11.09.12

It won’t just happen – The Democratic demographic myth in Texas

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Commentary, Election 2012, Take Action, Williamson County at 11:16 am by wcnews

Texas, and Williamson County, are different.  While there were many things to be happy about on Tuesday, at a national level, Texas and Williamson County were a whole different story.  Via the Texas Tribune, Against the Grain, Texas GOP Dominated on Election Day.

Democratic victories across the nation left Republican voters and activists with the political version of a hangover last week. In the alternate universe known as Texas, they are blaming the Champagne.

Republicans here are celebrating another statewide sweep. They held onto huge majorities in the Legislature and the Texas congressional delegation. And at a time of increasing angst about their ability to thrive as the Hispanic population grows, the Texas Republican Party has fielded the first Hispanic U.S. senator from Texas — Ted Cruz.

There was a little good new is Texas for Democrats.

There are some caveats to the victory narrative. Just as Republicans had some bright spots nationally, Democrats in Texas are crowing about a handful of electoral successes here.

In the state’s only congressional swing district, state Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, was declared the winner against U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco, R-San Antonio, though Canseco has not conceded. State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, whose defeat would have brought Republicans one vote shy of an unbreakable two-thirds majority in that chamber, hung on in a district drawn to elect a Republican. And, with an influx of minority voters over the last decade, there will be more Democrats in the Legislature as a result of a redistricting process.

Scattered among the state’s election results are some warning signs for Republicans looking at a future that might not be as accommodating to their policy prescriptions and sometimes harsh rhetoric on hot-button social issues.

At the top of the ticket, Democrats were either tied with or dominating Republicans in four of the five largest counties, forcing Republicans to count on ever-larger margins in predominately white suburban and rural areas to stay on top.

Democrats, meanwhile, picked off three Republican incumbents in legislative races, but none of their own lost re-election contests. Three Republican incumbents also lost races — to little-known Democrats with Hispanic surnames — for seats on the 4th Court of Appeals in heavily Hispanic South Texas.

But it ended with this about what’s needed.

For Democrats, the day when Hispanics vote in high enough numbers to help put them back into statewide competition cannot come soon enough. Richard Morrison, a Democrat, barely won his re-election as a Fort Bend county commissioner — over a Republican abandoned by his own county party after records showed he had voted in both Texas and Pennsylvania three times, an alleged felony.

“Someone is going to have to come down here and invest significant money on turning out the Latino population. It’s going to take about $25 million,’’ Morrison said. “Until they do that we’re just going to be in the same spot.’’

That’s what I call, The coming Democratic demographic myth in Texas, because it won’t just happen without the needed work. It takes a lot of money to create what Obama did nationally in Texas, Republican Reckoning Begins After Revealing Defeat.

Republican Party leaders on Wednesday began picking up the pieces of their movement, trying to figure how to put them back together.

The GOP was blindsided Tuesday, but also revealed. The Democrats’ ground organization was beyond anything they’d imagined, pulling in new voters with stunning effectiveness. It exposed a major weakness in the Republican approach to winning elections, practically and intellectually.

“I don’t think anyone on our side understood or comprehended how good their turnout was going to be,” said Henry Barbour, a Republican committee man from Mississippi. “The Democrats do voter registration like a factory, like a business, and Republicans tend to leave it to the blue hairs.”

But President Barack Obama’s triumphant get-out-the-vote program also pulled back the curtain on the GOP’s looming demographic demise. The exposure was so severe that there will be few inside the party who can deny the need to work toward immigration reform, as well the need to make a broader effort to communicate to parts of the electorate that the party has not tried to in the past.

When we are told certain outcomes are inevitable we check that box and think it has already being done.  It’s as if we think since were told it is going to happen anyway, it already has, and there’s no need to work for that goal anymore. Just because were told that something is going to happen, it doesn’t mean it is inevitable. The work must still be done to insure that it actually does happen.

The most obvious example of this is the eventuality of a Latino voting Democratic demographic wave in Texas, that will turn Texas blue, or at least purple in the near future.  At this time at least it is a myth and it seems to be keeping too many Democrats – at all levels (federal, state, and local) – from making the needed investments, in money and human capital, to insure that the wave actually happens.

From the Texas Observer’s Forrest Wilder in April 2012, Demographics No Longer Destiny for Democrats

Demographics, we are told, is destiny. But people and parties make their own destinies. For more than a decade, Texas Democrats have failed repeatedly to take advantage of the incredible potential among Latino voters. The problem is well known: Latino turnout in Texas is abysmal compared to other states. In 2008, 38 percent of Texas Latinos went to the polls. In California the turnout was 57 percent. Everyone knows this. The party’s old guard doesn’t put much time or effort into engaging and energizing potential Latino voters. Rather, its main strategy involves putting a Latino at the top of the ballot—think Tony Sanchez for governor or Rick Noriega for U.S. Senate—and hoping that Latinos will magically turn out to vote. Guess what? It doesn’t work.There are signs that Democrats are finally going on the offensive. The party recently launched The Promesa Project, an effort to get young Latinos to “promise” to act as “Democratic messengers to their families and social networks,” according to the project’s website. The party is investing $1 million in it. Better than nothing. Yet Promesa, modeled on the “Great Schlep,” a 2008 initiative deployed in Florida to get young Jews to convince their grandparents to vote for Obama, is only a complement, not a substitute, to the dull, block-by-block work needed to enfranchise Latinos. Until that happens, Texas Democrats run the risk of becoming even more irrelevant.

Anyone who thinks the changes that are needed in Texas are inevitable, or that change will be made without a hard-won fight, is kidding themselves.

GOP letting Democrats win the center.

True, Texas will remain Republican in the short term. But the changing political face of the state’s cities and the slow but steady emergence of Latino votes will eventually make it less of a tea party state.

[...]

Here’s what Republicans should worry about, even if they win. Democrats are starting to own the center in Texas with candidates like White and Sadler. These are not Democrats who line up with the party’s more liberal national profile. Coming up are leaders such as Julian Castro, San Antonio’s mayor; his twin brother, Joaquin, who is likely to win a congressional seat this year; and Rafael Anchia, a persuasive Dallas state representative. These crossover Democrats know how to win independents and moderate Republicans.

When Texas finally becomes more competitive, which will happen because of Democratic growth in major cities and Latinos shaping outcomes, candidates like these will know how to win elections. They will be in the center, talking realistically to Texans about building better transportation systems, supplying enough water and growing our economy.

Where will Republicans be?

In trouble, and with leaders still screeching about abolishing the education department, securing the borders or the latest right-wing cause. Meanwhile, Texans will want candidates who know how to make the state work.

I don’t think the GOP in Texas is worried about any of that. As long as they continue to see that the Democrats aren’t making the needed investments to change anything, they really don’t believe it’s going to happen, nor should they.

And as far as what’s going to happen with the budget next session, as much as I want to agree with Kuff, The Lege is going to have to spend some money, I don’t think that’s how the GOP sees it at all. This is the chance they’ve been waiting for to defund everything Texas government spends money on that they hate. And public education has always been at the top of their list.

One axiom I believe – and it applies to life, sports, and politics – is that things are never as good or as bad as they seem.  Another is that there’s no such thing as luck, we make luck through hard work.  The truth is nothing is going to change unless we make it. Too many of us, too often see Election Day as the end, when it should be seen as the beginning of the democratic process.  The day after this election is the day to start organizing for the next one.  (More on that soon).

Much more to read on the subject:

[UPDATE]: Great post here from Letters From Texas, Rotkoff: Texas Democrats know how to win – we already are.

Paul Burka about two weeks ago all but declared the Democratic Party dead in Texas, The Baselice Poll

The lesson here is that the worst thing that can happen to the state Democratic Party, or what’s left of it, is to have an unpopular Democratic president in the White House. The Democratic brand is ruined in Texas. The last Democrat to carry Texas was Jimmy Carter in 1976, and he was defeated in the Reagan landslide of 1980.

The right wing of the Texas GOP fully intends to keep it’s well-won austerity program in place in Texas, Issues facing Texas Legislature will impact energy industry even though Burka thinks funding will be restored.

Here’s Julian Castro on the work that needs to be done, Texas Democrats need more groundwork to turn the state blue, says Julián Castro.

Hispanic vote should be a clue for Texas Republicans.
Texas’ GOP Loses Ground with Hispanic Candidates.
Texas public schools require more funding to serve Hispanics, expert testifies in finance trial.
Demographer warns of increasing education costs as Latino population rises.

5 Comments »

  1. Eye on Williamson » TPA Blog Round Up (November 12, 2012) said,

    November 12, 2012 at 9:17 am

    [...] WCNews at Eye on Williamson tells us now that the election is over it’s time to get to work, It won’t just happen – The Democratic demographic myth in Texas. [...]

  2. Texas blog roundup for the week of November 12 – Off the Kuff said,

    November 15, 2012 at 4:47 am

    [...] WCNews at Eye on Williamson tells us now that the election is over it’s time to get to work, It won’t just happen – The Democratic demographic myth in Texas. [...]

  3. Eye on Williamson » It won’t just happen…(continued) said,

    November 23, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    [...] posted on this after the election about how Democrats can win again in Texas and Williamson County, It won’t just happen –  The Democratic demographic myth in Texas.  That all came to mind again when I read this AAS article today, Despite shifting demographics, [...]

  4. Eye on Williamson » Again…It won’t just happen said,

    December 17, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    [...] ask. He shows how the “inevitablity” of the demographic voting shift in Texas won’t just happen. t was, admittedly, an unscientific [...]

  5. Eye on Williamson » Future Democratic success in Texas said,

    January 23, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    [...] future success of Democrats in Texas.  (See EOW’s previous thoughts on this kind of stuff, here and here.)  Summed up here: When we are told certain outcomes are inevitable we check that box and [...]

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