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Sorry, Democrats, But Texas Will Still Be Red in 2016

Headline after headline will try to convince you that Texas is becoming blue.

All of these articles rely on one thing to make this assumption: the growing Hispanic population. Battleground Texas, an organization dedicated to turning Texas blue, even moved in to capitalize on the population shift.

The problem is that the Hispanic population is demographic projections are only valid if they exist in a vacuum. Political theorists have this unfortunate habit of rendering all other points moot, and only looking at one thing. I have news, guys: Texas is more dynamic than that.

Battleground Texas’ push to turn Texas blue rests on mobilizing diverse voting groups by “registering more voters — and as importantly, by mobilizing Texans who are already registered voters but who have not been engaged in the democratic process,” says it’s founder, former Obama field director, Jeremy Byrd. 

Byrd makes two fatal assumptions:

1. That “mobilizing” the Hispanic population is enough to get them to turn out to vote.

2. If they do turn out to vote, they will always vote Democratic.

Says the Texas Observer:

“We talk about voting as though it’s an inevitable part of people’s lives, and they only have to be persuaded to vote the way we want. But there’s nothing inherent to Latinos about voting Democrat, or about voting at all. In the real world, ‘voting’ isn’t a thing that just happens. It isn’t a ‘demographic express’ you can hop on. Real people either decide to take off work, find their way to the polls, stand in line and vote, or they don’t. That’s a decision with costs and consequences — costs that fall most heavily on those in the lowest strata of society.”

Let’s focus on the last two sentences of that to address the first assumption that Battleground Texas makes.

Even if Battleground Texas were to somehow solve the political efficacy problems they allude to with minorities in the state, they would still face logistical barriers to getting them to the polls.  There are a lot of reasons Hispanics don’t turn out to vote, and many of them deal with the way voting works in the first place and not just that they don’t care to.

Voting happens during the day, when most people are at work. The most economically disadvantaged citizens will almost always prioritize the short-term goal of getting food on the table to the long-term goal of electing their chosen candidate — that’s a natural decision.

In order for Battleground Texas to be effective, they would have to drastically alter the way voting is done. They’d have to extend voting hours, move up early voting, or do something drastic like allow ballots by email (which isn’t totally unheard of).

The problem is that all of these changes would have to go through the State government, which is almost totally controlled by Republicans who went so far as to pass the most stringent voter ID law in the country last year, only to have it thrown out by a Federal Court for violating the Voter Rights Act. An organization dedicated to taking these Republicans out of office is not exactly going to be a welcome voice in getting voting laws changed.

Now, let’s address their second assumption:

Being part of a racial group is absolutely not an automatic indicator of how you will vote. While Hispanics have historically voted Democrat, their continued loyalty to the party rests on the assumption that Republicans will do absolutely nothing to change their minds between now and 2016 — an assumption I think is flawed.

Regardless of how ridiculous anyone believes the Republican Party to be, it is not a logical conclusion that they are so out of touch that they would sacrifice their existence to continue flawed policies. Since their stunning loss in the 2012 election, the Republican Party has gotten the message: They absolutely cannot continue to be as flamboyantly anti-immigration reform as they have been. Demographics are changing — everyone accepts this.

A recent poll conducted by Latino Decision indicated that 31% of Latino voters would be more likely to vote Republican if they took a stronger immigration reform stance. That 31% would be enough for a Republican candidate for president to win a stunning 42% of the vote and the presidency. The Republicans have the numbers punching them in the face — they aren’t going to ignore them.

Plus, Latinos in Texas are just not as overwhelmingly Democratic as they are in other states. In 2012, the Texas Republican Party increased the number of Hispanic elected officials from 58 to a stunning 78. In 2010, Governor Rick Perry got 39% of the Latino vote and won the election — many Latinos, by the way, support him because of his softer stance on immigration.

So, given that Latinos in Texas are already more Republican than the national standard, and given that the GOP is quickly considering a change, and that the Republican-controlled Texas government is extremely unlikely to make any changes that would make it easier for the economically disadvantaged to get to the polls, it is extremely unlikely that Texas will go blue by 2016. 

It’s not the case that Texas will never go blue — unless the Republican Party changes drastically they will still not attract all Latinos. Texas’ Latino population will continue to grow dramatically over the next several years, pushing in more and more Democratic representatives. But this is going to be a slow change. Those telling you that 2016 is the year of the Democratic Party in Texas are being too optimistic.

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