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How Latinos Can Bring Down The Texas GOP And Turn Texas Blue

by: Omar Araiza

Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 09:00 AM CST

Latino and immigration advocacy groups, America's Voice and Latino Decisions, released yesterday an in-depth report on Texas' rapidly evolving demographics and how the politics of immigration could ultimately help decide Texas politics for many decades to come.

Bad news for Republicans: Their anti-immigrant rhetoric might just be the catalyst needed to mobilize Latino voters and help speed up Texas' journey to blue.

"The trend lines are clear.  What Republicans do on immigration in the next 10 months will shape national politics in the next decade.  California and Florida have proved it.  And nowhere is that forecast stronger today than in Texas," said Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro, Immigration and Civic Engagement Director at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).

The report shows that while alienating Hispanic voters in Texas might help Republicans win races in the short-term through Tea Party votes, if they keep up their anti-immigrant rhetoric, Latinos and Democrats will ultimately have the last laugh. And it might be much sooner than Republicans have even realized.

Read more about what Latinos and the politics of immigration can do for Texas politics below the jump.

The following are some of the key findings of the report:

-- The Hispanic population in Texas is just under 10 million, which is larger than the entire state population in forty-three states.

-- Within the next six years, Hispanics will constitute a plurality of the Texas population (43% by 2020).

-- Half of all Texans under the age of eighteen are Hispanic, while 64% of Texans over fifty are non-Hispanic whites.

-- The majority of Texas Hispanics eligible to vote, 61%, did not cast a ballot in 2012.  That is a twenty-two point turnout difference from their white counterparts in the state. Texas would be as competitive as Florida in statewide elections if this untapped electorate voted.

-- 58% of Hispanic voters in Texas have friends or family members that are undocumented.

-- When asked about the current immigration debate, 36% of Texas Hispanic voters indicated they would be more inclined to support future Republican candidates if the Party advanced comprehensive immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship (Figure 12). Texas Latinos rate above the national average on this point, and display more willingness to vote for GOP candidates compared to Latinos in several states.

Texas Republicans have not yet felt such a large opposition from Hispanic voters mostly because they have been the most successful Republican group at not alienating Hispanics. Yet this seems soon to change.

Extreme-right wing conservatives like state Senator Dan Patrick, and their recent increasingly hostile attacks on Hispanic immigrants, might just be what will force Hispanic voters to mobilize and fight back against the GOP's toxic rhetoric and anti-immigrant legislation. Based on the AV's report, for 58% of Hispanic voters in Texas, attacks against our state's undocumented population are attacks on their friends and family.

How did the GOP lose their own war against LGBT rights? They chose to demonize an entire segment of the population who we know of as our friends and family. No one will stand to have their loved ones discriminated against and used as political tools.

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

"The GOP is at a crossroads, and the choices that House Republicans make now will impact their entire Party's future for years to come.  Texas Republicans are in a position to lead the GOP forward by showing leadership on immigration, but so far they've been sitting back and watching the Party commit political suicide," said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America's Voice.

Just like in other states, the Texas Republican Party will not survive if they alienate the fastest growing demographic in the country and in the state. Pushing for anti-immigrant legislation, and creating divisive atmospheres like those in Arizona and Colorado, will cause Latinos to abandon any support they had for the Texas GOP.

The largest obstacle for all of this -- and both parties share this blame -- is that there are a lot of potential Hispanic voters left to be registered or even contacted.

Today, 2.9 million Hispanics in Texas are eligible to vote but have not been registered or contacted. These numbers are very important because 71% of Hispanics that are registered and reached out to do ultimately end up at the polls to cast their vote.

Texas can already be a competitive state. Texas Democrats cannot rely on Texas to turn blue simply through the passing of time alone. Because it won't. The folks at America's Voice and Latino Decisions have stressed this point in their findings. In order for Democrats to truly mobilize Hispanic voters, we need to invest on strong candidates, help advocate on issues important to Latinos, and do a whole lot of Hispanic community outreach and then some more. Even if Texas is such a large and expensive state to campaign in. The end of the Republican Party as we know it now is absolutely worth the fight.

"The Texas Republican Party used to be the model for Hispanic outreach, but they are increasingly adopting the harsh language and policy positions that burned bridges with Hispanic voters in Arizona, California, and Colorado. In doing so, they give enthusiastic Democratic organizers and campaigns new political opportunities to re-build a long-term coalition in the state," argued Sylvia Manzano, Principal at Latino Decisions.

"Both parties know exactly what they need to do in order to mobilize the Texas Hispanic electorate. It is a matter of political will for both teams."

The sleeping giant that is the Latino vote is already strong enough to put up one heck of a fight. We just need to choose to have had enough.

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