Monday, August 15, 2005

Houston political leanings: conservative or balanced?

The Bay Area Center for Voting Research just released a report ranking cities from politically conservative to liberal based on the 2004 election. Charles Kuffner has some great comments and article links here. The big story is that the city of Dallas (not the county or metro) got ranked as more liberal (#32) than Austin (#93), which threw a lot of people for a loop. Some people think their data or analysis is just wrong. Others think it's an artifact of all the Republicans leaving Dallas for the suburban cities (including Plano, which ranked as the fifth most conservative city in the nation), along with the large Democratic-leaning African American community in Dallas, which is lacking in Austin. I started out thinking the former, but after I looked at it a while, I came around towards the latter view.

One item in their report that should strike no one as news:
With the findings of this study, the San Francisco Bay Area can now officially be designated the most liberal region in the country. With three cities in the top ten liberal list – Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco – no other region comes close to matching the Bay Area.

As you might expect, Houston is the largest conservative city in the nation. Of the top 10, NY, LA, Chicago, Philly, Dallas, and Detroit are all pretty strongly liberal (inc. Detroit at #1), while Houston, Phoenix, and San Antonio are moderately conservative, with San Diego perched right on the fence as the #119 city in both the liberal and conservative lists. But here's the catch: San Diego voted 55/45 for Kerry over Bush. Houston, as the 62nd most conservative and 177th most liberal (out of 237 total cities), on the surface seems to tilt pretty far to the right, but only voted 53.6/46.3 for Bush over Kerry. The national vote was something like 51/48 (1% other), so Houston is pretty darn close to the national average. The skew is the result of a national bias of larger cities towards liberal. Manchester, NH was the most balanced city I could find in their list, at almost exactly 50/50, and that got it ranked #80 most conservative and #159 most liberal, very close to Houston's rankings.

The bottom line: compared to other large cities, we're very conservative, but compared to the country as a whole, we're right in middle. In my humble and biased opinion, that makes for a more diverse and more interesting city than other cities that are more monocultural (or at least monopolitical).

17 Comments:

At 8:38 PM, August 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's all an issue of where the city limits are drawn. Ours just happen to encompass some of the more conservative suburban areas that would be outside the city limits of other cities. Otherwise, I think we're a very middle of the road metro area by southern standards. You were right to emphasize the word city in your post when observing the findings about Dallas.

 
At 10:13 PM, August 15, 2005, Anonymous RJ said...

I'm of the opinion that our strains of conservatism represented in Houston are probably more of the business conservative and laissez-faire conservative flavors and less of the social/moral conservatism varieties. Don't get me wrong, we have plenty of the moral conservatives, but I think as a historically pragmatic and diverse port city, we've tended to not go overboard on the usual social conservative agenda.

 
At 8:05 AM, August 16, 2005, Blogger Owen said...

If we really are more conservative than not, it seems odd that we've never had a Republican mayor.

 
At 8:23 AM, August 16, 2005, Anonymous RJ said...

Our mayors are non-partisan, which is a good tradition to have. You'll recall in the last election that Bill White had to make it clear that even though he was a Democrat, he wouldn't use the office of mayor in an overtly partisan fashion. I'd say he's kept that promise.

For the most part, if you don't have the backing of the corporate community and certain established political heavyweights, you're not going to be elected as mayor in Houston. That tends to weed out people who want to promote agendas that are either too liberal or too conservative. It also provides with a fairly consistent tone from City Hall, unlike some cities which are whiplashed between the political parties. Being a civic-minded business moderate is a pretty solid formula for running for mayor in Houston.

 
At 9:27 AM, August 16, 2005, Blogger Kevin said...

Our mayors are non-partisan, which is a good tradition to have.

That doesn't contradict Owen's point that Houston has never elected a Republican mayor.

Tory is correct that Houston is only a "conservative" city in a relative sense -- that is, when compared to other big cities, which tilt very far to the Left.

Being a big city, however, it's still left of center enough never to have elected a Republican as mayor.

 
At 9:47 AM, August 16, 2005, Anonymous RJ said...

That doesn't contradict Owen's point that Houston has never elected a Republican mayor.

I wasn't trying to contradict Owen's point... I was hoping to bring to light Houston's tradition of the mayor's office deliberately being somewhat removed from the system of two-party warfare.

 
At 10:04 AM, August 16, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

FWIW, Judge Eckels is a Republican and is basically the mayor of Harris County.

 
At 11:51 AM, August 16, 2005, Blogger kjb434 said...

I'm a conservative in the city of Houston who voted for White because he had a better vision and platform than any other candidate.

He is the first Democrat I have ever voted for.

I also believe in local politics is very much different than state and national politics. Local office holders generally aren't commenting on the national scene and are only concerned with local issues.

I don't know much about Mayor White national politics other than he work a little during the Clinton adminstration for the democratic party, but that doesn't affect his local policies. At least not according to his platform.

 
At 12:56 PM, August 16, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, please. Republican/Democrat means absoutely nothing in mayoral races. Case in point: NYC. Is NYC conservative? Do any of you have any idea what you are talking about?

 
At 5:01 PM, August 16, 2005, Blogger Owen said...

rj,

I was hoping to bring to light Houston's tradition of the mayor's office deliberately being somewhat removed from the system of two-party warfare.

That has traditionally only been true because the Democratic Party has had a lock on Houston politics. The past few elections have been very partisan.

And as for White, I disagree that he hasn't governed in a partisan manner. Although the issues don't tend to be as apparent as on the national stage, it's been fairly obvious to me that White generally falls on the left side of the spectrum.

 
At 5:25 PM, August 16, 2005, Anonymous RJ said...

Owen -

...only been true because the Democratic Party has had a lock on Houston politics...

Well, it's not the party that had a lock on Houston politics. Rather, a local group of business and civic leaders. And they were Democrat in the sense of a southern Democrat that in today's definitions might not even be Democrats at all.

As for your views of White being a partisan, I'm pretty sure that's a minority opinion.

 
At 8:11 PM, August 16, 2005, Anonymous RedScare said...

In trying to place a city or a candidate into a Republican or Democratic box, one must keep in mind that, as opposed to state and national politics, city politics lends itself to liberal candidates.

While on a national scale, foreign policy, debt, social services and other issues may color the debate, on a local scale, the only thing that matters is police, fire and streets. A candidate who advocates lowering taxes will immediately have to pick which services get cut, impacting quality of life, since the budget must balance.

A policy of providing services, rightly or wrongly, is considered a Democratic or liberal trait. Less taxes and less government services is considered Republican or conservative. Most city dwellers recognize and approve of the need for services, and will pay for them, even while advocating efficient government. This tends to work to a Democrat's advantage, though not overwhelmingly.

 
At 8:00 AM, August 17, 2005, Blogger Owen said...

rj,

As for your views of White being a partisan, I'm pretty sure that's a minority opinion.

...which doesn't mean that it isn't true.

 
At 8:23 AM, August 17, 2005, Anonymous RJ said...

Owen -

...which doesn't mean that it isn't true.

Not definitively, no. But I see it like this - If Maureen Dowd said to me that Senator Hutchison was a total partisan, I wouldn't take her word for it simply because Dowd has a published history of hard-left positions, meaning I shouldn't trust her judgment on who is or is not a partisan. Similarly, you'll have to forgive me for not trusting your judgment of whether or not Mayor White has treated his office as a partisan because you have a published history of hard-right positions. If I cared enough, I'd seek out the perspective of a respected detached third-party, but frankly I don't think it's worth fussing about.

 
At 11:30 AM, August 17, 2005, Blogger Owen said...

rj,

Mayors generally aren't seen as partisan because they're detached from the national political scene, barring some special effort on their part. So sure, even when a partisan guy like White (a former state party chairman) is elected, it's pretty easy for him to stay away from the fray and convince people that he isn't partisan. Nonetheless, he's generally come down on the left side of things -- pro-Metro, against Prop 2, etc. So White is about as partisan as you could expect -- if you follow the issues, he's clearly a Democrat.

Is Bill White a mega-partisan? No. Is he easily identified as a Democrat. If you've been paying attention, I'd say yes. And that's not because I'm supposedly "hard right."

 
At 9:57 PM, August 23, 2005, Anonymous nmainguy said...

owen,
of course you're hard right-you've aligned your self with dan patrick who is about as extreme right-wing as you can get in Houston-or anywhere else for that matter.
It is not odd we've never had a republican mayor. It's historical.
Read redscares post-"Most city dwellers recognize and approve of the need for services, and will pay for them, even while advocating efficient government. This tends to work to a Democrat's advantage, though not overwhelmingly."
It's pragmatic and predictable. I'm much more interested in the street in front of my house being in good repair;in getting my garbage picked up on time; on having a reliable water supply; etc...not exactly republican values in my neck of the woods.

 
At 9:36 AM, October 21, 2009, Anonymous Tracy Hall said...

Beyond the walls of our home lies a great Nation. There is a culture in this country whether spoken or unspoken that manifests itself in everything we say, do, or think. We teach our children about American Culture. We teach them to be good Americans by sharing our traditions of National Pride, Food, American Holiday’s, Craftsmanship, Entrepreneurship, Competition, Leadership, Know-How, and Positive Attitude. We believe we all have equal rights under the law. We expect American Industry to put out a quality product and for our Nation to be a leader in the world. Sometimes we even find ourselves spouting expectations of our Nation's performance or the performance of American Industry not realizing that unless we each live up to these expectations, our Nation and our Industries cannot. American culture is rich, complex, and unique. Only if we work together can we save our rich and diverse culture that our fathers and their fathers before them fought and sacrificed their lives to mold and grow into its current form and we cannot allow the few destroy what has taken over 200 years to create.
Join Me in the fight for Liberty:
www.HallforCongress2010.com

 

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