Mike Kueber's Blog

November 1, 2014

Is Texas turning from red to blue?

Filed under: Culture,Facebook,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 12:09 am
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This morning I posted the following on my Facebook wall:

  • Last night on The Daily Show (all week, the show has been produced in Austin), Jon Stewart played a clip with San Antonio Mayor Castro saying that Texas was turning from red to blue (i.e., going to become a Democratic state). Stewart responded by saying, “You poor bastards. Democrats in Texas are like the drunk guy who keeps hitting on a woman even though he knows that she’s a lesbian.” Great stuff.

Later in the day, a question occurred to me – If Steward was correct, why isn’t Texas behaving like neighbors New Mexico and Colorado and becoming a politically competitive state? Stewart himself suggested a semi-humorous answer during his segment on Texas when he noted that Texas has been a conservative state since dinosaurs roamed its plains 6000 years ago (a jab at GOP creationists).

For a more serious answer, however, I turned to the internet and, not surprisingly, found that someone – the Georgetown Public Policy Review – had addressed this precise issue almost two years ago with an article titled “Why demographics aren’t enough to turn Texas blue.” Indeed, the article even starts with Mayor Castro’s assertion that Hispanics in Texas will outnumber non-Hispanic whites by 2020:

  • “Mayor Castro represents a growing Hispanic population that is expected to eclipse whites as the most populous ethnic group in the state by 2020. In Mayor Castro, Democrats believe that they have a face to put on the surging wave of Hispanic voters that will turn Texas blue within the next decade. Based on these demographics, it seems likely that Texas’ political makeup will look more like New Mexico’s or Colorado’s than Utah’s or Oklahoma’s in the near future. That is to say, Texas will become another southwestern swing state and will not remain the GOP’s big-state answer to California and New York for very long.”

But the article quickly disabuses its readers of the notion that demographics is destiny, at least not in Texas:

  • “The notion that a demographic change would put Texas in the electoral spotlight is not new. In 2004, Texas became the fourth minority-majority state in the union; joining New Mexico, Hawaii, and California. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population increased by 42 percent, and now makes up 38 percent of the state’s population. In May of 2010, an article in the Texas Tribune asked, ‘Can Barack Obama Win Texas in 2012?’ At the time this was a valid question, but it seems silly given that Mitt Romney carried the state by a 16-point margin on November 6. In both 2008 and 2012, the President carried the other three minority-majority states but lost in Texas by a substantial spread. The question now is why.”

Unfortunately, the article does not provide me with a convincing explanation of why. It suggests:

  1. A large part of the answer lies in the state’s voting record. Historically, Texans have ranked near the bottom in voter participation, and this election was no different with Texas ranking 46th out of 50 states.
  2. The Republican Party in general ignores and sometimes demonizes would-be Hispanic voters. However, Republicans in Texas have made a concerted effort to attract more Hispanic voters and candidates.
  3. Another important factor likely to prevent Texas from becoming a swing state in the near term is the fact that the national Democratic Party has failed to commit the resources necessary to make Texas competitive.

The article concludes weakly, “Despite their efforts, the Texas Democratic Party has thus far failed to capitalize on the state’s minority-majority status. Perhaps Mayor Castro is the politician the Democrats need to turn the state blue—as it was for almost a century until the 1980s—but the state’s demographics will not be the only driving factor. For Texas to be competitive, more of the national party’s resources must be committed to the state.” The conclusion is weak because:

  • Texas wasn’t blue until the 1980s. Although the state was nominally Democratic until the 1980s, it has been, as Jon Stewart pointed out, conservative forever.
  • The Democratic Party has committed significant resources to the state – Battleground Texas PAC – but the effects, at least up to now, have been minimal.

Despite the prevalence of the “demographics is destiny” mantra in the liberal media, I subscribe to the opinion expressed in a Democracy Journal article titled, “Demography is Not Destiny.”  The article opines that, “It might be true that the GOP’s appeal will remain limited to whites. But it might also be true that the definition of “white” will change.” Its author Jamelle Bouie believes that white is equivalent to mainstream, and because of assimilation and intermarriage, many heretofore minorities, especially Hispanic and Asians, will begin to identify with the white/mainstream.

Makes sense to me.


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