Straws in the Wind

Dr. Malcolm Cross

It was recently reported that at least four Republican Texas Congressmen have decided to retire rather than seek re-election in 2020.  They include Mike Conaway, whose district includes part of Stephenville, and Will Hurd, Beto O’Rourke’s traveling companion on a self-filmed nationwide drive, and the only Republican African American in Congress.

This is not good news for the Texas Republican Party.  Incumbent congressmen normally win re-election.  They normally have better name recognition and have had the opportunity to win the voters’ support through constituent service and “bringing home the bacon.”  The Democrats will have an easier time picking up one or more of these seats if they’re facing Republicans seeking office without the advantage of incumbency.

And the decision of Republican incumbents to retire is but one of several straws in the wind portending Democratic gains in 2020—perhaps great enough gains to turn red Texas purple if not blue.

Consider:

  • Donald Trump carried Texas for the Republicans in 2016 with 52% of the vote, but his share was lower than that of any winning Republican since Herbert Hoover in 1928.
  • In 2018 the Democrats picked up two Texas congressional seats previously held by Republicans; but Republicans won no seats from Democrats;
  • In 2018 every Republican seeking re-election to statewide executive office won his race, but by a smaller margin than in 2014; the average vote for Republicans in 2014 was 59%, but in 2018 it was 53%.
  • Also in 2018, Democrats increased their seats in the state Senate by 1 and in the state House of Representatives by 12.
  • And while Democrat Beto O’Rourke failed to unseat Republican Senator Ted Cruz in 2018, he got the biggest percentage of the vote of any Democratic Senatorial candidate since Lloyd Bentsen last won a Senate election for the Democrats in 1988.

None of this means that Texas will go blue in 2020 or even 2022, but the incremental improvements the Democrats are making in their electoral strength in Texas are exactly like those made by the Republicans throughout the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s in their quest to become Texas’s majority party—a goal they achieved by 2004.  If the Republicans can go from minority to majority status, there is no reason to believe that the Democrats can’t repeat that feat in the next decade or two.

And time and demography are on the Democrats’ side.  Texas Republican strength is based on the Anglos, who gave Trump 70% of their vote in 2016, but who are shrinking as a percentage of the Texas population.  While Anglos are doubling in number once every 50 years, African Americans—who gave 85 % of their vote to Hillary Clinton are doubling once every 33 years, while Hispanics—who gave 61% of their vote to Clinton–are doubling in size once every 25 years.  Should present trends continue, Democratic voters may soon outnumber Republican voters.  

Maybe.

A Democratic takeover in Texas is possible but not inevitable.  Democrats would be most unwise to assume that passively waiting for the passage of time and changes in demography will produce more victories.  They must develop better get-out-the-vote strategies and tactics to exploit the potentially favorable population trends from which they could benefit.

And Republicans must not assume that past successes guarantee future results.  If they are to maintain their preeminent position in Texas politics they must realize that they must increase their share of the growing Hispanic vote.  Whatever the benefits of President Trump’s immigration policies, they will no doubt make future Republican expansion of the Hispanic vote more difficult.

How each party will try to strengthen itself remains to be seen.  We’ll be able to observe them in action over the next fifteen months and see who does better come November 2020.  But while the Democrats can take hope that time and trends are on their side, the Republicans should remember that they have far more to lose, if not in 2020, then in the following decades.


Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

5 Comments

  1. Researching elsewhere I found this:

    Texas begins redistricting in two years. The process will slice up the state into political districts. When the districts are redrawn to benefit a particular party, it’s called gerrymandering. For some Texans, it’s time to finally end that particular political game.

    Listen
    Listening…
    29:24

    At a Starbucks in West Austin, Josh LaFair set up a board game he and his siblings invented.

    “There’s a lot of scheming,” he said. “There’s a lot of strategizing and there’s a lot of backstabbing.”

    It’s called Mapmaker. And there’s nothing homemade about it. “Each player as a political party,” he explained, “and players go around separating voters into districts, and whoever has the most districts at the end of the game wins.”

    It resembled any other high-end board game. But this one had little tokens for the major political parties. There was a red elephant, a blue donkey, a green leaf and a yellow porcupine – that’s the symbol for the Libertarians.

    LaFair and his siblings had a vision. “So my brother, sister and I grew up in a gerrymandered district in Austin, Texas — District 10 — and we’d wanted to invent the board game because we wanted to start conversations around the country about an issue that isn’t discussed enough.”

    Mapmaker is about the process of drawing political maps. And when that’s done unfairly to favor one political party, it’s called gerrymandering.

    The LaFairs perceived unfairness in the political maps in Travis County and throughout Texas. They created the game and set up an online account on Kickstarter to help finance its production. They raised more than $60,000, manufactured the game and then sent 80 copies to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    The nation’s high court historically has been reluctant to wade into the political thicket and decide which maps are fair except when there is overwhelming evidence of racial discrimination. The justices would rather see a political solution to this political problem.

    LaFair hoped his game educates the public about what is going on and how to fix it. “Nobody’s really talking about gerrymandering,” he said. “They’re not talking about how our politicians are actually influencing these elections by how they’re drawing these lines. Which is why we wanted to create this game.”

    The 2018 midterm elections unleashed a blue wave across Texas, fueled by discontent with Republican President Donald Trump and energized by a strong turnout for Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat who ran for a U.S. Senate seat.

    But how big of a wave was it depends on one’s perspective. There were many races that were tougher than normal for Republican incumbents in a midterm cycle. But, like O’Rourke, most Democratic candidates fell short of victory.

    However, two Texas congressional races did flip red to blue, and that helped Democrats take control of the U.S. House of Representatives. In the Texas House, Democrats picked up a dozen seats, bringing the party to 67 seats out of 150 – still in the minority but at a level it hasn’t seen in a decade.

    But the question is how well do these outcomes actually reflect what voters want for their representation. Are the maps out of whack?

    Looking at the voting share for Texans overall — all votes cast in the election for congressional candidates — Republicans received 53% of the votes and Democrats got 47%.

    If the 36 Texas congressional seats were divided with that proportion, then there would be 19 Republican members of Congress and 17 Democrats. Instead, Texans sent to Washington 23 Republicans and 13 Democrats.

    One could argue that the way district lines are drawn in Texas is gifting Republicans four additional seats in Congress.

    Texas districts are not gerrymandered. In 2018, for the 20th year in a row Republicans swept every stateside election in Texas. O’Rourke lost to incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz – but the margin was just three points. And several statewide races that Republicans typically enjoy runaway victories were elected by mere single digits.

    It does look like Texas is shifting, and with redistricting coming up in Texas after the 2020 election some are hoping for meaningful reform in the legislature to the political mapmaking process.

    Last week, the House redistricting committee met to discuss bills that propose reforms. That would take the method out of the hands of politicians.

    Michael Li, an expert on redistricting at the Brennan Center for Justice, said this is a pivotal time for Texas.

    “It’s really a great time for people to be statesmen,” he said.

    Li said because of where the political pendulum is in its swing, this is a rare time when both political parties could be motivated to actually pass meaningful redistricting reform.

    “Republicans had better provide themselves with some insurance and at the same time Democrats don’t know when that’s going to arrive so they have that incentive to continue to want to be fair.”

    Donna Howard is a Democrat in Texas House of Representatives, representing the 48th District, which is in Austin. She is advocating for redistricting reform and has filed House Joint Resolution 25 and House Bill 312, which would change the mapmaking process in Texas and may end the practice of gerrymandering in the state.

    However, the Legislature left pending her bills and other similar legislation that sought to reform redistricting. They were heard in committee but no vote was taken. They were left in legislative limbo.

    That’s why Josh LaFair, the inventor of the Mapmaker board game, said it’s going to take the people in Texas to rise up and demand redistricting reform.

    “You’d have less extreme politics. You’d have more people collaborating with each other. You’d have more people listening to their voters. Which is exactly what is supposed to happen.”

    And you’ll no longer have politicians picking their voters.

    David Martin Davies can be reached at DMDavies@TPR.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi.

  2. Texas begins redistricting in two years. The process will slice up the state into political districts. When the districts are redrawn to benefit a particular party, it’s called gerrymandering. For some Texans, it’s time to finally end that particular political game.

    At a Starbucks in West Austin, Josh LaFair set up a board game he and his siblings invented.

    “There’s a lot of scheming,” he said. “There’s a lot of strategizing and there’s a lot of backstabbing.”

    It’s called Mapmaker. And there’s nothing homemade about it. “Each player as a political party,” he explained, “and players go around separating voters into districts, and whoever has the most districts at the end of the game wins.”

    It resembled any other high-end board game. But this one had little tokens for the major political parties. There was a red elephant, a blue donkey, a green leaf and a yellow porcupine – that’s the symbol for the Libertarians.

    LaFair and his siblings had a vision. “So my brother, sister and I grew up in a gerrymandered district in Austin, Texas — District 10 — and we’d wanted to invent the board game because we wanted to start conversations around the country about an issue that isn’t discussed enough.”

    Mapmaker is about the process of drawing political maps. And when that’s done unfairly to favor one political party, it’s called gerrymandering.

    The LaFairs perceived unfairness in the political maps in Travis County and throughout Texas. They created the game and set up an online account on Kickstarter to help finance its production. They raised more than $60,000, manufactured the game and then sent 80 copies to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    The nation’s high court historically has been reluctant to wade into the political thicket and decide which maps are fair except when there is overwhelming evidence of racial discrimination. The justices would rather see a political solution to this political problem.

    LaFair hoped his game educates the public about what is going on and how to fix it. “Nobody’s really talking about gerrymandering,” he said. “They’re not talking about how our politicians are actually influencing these elections by how they’re drawing these lines. Which is why we wanted to create this game.”

    The 2018 midterm elections unleashed a blue wave across Texas, fueled by discontent with Republican President Donald Trump and energized by a strong turnout for Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat who ran for a U.S. Senate seat.

    But how big of a wave was it depends on one’s perspective. There were many races that were tougher than normal for Republican incumbents in a midterm cycle. But, like O’Rourke, most Democratic candidates fell short of victory.

    However, two Texas congressional races did flip red to blue, and that helped Democrats take control of the U.S. House of Representatives. In the Texas House, Democrats picked up a dozen seats, bringing the party to 67 seats out of 150 – still in the minority but at a level it hasn’t seen in a decade.

    But the question is how well do these outcomes actually reflect what voters want for their representation. Are the maps out of whack?

    Looking at the voting share for Texans overall — all votes cast in the election for congressional candidates — Republicans received 53% of the votes and Democrats got 47%.

    If the 36 Texas congressional seats were divided with that proportion, then there would be 19 Republican members of Congress and 17 Democrats. Instead, Texans sent to Washington 23 Republicans and 13 Democrats.

    One could argue that the way district lines are drawn in Texas is gifting Republicans four additional seats in Congress.

    Texas districts are not gerrymandered. In 2018, for the 20th year in a row Republicans swept every stateside election in Texas. O’Rourke lost to incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz – but the margin was just three points. And several statewide races that Republicans typically enjoy runaway victories were elected by mere single digits.

    It does look like Texas is shifting, and with redistricting coming up in Texas after the 2020 election some are hoping for meaningful reform in the legislature to the political mapmaking process.

    Last week, the House redistricting committee met to discuss bills that propose reforms. That would take the method out of the hands of politicians.

    Michael Li, an expert on redistricting at the Brennan Center for Justice, said this is a pivotal time for Texas.

    “It’s really a great time for people to be statesmen,” he said.

    Li said because of where the political pendulum is in its swing, this is a rare time when both political parties could be motivated to actually pass meaningful redistricting reform.

    “Republicans had better provide themselves with some insurance and at the same time Democrats don’t know when that’s going to arrive so they have that incentive to continue to want to be fair.”

    Donna Howard is a Democrat in Texas House of Representatives, representing the 48th District, which is in Austin. She is advocating for redistricting reform and has filed House Joint Resolution 25 and House Bill 312, which would change the mapmaking process in Texas and may end the practice of gerrymandering in the state.

    However, the Legislature left pending her bills and other similar legislation that sought to reform redistricting. They were heard in committee but no vote was taken. They were left in legislative limbo.

    That’s why Josh LaFair, the inventor of the Mapmaker board game, said it’s going to take the people in Texas to rise up and demand redistricting reform.

    “You’d have less extreme politics. You’d have more people collaborating with each other. You’d have more people listening to their voters. Which is exactly what is supposed to happen.”

    And you’ll no longer have politicians picking their voters.

    David Martin Davies can be reached at DMDavies@TPR.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi.

  3. Hispanics are, or should be, a natural constituency for the Republican party. As a group, they are hard- working and law abiding. They are also very religious. Consequently, they are naturally conservative, both socially and fiscally. Why then, have the Republicans failed to attract them in greater numbers?

    Some may be old enough to recall the Republican “Big Tent” construct of the 70s and 80s. From 1968 to 1988, Republicans won five out of six presidential elections, with the only exception being a narrow loss to Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976. Following the last major overhaul of the U.S. immigration laws in 1986, the Republicans had a golden opportunity to bring Hispanics into that Big Tent. They failed to do so. The question has to be asked, Why?

    A convenient reason today would chalk it up to racism. But, it had little to do with race. The most significant factor was religion. Catholicism is a “universalist” religion. On the other hand, from its very inception, Protestantism divided itself into a multitude of different denominations, all vying for their own interpretation of God and scripture. “If you don’t believe in MY God and worship in MY way, you are not welcome here”. There is also the “divine” instruction that Christians must constantly proselytize, seeking to convert non-believers. While Catholics seek to live and let live, Protestants can’t seem to leave people alone.

    In the 1990s, the growing influence of the Christian right within the Republican party prompted the socially moderate and liberal sections of the Republican base, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest, to begin slowly leaving the party in favor of moderate Democrats or independents. In like manner, the evangelicals were not welcoming to Catholics. In this, they closely resembled the Know-Nothing Party of the 19th century. Not only did they view Catholics with hostility, they also sought to insert their religious beliefs into public policy, using the power of the government to force people to live a certain way.

    If the Republican party seeks to maintain its statewide majority in Texas, it has a lot of “fence mending” to do with the Hispanic community. First and foremost, it must convince them that there is more that unites Hispanics and Republicans than divides the two groups, particularly on social issues. Most importantly, the Republicans can’t continue to simply “write off” the Hispanic vote as they did the black vote for much of the last 60 years.

  4. They Hispanics don’t see it the way you think it. They recognize Republicans as liars, cheaters and schemers living in air conditions and in a fantasy of paper maze.

  5. Oh by the way, last week despite the Republicans screaming socialism and communism at the time it became law Social Security celebrated its 84th birthday. Also back to Hispanics the Republican administration you support now has kicked out Hispanics in active duty for our U.S. Military and denying them the agreement allowing them to become full fledged American citizens.

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