A viewer asked this question on 8/18/2000:
Recently I was discussing with a friend the fact that compared to most other state governors, the governor of Texas has a fairly weak amount of power. My friend said this was because Texas deliberately fractured state officials' power as a reaction to Reconstruction. He also claimed that this was true of the governors of all the former Confederate states. Now, my impression is that this is not true, specifically of the governor of Louisiana. Considering the Longs, et al, it seems to me that Louisiana governors have a lot of power. Am I correct?
npscott gave this response on 8/19/2000:
Your friend's thesis is one that is not easily proved or disproved.
A person would have to have a knowledge of each of the state governments constitution's prior to the Confederate insurrection--and then knowledge of the state Constitutions which replaced ante-bellum ones (and excludes those Constitutions adopted during the Confederacy)to begin to make an assessment.
There would need be some empirical standard as to what Executive structure compromises a strong executive, or a weak one; as opposed to a strong Legislature or weak one. (And ignoring the strength of the Judiciary).
Even the U.S. Constitution, which has not changed appreciably in the powers assigned to each of the three branches, has see-sawed between the executive and legislative branches. Lincoln made a strong executive; William Howard Taft a weak one. The actions of the people who occupy the positions of those two institutions have determined their relative strength.
Just recently we have had a Constitution test as to whether or not voters, dissatisfied with a President, can appeal to impeachment as a means of removing him before a new election, or not.
That was the underlying wisdom of the People in refusing to throw Clinton out of office. Had the impeachment succeeded, almost from inaugural day on, would there be concerted attempts to remove a President by impeachment, to grab power from a weakened Vice President of the same administration.
We can thank God that ill-advised attempt failed. The Executive remains an equal of the Congress because of the failed, partisan, impeachment attempt.
Returning to your friend's thesis, let's use common sense, and the old saying "the proof is in the pudding" for a 'ball park' answer.
On the specific issue of Texas, your friend may be right. But we'd need to compare all southern, (formerly confederate states), with Texas in order to make a decision.
However, the fact that there is currently a Presidential candidate, and a formidable one, from the state of Texas, seems to belie the assumption of a weak Texas chief executive.
And, you are right in referring to former Gov. Huey Long as an example of a strong state chief executive. Long didn't just govern Louisiana, he ruled it.
I would say, your friend's argument doesn't stand the test of 'practicality'. Looking at the power of several southern governors, including former Presidents Carter and Clinton, this claimed diminished power has not affected their status as Presidential candidates.
If there were lesser executive powers in these states, then wouldn't the opposition party have made a point of it? Wouldn't the Republicans have said, "Clinton [Carter] can't be strong executives, because they don't have the experience of having real Chief Executive powers?"
Additionally, the thought comes to my mind that during reconstruction, a number of men were imposed on Southern states as governors, by the Powers that Were.
Would President Grant's administration (where the radical reconstruction began) really want diminished executive powers when their men were the ones to occupy the chief executive offices?
This is an 'educated guess'. It may be wrong.
However, it stands equal to your friend's assertion which comes without documentation, or proof.
The application of common sense says, no matter how limited Governor's powers in Southern states may have been made, it hasn't worked to keep two Southern Governors from compiling such a state record as to make them successful contenders for the U.S. Presidency.
That's an opinion. But, I think, a good one.
dalton37 rated this answer:
dalton37 asked this follow-up question on 8/21/2000:
Thanks for your answer. I found it informative and interesting.
I am interested in your opinion on Louisiana governors in particular. Everyone knows how much power Huey Long had (they didn't call him the Kingfish for nothing), but I wonder how the present day governors of Louisiana measure up, not necessarily in comparison to Long (because they obviously have much less power) but more in comparison to other state governors. And by "power" I mean more or less specifically in two areas: power of veto and power to appoint/remove officials. (In the Texas argument I was having with my friend, part of his contention that TX governors are weak was how little power they have to either appoint or remove major government officials, compared to other state governors).
npscott gave this response on 8/22/2000:
Although I have a political science degree, I did not specialize in state government, and have spent my adult life on the federal level.
I'm unfamiliar with the specific powers of any of the state governors...you're knowledge exceeds mine here.
To approach this from a political science (emphasis on the science) perspective, you'd need to, as mentioned before, survey all the state government's executive powers, and after that construct a 'matrix' of what constitutes a strong executive, and a weak one, based only on powers delegated by the state constitution.
Likely there are books and studies on the subject.
As mentioned in the earlier reply, however, it isn't just the delegated powers, but the qualities of the individual who occupies the office that helps determine if he/she is a strong or weak governor.
You could take the two points of contention, that is the power to appoint, and the power to veto, and the compare those areas of several Texas and Louisiana governors to two comparable states in size and population and makeup, and the exercise of that power by several of their governors.
This is the 'science' of political science which attempts, as much as is possible in human affairs, to establish a scientific methodology of inquiry, so that verifiable results can be repeated by anyone, and fairly solid conclusions can be reached.
Opinions of political pros are valuable, of course, but are subject to all the complex subtleties of the human mind and emotions, and human error.
For instance, even though these governors lack veto and removal power, a study of bills the governor was opposed to which didn't pass, despite overwhelming legislative approval, and officials who the governor wanted removed who were actually removed, would also clarify how effective limitations are, or if a strong person can find 'work arounds' to them.
Then there also is the question of how necessary for a strong chief executive these two powers are, and so forth.
Your problem is you've asked a person trained in a political science approach. I can't bring myself to speculate or give opinion without violating my training and belief in that approach, not to mention my basic lack of 'state level' knowledge. (That's why I volunteered for U.S. Government).
Below is a link to a political science site, which may have papers written and/or studies undertaken on the very subject of your interest.
McGraw-Hill Political Science web Resources
... [cite Moly Ivins]
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