Lawmakers, of course, are meant to create policy based on their conceptions of the public good. Equally obvious is the fact that this often does not happen, in large part thanks to a campaign finance system that equates to legalized bribery, personal prejudice, and self-interest. The convention when making policy decisions for the wrong reasons is to pretend it's for the public good.
Not anymore for some Texas Republicans. In May, Texas tea party leader Ken Emanuelson said this at a Dallas County Republican Party event: “I'm going to be real honest with you. The Republican Party doesn't want black people to vote if they are going to vote 9-to-1 for Democrats.”
Unfortunately, that thinking is exactly in line with the public statements of other Texas Republicans on one of the core issues of our era: immigration reform. It's also the ethos behind oppressive voting restrictions and racially discriminatory congressional maps in Texas.
The proposed immigration overhaul “is very unpopular in my district,” said Marchant, who represents suburbs west of Dallas. “The Republican primary voters, they're being pretty vocal with me on this subject.” Besides, he said, “if you give the legal right to vote to 10 Hispanics in my district, seven to eight of them are going to vote Democrat.”
Rep. Kenny Marchant (TX-24)
From the horse's mouth: Kenny Marchant won't support immigration reform because “if you give the legal right to vote” to Latinos in his district, it becomes harder for Kenny Marchant to win. A newsflash for Marchant: you don't “give the legal right to vote” to people. It's illuminating that he doesn't deny that Latinos in his district, all other factors aside, should have the full exercise of voting rights. Just that considering their rights alone would hurt Kenny Marchant's self-interest.
That is, Marchant will work to legislate racism because he doesn't like how he thinks Latinos will vote when they can exercise their right to do so.
Marchant is joined by fellow Texas Republican Rep. Michael Burgess, also of north Texas. A day after Marchant's comments became public, Burgess made his views known by questioning other Republicans “about the wisdom of giving citizenship to '11 million undocumented Democrats.'” That comment was made in the Capitol basement in a closed-door meeting, but it made it to the public. When it did, Burgess tried to explain it away this way in the National Journal:
Burgess explained his quip as “an effort to tamp down some of the tension in the room,” but said there is a serious conversation being had about the subject of his joke. “I live in a state that has voted Republican in statewide elections for a long time. And yet you cannot pick up a Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, Fort Worth Star-Telegram without reading an article about how 'Texas is going to be a Democratic state, it's just a matter of time,'” Burgess told National Journal. “What's going on here, is people think if we get a larger and larger immigrant population, they will be obligated to vote Democratic.”
Rep. Michael Burgess (TX-26)
By Burgess' own explanation, we know the comment was not a quip but a reflection of “[w]hat's going on here”: the prospect of justice for undocumented immigrants scares Texas Republicans who already see Texas turning blue.
Also note the mindset here. Burgess thinks currently-undocumented Latinos will “be obligated to vote Democratic” as if they are cattle. A vile view to hold. It is also a classic case of projection: because Burgess opposes immigration reform for political reasons, he thinks of its results only in political terms. Justice for millions of Americans-in-all-but-name be damned. And, for the record, polling evidence does not suggest creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants will lead to a Democratic wave.
Prejudicial self-interest at the wheel, Texas Republicans have been pro-active about stopping Texans of color from voting. In 2011, Rick Perry signed a Voter ID law that a federal three-judge panel ruled would have a retrogressive effect “in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise.”
Also in 2011, when Texas Republicans held a supermajority in the Legislature, they passed racially discriminatory congressional maps. The Department of Justice found that the maps had been “adopted, at least in part, for the purpose of diminishing the ability of citizens of the United States, on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group, to elect their preferred candidates of choice to Congress.”
Legislating racism is now a central strategy of the Republican Party, and Texas Republicans are a perfect example of it. The fact is that Emanuelson, Marchant and Burgess are clearly just saying what most Republicans are thinking. Fox News' Brit Hume recently advised Republicans to keep focusing on the white vote over the Latino vote, and Republicans have largely decided to cut down on Latinos' right to vote to make this otherwise-unviable strategy possible.