives formed the basis of an established majority that would grow stronger in the decades that followed, it is simultaneously true that ordinary voters—and a good many politicians—embraced New Deal policies, federal experimentation, and direct economic aid, and often did so enthusiastically as liberal Texas Democrats rode FDR’s coattails to electoral success.
Texas political leaders recognized the popularity of the New Deal and identified themselves with FDR for their own political advantage. Using original resources mined from six research archives, Bootstrap Liberalism explores campaign strategies and policy debates as they unfolded at the local, state, and national levels throughout the Great Depression and World War II eras, revealing a consistent brand of pro-New Deal messaging that won favor with voters across the state. Most Texas Democrats did not apologize for supporting FDR. Rather, they celebrated him and often marketed themselves as New Deal Democrats. Voters endorsed that strategy by electing liberals throughout the 1930s and early 1940s.
"Recommended for anyone interested in Texas New Deal-era political history."—Southwestern Historical Quarterly
“Anyone who looks backward from the last twenty-five years of Texas politics could be easily fooled into thinking that conservative Republicans had always won the day and spoke for the majority of Texans. In his excellent book, however, Sean Cunningham starts in the 1920s and offers an alternative and far more accurate view. Democrats, often of the liberal variety on everything except race, dominated all aspects of politics in Texas from 1930 to 1950. Franklin D. Roosevelt was especially popular in Texas, and as Cunningham makes clear, may have been the most popular president in Texas of all time. Read this well-written and compelling book for an antidote to what you thought you knew about Texas politics before 1950.” —Walter L. Buenger, Summerlee Foundation Chair in Texas History, University of Texas at Austin
“Sean Cunningham has done it again! The prolific author of Cowboy Conservatism and American Politics in the Postwar Sunbelt has turned his attention to Texas Democrats in the Age of Roosevelt and has written his best and most important book yet. Meticulously researched and enlivened with vigorous prose, Cunningham succeeds in making the case that the perception of Texas as a bastion of Republican conservatism has a far more complicated reality. Anybody interested in understanding not only Texas politics but also US politics ought to run out and pick up a copy of Bootstrap Liberalism.”—Edward H. Miller, associate teaching professor, Northeastern University
Introduction: "Men of Constructive Minds and Patriotic Motives"
1. “We Can Do No Worse”
2. “Conservative Progressive Constructive Legislation”
3. “Sired by the Devil and Born in Hell”
4. “Communism with a Haircut and a Shave”
5. “My Very Old and Close Friend”
6. “A Closer Connection with Our Federal Government”
Conclusion: “The Forgotten Man”