Hispanics Saving Texas Democrats: A Perpetual Mirage?

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Keep hoping for Hispanics, Dems
The quixotically optimistic Texas Democrats -- who haven't won a statewide election since 1994 -- bellowed a lot of things at the Texas Democratic Convention last weekend, but, really, most of it seemed to translate to one refrain.

All together now: The Hispanics are going to save us! The Hispanics are going to save us!

Gawd, this again? They've been rapping this for a decade now while amid the political wilds, pointing to charts, delivering diatribes en español and citing statistics which, admittedly, are staggering: Hispanics account for 38 percent of the Texas population, 44 percent of Houston's -- and nearly 4 million Latinos across the state can vote. By 2040, Hispanics will account for an absolute majority in Texas. This shift of tectonic proportion may remake Texas politics -- but there's just one teensie-weensie problem. For Democrats, for Republicans, for Latino issues in general. Hispanics don't vote.

Democrats may presage the looming Hispanic vote, but the percentage of residents in this demographic who actually do so has, in fact, dropped. In 2004, roughly 42 percent of Latinos went to the polls. Then, in 2008, that number deflated to 38 percent. Two years ago, even lower: around 22 percent. Across the nation, the population of registered Hispanic voters shriveled from 11.6 million in 2008 to 10.9 million in 2010.

So what's going to make this year any different?

We asked that question to our local Democrats and, after some stuttering and hesitation, we got an answer on the Hispanic vote. "It's not going to happen this election," said Lane Lewis, Harris County Democratic chairman. "We're still waiting for it." He added: "Texas is already blue." Awkward pause. "In our hearts. People just aren't voting."

But wait! he said. Next election -- that's when Hispanics will rise. Hmmm. Sure.

Meanwhile, Republicans at their convention did something that, for them, was totally cray: They said a mass deportation of 11 million undocumented workers wasn't practical. Or, for that matter, "equitable." (Quick, someone pinch a migrant worker.) State Republicans went on to propose a national temporary worker program for times when no U.S. workers would be available.

This is a sharp departure from a stance that's defined the Republican party for the last decade, and became more pronounced in 2010 when even John McCain -- who once championed open immigration policies -- became borderline xenophobic. What's more, it worked that year. The party of white old dudes got a bunch of other old white dudes to vote for them, and won handily. Roughly 62 percent of votes Republicans got were cast by whites.

Predictably, Lewis perceived nefariousness in the Texas Republicans' about-face. "This platform, this olive branch, is just a tool," he said. "Not to serve the people or the individuals."

Or, more to the point, local Republicans have figured out what Karl Rove did in 2008 when he wrote, "An anti-Hispanic attitude is suicidal."

But the question is, if Hispanics remain mired in political apathy, how slow of a suicide will it be?

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6 comments
Ivy League Football
Ivy League Football

The get-out-to-vote for all Democrats, especially Hispanics, is the challenge. Either you accept it or not. Leadership can make a big difference. With the ongoing help by the GOP/ Tea Party, given their anti- stance, CH Hinojosa may be able to rally the trrops to prove history wrong. I am that he will!  

Mainstream
Mainstream

As much as I wish it were true, most Hispanics in Texas vote for Democrats.  The percentage supporting Republicans is growing, mostly among males and among Hispanics who have moved into the suburbs and married and integrated into the broader society, but probably on average 60 or 70% of Hispanics voting in a particular contest choose the Democrat candidate.

Mstrdrgn
Mstrdrgn

I think Cent hit the nail on the head. The majority of hispanics that vote tend to vote republican. The hispanics that don't vote tend to identify as democrat. That's going to be a problem for the democrats. Considering, however, that there is no difference between any of the current political parties (ALL of them dominated by rich people), why do we even bother with elections? The "winner" is decided long before the voting starts, and no matter who we vote for, nothing changes. I'll know that America has finally awoken when "None Of The Above" wins every election in America.

kstallings100
kstallings100

Perhaps they just aren't voting for Democrats??

GlenW
GlenW

"Texas is already blue." Awkward pause. "In our hearts. People just aren't voting." Did he say that during exhale while passing the bong to you?

Cent
Cent

Another point: the more educated and wealthier you are, the more likely you are to vote. As a general rule, Latinos are far less likely to self identify as Latinos as they get wealthier and more educated. In other words, their ethnic identity fades. This is in contrast to Asians and blacks, whose self identification tends to increase. In light of this, it shouldn't be surprising that the party championing "Latino issues" may struggle.

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