Texas GOP Needs More Latino “Generals”, Not Only “Soldiers”

By Alex Gonzalez

In a case study titled,  A Lot of Soldiers, but Not a Lot of Generals,  Columbia Political  Scientist Mark J. Redmond studies and writes about the “Mexican” political attitude in Chicago and he argues that  “while Mexicans have, argu­ably, been living in the United States longer than any other ethnic group, their profile has grown to grand proportions only recently.  As a result, they hold little political legacy from which an efficient and independent political organization can arise.” Thus, in his argument lack of Latino political power come from the fact that the Party machine has only developed a patronage system in which “Mexicans” still rely on elder white “Anglos” for party representation via white “Generals.”   As a result, and despite their large numbers,  Mexi­cans  continue to be represented by ethnically white eldermen in the GOP who control the state and county bureaucracies, and thereby, creating a Latino community with no leadership skills, or leaders to become “Generals”.  And this is also the case for Mexican/Latino Republicans in Texas who still lack proportional Representation within the state Republican Party.

This reality exists in patronage politics—loyalism– because where there is patronage “there is no reason to develop young leaders.” But patronage is only one way to get political power.  In his book, Who Governs, Political scientist Robert Dahl argues that political power, its distribution, and representation in New Haven, Connecticut was a matter of who ran the city bureaucracy. The book is widely considered one of the great works of empirical political science to measure community power in the cities. Dahl argued that New Haven worked under, according to Dahl’s, a theory of “pluralism: elite political groups exist, but they aren’t very powerful.  Instead, they balance each other out by leaving politicians (and thus their voters) firmly in control of the bureaucracy.”  He studied the overlap between local social and economic elites in New Haven, WASPs, and the ascendency of new groups like the Irish, Italians and Jews who became the main controllers of the bureaucratic by 1959; and thus, forcing the WASPpish Establishment to negotiate with other non-protestant groups who took controlled over the city bureaucracy.

In Dahl’s argument, in New Haven the decision making power was divided among different groups. One set was involved in urban development, another group in education, another in policies within the city, and another set of groups with respect to political nominations and elections. Thus, according to Robert Dahl division of power, no single elite dominated across these issues. Hence, power was divided: Pluralism—competition for power.  And this power comes from a structure based on groupings of power bases (ethnic, regional, intellectual, and industry) and strategically selected political “representatives” of those distinct groups selected by the elected official.  Especially his section on the levels of integration of immigrant minority groups into the political process.

But this analysis of New Haven can also be applied In Texas to measure whether Mexican/Latino have any power?

According to Dahl, the Waspish society slowly began to open up their social clubs to successful business people they had previously considered their ethnic inferiors. In 1920, the bureaucracy of New Haven was held by a WASP society. Patricians had all the political resources they needed: wealth, social position, education, and a monopoly of public office: New Haven, and for that matter the colony and the state of Connecticut, had been ruled for a century and a half by an elite, consisting of Congregational ministers, lawyers, and men of business, of whom the ministers had historically furnished most of the leadership. They were of one common stock and one religion, cohesive in their uniformly conservative with control over social institutions and the educational and even business enterprise in 1920.

The arrival of Irish immigrants changed that. The Irish immigrants in New Haven moved quickly from working-class to middle-class status, surprisingly quickly considering the meager jobs skills and discrimination they encountered and begun working for the city. Consequently, by 1959, second generations if Irish Catholics had the highest number of city workers second only to Jews. Therefore, according to Dahl, public sector economic resources–jobs–served as major conduit of social mobility for Catholic Irish and Italians.  By controlling the bureaucracy, “Celtic” mobilization, especially electoral mobilization, was crucial to secure share of the public resources, and thereby, accelerating this group social mobility. Moreover, Irish immigrant groups-unions–already had experiences with bureaucracies, so they knew–as groups–the importance of becoming part of it.

So in this analysis of power and community, the main way by which Latinos can acquire political power is by working within  the state, county, and city bureaucracy (county agencies workers such as police officers, county clerks. etc…). By controlling the bureaucracy, a Latino mobilization, especially electoral mobilization, can be a powerful tool because they can share the public resources, and thereby, accelerating this Latino social political mobility with conservative economic and social values.  But do Latinos have to make the GOP and Latinos more complementary of each other? The answer lies are opening the Republican Clubs to successful Latinos Businesses and Community leaders.   

Admittedly, the term bureaucracies connotes big government for conservative and some Republicans may object to Latinos working for government agencies, but this is not the case. For example, conservative states like Arizona and Texas operate with conservative bureaucracies, and they have kept a conservative bureaucratization of policies aimed at maintaining and favoring conservative policies and politicians. Thus, Arizona and Texas Republican are themselves are bureaucratic entities pushing for selective laws reflecting their state conservative mantra. So what determines who has power is by the fact of who runs the bureaucracy of state and county government. If Latinos indeed want real power, and if Republican wants Latinos to have political power, they need to work within the bureaucracies as the means to manage power and policies beneficial to their community and the Republican Party.

But Latino power needs to be in the form of Generals, too. In the other tier of power, political representation of Latinos within the Republican Party is scant due to the unwillingness of the Party Machine to groom Republican Latino/Mexican “soldiers” as “Generals”, and thereby, having Latino leaderless Republican base with no strategic experience to mobilized the base.

Why  Lot of Mexican Soldiers, but Not A Lot of Mexican Generals?

In Texas, in Mexican-American communities lack strong political candidates with coherent policy platforms and an established base in the community are rare.  But part of this legacy in Mexican communities is that the Party “machine” has perpetuated a lack of Mexican political or­ganization to keep conservative Latinos voting for white candidates.

According to Redmond’s study paper Mexican Voter in Chicago–“Lot of Soldiers, but Not a Lot of Generals—the “Machine politics breeds machine leadership.” But within the Mexican community, he argues, “they do have precinct captains, they do have block captains who are Latino, but the top remains “white”.   Essentially, what Redmond found was that there was no reason for the Party machine and the white precinct “captains”  to develop Mexican leadership,  or “Generals”, because the Mexican “soldier”, under patronage—stay loyal to  white “captains“  because that is the only alternative;  moreover, under this hierarchical arrangement, the “white” candidate can claim have the support of the Party machine.

This reality exists in patronage politics because and where there is patronage “there is no reason to develop young leaders,” within Mexican communities since, as Redmond argues in quoting the local precinct chairman “you just need someone who is affable enough to knock on doors and talk to people.”  Thus, “any Latinos developed under local precinct chairman’s wing are not heavy enough, good enough, prepared enough as to take over.” And precincts are important because in order to mount a successful challenge, “you have to have some sort of political organization that can actually work the precincts.   You have to have enough money to be able to direct mail, phone preferable, maybe even some media ads…,” says Dick Simpson. Mexicans simply do not have this level of organization in the 14th Ward.

There are many Latino loyalist “soldiers” who want to vote for one of their own, but lack of grooming from the Party machine for leadership only leads to insecurity among Latinos/Mexican soldier who have not cohesive platform and  candidates, and thus,  vote for “white” candidates. In the study by Redmond,  when the “soldiers”  were asked why they were supporting the white candidate over a Mexican candidate, they explained,  “we need someone like ….someone like Ed Burke ( the white candidate), to advocate for us to pull us forward … because there’s no one in our community who can do that. Consequently, Redmond concludes that:

Machine politics consists of having a lot of soldiers … but not a lot of generals.”  So Despite their large numbers, Mexi­cans continue to be represented by Ed Burke, an ethnically white alderman who has been in power since 1969.  Even more confounding,  Mexicans constitute a substantial portion of electoral support for Alderman Burke.  As a group, Mexicans are the political clien­tele of the 14th Ward in Chicago—they have been incorporated into the Burke machine as subordinate junior partners.   Mexicans have been forced into the role of political client by their racial and legal minority status.

Lots of Republican Mexican Soldiers but Very few Generals  

In Texas, the Republican Party has developed patronage with many Mexicans “soldiers”, but very few “Generals,” with no access any bureaucratic or Party power.  Republicans Latinos in Texas have neither the Pluralistic power to force other groups into negotiating, nor the precinct or leadership machine politics skills to build “Generals”.  And they too have been “incorporated”  into the GOP machine as subordinate junior partners.  So, Mexicans have to vote for “Anglos” in the absence of one of their own with a strong political candidates with coherent policy platforms. Republican Latinos “soldiers” in Texas, Mexicans-Americans have been forced into the role of political client by their racial and legal minority status within the GOP where the elder “Anglos” still set the rules for Mexican/Latino “soldier.”

True, there are some Latinos Republican “Generals” in Texas.  For example, U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco and U.S. Rep. Bill Flores are the only 2 Republican “Generals” in Congress from Texas and both were elected in highly Mexican/Latino democrat areas. The other Latino/Mexican Republican “Generals” are 5 states legislators who got elected with no much of backing the Republican “Machine” establishment. State Rep. John Garza represents House District 117—southwest San Antonio, which happens to be 65% Latino. Rep. Raul Torres represents the District 33—Corpus Christy, with a Hispanic populating of 66% Latino. Jose Aliseda Represents District 35—southeast of San Antonio with a 60% of Latino population.  Aaron Pena Represent Dist. 40—McAllen with 95% of Hispanic Population. Larry Gonzales represents Dist. 52—norhteast Austin with a Hispanic population of only 28%. With the exception of Larry Gonzales, just like with the 2 Latino Republican “Generals” elected to Congress who won only in Hispanic heavy Distinct—60% and more.

The Latino/Mexican population in Texas is Population 38%.  After California, Texas has the largest Congressional delegation with 23(R) and 9 (D)—soon to be 25-11. So for Hispanic to be fairly represented in Congress within the Republican platform, they will need to run and elect at least 5 Hispanic Mexican/Latino “Generals” to Congress to fairly represent the 38% of the Latino population of Texas that voted Republican in the last 2 elections.  But currently there are not, electable, Republicans Mexican/Latino “General” running for Congress. In fact, part of the agreement of the new redistricting map was just “fair enough” to make it easier for “Quico” Canseco to get re-elected.  Additionally, at the state level, Republicans have commanding super majority in the legislature of 101 House Rep. state members and 19 state senators.  So at the state level, currently there are only about 4% (5 legislators) of “Generals” while they have a 40% of “soldiers” Representation.

Furthermore, two of the Mexican/Latino Republicans “Generals” in the Texas legislature argued that they received no backing of the GOP during their campaign; nevertheless, they are still running for reelection.  Also,  Aaron Pena ran as Democrat but later switched to Republican and he is not certain that he wants to run again. Jose Aliseda is retiring, which will make representation of Hispanic with Latinos Republican “Generals” more scant.  Also, committees  where bills are drafted so the chairmanship of a committee commands substantial leverage in bringing bill to the  full floor, but none of these general have been as assigned to key committees chairmanships where they can learn leadership skills.

Sadly, at the Congressional Levels, there not many Latino/Mexican soldiers to become General in the Republican aisle for the next legislature of that can be groomed into a “General”.  And because, realistically speaking,  Republican Latino “soldiers” can only have a chance in district where Latinos are at least 60% of the population—and because the GOP has not groomed  is “Machinery” Latinos candidates to be “Generals” to run in non-Latinos districts, most likely it would be difficult for Latino to win in non-Latino districts;  thus,  keeping the majority of Republican Mexican/Latinos mainly as soldiers with no “General” skills and no structural bureaucratic   power,  does make Latino Republicans in Texas a subordinate junior partners.  So Despite their large numbers, Mexi­cans continue to be represented by ethnically white aldermen within the GOP who still have the power and control of the Party machine.

No Republican Latino/Mexican “General” at the Prescripts

 The role of the Precinct Chairman stands out in importance. The Precinct Chairman is the Local “General” that rallies the soldiers to vote for candidates and introduced candidates and party platforms to precinct residents.  It is the basic level of elected office within a political party and influences every other decision that is made. Party Platform resolutions begin in the precinct. State Convention delegates are appointed by the Precinct Chairmen.  However, the Republican Machine is not cultivating this “precinct” culture among Latinos; Which inevitably creates lack of community cohesion among Latinos since no Latino “soldiers” can be groomed  by the Party machine as “Generals”.

Moreover, this vacuum of Latino “Generals” within the GOP, as result, forces Latinos to stay as “soldiers” since they themselves cannot find a viable Latino Candidates to advances their issues, it forces them to vote for non-Latino Republican candidate as the best alternative.  Therefore, Latino/Mexican “soldiers” hold little political legacy from which an efficient and independent political organization cannot arise because the party is not ready, or willing, to groom them and the precinct and state levels. As a result, strong political candidates with coherent policy platforms and an established base in the community are absent.

In this two-tiered power argument developed by Dahl and Redmond for community and group power, it is impossible for Republican Latino “soldiers” to become “Generals” since the Party “Machine” is not actively recruiting “soldiers” that can be groomed into Generals from the Community as precinct captains, which could lead to more Latinos in bureaucratic post to oversee the Party polices at the county and city levels.  Additionally, the Party “machine” is not assigning the few Latino Generals to key committee roles where they can be groomed either for Congress or the national platform.  And lastly, the Party machine has not encouraged Republican  Latino soldiers to be part of the city or county bureaucracy and therefore, become part of urban, education policy making within the city or, political nominations and elections. Consequently, if this structure is not redone, Republican Latinos in Texas will still lack  cohesive political power and candidates that could help the “Machine” in the very near future.

Correction: Bill Flores’ District  17th is not a democrat district. Flores was elected with a 61.8% of the vote.  The Waco-based district votes heavily Republican in presidential elections, giving John McCain 67% and George W. Bush 70% in 2004. and the district is only  15.4% Latino.


Alex Gonzalez  is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote!  He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from San Francisco State University.

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