While explaining Texas politics to people from outside the state, Texas progressives often wistfully speak of inevitable days when Democrats will rule Texas once more. We talk about demographics of all kinds, a younger generation wholly out of step with Republican ideology, and growing groans among Republicans about their choices.
On Sunday, Nate Silver of the widely-read Five Thirty Eight blog (on the New York Times' website) explained the state of Texas politics and the Democrat's chances of winning the state anytime soon. Next time you're in one of those it-will-get-better conversations, you can rely on these facts to back you up. Your friends and family may need a bit more than promises to believe our state, whose shape has practically become a symbol of the GOP, is turning blue within our lifetimes. Here are some choice experts from the lengthy piece.
A Democratic-leaning Texas may seem like a dream, but for years such a shift has appeared almost inevitable. The Hispanic population in Texas (38 percent) is the second largest in the nation, and it is growing quickly. The African-American population (12 percent) has kept pace with the state's overall growth. And non-Hispanic whites have been shrinking as a share of the population.
In fact, sometime after 2000, non-Hispanic whites became a minority in the state. They now make up just 45 percent of the population, making Texas the only majority minority state that reliably votes Republican.
Yet, for all the talk of a politically competitive state, the Republican grip on Texas has never loosened.
…All 29 statewide elective offices are held by Republicans, and Texas Democrats have been left with a series of if-onlys. If only the local party were better organized. If only national Democrats invested more money in the state. If only we could get a charismatic Hispanic candidate on the ballot. And, the most fundamental “if only” of them all: if only Hispanic turnout were stronger.
Poor turnout has dulled the impact of the state's Hispanic population at the ballot box. Hispanics may make up 38 percent of the population, but they have never exceeded 20 percent of the electorate in presidential elections, according to exit polls.
There is little doubt that Mr. Romney will carry Texas. He is a 99 percent favorite in the state, according to the current FiveThirtyEight forecast.
But the long-term trend seems equally clear. Despite poor turnout, the Hispanic share of the electorate has steadily climbed, from 7 percent in 1984 to 20 percent in 2008, according to exit polls.
At the same time, the non-Hispanic white vote has consistently fallen. In 1984 it was 78 percent; by 2008 it was 63 percent.
Even if Texas Hispanics do start punching their weight, the Republicans could make efforts to win their support. Partisan allegiances among Hispanics could become more balanced.
Those obstacles notwithstanding, there is no doubt that as the minority population in Texas has grown, so too has the potential for the state to become less firmly Republican. And there are already signs of a possible future: Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio, a rising star in Democratic politics, gave the keynote address at the national convention in Charlotte, N.C.
But that Democratic comeback – whether led by Mr. Castro or someone else – may still be years away. In the meantime, Democrats will have to continue to wait.