Hispanics are the key to keeping Texas red
Republicans have been wringing their hands non-stop since Robert “Beto” O’Rourke came within 2.8% of defeating Senator Ted Cruz in the 2018 U.S. Senate election. The hand wringing accelerated when a poll came out this spring showing former Vice President Joe Biden 4% ahead of President Trump in Texas. On top of that, losing two congressmen, twelve state representatives, one state senator, and a score of appellate court judges have Republicans in a fear frenzy.
They should all take a deep breath and relax. There is one, clear decisive factor in Texas politics in the years ahead, which will cement Texas’s redness, or lead to Texas drifting purple or even blue – Hispanic Texans’ voting preferences. Sure, the female vote is critical, and there are other important voting blocs that should be courted, but the reality is it all comes down to Hispanics, and in that demographic, Texas Republicans should be optimistic.
As Chairman of Associated Republicans of Texas (“ART”) from 2010-2015, I saw this first hand in creating a major outreach initiative to our Hispanic citizens, with Hispanic leaders from all over Texas. Hispanic Texans are open-minded, fair, competent, hard-working, and fairly apolitical. Unlike so many ideologues in the country today, many of whom become tethered to extreme viewpoints on the left and the right, Hispanic Texans think in terms of practicality and functionality – discerning what will make life better for their families and their communities.
However, Hispanics won’t vote Republican simply because someone shows up once every four years and requests they do so right before an election – in fact, such inattention and transaction-based interaction could end up mostly self-defeating. Hispanic Texans are focused on relationships, not occasional transactions. To build a consistent bloc of Hispanic Republican voters requires constant presence in predominantly Hispanic communities, churches, big cities, small towns, and everywhere else. ART hosted town hall meetings with Hispanic Texans in many major Texas cities, engaging many Hispanic citizens in friendship, dialogue, and debate. That’s how you build a relationship – you show up, show respect, and show genuine interest and empathy.
When he was Governor, George W. Bush got that – he went to El Paso more than any other city between his two elections, and he won El Paso and basically split the Hispanic vote right down the middle when he ran for re-election in 1998. He showed up, again and again. And he built real relationships and trust. You can’t fake that over time; it’s either real or it’s not, and people figure that out.
When Republicans do show up, they have much common ground with Hispanic Texans in growing the Hispanic Republican base – love of country, love of Texas, commitment to freedom, social conservatism, hard work leading to opportunity, entrepreneurial enthusiasm, and commitment to family. However, moving forward, an additional bridge builder must be pragmatic and productive action. Most Texas Hispanics do not respect pure ideologues – political operatives, activists and candidates who constantly focus on fundraising, division, acrimony, argumentation and ideological purity. They want results from their government – great schools, great universities, a compelling economy, plentiful job opportunities, paved roads, public safety, clean and reliable water and power, and infrastructure supportive of Texas’s hypergrowth. Republicans must show up, show respect, show true empathy and interest, and show pragmatic, life-improving results to consistently win over a significant bloc of Hispanic voters.
Unless demographics and voting patterns change dramatically, Republicans will keep Texas bright red, at least statewide, if they regularly earn at least 40% of the Texas Hispanic vote. If they truly want to sustain the Republican dominance of Texas for another generation, they better do so. It’s the whole shooting match politically. We will find out in the next decade or so whether they’ve been effective, or squandered the opportunity through short-sighted, self-interested, overly ideological political activity. It will be entertaining to watch it play out.