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.

March 23, 2014

Sunday Book Review #129 – Changing Texas

Filed under: Culture,Economics,Education,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:32 pm
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Changing Texas is a demographic analysis of Texas projected out to 2050 conducted by a team led by the state’s former demographer, Steve Murdock.  In the introduction, Murdock claims that his objective is to present the demographic facts and not to prescribe intelligent public policy, but the book is subtitled “Implications of Addressing or Ignoring the Texas Challenge.”  From that subtitle, you should not be surprised that Murdock strongly implies what needs to be done.

Although this book is new (2014), Murdock’s opinions are not.  A few years ago, I heard him speak at a state-bar seminar and blogged about him.   Then about a year ago, there was a lengthy newspaper article that prompted me to do another blogpost, this one titled, “Is government responsible for ensuring that the education gap between Asian/Anglos and Blacks/Hispanics is narrowed?”

Murdock’s spiel, this time spread over 234 pages and more than 100 charts, is essentially the same as described in my previous posts – i.e., (a) Hispanics are ascendant and Anglos are a dying breed in Texas (only 21% of the state will be Anglo by 2050), and (b) Hispanics have not and will not accumulate capital (financial or educational).  The obvious result of this demographic trend is that the Texas economy will decline precipitously.

The public-policy correction, which Murdock promised not to make, is for government to somehow motivate/encourage/incentivize Blacks/Hispanics to accumulate capital.  A solution that he didn’t suggest was to motivate/encourage/incentivize Anglos to have more kids.  (Apparently, Anglo females for more than two decades have been having kids at less than the replacement rate of 2.1.)

As I noted in my previous blog, I don’t think this problem requires a race-based solution.  Not all Blacks/Hispanics are capital-poor and not all Anglos/Asians are resource rich.  Government should motivate/encourage/incentivize all resource-poor people, whether Black, White, or Brown, to accumulate capital – both financial and educational.

May 20, 2013

Sunday Book Review #101 – Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right by Erica Grieder

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 2:15 am
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This book about Texas might not have made it to my reading queue except the author is the daughter of a friend’s co-worker and my friend offered the inscribed book to me.  (For reading, not to keep.)  Big, hot, cheap, and right are apt descriptors of Texas, but as usual the subtitle tells what the book is really about – i.e., “What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas.” 

The Rivard Report did a brief pre-view of the book about a month ago, and also included an interesting interview of the author, who was in town for a book festival.   From the Rivard interview, I learned that, although Grieder spent some time in San Antonio as a child, she was really a military brat who had lived everywhere.  But her parents retired to San Antonio, and that probably explains why the book avoided the tendency in Texas to focus on Dallas and Houston and instead it talks more about San Antonio and Austin (where Grieder currently works for Texas Monthly magazine).  The book was also favorably reviewed in the NY Times. 

It is impossible to provide anything comprehensive in 234 pages, but Grieder does an amazing job of giving non-Texans a primer on Texas history and modern-day politics.  Just about every insightful Texas anecdote that I have ever heard is included, plus references to Lonesome Dove and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.

I just completed a political campaign where the candidates are supposed to be nonpartisan, and in the process I have become a bit sensitive about partisanship.  Grieder is clearly a partisan lover of Texas, but she seems to be both fair and objective in discussing the conservatives and progressives in Texas. 

Of course, since I am a conservative, that probably means that she is one, too.  And that explains why I enjoyed the book so much. 


p.s., Grieder has a blog

p.s., while writing in 2011 for New Republic, Grieder made a prediction about Presidential candidate Rick Perry that I’m sure she wants to bury:

  • A not insignificant portion of the national political establishment—consisting of panicky Democrats and Republicans alike—is hoping that Rick Perry’s commanding lead in recent Republican primary polls will wither under the lights of this month’s multiple presidential debates, beginning with tonight’s event at the Ronald Reagan Library in California. The governor of Texas may be a formidable retail politician, they reason, but as soon as he’s facing sustained, aggressive questioning, and is forced to speak off the cuff about policy, he’ll be exposed for what he truly is: A good ol’ boy who doesn’t have the brains or the manners to earn the public’s trust.
  • This is, to put it mildly, wishful thinking. Anyone who’s counting on Perry showing up this evening and tripping over himself, in the style of George W. Bush, is in for an unpleasant surprise. Perry has occasionally been a lazy debater and he is sometimes lackadaisical about keeping informed, but he has cultivated a number of rhetorical strengths.

Karl Rove, she ain’t. 




March 13, 2012

Voter ID is blocked in Texas

Filed under: Issues,Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:28 pm
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The Justice Department moved yesterday to block Texas from enforcing its new Voter ID law because it disproportionately affects minorities.  The Department’s move is authorized by the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits such laws in states, like Texas, that have a history of suppressing minority voting.

I have previously blogged about the effect of the Voting Rights Act on gerrymandering:

  • Thus, Republicans are much more ham-strung when it comes to gerrymandering than are Democrats.  Republicans can gerrymander to their heart’s content, but only if it doesn’t adversely affect minorities, who happen to be the base of the Democratic Party.  That doesn’t seem fair, and I can’t imagine why the Republican Party in 2006 under George W. Bush voted in favor of a 25-year extension of Section 5.  What were they thinking?

This latest Justice Department action reveals again the significance of the 25-year extension.

July 28, 2011

America – love it or leave it

As I was driving along Loop 1604 a few days ago, I was passed by one of the ubiquitous vehicles in San Antonio with Mexican license plates.  I have also noticed that, during my morning workouts at Lifetime Fitness, most of the women working out communicate in Spanish.  These observations suggest to me that news reports of well-to-do Mexicans deserting their country en masse for America are true.

America must be doing something right because it has been, and still is, the destination of choice throughout the world.  But there are signs of trouble in paradise.

Back when I was a kid, the phrase, “America – love it or leave it,” was thrown by conservatives at people who were protesting in favor of civil rights and against the Vietnam War.  In fact, many draft-age kids did leave America for Canada to dodge the draft.

It’s ironic that today it is the conservatives who talk about leaving America.  Texas governor Rick Perry has famously suggested, mostly in jest, that Texas may rely on some illusory treaty power to secede from the union if America continues its leftward tilt.  And I have a well-connected conservative friend who says the same thing – i.e., when the people looking for government handouts attain majority status in this democracy, it will be time to begin looking for another country that is less of a welfare state.  When I ask him to name that country, he says he’s not sure – maybe Australia.

My friend is no more serious than Governor Perry (or Alec Baldwin, who threatened to leave if Bush-43 were elected), but I wish people would be more willing to accept the democratic notion that we have elections to determine the will of the majority and that losing an election is not just cause for wanting America to fail (as Rush Limbaugh comes close to doing).

June 6, 2011

Open-container laws – a primer

In cars

Ever since moving to Texas in 1987, I have been fascinated by open-container laws.  Life in Texas seemed so refreshingly open after spending my first 22 years in straight-laced North Dakota, where a person would go to a liquor store to buy alcohol.  And don’t even consider looking for alcohol on a Sunday.  By contrast, Texas allowed you to buy beer at a grocery store and even on Sunday if you waited until noon.  For a libertarian like me, Texas was heaven on earth.

But then big government stuck their nose into our affairs and said that states would be denied their highway money if they continued to allow open containers in cars.  This law was called the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), and it was passed by Congress in 1998.
I still remember hearing a senator from my home state of North Dakota reporting to his incredulous voters that he could legally drive from
Washington, D.C. to Texas with beer in his car.  My first thought was, “So what?”  My second thought was, “What’s it to you?”

Because Texas was unwilling to buck the federal government and lose all that highway money (actually the money would be redirected toward an alcohol-awareness campaign), Texas capitulated and made open containers illegal.  Fortunately, TEA-21 expired in 2003, and open-containers laws are in retreat.  Currently one state (Mississippi) allows a driver and passengers to have an open container and eight others (Arkansas,
Connecticut, Delaware, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia) allow passengers to have an open container.

Driving while under the influence is America’s problem; not driving while drinking.

Come on Texas; what are you waiting for?

On the streets

I had never experienced open-containers on public streets until I traveled to Progresso, a Mexican border town in the Valley.  The experience was wonderful – I loved to shop the markets while drinking a frozen strawberry margarita.  Of course, that aspect of the trip made it seem all the more exotic.

Then a few years ago, I made my first trip to New Orleans and discovered that hurricanes and frozen margaritas were allowed on the streets there, too.  Once again, the experience was wonderful and it left me with the sense of having visiting an exotic location.

A couple of weeks ago in St. Louis, my son Mikey was telling me about a trip that he took to Memphis, and he reported that he had a great time on Beale Street, partly because he was able to walk around with a drink.  That sounded so interesting that I almost detoured to Memphis on my way back to San Antonio, and I am much more likely to visit there in the future.

For future reference, I decided to find out whether there are any other cities like Memphis or New Orleans.  According to Wikipedia, all but seven states prohibit open-containers on streets – the lucky seven are Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  Unfortunately, nearly all of the cities in those states outlaw open-containers.  But there are a few exceptions – in addition to Memphis and New Orleans, there is Las Vegas, NV; Butte, MT; Power & Light District of Kansas City, MO; the Savannah Historic District in Savanna, GA; and the Main Street Shopping District of Fredericksburg, TX.

Come on, San Antonio; what are you waiting for?

April 23, 2011

Texas ban on texting while driving

I previously mentioned that the Texas legislature was considering a ban on texting while driving (TWD).  My son Mikey responded by asking if he would still be able to surf the internet while driving.  Good question, so I promised to read the law.

By doing a little research, I learned that several texting bills have been filed, but only one has been passed by the House and forwarded to the Senate – H.B. 243.  The relevant language in this bill provides:

  • “An operator may not use a wireless communication device to write or send a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.

In its original version, H.B. 243 prohibited sending or receiving texts, but it was amended to apply only to sending texts despite a proponent’s argument that it would be an “administrative nightmare” for police to have to determine whether a driver was reading or typing.  As a practical matter, I think police officers would need to examine the cell phones for evidence of a violation, and I don’t think they have the right to conduct that type of search. 

Incidentally, while reviewing legislation in other states, I noticed that some states ban sending or receiving texts, while others take a broader position by prohibiting “distracted driving,” which would include texting.  That broader sort of law makes a lot more sense, but Texas legislators have rejected it in favor of a narrow law that may be virtually unenforceable. 

Thus, the answer to Mikey’s question is that, even if the Texas bill passes the Senate and becomes effective in September, he not only can surf the internet while driving, but also can receive and read texts.  And I’m not sure how the police would ever be able to charge him with texting while driving unless the police officer is in his back seat looking over his shoulder.

The ultimate objective, however, is not to arrest people, but to change behavior, and as one police chief explained a municipal ban on texting:

  • You know, the criticism has been, ‘Officers won’t be able to enforce it, people will say they were dialing the phone,’ McManus said. “But here’s the bottom line for me: If a law is passed, there are going to be people who obey it simply because it’s on the books. There are folks out there who will obey a law because it’s on the books. There are others who will probably not. But the fact of the matter is, I believe there will be fewer people texting, which will make our roads safer.”

March 16, 2011

Childless legislators in Texas

An article in today’s issue of the Texas Tribune examined whether Texas legislators, especially those mean-spirited Republicans who are reportedly planning to destroy public education in Texas, send their kids to public schools.  The results may surprise liberals, but they are consistent with other studies that show heartless conservatives are more likely to contribute to charity than liberals. 

According to the Texas Tribune survey, Democrats are more than twice as likely to send their kids to a private school – 19% vs. 7%.  Even more interesting, Democrats are five times as likely to either have no kids or have kids too young for school.  That seems to confirm the stereotype of Democrats as the party of urban singles and the Republicans as the party of community and family values.  Two other interesting issues are raised in the article:

  1. Privacy.  Almost 10% of the elected officials refused to participate in the survey, usually with the explanation that the question was too invasive. 
  2. Irrelevant.  One legislator (David Bradley, Beaumont-R) said he was annoyed at the suggestion that having kids in public schools had anything to do with being qualified.    

Both of those positions are indefensible, and I can’t imagine serious politicians makings those arguments to their voters.  Although having kids is not a requirement for elected office, it is a qualification that American voters consider and value before making voting decisions.  Life in America may be less family-oriented than in the past, but there is no danger of any other lifestyle replacing it anytime soon.

February 16, 2011

History standards for Texas schools

Last year, Texas was one of two states that refused to participate in an interstate consortium to develop nationwide standards for public-school curricula.  Our position was that, because our standards were already top-notch, there was no good reason for us to allow others to dilute those standards.  (That’s a Texas thing.)  But, according to an article in today’s San Antonio Express-News, our standards for teaching history aren’t as good as we thought they were. 

The Express-News article concerns a report issued by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute (a D.C. think tank not associated with Fordham University).  The report is highly critical Texas’s new history standards that were adopted last year by a staunchly conservative State Board of Education.  According to the report’s authors, the State Board had attempted to remove prior left-wing bias, but had over-reacted so that now there is a right-wing bias (over-emphasizing religion, patriotism, and American exceptionalism):

  • They are trying to resurrect the old triumphal narrative in which everything in American history is wonderful as opposed to the left-wing narrative in which America is uniquely evil.  In the end, who suffers but students, because they don’t learn real history at all?”

To make matters worse, the Board failed to correct the existing left-wing bias for teaching history like a social-studies course:

  • While such social studies doctrine is usually associated with the relativist and diversity-obsessed educational left, the right-dominated Texas Board of Education made no effort to replace traditional social studies dogma with substantive historical content. Instead, it seems to have grafted on its own conservative talking points….  The strange fusion of conventional left-wing education theory and right-wing politics undermines content….”

The Express-News relies on the Fordham report to support its position that the State Board is an embarrassment that needs to be brought to its senses.  The E-N article is filled with quotations of the Institute’s harsh criticism of the Texas standards, and the quotations are an accurate reflection of the Institute’s report.  But the E-N fails to note that, although the Texas standards received a “D” grade, so did nine other states.  Furthermore, 19 states received a failing grade of “F.”  Thus, only 22 states did better than Texas. 

In the world of education, that is not a surprising ranking for Texas to have.  So let’s not act like these right-leaning standards are a major problem with Texas education.

February 7, 2011

Voter ID in Texas

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:04 pm
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One of the sideshows at the Texas legislature is a Republican effort to pass a law that requires voters to have a photo ID to identify themselves prior to voting.  For many Republicans, this seems like a no-brainer.  In this era of identity theft, virtually everything you do requires identification; why should voting be any different? 

Not surprisingly Democrats disagree.  A state senator from San Antonio recently authored an op-ed piece describing how a voter-ID law would work a hardship on voters in his district and would “diminish our democracy.” 

Democrats feel so strongly about this issue that they filibustered it during the last legislative session.  To avoid a filibuster during this session, the Republicans in the Senate adopted a rule that a filibuster could be used against any bill except one dealing with voter ID. 

Last week the voter-ID bill was presented on the Senate floor for debate.  The Democrats proposed 40 amendments during six hours of debate.  Ultimately, the Senate approved the bill on a straight party-line vote of 19-11, and now it moves onto to the House, where Republicans hold a 101-49 majority.  That should mean smooth sailing.

Regarding the Democratic argument that this bill is a solution in search of a problem, I disagree.  Although I have not been an election judge, I have heard and read about the electioneering in poor districts where people are paid to produce voters.  For great reporting on this subject, see the two-part article by Lucy Snearley in the South Texas Oracle.     The voter-ID law won’t eliminate that sort of unethical practice, but it will discourage it.

Democrats have a history of endorsing this sort of heavy-handed electioneering because it helps them win elections (e.g., see Obama and ACORN), and to them the ends justify the means.  That helps explain why some impoverished districts vote 95-99% Democratic in contested elections.  That also helps explain why Democrats opposed secret-ballot elections for unionizing. 

We need more people doing the right thing for America, even if that is contrary to their personal interest.

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