A new piece in the New York Times takes a look at recent migration patterns to Southern states, and suggests that the reason for Virginia and Florida’s quick path to swing status is based more on their migratory patterns than anything else. Here’s the post from Nate Cohn…
There are four times as many Northeastern expats in Florida as there are in Texas; there are more Northeastern expats in Virginia and North Carolina than in Texas; and there are nearly as many Northeastern expats in Georgia, at 816,729, as there are in Texas, at 929,692.
But in Texas, population growth is propelled by high in-state birthrates, a growing foreign-born population and domestic migration from just about everywhere in the country except the heavily Democratic Northeast, including elsewhere in the South. That makes Texas much more like Alabama or Tennessee than Florida, Virginia and North Carolina, which are the only three Southern states where there’s more migration from the Northeast and West Coast than from elsewhere in Dixie.
The proportion of native-born residents from the South versus the Northeast and California roughly parallels President Obama’s share of the white vote in 2012, which was lowest in states like Mississippi and Louisiana and as high as the mid-30s in Virginia and Florida. Those tallies are good enough for victory in states where nonwhite voters make an above-average contribution to Democratic tallies, as is the case across most of the South.
Democrats were able to become competitive so quickly in states like Virginia and North Carolina because they combined a growing nonwhite share of the electorate with gains among white voters, particularly in postindustrial metropolitan areas full of Northern expats. Without additional gains among white voters, Democrats will be forced to wait a long time for the children of foreign-born residents to carry them to competitiveness in Texas, a state that Mr. Obama lost by 17 points in 2012, and where there isn’t a flood of Democratic-leaning voters from New York to bail them out.
Though the research on state migration is appreciated, Mr. Cohn’s other assertions are wholly incorrect. Texas hasn’t become a blue state or a swing state yet for one reason and one reason only… turnout. As the Lone Star State’s voter participation increases, the state will become more reflective of the citizens that actually live here. In the article, Mr. Cohn completely neglects to mention that Texas’ voter turnout, pales in comparison to Florida or Virginia. In the 2012 elections, only 49.7 percent of Texans showed up to the polls, while 63.5 percent of Floridians and 66.4 percent of Virginians cared to vote. What should we expect Texas politics to look like if only a minority of the voting age population takes the time to make the state’s major decisions? To be perfectly honest, we have no way to accurately measure the state’s political views until a majority of the state shows up at the polls.
And if one is waiting around for the Lone Star State to all of a sudden become like New York or Boston, please stop holding your breath. On the whole, people are more Conservative in Texas… at least the way they understand Conservatism. Liberal vs. Conservative is not the same as Democrat vs. Republican. No one should expect for Texas to elect a decidedly Liberal Democrat Governor like Deval Patrick. But a Conservative Democrat like Wendy Davis is certainly electable here, especially with higher voter turnout and a clear understanding of where she and her opponent stand on the issues.
Finally, above demographics, Texas needs good candidates and a functioning Democratic apparatus to show the state’s true political propensity. Cohn is writing about a state that hasn’t hosted a General Election debate in nearly a decade. People in this state are indoctrinated with only one side of the political scale. However in 2014 with Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, the mold has been broken, and Texas Democrats are back in the saddle.
No one denies that demographic changes will be an important factor in the future of America, and in the state of Texas. But can we please stop assuming that it’s the only thing that matters in politics? No disrespect to Mr. Cohn, but before you decide the fate of Texas politics, take a spin in some of our boots first.