“Waiting for Godot” in Texas

I have three things to say about this.

“It’s only a matter of time.”

For more than a decade, that thought has provided solace to the out-of-power Democrats who dream of turning Texas blue, much like it was before Ronald Reagan won the state in 1980. The appeal for Democrats is obvious. If President Obama, for example, were somehow able to carry Texas and its 38 electoral votes, the electoral math would become very difficult for Mitt Romney.

A Democratic-leaning Texas may seem like a dream, but for years such a shift has appeared almost inevitable. The Hispanic population in Texas (38 percent) is the second largest in the nation, and it is growing quickly. The African-American population (12 percent) has kept pace with the state’s overall growth. And non-Hispanic whites have been shrinking as a share of the population.

In fact, sometime after 2000, non-Hispanic whites became a minority in the state. They now make up just 45 percent of the population, making Texas the only majority minority state that reliably votes Republican.

Yet, for all the talk of a politically competitive state, the Republican grip on Texas has never loosened.

“We’ve had this discussion for 10 years now, and nothing has changed,” Mr. Miller said.

“There’s been a ‘Waiting for Godot’ nature in terms of Democrats and Latinos here,” Mr. Henson said.

1. I just don’t know how much value there is in trying to predict Texas’ electoral future right now, because the evidence is muddled or lacking. No two elections of the past decade were remotely similar, so there are no patterns to discern. Polling data is a joke – if you look at the Five Thirty Eight projection for Texas, the three samples being used are the two bizarrely-screened UT/TT polls, which project a Romney blowout, and a PPP poll showing a much closer race, one that looks a lot like 2008. No poll is more recent than May. We may not have any idea what Texas will look like until voting actually begins. If Obama can get the margin to under ten points, which requires an improvement of less than two points on his part over 2008, I think we’ll be having a much different discussion than what we’re having now. If not, then it’ll be much harder for people like me to refute the conventional wisdom.

2. Silver’s observation that as Tarrant County goes, so goes Texas is spot on, at least as far as 2008 went:

Obama McCain ======================== Texas 43.68% 55.45% Tarrant 43.73% 55.43%

Hard to argue with that. Again, I’ll be very interested to see how it looks this year.

3. I maintain that money is a key part of the equation here, and I find myself puzzled at the animus that some folks have to this. If we believe that doing the same thing over and over again in hope of a different result is ill-advised, then I would maintain that trying to win elections while hopelessly outgunned financially is something we have already decisively shown to be a bad idea. The hard work of organizing, identifying and registering new voters, then getting them to the polls, is not going to be done by an army of volunteers. It’s going to take permanent, paid, professional staff to do that. Communicating a message takes money, too. I’m fully aware of the corrosive effects of money in politics. I’d love to see more public financing available for qualified candidates, and I’d love to see far more restrictions on PACs and corporate contributions, but as long as Citizens United is the law of the land I have no idea how to achieve that, and I refuse to unilaterally disarm in the meantime. Last I checked, even Green Party candidates were holding fundraisers – I know, because I’ve been invited to at least two of them – so it’s not really a question of whether or not money is needed. I want the national Democratic party to spend money in Texas, which some people think may be on the horizon, and I make no apologies for that.

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3 Responses to “Waiting for Godot” in Texas

  1. blank says:

    Silver’s observation that as Tarrant County goes, so goes Texas is spot on…

    I think that the state party should consider using Tarrant as a test bed for strategies to see what works. Then, when real movement occurs in Tarrant, move the strategies to the state level. Of course, I’m biased since I live in Tarrant, but it seems like a good move anyway.

  2. M. Incandenza says:

    Texas Dem performance in recent elections shouldn’t be surprising. The demographics are moving towards us, but it’s a process that is really only just beginning. The main reasons for this are that the Hispanic CVAP numbers remain so low. But looking at citizenship numbers for younger hispanics, and the overall age structure of the state, points to a quick acceleration in Dem performance starting in the second half of this decade, and then especially in the 2020s.

    I wrote a whole thing about it here (under a different pseudonym):


  3. Pingback: We know the potential, but what’s the plan? – Off the Kuff

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