To do justice to a discussion of Texas, this writer’s analysis will be broken into two parts. Since Democrats believe that Texas is in play come 2020 given Trump’s tepid numbers, the number of retiring incumbents, and changing demographics, this part will deal strictly with demographics since Democrats seem to believe that is their key to victory, if not in 2020, then in the upcoming decade.
Texas is a conservative state with the largest share of minority voters. After 2019, the composition of the state legislature under GOP control is 96% white Republicans. Overall, whites make up just 41% of the Texas population. These changing trends have convinced some Republican strategists to fret that if the party fails to recruit minorities, the days of GOP dominance in the state will disappear.
These changing demographics, the influx of young professionals from outside Texas and liberalization of key metropolitan areas have Democrats salivating. Of course, this has ramifications up and down the ballot. Should Democrats capture either part of the state legislature in 2020- especially the house- they would have a greater say in drawing district maps after the 2020 Census.
By 2022, Latinos are expected to surpass whites as the predominant ethnic group in the state. It should also be mentioned that other groups like Asians and Hindus have established large communities in Texas. In the 2018 Senate race between O’Rourke and Ted Cruz, there was an upswing in support for O’Rourke in the fast-growing and increasingly diverse suburbs of Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. All these areas tended to vote Republican previously. Also, there was a 234% increase in turnout among young voters under the age of 24 statewide compared to the 2014 midterms.
Republican insiders are secretly fretting over this erosion of support in the suburbs and the influx of non-Texans migrating to the state in search of jobs and low taxes. The main fear is that many, who hail from states bleeding population like Illinois and California, will import their liberal tendencies.
Democrats are living under the rubric that demographics are political destiny. It is what they want you believe, too. It is a pervasive argument because all the pundits want it to be true. What they often overlook, however, is the realignment of working class people away from the Democrats. What they do not tell you is that all those liberals from Illinois and California who now call Texas their home supported the reelection of Ted Cruz in 2018 with 63% of their vote.
Demographics matter, but it is not destiny. Hispanics are far from a monolithic voting block. There is a vast difference between the Cuban residing in Florida, the Puerto Rican in New York, and the Mexican-American in Texas. It helps explain why Hispanics in Texas are 10-20% more likely to self-identify as conservative than their counterparts in other states with large Hispanic populations. Hispanics are identified as a voting bloc to the Democrats, but they, like most Americans, vote based on their own individual wants and worries.
Instead of pure demographics dictating destiny, messaging is a much more important tool. Most researchers have shown that Hispanic Republicans in Texas will likely be the difference come 2020 up and down the ballot. The GOP has long relied on Hispanic Republicans in the state to win elections. Every study out there shows that Texan Hispanic voters tend to support Republican candidates at much greater rates than Hispanics in other states. Statewide GOP candidates regularly get between 20-48% of the Hispanic vote in Texas.
Instead, Democrats are relying upon some common myths regarding Hispanic voters. They are inclined to believe they are natural Democrats. Perhaps that is true nationally, but certainly not in Texas. Second, they believe that Hispanics are less conservative. Maybe so on some issues, but that certainly does not make them moderates and they are not all falling in line with the socialist messaging of Democrats. Third, they believe that Hispanic Republicans are growing more moderate as the national GOP becomes more conservative, but polling data shows that as the GOP nationally became more conservative under Trump, so did Republican Hispanics. And in another poll, despite efforts to portray the contrary, 60% of Hispanic Republicans say they feel welcome in the GOP.
The one key difference between the national GOP and Texan Hispanic Republicans is border security and immigration policy. On all other issues, they are in line with Trump’s trade policy, judicial nominations, deregulation, illegal voting in Texas, abortion, and gun control. Hence, we are back to messaging, not demographics.
It is obvious that the building blocks of support for the GOP among the Texas Hispanic community are present. They are more pro-life, they favor low taxation and they embrace religion more than Hispanic Democrats. As one strategist said, however, it is a shaky fulcrum upon which that support rests: “The right message can attract Latino voters, but the wrong message can repel them.”
It should also be noted that although it was a close race for Ted Cruz in 2018, he still managed to pull in 35% of the Hispanic vote while Lupe Valdez, the Democrat running for Governor, pulled in 53% of the Hispanic vote while Governor Greg Abbott got 42% of the vote. Even though Hispanic turnout doubled from 2014 to 2018, it did not translate into a “blue wave.”
Where the GOP may see some warning signs is in the areas of population growth. In the 27 counties around the big metro areas, their proportion of the total electorate has grown to 52% over the past 50 years. Meanwhile, voters in the rural counties- excluding the Democratic stronghold counties along the Rio Grande- has shrunk from 38% of the electorate to just 8% in the same time period.
There is also another trend in Texas that needs to be mentioned- unions. Texas proudly bills itself as a right-to-work state. This has prevented organized labor to achieve political supremacy in Texas, unlike California and New York. What has happened in the metropolitan areas of Texas is unions gaining a foothold and pushing progressive policies and programs. The goal is simple: make the cost to run a non-unionized business cost-prohibitive, throw in some possible labor strife, mix it together and convince municipal officials that the alternative other than a unionized workforce is much worse.
Organized labor has invested millions into Texas to unionize businesses that have nothing to do wth the government. Still, one has to question why, for example, SEIU would invest millions in Houston? The answer is not membership and union dues. The answer is the accumulation of political clout and an army of union worker voter drones that can sway elections. Such was their strategy in places like Los Angeles which last elected a GOP mayor 20 years ago.
Now that the demographic apocalypse in Texas is placed into a more proper perspective- i.e., things are not as bad at it looks overall- in part 2 the politics of the state will be examined more closely