Texas flag by Texas Coalition
Texas may be the largest state of the continental United States, but it has more to boast about: the huge challenges that come with its gain of four electoral votes, for a total of thirty-eight--twice the gain (two) of its nearest competitor, Florida, which has twenty-nine.
Mexico may have lost Texas at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but the additional electoral votes herald a large immigration to the 28th state by Hispanics, 37.62 percent of its population in 2010. White residency has descended by 7.1 percent, and African American by less than one percent; the Asian population's presence has increased by 1.07 percent as of 2010 also.
But the main focus of today's round table at Washington DC's Center for American Progress was Houston, the state's largest city and "one of the most diverse metros in the nation." The question was whether Texas would go blue as a result of such diversity there as well as in Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio, and the answer was yes, in the next ten to twelve years.
The round table today consisted of five Texans: Jeremy Bird of 270 Strategies; Julie Ortega of PowerPac.org, and Rudy Teixeira and Vanessa Cardena of the Center for American Progress. The keynote speaker was a sixth Texan, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), the first to answer whether his home state was turning blue. A second-generation Mexican American (coincidentally), he said that of the 26 million residents of his state, 40 percent are now Hispanic; and that this percentage is expected to rise to 45 percent to 48 percent by 2020.
Much of this immigration originated in the Northeast, the West, and California. He called his home state "a big draw," containing three of the largest cities in the United States, the fasted growing, whose voter participation is among the bottom three in the country--"fertile ground to mobilize the growth," he added ironically. A pathetic 50 percent of Texas voters stay home from the polls.
The Lone Star State has the highest percentage of citizens lacking health insurance, he continued; given this human tragedy, Gov. Rick Perry's refusal to accept Medicaid funding, part of Obamacare, which will cost the state nothing until at least 2017, is disgraceful. Funding for Planned Parenthood will also be lacking.
Contrast this deadbeat attitude with the words of the grateful and receptive Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie: "Who am I to deny access to health care?"
Texas's demography alone won't turn it blue, Castro said. There is a crying need for voter registration, and a statewide effort to mobilize qualified citizens to vote. Calling his state "the brain trust of the Republican nation," he specified former President George W. Bush as well as Karl Rove, Bob Perry (financer of the Swiftboat debacle blamed for keeping Kerry from the presidency in 2004), Karen Hughes, and others as guarantees that the electoral outcome this year will be red.
Of course, this "clue crew" will fight to keep this color, which Castro expects will change in ten to twelve years.
Activists have left his state temporarily to work on behalf of fellow Democrats in other states, he concluded; more attention must now be paid to Texas.
In the round table discussion that followed, other statistics were quoted. The Texan population rises by one percent each year; 48 percent of the voting-age population are minorities; in 2008 they comprised 37 percent. There was no way to give the exact numbers in 2012 because there were no exit polls, but 40 percent of voters were estimated as minorities in that presidential election.
In 2016 it is estimated that white voters will comprise only a slight majority, as contrasted with their ratio of three to one [minority] in 2008. Most Obama votes came from just twelve Lone Star counties, more like six, but in each of the state's 254 counties there were Democratic voters, a point neglected due to routine stereotyping. Gerrymandering occurs at three levels--local, state, and federal--but is not allowed at the county level. The next round of "redistricting" will occur in seven years. Only ten counties are competitive when this round occurs; that is, have a chance to go blue from red.
Much work is needed to ensure equal opportunities for all, a stated goal of the Center for American Progress. Minorities must be informed and engaged. Door-to-door canvassing is most effective, one-on-one contact, which allows for the most trust and effective communication.
The sea change in Riverside County, California, was brought in for comparison: the once-Republican stronghold, the same size as San Antonio, Texas, now votes Democratic. The former Confederate state of Virginia has voted blue in the preceding two presidential elections.