Dems Dream of a Blue Texas As They Convene in Houston

dems2012conv.jpg
Keep hope alive, we guess.
For people who've been losing Texas elections pretty consistently since the `80s, Democrats at the Democratic State Convention officially kicking off today in downtown Houston are surprisingly upbeat. That's because many of them are expecting the tide to turn in Texas politics, maybe not today or tomorrow, but relatively soon.

The main reason for their optimism: Texas's sizable and rapidly growing Hispanic community. Thanks in part to Republicans' stinginess on immigration-related issues like the DREAM act, about 61 percent of Hispanics identify as Democrat, compared with 14 percent Republican. According to the Census Bureau, Hispanics went from 32% to 38% of Texas's population between 2000 and 2010, while whites declined from 52% to 45%, taking on the awkward status of a minority-majority.

Unfortunately for Democrats, the Hispanic voting bloc has earned analogies to a "sleeping giant" for its dismally low voter turnout, which hovers around 40%. "They just don't realize how much influence they have," says Albert Gonzales, a former parliamentarian for the Texas Democratic Party.

So Texas Democrats are planning a program of disciplined grassroots organizing to get out the Hispanic vote this November and further down the road. To strengthen ties with the Hispanic community, they're also electing Gilberto Hinojosa chair of the state party. "We have to move from weak identification to engagement," says John Behrman, SDEC member from Senate district 13.

On top of that, they're doing the usual kind of campaigning: trying to convince poor conservatives and independents that Democratic values align with their interests. "I actually think more people are really Democrat in Texas than Republican," says County Chairman Lloyd Criss. "You just have to talk to them about the issues."

Word on the street suggests that Harris County, the third largest county in the nation, is the key to tipping Texas into the blue. In 2008, Obama's top-notch campaigning carried the traditionally Republican territory for the Democrats. After losing it in 2010 to Tea Party fever, Democrats are hoping to pick it back up for good with the help of Latino voters. "We're in the process of turning Harris County blue, like we did in Dallas County," says John Patrick, Democratic National Committee member. If Harris County goes Democrat, there's a chance Texas would too, leaving a 34-delegate hole in the Republican bid for the White House.

A lot of factors are working against the Democrats' plan. Entrenched conservatism reigns in most parts of the state. Corporate money keeps pouring into Republican pockets in the wake of Citizens United. And Republicans, Dems claim, are redistricting in tricky ways that cheat Democrats out of votes. Randy Daniels, chair of the District 12 caucus, talked about "massive efforts to disenfranchise voters in Tarrant County...put all the minorities in one county to keep demographic shifts from taking told." (Although let's not forget, Democrats do the same thing when they're in power.)

But people here think they can overcome those obstacles. Looking out on Houston's afternoon skyline, Lloyd Criss told me "I'm 71 years old. I can remember when Texas was Democratic, and it's going to happen again."

I guess we'll eventually find out if that's meant to be or just wishful thinking.\Follow Houston Press on Facebook and on Twitter @HairBallsNews or @HoustonPress.

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8 comments
Guest
Guest

A lot of illegals live in Harris County, hell turn on the FM radio there and find out for yourself, count the stations in English.

Guest
Guest

What did those Dems axe jobs at TXU? Over 'the enivroment?"

Guest
Guest

I wouldn't know since the Republican party CAN COUNT!

Guest
Guest

That is why they are so against VOTER ID.  The Democrats need all the dead people, and illegals to vote for them and the Socialist Dictator in Charge.  Soda Tax that hurts persons of low income?  THANK THE DEMOCRATS.  Cigarette Taxes that ol granny has to rob a bank to smoke, THANK THE DEMOCRATS.  Want Plastic bags?  FORGET IT WITH THE DEMOCRATS.  The Democrats these days are for Communism.  

Sadasa
Sadasa

  If Harris County goes Democrat... It already has been since 2006 and 2008, and in 2010, they didn't lose it, heck Bill White won Harris in a Tea Party year, and Obama is still expected to win Harris County, so there. As for the Hispanic population you forgot to realize that 45% of them are Protestant and Texas is a haven for Hispanic converts to Protestantism. This could be an obstacle for the TX Dems.

Anse
Anse

Democrats would be wise not to take the Hispanic vote for granted. Latinos tend to be very conservative on social issues, after all. But the biggest challenge we face are rural voters. Most of the large urban areas on Texas have a very strong Democratic identity; it's the yahoos in the Panhandle and the suburbs that are our biggest obstacle. (Dallas/Ft Worth is pretty Republican, but really, Dallas could be in Oklahoma and the rest of Texas wouldn't give a damn.) Ironically, many of them are NIMBY conservatives; get rightwing policies working in their backyards, and they'll spit and sputter in opposition. Just ask the company formerly known as TXU what happened when they tried to build a dozen new coal-fueled power plants across the state. For these guys, the social wedge issues are everything. Get them off gay marriage or illegal immigrants and they're a lot more liberal than even they realize.

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