• April 5th, 2016

Last Man Standing: Politics Texas Style

Paper, Order, or Assignment Requirements


Overview: Filmmaker Paul Stekler explores the changing politics of the state of Texas in the early 2000s in “Last Man Standing: Politics Texas Style”, part of the PBS documentary series POV (aired July 20, 2004). The film focuses on two races in the 2002 election cycle- one for state representative in a district that includes Lyndon Johnson’s hometown, and a polarizing race for governor. Prominent Texans, including Bush strategist Karl Rove, former Governor Ann Richards, Clinton appointees Henry Cisneros and Paul Begala, and writer Molly Ivins give insights into the state’s changing political landscape.

Instructions: The writing assignment is a five-to-six page response to the documentary “Last Man Standing: Politics Texas Style” that will be viewed in class. The response will address several questions you will be asked to consider following the film and our class discussion. The response should be 5-6 pages in length plus appendices, double-spaced, 12-point font with 1-inch margins, typed on any type of word processing software that allows for checking spelling and grammar, stapled with a cover sheet. The cover sheet must include the date, CRN number, course title, class meeting times, instructor’s name, and the title of the report. Spelling and written grammar are part of the written assignment grade. Students must document the sources (a minimum of 4, including the film) used in the research of the paper in an appropriate manner (footnotes OR endnotes OR parenthetical citations and bibliography) using any method (MLA, Chicago, etc.). A minimum of four or more sources is required. Failure to document your sources will result in a grade of zero. Failure to turn in the written assignment on the due date will result in a drop of one-letter grade per day past the due date that the assignment is turned in.

I have listed five questions below. Select two questions to address in your response.


1. The state representative race between incumbent Republican legislator Rick Green and Democratic challenger Patrick Rose in 2002 (for House District 45) highlighted significant partisan changes in the state and important differences between the two candidates. Based on the events depicted in the film and your research, what were the reasons for the outcome in this race in 2002? Was the election result surprising, given what you know about the political climate of Texas and the state House district?

2. 24 year old Patrick Rose returns home from Princeton to run in the state representative race as a Democratic candidate against 31 year old incumbent Republican legislator Rick Green in 2002. What were Rose’s drawbacks as a candidate that made his attempt to unseat an incumbent difficult? What mistakes does Rose make as a candidate in his campaigning style and debate appearances? What strengths as a candidate does he possess that make him a formidable challenger to Green?

3. The film makes a big point of discussing Texas on the cusp of a sweeping demographic change, with the political force of Texas’s Mexican-American population- much more likely to be Democratic- resulting in the Democrats in Texas nominating oilman and banker Tony Sanchez as their candidate for governor in 2002, the first Latino to run for governor on a major party ticket. Democrats also select Dallas’s first African-American mayor, Ron Kirk, as the state’s first major-party black candidate for the U.S. Senate. How successful were the Democrats’ “dream team” of Sanchez and Kirk in the Governor and U.S. Senate races? What were the limitations of their appeal to other segments of the state’s population, beyond the usual Democratic constituencies of African Americans, Latinos, and women? Has this demographic change that would benefit Democrats taken hold in the state? Why or why not?

4. The political divide in Texas, as in much of the nation, in 2002 was between a more multi-cultural and urban Texas of the future, represented by the Democrats’ “dream team” of Sanchez and Kirk (competing for Governor and U.S. Senate, respectively), and the ascendant Republicans based in the growing Texas suburbs, small towns, and politically active churches (the legacy of former governor George W. Bush and his advisor Karl Rove). How does this divide play out in the statewide elections for Governor and U.S. Senate and in the overall control of the Texas legislature? How does the outcome in the state representative race between Green and Rose either support or challenge this larger pattern?

5. Consider the examples in the film of the two candidates and other individuals depicted in the film as expressing religious points of view. Republican legislator Rick Green is portrayed as devoutly religious. During a campaign appearance, his opponent Patrick Rose also declared that he was baptized and confirmed in his hometown’s United Methodist Church. Why are the religious views of the candidates an issue in this campaign? In your community, do candidates declare their religious affiliations as part of who they are and what they bring to the voters? Is religious affiliation important to you in choosing a candidate? Why or why not? What do you think of “separation of church and state” as it relates to political campaigns?

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