Kris Seago
Government/Political Science
Material Type:
Full Course
Academic Lower Division
Austin Community College
  • ACC Liberal Arts
    Creative Commons Attribution
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    Third-Party Movements in Texas


    Third-Party Movements in Texas

    Learning Objective

    By the end of this section, you should be able to:

    Discuss electoral trends in Texas, specifically dealigned parties and third- party movements

    Introduction: Third-Party Movements in Texas

    At various points in the past 170 years, elites and voters have sought to create alternatives to the existing party system. Political parties that are formed as alternatives to the Republican and Democratic parties are known as third parties, or minor parties. As with many other states, the two-party system in Texas has made it very dicult for third parties to get on the ballot.

    Many voters believe that their votes would be wasted if they vote for a third-party candidate. Because the history of elections shows that a Republican or Democrat will almost always win, most voters decide that it is more rational to vote for the major-party candidate whose ideology most closely aligns with their own.

    La Raza Unida

    La Raza Unida, meaning "united race," was created in the early 1970s to combat growing inequality and dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party that was typically supported by Mexican-American voters. José Ángel Gutiérrez led the party at its inception, which was concentrated in Zavala County. After its establishment in Texas, the party launched electoral campaigns in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and California, though it only secured ocial party status  for statewide races in Texas.

    La Raza Unida was able to win races in Crystal City, Cotulla, and Carrizo Springs in Texas by taking advantage of nonpartisan elections. The party did so well in Zavala County and other surrounding counties that at one point the party won two city council majorities, two school board majorities, and two mayoralties.

    Although the party did poorly in the 1978 Texas elections and leaders and members dropped away, it signified the growing influence of Latinos in the state.

    Green Party of Texas

    The Green Party of Texas is the state party organization for Texas of the Green Party of the United States. The party was founded as the electoral arm of the political movements for grassroots democracy, social justice, ecological wisdom, peace, and nonviolence.

    The Green Party of Texas began to organize a statewide grassroots eort in the late 1990s. Small, active Green groups existed in large cities throughout the state (particularly Houston, Dallas, and Austin) before this time, but Ralph Nader's   1996 campaign spurred the growth of the Green Party of Texas.

    The Texas Green Party has retroactively gained ballot access through 2026 via the passage and signing of HB-2504 in 2019 after having obtained 2% of the statewide vote for Railroad Commissioner in 2016.

    Libertarian Party of Texas

    In recent years, the Libertarian Party of Texas has emerged as a third-party alternative to the two major political parties. Libertarians believe in limited government and are typically considered fiscal conservatives and social liberals. Although the Libertarian Party has been unsuccessful at the polls and has had little impact on Election Day, they can influence politics in other ways. For example, the major parties may adopt some of the positions promoted by Libertarians (or members of other minor parties) in order to win their support in run-o elections.

    The Occupy and Tea Party Movements in Texas

    The new voices of the Occupy and Tea Party movements have become prominent both nationwide as well as in Texas. Created following government bailouts in 2008, the Occupy movement has held demonstrations in Austin and other major Texas cities, protesting the influence of big corporations and Wall Street on American politics.

    Occupy Wall Street Protestors in Portland Oregon
    Figure 9.10 Occupy Wall Street protesters in Portland, Oregon. Occupy  Wall Street protesters have been critical of lobbying in government. Image credit: S51438 CC-BY-SA-3.0

    Born in part from an older third-party movement known as the Libertarian Party, the Tea Party movement has allied itself with the Republican Party and has had greater influence in Texas due to its antitax messaging.

    The Tea Party movement was launched following a February 19, 2009 call by CNBC reporter Rick Santelli on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange for a "tea party," when several conservative activists agreed by conference call to coalesce against Obama's agenda and scheduled a series of protests.

    Supporters of the movement subsequently have had a major impact on the internal politics of the Republican Party.

    The Tea Party is more hostile to government and views government intervention  in all forms, and especially taxation and the regulation of business, as a threat to capitalism and democracy. It is less willing to tolerate interventions in the market place, even when they are designed to protect the markets themselves. Although an anti-tax faction within the Republican Party has existed for some time, some factions of the Tea Party movement are also active at the intersection of religious liberty and social issues, especially in opposing such initiatives as same-sex marriage and abortion rights. The Tea Party has argued that government, both directly and by neglect, is threatening the ability of evangelicals to observe their moral obligations, including practices some perceive as endorsing social exclusion.

    Tea Party protesters on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall
    Figure 9.11 Tea Party protesters on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall at the Taxpayer March on Washington on September 12, 2009. Image credit: NYyankies51 License: CC-BY-SA-3.0

    Although the Tea Party is a movement and not a political party, 86 percent of Tea Party members who voted in 2012 cast their votes for Republicans. Additionally, research has shown that members of the Tea Party Caucus vote like a third party in Congress. Some members of the Republican Party are closely aliated with the movement, and before the 2012 elections, Tea Party activist Grover Norquist exacted promises from many Republicans in Congress that they would oppose any bill that sought to raise taxes.

    The inflexibility of Tea Party members has led to tense floor debates and was ultimately responsible for the 2014 primary defeat of Republican majority leader Eric Cantor and the 2015 resignation of the sitting Speaker of the House John Boehner. In 2015, Chris Christie, John Kasich, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, all of whom were Republican presidential candidates, signed Norquist’s pledge as well.

    References and Further Reading

    Ballotpedia. Minor Political Party. Accessed October 18, 2019.

    Acosta, T. P. (2019, May 7). "RAZA UNIDA PARTY.” Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved October 16, 2019.

    Juarez, A. (1972). The Emergence of El Partido De La Raza Unida: California's New Political Party. Aztl√°n.

    M. Garcia, I. M. (1989). United we win: The rise and fall of La Raza Unida Party. University of Arizona Press. José Ángel Gutiérrez Papers, Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin. Raza Unida Party Collection, Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin.

    Byrne, E. (2019, May 20). Critics say bill moving through Texas Legislature designed to aid GOP reelection bids. The Texas Tribune. Retrieved October 20, 2019.

    Etheridge, E. (2009, Feb 20). "Rick Santelli: Tea Party Time.” New York Times: Opinionator.

    Pallasch, A. M. (2010, September 19). 'Best 5 minutes of my life'; His '09 CNBC rant against mortgage bailouts for 'losers' ignited the Tea Party movement. Chicago Sun-Times. p. A4.

    Pew Research Center (2011, Feb 23). The Tea Party and Religion. Accessed October 16, 2019.

    Ragusa, J. & Gaspar, A. (2016). Where's the Tea Party? An Examination of the Tea Party's Voting Behavior in the House of Representatives. Political Research Quarterly. 69 (2): 361-372. doi:10.1177/1065912916640901.

    Waldman, P. (2015, Aug 13). Nearly All the GOP Candidates Bow Down to Grover Norquist, The Washington Post. Accessed October 16, 2019.

    Licensing and Attribution


    Revision and Adaptation: The Occupy and Tea Party Movements in Texas. Authored by: Daniel M. Regalado. License: CC BY: Attribution


    Green Party of Texas. Authored by: Wikipedia. Located at: License: CC BY: Attribution

    La Raza Unida. Authored by: Wikipedia. Located at: License: CC BY: Attribution

    Tea Party Caucus. Authored by: Wikipedia. Located at: License: CC BY: Attribution

    Tea Party Movement. Authored by: Wikipedia. Located at: License: CC BY: Attribution