By Ian Rosoff
The state of Texas has a population of a little over 26 million, that’s good enough to garner the Friendship State 34 votes in the Electoral College. For the Republican Party Texas is their most important state. Two Senators and 24 Congressman roam the halls of the Capitol during the week and head back to the ranch on the weekends.
The governor of Texas is probably the best stepping stone to the Presidency for any Republican. Remember that before people realized Rick Perry didn’t know how to tie his shoes, let alone run a country, he was leading in the polls.
So what would happen to the political world if the impossible happened, Texas turned blue?
A million years ago Texas was blue. Lyndon B. Johnson was a Democratic President from Texas, but looking at the state’s political landscape over the last few decades the only way you could possible see a Democratic Texan taking the White House is if you watched the last season of The West Wing.
One of the reasons Dems have such a hard time in Texas is that the party runs laughably bad candidates in most Congressional districts. What Democrat in their right mind would volunteer to spend money and time running a race they are sure of losing? The result is that turnout on both sides becomes abysmal.
Gerrymandering certainly doesn’t help the situation. According to the NYT 2012 election map Texas had zero toss up districts and only the Texas 23rd was even close and it’s still leaning red. None of this is likely to change as long as the Republican Party controls the governorship and the statehouse, but the demographics of the state are changing in an interesting way.
Almost all of the Democratic districts in Texas are clustered together in the Deep South up against the border with Mexico. According to the last census 38% of Texans are of Hispanic decent. Electorally that translates to 4.2 million eligible Hispanic voters.
More importantly this is an extremely young constituency. According to Pew some 32% of eligible Hispanic voters are age 18 to 29 and the national average is 22%. That means Texas has a large, young, and growing minority population whose political allegiance is (if the fact that districts bordering Mexico are moving blue means anything) slightly left on non-abortion issues.
It’s not going to happen overnight, but Texas is going to get contentious. If Democrats want to compete they will have to start putting money into developing the party in a state that they have essentially abandoned.
Republicans must no longer take Texas for granted and begin to court the Latino vote in serious ways. Currently turnout in Texas is predictably low. When there is no competition that’s bound to happen, but competition is the lifeblood of our democracy. For example Rick Perry was able to win the Republican primary for governor with only 2% of the voting-age population. Beating the Democrat’s sacrificial lamb was a forgone conclusion so essentially less than half a million people in a state of 26 million decided the governorship.
I don’t think Texas will go blue in a Presidential race anytime soon, but the next race may see a Hillary or Biden or Cuomo at least make a stop in Austin. This is one argument for why more money in politics is potentially a positive. It gives the parties the chance to use precious resources in districts that seldom see any. The Electoral College places undue import on established swing states and both parties ignore opportunities to try and create new ones. Texas may be an opportunity.