For all of the craziness that has gone on within the national GOP, things have been pretty standard here in Texas. After all this is one constant in the world of American politics… Texas is reliably REPUBLICAN. Now the largest state to carry that title, and certainly the one with the most political clout.
But one thing you learn very quickly living in the “Patron State” of the GOP… things aren’t always how they appear to be. If you listen carefully, there’s a stampede happening down here in Texas. And it threatens not only the political structure of Austin, but the Republican Party as we know it.
Texas Republicans are losing the demographic race. With each year, the state of Texas loses white citizens, and gains in minorities (mainly Hispanic), who tend to vote Democrat. If projections are correct, 2010 was the last Census that Non-Hispanic whites will even be the majority in the state. Literally any minute now, the single largest racial group will be Hispanic.
Rather than embrace this new reality and try to engage the rapid growth and Conservative possibilities within the Hispanic community, the Texas GOP has chosen to fight it tooth and nail. With the 2010 Census the state was awarded a whopping 4 new seats to Congress. It’s a massive reflection of the population swell. But despite the fact 65% of the states population growh was Hispanic, Texas Republicans cooked up a Redistricting process that somehow produced 3 new “majority white” Congressional seats. Only one seat will go to a very new (and very convoluted) majority Hispanic district. After an aggressive and painful court battle, there is a temporary ruling in place through the November elections. Unlike years past, the Hispanic community definitely took notice in the redistricting brawl, resulting in a surge of Democratic voters.
Along with the racial and ethnic pendulum shift, it’s no secret that Texas is also rapidly becoming more urban. Of the more than 4 million people that Texas gained between 2000 and 2010, more than 1/3rd of them were in just six of the state’s 254 counties… Harris (Houston), Dallas, Tarrant (Ft. Worth), Bexar (San Antonio), Travis (Austin) and El Paso. The same 6 counties, along with their immediate suburbs, also grew rapidly more diverse.
In the 2008 election, five of these six counties voted for Obama. This is typical for most urban areas across the country, but it’s less typical for Texas. With the state’s population clearly shifting to urban areas, it does not bode well for GOP prospects. If the trends hold, the GOP may have already lost Texas’ major cities… for good. 2008 was also the first time in Texas history that more than 3 million votes were cast for a Democratic candidate. That’s an increase of almost 700,000 Democrats from the 2004 election, and the most significant increase among the Democratic electorate in Texas. It’s just an example of the massive potential there is to be harnassed in Texas.
So is anyone surprised by the growing efforts to purge Texas voters? These actions have been unprecedented in states like Florida and Pennsylvania this year, but Texas takes the cake. The Houston Chronicle reports that 1.5 million residents are in danger of losing their voting rights unless they provide additional documentation to the state to prove that they are legal Texans. Interesting that the state of Texas, already having cut 5 billion dollars from a very needy public education system, somehow finds the funding to ensure that its voters are who they say they are by shifting the burden of proof to them. Oh, and costing the taxpayers more money in postage, records checks and verification time.
Even beyond the natural demographic shifts, let’s not forget that Republicans continue to alienate potential voters thanks to social issues… especially on immigration reform, and GLBT equality. Rather than try to be leaders and recognize the shifts within our country, the GOP has decided to “double down” on backward policies like DOMA, self-deportation and being firmly against the DREAM Act. With anemic growth prospects among it’s own ranks, Republicans have now been forced to court and legitamize the Religious Right as their only hope of beating Obama and the Democrats. Think about it… if Mitt Romney were HALF the respectful politician that John McCain were, would he really need to continue to engage Donald Trump? 2010 was the year that this painful coalition between extremists and Republicans formed, and thanks to Mitt Romney, they have now walked the plank. If changes aren’t made within the party soon, the only GOP signs we’ll be seeing will be in History books.