I deeply appreciate the name of the podcast and what you are providing folks a space to do…where people can have conversations that are not over-determined by the two-party framework.

– Dr. Omar Ali, Author of In the Balance of Power, Season 2 Episode 15

The Purple Principle, an award-winning podcast about the perils of political and social polarization, is settling down in Texas for a month of episodes. And what better place to kick off an investigation of “These Not So United States” than the state with its own battle cry, its own distinctive music, food and lifestyle; the state that’s reared U.S. presidents from both major parties, along with its most successful third party candidate; the state that has some of the fastest rates of population and economic growth, yet traditionally the strongest identity of them (y’)all?

Lauded by The New York Times as one of four podcasts to “inform your vote” during the 2020 election, TPP now has its sights set on state-level politics, with Texas-centric episodes dropping every Tuesday in March. Host Robert Pease wonders how the Lone Star State’s identity is holding up against the hyperpartisanship that has riven friendships and families nationwide. Often called “affective” or “negative” polarization, this tribal force distorts Americans’ views of the other major party, its politicians, and its voters, and makes the necessary compromises of democratic governance far more difficult, if not impossible.  

Turning to the question of identity at the state level, The Purple Principle brings on a distinguished roster of “Texpert” guests over a mini-series of episodes and asks: Do Texans still consider themselves Texan first, and Republican or Democrat second? 

Texas Monthly’s own Editor-in-Chief Dan Goodgame answers affirmatively in Episode 2. “If you ask someone who grew up in Lubbock whether she identifies as first a Republican or as a Texan, she’ll say Texan,” says Goodgame. “And a Democrat from San Antonio will say the same.” 

Goodgame points to a number of common factors that partisan-proof Texans, from in-state education to live music, college football and barbecue. But is the neighborhood cook-out as festive with folks tiptoeing around topics like schooling, weather, and public health? Can Texans fully enjoy the breadth of homegrown music when the media depicts some genres blue and others red? What’s an indie band to do? And what’s an Indie voter to do? 

Joining Episode 1 of the series from another podcast, Y’all-itics co-hosts Jason Wheeler and Jason Whitely of WFAA Dallas are skeptical that their home state is as cohesive today as in recent times. Whitely remembers a stronger sense of Texas-ness while covering the 2000 George W. Bush presidential campaign. Wheeler points to the pernicious effects of gerrymandering in creating safe political seats, polarizing electoral primaries, eroding bipartisanship, and fostering a zero-sum mentality among representatives and voters alike. 

Polling done at The Texas Politics Project does note a steady rise in negative partisanship within Texas of late. TPP discusses that and some related trends with Project Director Dr. James Henson in Episode 3. His polling group looks beyond the simple red and blue dichotomies of most pollsters, and so does the research group More In Common in their recent study, “Threads of Texas.” In fact, this study describes seven distinct tribes or identities within the state. Research Director Stephen Hawkins and co-author Paul Oshinksi also come on the show to dig into More in Common’s methods and findings.  

Other episode guests include the Honorable Will B. Hurd, former congressman from the 23rd District, discussing immigration reform and the inspiration behind his new book, American Reboot: An Idealist’s Guide to Getting Big Things Done. And you’ll hear former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros and UT San Antonio scholar Sharon Navarro later in the month on the growing and diversifying Hispanic identity within Texas. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss an episode!

In 50 episodes to date, TPP has discussed the perils of polarization with a range of experts, including: 

  • Michael Smerconish of CNN, on partisan media
  • Former centrist Congress members Carlos Curbelo and Jason Altmire on legislative gridlock
  • Neuropsychologists Abigail Marsh, Jay Van Bavel, and Dominic Packer on the foundations and power of identity 
  • Non-partisan reform leaders Trevor Potter (Campaign Legal Center), Katherine Gehl (Institute for Political Innovation), and Charles Wheelan (Unite America)

The Purple Principle is a non-partisan podcast for independent-minded Americans concerned about polarization at all levels of politics and society. Whether a lifelong resident or Texas Monthly reader from afar, all are welcome on an audio tour of this vast, varied, and pretty darn vocal state. Find the show on any podcast app or at www.purpleprinciple.com

The Purple Principle is a Fluent Knowledge production.