A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 06, 2008
Palanca ("lever” or straight-ticket votiing)

Candidates (especially Democrats in South Texas) have long encouraged the populace to vote “la palanca” ("the lever") or “una palanca” ("one lever")—straight-ticket voting for one political party. A lever allows one vote for all the party’s candidates, rather than votes for individual candidates of different political parties. “Palanca” also means “pull” or “influence” in addition to “lever.”

Such campaigning and voting has been called the “palanca politics” of Texas.


24 September 1971, Dallas (TX) Morning News, section C, pg.1: 
Of more importance, though, to Mrs. Martinez was another victory for the cause of “palanca.” The dictionary says this word denotes a lever, a crowbar, or a pole for carrying weight; Mexicans use it to mean cooperative effort, “your shoulder beside my shoulder.”

Google Books
Pain and Promise: The Chicano Today
edited by Edward Simmen
New York, NY: New American Library
1972
Pg. 127:
“Two, three, four years back, we heard one thing,” explains Joe J. Bernal, the only Mexican-American in the Texas Senate, “‘pull the big lever for the Democrats.” In Spanish, we call it ’la palanca.’ It means lever.

12 March 1972, Dallas (TX) Morning News, section A, pg. 22:
Traditionally, Mexican-Americans have been staunch Democrats, but in recent years Chicanos have complained of too often hearing nothing more from Anglo politicians than the words “pull the big lever for the Democrats.”

In Spanish, they call it “la palanca,” the lever. Now, however, State Sen. Joe J. Bernal predicts:

“AS A DEMOCRAT, I can tell you there is going to be less and less of a chance to tell the people, ‘Pull la palanca (for the Democrats).’ I tell you that for sure. Whoever is running is going to have to give some reasons.”

22 October 1972, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Straight-Ticket Days Over in South Texas” by Sam Kinch, Jr., section A, pg. 34: 
HARLINGEN, Texas—The days of “una palanca”—or straight-ticket—Democratic voting are over in South Texas, but the revolution just happens to coincide with Sen. George McGovern’s presidential candidacy.

19 April 1977, New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM), pg. A2, col. 4:
Bexar County Commissioner Albert Bustamante became a Jimmy Carter man as soon as the campaign of favorite son Sen. Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr., D-Tex., faded, telling his considerable following, “jala la palanca grande”—pull the big lever and vote straight Democrat in November. 

12 October 1986, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “THE TEXAS VOTER: Diverse electorate is a challenge for candidates” by Wayne Slater and Kevin Meridia:
“Una palanca!” he shouts from a plywood stage, and people respond with a cheer.

Google Groups: tx.guns
Newsgroups: tx.guns
From: “Maurice”
Date: 1999/11/05
Subject: A very welcome sign, please read column

For generations the fine Latino population of Texas, mostly South Texas, has been misled by perfidious Democrat politicians with the mantra that “only” they can “care” for the Latinos in the barrios and colonias.  One of the main purposes of the demand for “bilingual” (everything) is to keep these honorable folks from being able to read the conservative columnists and conservative articles that are generally written in English.

Sadly for the hack democrat political bosses and their lackeys elected by the “palanca” method ("Palanca" means lever and for generations Latinos have been encouraged to pull the palanca for the democrat nominees… it has worked for too long.).  However, more and more young Latinos are learning too much English to be held back and frightened into going the “palanca” route.  Thank goodness.

Google Groups: soc.retirement
Newsgroups: soc.retirement
From: Murphy
Date: 2000/01/28
Subject: Re: Baby Bush--Iowa What went wrong? 

By the way, not all primaries are for “registered” Dems or Repubs only. F’rinstance, in Texas, any voter may vote in either primary, but is barred from then voting in the opposite camp, i.e. I could vote in the Democrat primary but then would not be able to vote in the Repub primary. There is no “party” registration. In the general election, I am free to vote for whomever I please; anything from straight party line (la palanca) to splitting my vote or even not voting for a candidate who is in an unopposed race.

November 2001, Texas Monthly, “Tony Sanchez’s New Deal” by Jan Reid:
“Tony has palanca,” Guerra said. “Henry’s time has maybe come and passed.” I asked her what “palanca” means. She thought a moment and said, “It means ‘effectiveness. Political currency.’”

Google Groups: tx.guns
Newsgroups: tx.guns
From: “Maurice”
Date: Sat, 23 Feb 2002 11:48:29 -0600
Local: Sat, Feb 23 2002 12:48 pm
Subject: Re: Sanchez on Guns

One can just see the frustration in the “old time” patron king-makers when they stray off the reservation and vote with considerations other than “La Palanca”.

Google Groups: tx.guns
Newsgroups: tx.guns
From: Sam A. Kersh
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2003 22:33:19 GMT
Local: Wed, Jul 23 2003 5:33 pm
Subject: Re: Perry and GOP screw vets…

This particular organization is a Democrat and Hispanic stronhold. many places in South Texas, they are raised to pull only la palanca, the one lever.  Straight party, no matter how crooked some of the Ds might be.

August 2006, Texas Monthly, “The Bad Guy With the Badge” by Cecilia Balli:
POLITICS IN TEXAS’ southernmost county, like politics anywhere, is shaped as much by the past as by the present. For many decades, South Texas political bosses exploited the lever system, by which the poor, uneducated, mostly Mexican American masses could be manipulated into voting for just one political party. The Spanish word for “lever,” palanca, continues to be a useful term today to encourage straight-ticket voting; to a large degree, “palanca politics” is alive and well, with Democrats grabbing virtually all the races for public office regardless of the merits of their Republican opponents.

August 2006, Texas Monthly, “Down and Out: Writer-at-large Cecilia Balli talks about former Cameron county sheriff Conrado Cantu,” interview by Ryan Vogt:
texasmonthly.com: How much does the palanca political system contribute to continual corruption? Would a more even two-party system in South Texas help alleviate some of these problems?

CB: I think a true two-party system-or better yet, a multi-party system-is a healthy thing anywhere. No one can say that all of the Democrats in South Texas are corrupted, and that the Republicans would not be if they were in office. Corruption is not party- specific; it is something that flourishes, I believe, when people in public office grow too comfortable with their power. So a more competitive election season would presumably force politicians to be more accountable to their constituencies.

January 2007, Texas Monthly, “Behind the Lines: Minority Report” by Paul Burka:
This was palanca (lever) politics: Vote Democrat and shut your eyes to what was going on. It was enforced by politiqueras, political workers (mostly female) who were, and still are, paid to get out the vote. 

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Sunday, January 06, 2008 • Permalink