Earlier this week the Texas Democratic Party put out a comparison of the state party platforms. It reiterated the party’s commitment to equality of opportunity but also that its biggest beneficiaries do not return the favor by going to the polls. That’s reflected in the fact that 73% of ballots cast in the Primaries were Republican. Unfortunately with elections it really comes down to those who are willing to have their voices heard. Changing demographics have been viewed as the panacea for the ‘minority’ party’s woes, as if they wait long enough Democrats with magically appear in greater numbers at the polls. The truth is the Demographics of Texas favor the Democrats now. Texas has the 2nd highest concentration of school-aged children as well as the 2nd largest Hispanic population in the US. In order to “Turn Texas Blue” Democrats will have to activate their base as well as tap into Independents who may be offended by the term “moderate” being used as a four letter word. Its about a message and brand that embodies what it means to be Texan, but also having the mechanism for delivery through both candidates and party structure.
Texas is a large and diverse state by almost every metric physical or demographic. Republicans have thrived under simplified slogans of freedom and limited government but have failed to deliver either. In many cases their policies have left Texas more reliant on the federal government. In 2011, after cutting nearly ? of the Texas Forest Service budget Texas literally could not put out its own fires without federal aid. Texas’ prison population is now the largest in the US, surpassing the ‘nanny state’ of California leaving Texas the least free state in the Union.
Texas’ Republican rhetoric has focused on idealizing the past and crediting Texas’ economic success to conservative principles of government rather than our roots of innovation. The state’s abundance of natural resources have allowed our policy leaders to pretend we can run a growing state without adequate funding sources. Conservative thought leaders in the state may romanticize about oil derricks and leather bootstraps but the Texas economy has long benefitted from public investment. Aerospace, life sciences, the military and medical research at our public institutions have all helped kept our state growing and attractive to private sector job growth.
In order to continue to be competitive for these high-tech jobs the state will need a solid commitment to public education. Republicans support abstinence only education yet Texas ranks 3rd in teen pregnancies. They support repealing the Department of Education, but Texas ranks 50th in adults with high school diplomas and 49th in teacher pay. When education is so closely tied to earned income funding cuts are not a result of limited government but limited ideas. If Democrats are going to make a successful bid at fully funding education they will have to work with teachers and administrators to bring in parents whose children are affected by increased class sizes, cuts to before and after school programs and other education services like libraries.
Republican politicians getting jeers at their own convention shows that while Republicans may have a sweep of statewide offices they don’t hold a consensus on values. This presents an opportunity for Texas Democrats to provide a true alternative for voters. We may have already seen the faces of the next generation of progressive leaders in Texas but their victories will only be won when they can stand next to local Democrats in what are now the reddest parts of Texas.