(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
So I have been thinking about the talk of a “Blue Texas.” Texas has experienced a profound shift in partisan dominance within our lifetimes, and demographic changes in the state portend that it may happen again. Texas moved out of being part of the “Solid South” starting in the 1970s with the slow but steady rise of the Texas Republican party. Republicans had captured all of the statewide elected offices by the 1990s. Finally, the Republicans overcame Democratic gerrymandering to capture a majority in the Texas House and Senate in 2003.
A profound demographic shift has placed an expiration date upon the control of the Texas legislature by conservative Anglos. Conservatives may or may not remain ascendant in Texas but the days of the political dominance of conservative Anglos are certainly numbered.
One can see this trend coming in the ethnic distribution of the Texas school population. In 2011-12, Hispanics comprised 50.8% of children enrolled in the Texas public school system. Anglos comprised only 30.5 percent, and African-Americans only 12.8 percent. You can also get a sense of the scale and the growth in Texas by looking at public education statistics. With nearly five million students, Texas educates nearly as many public school students as the twenty smallest states combined. Texas may soon have twice as many public school students as Florida-despite the fact that Florida has the 4th largest public school population. Texas has been adding a public school population roughly equal in size to the public school system of Wyoming every 14 months or so. Texas was the only state to gain 4 new Congressional seats after the 2010 Census- a small number of other states gained two, no one else gained either 3 or 4.
In 2012, Texas Hispanics comprised 25 percent of the electorate and favored Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by a margin of 62% to 37%. That’s a more balanced result than the national numbers, but hardly reassuring if you are a Texas Republican. Each passing year will see older Republicans passing on, and more young Hispanic voters entering the electorate. Some forecasters predict a “Blue Texas” by 2020- although it could happen either later or earlier or never depending upon a variety of factors.
Let’s start with the electoral college map. Republicans haven’t been very good at getting to 270 lately even with the now 38 Texas electoral votes in the bag. Without them states like Florida and Ohio could become mere style points for the Democratic nominee rather than crucial swing states. One could imagine other states trending Republican to counteract a Blue Texas, but it seems imaginary indeed.
For someone of modestly libertarian politics like myself, the most alarming scenario would be for a Blue Texas that becomes in effect a second California- a gigantic state in which organized public sector groups play an incredibly strong role in state policy making. I would expect that might blunt this momentum rather decisively:
Or perhaps not-predictions are hard, especially about the future. Some of you of course will be excited by the idea of a Blue Texas, others horrified by the prospect. Regardless the implications of a Blue Texas stretch far beyond Presidential politics. We can discuss some of those in future posts.
For now let’s keep an eye on this to see what happens next…