Sunday, November 6, 2016

Don’t buy the “Texas Is Turning Blue” Myth

I can’t help but remember that all these polls that have Democrat Hillary Clinton within striking distance of Republican Donald Trump in Tuesday’s presidential election in Texas are the same ones that had Democrat Wendy Davis within striking distance of Greg Abbott in the Texas gubernatorial race just two years ago. Even I drank the Kool-Aid that time around — Wow!, I thought. Perhaps Wendy might have a shot at this.

And what happened? Abbott crushed her. Devastated her. Wasn’t even close. Abbott’s margin of victory was 20 percentage points.

Trump will carry Texas Tuesday, although not by the 16-point margin Mitt Romney won it in 2012 or even the 14-point margin by which John McCain carried the state four years earlier. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump wins by double digits, say around 10.5 percent.

I also suspect Hillary Clinton is going to win the presidency Tuesday and, if that is indeed the case, Democrats’s chances of winning anything statewide in Texas anytime in the near future are completely destroyed. The one thing Texas Republicans hate more than Democrats, especially national Democrats, is Hillary Clinton. In 2018, when Texas will hold its next statewide elections, Republicans will turn out to the polls in record numbers, some to vote for Republican statewide candidates, but many more to register their hate of a Clinton administration.

But there are other, even more significant, reasons Texas will not be turning blue, at least within my lifetime.

First, there are no possible Democratic candidates out there. Can anyone name a Texas Democrat that could run a legitimate statewide campaign? The only ones who come close are the Castro bothers (U.S. Rep Joaquin and his twin, HUD Secretary Julian) but both of them are considered too politically savvy to take on Abbott, especially when you throw in the fact that Abbott had $28 million in his campaign chest at the end of June. No Democrat can match that financial advantage, which will only grow much larger by the time the 2018 elections roll around.

The same is true in the U.S. Senate race. If there is any significant competition for Ted Cruz in his re-election bid, it will come, not from Democrats, but from a possible Republican challenger in the primary, namely Land Commissioner George P. Bush or former Gov. Rick Perry. Lt Gov. Dan Patrick might even think his solid support from the Trump wing along with this obvious Tea Party credentials could carry him to a victory over Cruz in the primary. Other possibles include a trio of GOP congressmen, Michael McCaul, Jeb Hensarling or even Louie Gohmert, although I think Gohmert is more likely to challenge John Cornyn four years hence. What Democrat stands a chance against any of those? Davis? Leticia Van de Putte, whose last statewide race also ended in a 20-point loss?

Second, the Texas Republican Party, in no manner whatsoever, mirrors the national GOP. The Tea Party is firmly in control of the Texas Republican Party. On the national level, the Tea Party is nothing more than an irritant with some, albeit limited, influence that is losing its strength with the insurgency of Trumpism into the party. The only Republican who has anything to fear is more traditional pro-business Republican Speaker of the Texas House Joe Strauss, who faces another Tea Party revolt. The real question in Texas politics is not whether Texas can turn blue, but which faction will control the Republican party: traditional business Republicans, the Tea Party or Trump’s supporters?

And while a lot has been written about how women, especially suburban women, are drifting into the orbit of the Democratic Party nationally, that is definitely not the case in Texas – both white males and white females are solidly Republican, regardless of where they live.

Not only that, the Texas Hispanic population, while largely anti-Trump, is not necessarily as much anti-GOP. They are thankful that a Republican-dominated legislature passed a bill allowing for in-state tuition at public colleges and universities for immigrants in the country illegally. They remember that bill was signed into law by Republican Gov. Perry. And they are also fond of Abbott’s Mexican-American wife Cecilia, All Republicans need to do to continue their political domination in Texas is split the Hispanic vote, or at least not lose it by more than 55 percent, and, to date, they have been successful in doing that.

Admittedly, most of this "Texas is trending blue" foolishness is coming from political observers located outside the state of Texas and it seems especially popular among former Texas who are Democratic dreamers living outside the state. Those of us who live here, unfortunately, have to live with the political realities, as painful as those realities might be for me and my fellow progressives.

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