It’s a frequent media narrative for Texas to be framed as a deep red state. Not just a deeply red state, but a conservative state as well. The narrative is that outside of Travis county (home to Austin, Texas), liberals have no place in the Lone Star State. Ongoing demographic transitions will soon challenge this narrative. At this point it is not a matter of if, but when Texas will turn blue; but that is only if Texas Democrats don’t blow the opportunity.
If Texas became a democratic state, Republicans would have almost no possible path to the presidency. At 38 electoral college votes, Texas is easily the biggest electoral prize in Republicans “safe” column. Further, only 11 out of 36 house representatives from Texas are Democrats. If Democrats managed to make that 18-20 seats, the implications at the national level would be huge.
The margin of victory for Donald Trump in Texas significantly diminished compared to Romney’s in 2012. This runs contrary to the national trend, where 42 states overall shifted to the right in some manner. Thirteen red states became much more red. Five states won by Obama in 2012 flipped from blue to red in 2016. Nine blue states became significantly less blue. Overall, twenty two states shifted by five percentage points or more in the Republican Party’s direction.
Texas Urban centers are becoming bluer and bluer with each passing election cycle. Until 2008, Harris County consistently went red. Democrats have been increasing their margins of victory with each passing presidential election cycle: from a 1.7% win in 2008 to a 12.4% win in 2016. Similar trends can be found throughout the state. Dallas county: 15.3% in 2008 to 25.9% victory margin in 2016. Travis county: +16% in 2004 to + 38.7% victory in 2016. Bexar county: +5.5% in 2008 to +13.3% in 2016.
All of these numbers are indeed promising for Texas Democrats. But the truth is that Texas should already be a Blue state. Texas is a minority-majority state: only 42% of Texans are non-hispanic whites. Texas whites are also not nearly as conservative as white in the deep south (Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana), of whom nearly 9 in 10 consistently vote Republican. In Texas 25% to 35% of whites tend to vote for Democrats. 61% of Hispanics in Texas voted for Hillary Clinton. All of this added together demonstrates Texas Democrats could and should be at least a purple state.
The reason Texas hasn’t turned blue yet is simply a problem of low voter turnout. Whites tend to go out and vote more than people of color do. Additionally, Republican leaning Latinos in Texas vote more consistently than Democratic leaning Latinos. Governor Greg Abbott carried 45% of latinos in 2014 compared to Donald Trump’s 34% in 2016. 2014 was a year of extremely low voter turnout in Texas.
Why was 2014 such a low year for voter turnout in Texas? If you ask me, it’s simply because Democrats didn’t do much to excite their base. Democrats ran Wendy Davis. When I think of Wendy Davis, the first thing I think of is “the abortion lady.” While I do support a woman’s right to choose, making that the number one issue you run on is not wise in Texas. It will get women’s rights advocates to vote for you, but who else? Texans are about evenly split on the issue of abortion, so it’s not going to be an electoral winner. Democrats need to give people more of a reason to get out and go vote.
In 2014, 55% of Texans supported raising the minimum wage to $10/hr. That was at a time when raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour was considered the standard Democratic position. Lately, that has been moving in the direction of $15/hr. Support for raising the minimum wage has risen substantially since then. We just don’t know by how much in Texas specifically.
In 2015, 70% of Texans believed in universal healthcare. 42% of Texans wanted single payer health care provided by the government. A lesser amount in 27% believed in universal healthcare, but just provided by employers. From 2014 to 2017, we have seen a substantial rise in the amount of people who believe healthcare should be provided by the government.
A majority of Texans believe that recreational marijuana should be legal. Most Americans, including a majority of Republicans and Texans, believe we need to do more to take action on global warming.
How do Texas Democrats think Texans would react if began to inform them that 4% of death row inmates are innocent? It suddenly starts to make a lot more sense to ban the death penalty when you realize innocent people are being killed en masse.
How would Texans react if they found out Texas has the third most regressive Tax system in the country? Low income Texans pay almost 13 percent of their income in Taxes, while Texas top 1% of earners only pay about 3% of their income in taxes. Transforming Texas tax laws from a regressive system to a progressive system will be extraordinarily popular very quickly.
How would Texans react if they found out nearly four in ten jobs could be lost to automation by the year 2030? How would Texans react if they found out it’s not just low skilled jobs that will be affected by job automation? Suddenly the case for Universal Basic Income (UBI) starts to become a lot more compelling.
All of this is just scratching the surface. Texas Democrats have simply not been fighters on a large variety of popular progressive causes. Texas Democrats are not making their case to Texans. I’m a progressive because I believe the evidence actually substantiates my beliefs. If you’re a progressive Democratic politician, shouldn’t that be the case for you as well? Why aren’t Texas Democrats putting their money where their mouth is and actually promoting ideas that are popular? Why aren’t Texas Democrats making their case about opinions they have that are unpopular?
When I listen to a Texas Democratic politician speak, I know that they’re pro-choice. But that’s about all I really know they stand for. I shouldn’t have to ask a Democratic politician if they’re for raising the minimum wage or Medicare-For-All, I should be able to tell that just by listening to them. It should be spelled out very clearly. I should know not only that they’re pro-choice, but for Medicare-For-All and a living wage as well.
Texas Democrats have a demographic advantage and an advantage on the issues. There is no reason why Texas shouldn’t already be a blue, or at the very least a purple state. The manner in which Greg Abbott made significant inroads with Latino voters in 2014 demonstrates demographics alone is not enough for Texas to turn blue. If Texas Democrats want to turn Texas blue, they actually need to make the case for, and fight for progressive causes. Not being Donald Trump is not going to be enough in the long run. Unless Democrats actually fight for progressive causes, the political pendulum will swing back and forth with Democrats consistently getting their asses kicked at all levels of government.
If you want more independent reporting like this, please support Collin and TATM with a donation– Every $1 helps us grow!