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Red StateRed State

An Insider's Story of How the GOP Came to Dominate Texas Politics

Wayne Thorburn

Narrated by Sam Graham

Available from Audible

Book published by University of Texas Press

In November 1960, the Democratic party dominated Texas. The newly elected vice president, Lyndon Johnson, was a Texan. Democrats held all thirty statewide elective positions. The state legislature had 181 Democrats and no Republicans or anyone else. Then fast forward fifty years to November 2010. Texas has not voted for a Democratic president since 1976. Every statewide elective office is held by Republicans. Representing Texas in Washington is a congressional delegation of twenty-five Republicans and nine Democrats. Republicans control the Texas Senate by a margin of nineteen to twelve and the Texas House of Representatives by 101 to 49.

Red State explores why this transformation of Texas politics took place and what these changes imply for the future. As both a political scientist and a Republican party insider, Wayne Thorburn is especially qualified to explain how a solidly one-party Democratic state has become a Republican stronghold. He analyzes a wealth of data to show how changes in the state’s demographics—including an influx of new residents, the shift from rural to urban, and the growth of the Mexican American population—have moved Texas through three stages of party competition, from two-tiered politics, to two-party competition between Democrats and Republicans, and then to the return to one-party dominance, this time by Republicans. His findings reveal that the shift from Democratic to Republican governance has been driven not by any change in Texans’ ideological perspective or public policy orientation—even when Texans were voting Democrat, conservatives outnumbered liberals or moderates—but by the Republican party’s increasing identification with conservatism since 1960.

Wayne Thorburn holds a PhD in political science and brings a lifetime of political involvement to the task of tracing the transformation of Texas politics since 1960. When Texas elected its first Republican governor in 104 years, he was executive director of the state party. Thorburn was involved in the election of the President George H. W. Bush and then directed the coordinated campaign that in 1996 elected all statewide Republican candidates for the first time. He lives in Austin, Texas.


Red State is critical reading for anyone looking to understand Texas’s dramatic political changes of the last fifty years. Thorburn takes a deep dive into the state’s politics from 1960 to 2010, presenting an insightful look at our state’s demographic, economic, and political changes. If you want to know the Lone Star State’s future, read this book about its recent past first.”

—Karl Rove

Red State is not only a history of the Republican party; it is necessarily also a history of the Texas Democratic party. Everyone with an interest in Texas politics and the shift from Democratic to Republican dominance since the 1950s needs to read this book. This history continues to inform Texas politics today.”

—Paul Burka, Senior Executive Editor, Texas Monthly

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University Press Audiobooks