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Houston Breakthrough 1980-07 - 1980-08
Pages 14 and 15
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Houston Breakthrough 1980-07 - 1980-08 - Pages 14 and 15. July 1980 - August 1980. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. April 19, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/286/show/271.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(July 1980 - August 1980). Houston Breakthrough 1980-07 - 1980-08 - Pages 14 and 15. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/286/show/271

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough 1980-07 - 1980-08 - Pages 14 and 15, July 1980 - August 1980, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed April 19, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/286/show/271.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough 1980-07 - 1980-08
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date July 1980 - August 1980
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Physical Description 33 page periodical
Format (IMT)
  • image/jpeg
Original Item Location http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name index.cpd
Item Description
Title Pages 14 and 15
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name femin_201109_562an.jpg
Transcript with issues like police behavior. These interest many Houstonians. Blacks in particular vote heavily in mayoral elections. Other groups are interested—the gay community is probably most influential now in the city elections. Even so, you are looking at half the eligible voters participating. About 35 to 45 percent of registered voters will vote in a hot election, as compared to, say 75 percent in New Orleans. In other elections like the ones we had this spring, you have 15 to 20 percent voting. ME: In the run-off, it was lower still. RM: County wide, the Democrats had about three percent. Because of these patterns of non-participation, many elections in Houston depend on what particular elements get mobilized. Presidential elections are different, massive numbers take part. ME: But still not as members of one of the two major parties? RM: Well, part of the reason for this non-identification is that Texas was basically not a party state. Neither Republican or Democrat. Everyone was nominally a Democrat, but that didn't mean anything. A person could be a Democrat and be a racist, conservative, or a Roosevelt liberal. So it didn't distinguish people. Now the Republican Party has come along, and has become a fairly viable coherent party. The Democrats are still largely disorganized. They are not a very effective functioning party. With generally weak leadership, it's difficult to get people involved, it's hard here to keep a party office open. ME: That was an issue in the race between Anne Greene and Joanne Gerhardt. RM: But the sad state of the party organization is not something the Chair can do much about. ME: A lot of people moving in are Republicans. Is there a drift to the right, overall, politically? RM: It's been in recent years. There are a Jot of other people coming in besides conservative Republicans, but they have become much more politically active. These are college-educated poeple who were active before and they are more likely to register and vote. Black migration has tailed off. That's partly because the hinterland from which Houston drew its black population is depopulated. The His- panics are coming, but are politically apathetic, as are the Vietnamese. Most are not yet citizens. So relatively, comparing Houston to 1960 or 1670, the county, not the city, has become more conservative. ME: Does the school system here, the universities, turn out Republicans? RM: I think the colleges and universities around the country have seen a rebirth of conservatism. Not so much among faculty, but among students. It is like the 50's. Students are less concerned about social issues and more about getting a job and getting ahead. The University of Houston and Rice are very different—Rice serves an upper class, already well-educated, white student population, that is from conservative, Republican homes. I think students there are pretty liberal in the area of human values, but pretty conservative economically. They typically would vote for Fred Hofheinz in city elections, but they went for Gerald Ford by over 60 percent. Reagan will be interesting to see at Rice. Will his economic conservatism carry him through against a lot of concern about his social values? Will the students vote against him? UH is less consistent. We are a commuter school, probably without a systematic impact on the views people have. ME: What do you teach? RM: I teach general American politics, political parties, interest groups, seminars. 14 I have been teaching each night a course in Houston politics. I am going to change that and do a course in 1980 presidential elections. I like to do current, topical courses. A lot of the students who take these classes are non-traditional students —lawyers and other types. Less interested in getting three hours credit, but just wanting to sit in on something they ar. interested in. ME: How far in advance can you call a race? RM: I can guess. Right now I can guess how a race will turn out—you can look at polls and see what they say. You can look at predictions in one of three ways: one is a kind of guess based on your own textual knowledge, that you think this is going to happen. Then you can be polling to determine what people's opinions are. If you do it from time to time, you can get a picture on how things are moving, and from that you can project how things are likely to be. Third, you can wait until the day of the election and you can poll voters as they leave the election place, or you can get early returns from some precincts, some precincts that have been preselected, and project from hard data what the likely vote result is. Media people are always calling me and asking me to guess, and I will give them something off the top of my head. An impression. A lot of times they don't label it as such, which is unfortunate. Polls? You have some hard information there, but it is changing and things can always be different by the election day. When you get around to election night you are dealing with hard information. It's easiest on the local level, the mayor's race. It's most difficult to predict what's happening state-wide, because it is difficult to get an accurate sample. ME: Do you have a recorded batting average in your predictions? RM: Well, I don't pay much attention. Sometimes the media put one out. ME: Are people becoming disenchanted with the political process, is that the reason the participation averages are so low? RM: There's no question there has been a kind of national disillusionment about politics. Some of this is just the generational circulation, I think. Every year 1.5 million Americans die or become incapacitated. About three to four million reach young adulthood. So there's a lot of change going on in the composition of the electorate. The young adults who are joining the electorate are not actively participating in politics and tend to be more distrustful. They came of age during Vietnam and the malaise of the 70's, whereas the people who are dying out were shaped by the Depression and the Roosevelt years. They were more interested in political activity and more likely to view it as relevant to their own lives. In recent years, we've not had a political era that has gotten people interested and involved on a lasting basis. A lot of the 60's activity was related to special circumstances like the War, but once that ended, participation dropped off markedly. ME: What about the 80's? Will the state of the economy bring out voters? RM: Yes, I think the 80's will be politically interesting. I think we are in for a long term of economic distress. That opens up the possibility for more vigorous politics. ME: You don't think people will, as America declines, begin a revolution, or else just give up and become completely apathetic? RM: I think people will come to the political process. There always will be some dropouts, but a sizeable number of people will become involved. The absolute number of voters, even with the small percentages involved, has continued to go up. ME: Do you perform a missionary task ' Do you use computers in polling, or a trick-or-treat door-to-door approach?" " Computers. in your classes by trying to get people interested in the political contests? RM: To some degree. My first concern is to try to explain how people fit into the political system. Whether they want to be active or not is up to them. I ask in my courses, Where do you as an individual relate to this political process? Since it affects you, you might as well understand it. If you want to affect it, that's more a question you will have to answer personally. ME: Are the political action groups, rather than the individual, the dominant forces in politics now? RM: They are tremendously influential. But I wouldn't say they are dominant, except in a narrow or specialized context. Here in Houston, certainly groups like growth and development elites, groups such as builders, realtors, apartment associations, are inordinately influential when it comes to the kind of policies that deal with their economic well-being. What they want is a pro-growth government operating as a facilitator. That is an extreme example. In national politics, there are so many interest groups involved that there is a lot of countervailing effect. A lot of them can only block action that is detrimental to their interests. It is much more difficult for them to pass anything that is favorable. The process is stacked to kill,, rather than give birth. Here locally, particularly with those development elites, it is different. ME: Well, if groups negate each other, is there a leader to rally around? Any charismatic figures on the horizon? Is Mickey Leland, for example, another Barbara Jordan? RM: Well, I think with intelligent political work, Mickey Leland can be reelected as long as he wants to. I doubt that he has any electoral future beyond that. I do not expect him to become a nationally prominent figure. He might be an influential Congressman. Depends on how he performs. It is hard to say who will develop into a prominent political leader. There is chance and luck. You have to be the right person at the right place. ME: There are no Kennedys anymore, at least in people's minds? RM: Well, it is an era of lower expectations, when it comes to leadership. It may be that people of ability, and potentially attractive, just aren't attracted to seeking political careers. ME: Did you ever want to run? RM: No, I.get all the politics I want by observing, working with politicians. I am too private. I am enough of a realist to realize very few constituencies would elect me. The kind of quintessential politician is a Hubert Humphrey type who has a very outgoing nature and wants to help other people and deal with other people's problems—a very energetic person, with an ability to act on the basis of principle. ME: Why do you like politics, why teach it? RM: My family was particularly interested. They did not run for office, they were simply interested. We grew up in Louisiana. Very political state. I expected to become a lawyer, so I went into political science, a typical undergraduate major. I decided I liked political science. ME: I've noticed in the New Orleans area particularly, politics is really in people's lives. RM: Yes, it's a state pasttime. Also, it's a helluva lot more important in terms of who gets what where and when. Houston's economy is primarily private. Politics has little to do with most people's economic well-being. Most people don't relate to who's the mayor, or who's the HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH governor. You might prefer to have McConn, or Macey, but it's kind of an abstract. In New Orleans, or in Louisiana, people think it's a matter of life or death. This is enormously important, because in Louisiana, jobs, preferment and opportunities frequently hinge on who's got the political power. Aside from that, you have a politics that is more interesting- there are more interesting characters in it, and more conflict. ME: They really have always had Kingfishers and Willy Starks .... RM: Oh, yes. And over here we have these little piddleyass scandals, the Claytons with a few thousands, while over in Louisiana they are stealing millions. ME: The pie is littler. Here you can always say I have my job. RM: Or if you lose one job, you can get another one. ME: Do you have some ideal that you would like to see in Houston? Some growth of a cultural and political life? RM: I think that will come only slowly, and only after Houston settles down. This rapid growth is detrimental to development of much political consciousness I think. Houston is very much a 19th Century city. It's dominated by private economic elites. Politics hasn't counted for that much. If you believe in a 19th Century laissez-faire doctrine, I suppose you think that's good. The Chamber of Commerce does-l don't. I'd like to see the city become generally more political, more things decided politically. I think a small step in the right direction was the fight over the billboard ordinance. Here, by political power, you are trying to restrict a bunch of private entrepreneurs who for years had done anything they wanted. If you wanted to put a huge orange sign on the top of your building, that's fine. Or if you wanted to stick something 120 feet up in the air, that's your business. But you think in a big city, especially, there are general political concerns, and these ought to be reflected in the political marketplace. I would like to see Houston become a place in which real political issues—like what kind of city we are going to have here—are debated and discussed and where there is more planning and more coordination. Not the haphazard catch- as-catch-can, let-the-private-economic- elite make these decisions. ME: Doesn't the old laissez-faire way have to yield, because it can't cope with the new realities of Houston? RM: I think that that's the case. In the area of mass transit we have seen that very clearly. For years we had a private, entrepreneurial transit system that just totally broke down and collapsed. And because the collapse is threatening to strangle growth, even the growth elites become willing to opt for a political solution. I think it's probably inevitable the city will become more politically active. For example, the most likely cataclysm that would befall Houston would be a hurricane. We haven't had one for a long time, not since all this growth and development occurred. There's a good possibility that if we had, we'd find that the pattern for growth and development we've encouraged over the years really isn't hurricane-proof. We might have hu- mongous loss, if not of life, of property. We've had localized flooding that's got people up in arms here and there around the city. They are talking about land use control, and making developers do different things. It's almost inevitable that we'll have a severe storm here at some point. And as one of the results, it will make people examine the way we have ignored the consequences of growth. ME: Can you generalize about the effects of growth? Is it true that an intellectual infrastructure here is missing because of the disorganized expansion? Is it harder to develop a city culture, comparable to New Orleans', because of all this 19th Century procedure? RM: In culture, Houston is in some ways quite exciting. It's relatively open. You don't have resistance to change. There is money enough, surplus wealth, one of the consequences of the economic boom. So artists and others have some opportunity. But still it's mostly potential, as I see it. Putting it together may take a while. You need third and fourth generation old money around . . . ME: People who know and can afford what they want? RM: You have some of that in Houston. But Houston is maybe about where Chicago was in 1890. I think Chicago is probably the most comparable American city. Houston is even like Chicago's slogan, priding itself on being a city that works. It is not a Southern city. Not slow, life's pace here is very fast. A very economic city, like Chicago was. I think we'll develop as Chicago did, with a significant cultural base, but it will take a longtime. ME: Chicago had good and bad—Dreiser and Sandburg, Capone and Daley.. . . RM: Well, if we had grown like Chicago had, and during the same period—60 or 80 years ago—we would have had political machines, too. By the time our growth came along, the machines were kaput. The conditions don't exist to sustain them anymore. ME: So there is no single power elite in Houston? RM: No. But you have networks of elites. They are very influential in certain policy areas. One of the reasons is that you split up government here. Some issues are dealt with primarily at the state level. Take labor-management disputes. Unions are most effective in state legislative politics. The politics of education are handled through a separate set of structures, school boards, school districts. Parents and administrators fight and squabble, there's suburban versus inner city—the key government here remains the city government. More than any other, it controls the pace of growth and development. That's the fundamental fact about Houston. Houston is a growth and development city. The growth and development elites are very influential. It's not six or seven people sitting around deciding what to do, like Jesse Jones tried to do 40 years ago. It's a whole bunch of these people that all have shared interests. Downtown bankers, downtown lawyers, developers— the city is a money machine for them. They want to preserve the conditions that led to this terrific economic expansion. That includes some very diverse people that probably can't stand to be in the same room with each other. When you couple this with the fact that the mayoral elections cost a ton of money to win—Where does the money come from? From people in growth and development. It hasn't made a hell of a lot of difference who wins or loses. The basic policies don't change that much. You might get a Welch, a Hofheinz, a McConn—they're personally different, but there's consistency in the policies they pursue. ME: In all this expansion and control, is there any place for women to make a contribution in politics, or to have some say-so? RM: Houston is a pretty good town for women in politics. It's a new city, without a traditional, engrained, male- oriented political organization. Women can be elected here. People will just as soon vote for women as men. We have tions, such as law, are still somewhat closed to women. But women are held back here because Houston's basis of growth has been the energy field. The energy industry is dominated by oil companies, that are male- dominated. Engineering provides most of the management. There are few women engineers, few women in the economic elite. There are more women in the economic elite in other cities than in Houston. Here a few women get in by virtue of marriage—Oveta Culp Hobby, for example. ME: You don't think the oil industry has opened up much to women? RM: No. And it's going to continue to be difficult. If you read the Texas Monthly article on EXXON, it gives you a pretty good description of how to make it in a big oil company. There are a lot of things there very detrimental to women. One, you almost have to be an engineer. Two, you have to put in right off the bat a lot of early time out in the field. Then you are continually transferred. Some women have that flexibility, but that's something more likely for men to have. In an oil company you don't go to New York, stay there 30 years, and then move to the top. You go to Kaplan, Louisiana, and to Baton Rouge, Houston, and Darien, Connecticutt and then back to Houston, and New York—you get ten moves. And it's an old boy network. A lot of these guys got their degrees at state colleges. Cracking that is not going to be easy. But there is so much wealth, and economic well-being in the industry here, that in peripheral areas there are a lot of economic opportunities for women. But not in the core industries that drive this town. ME: Are they going to swing the presidential race, these industries, for Reagan? How do you see the candidates' chances in the final months? RM: Well, if Reagan can't win in Texas, he better give it up. But it is a sign of the weakness of his campaign that he is going to have serious problems here. The basic fact is that we have two weak candidates, and so the election is actually going to hinge upon external events which occur in the last two weeks of the campaigns. There will be a lot of voter movement back and forth, a lot of attitude change depending on what happens in the world. Nationally, Carter is stronger. He has been a weak president, but he is a skilled campaigner, with a well-organized, internally united campaign staff. His biggest problem is the recession—it's hard to shrug off a nine percent unemployment rate. Mondale is strong with labor, blacks and Jews, so Carter comes in with some advantages. Plus, he's able, to some extent, to control events from the White House. He can call the pace a bit. Reagan's camp exhibits conflict between moderates and hard-liners. His choice of vice president will show which way he is leaning. He ought to pick Baker, but if he chooses to run with Kemp or the other ideological people, it will show he plans to present a more conservative choice. ME: How does John Anderson figure into the picture? RM: Things are very difficult traditionally for a third party, and Anderson's campaign shows the problems. His support is diffuse, not concentrated in a few states that would give him electoral college votes. He will probably get several million votes, anyway, but not enough to put the outcome in the House of Representatives, let alone win. On balance he will hurt Carter, especially in Texas, as a choice for moderates, but in the North and Northwest he will take moderate Republican voters away from Carter. But it depends on what happens in those last two weeks. ^ULY/AWeUST