Jeff Siegel, The Independent
When Texas went to the polls on Tuesday, Donald Trump was tied with Joe Biden in pre-presidential-election surveys. That is not just amazing, but almost unprecedented: Democrats have won Texas just three times since 1964, and the state is famous for its belief in little government, loose gun laws, and keeping liberals out of sight and out of mind.
Texas ultimately got called for Trump, but for most of Election Night, his win didn’t quite seem like a done deal. And in the days leading up to the election, the possibility that Texas might turn blue seemed stronger than ever. When The Associated Press finally declared Trump’s win, he had a six-point lead on the Democratic contender – a feeble score for a state considered a Republican stronghold.
Even if Trump did pull away, the Texas of today is no longer the same state that passed one of the strictest anti-abortion laws the country has ever seen in 2019 – even though abortion has been legal in the US since the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v Wade ruling. This may not be the same Texas whose legislature has continually refused to decriminalize “homosexual conduct” despite a 2003 Supreme Court decision that invalidated the law.
That Biden went into the election in a dead heat with Trump speaks volumes about how Texas has changed over the past decade. Even though Barack Obama carried several of the state’s largest counties in 2008 and 2012, he still lost there handily, by 12 and 16 points respectively. There hasn’t been a Democratic governor in Texas since Anne Richards in 1987, and she served just one term.
So what happened? Why didn’t Trump do what John McCain and Mitt Romney did to Obama, respectively in 2008 and 2012? Or even what Trump did to Hillary Clinton in 2016, when he won the state by nine points?
The Texas Democratic Party has rarely been as liberal as the national party. Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who threw a considerable scare into incumbent Senator Ted Cruz in 2018 before losing by a couple of points, took campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry – something he later pledged not to do during his presidential run. Still, that was hardly the Green New Deal. Getting behind someone like Biden, who often acts as if the center is too far left, is a whole lot easier than it would have been with someone like Bernie Sanders.
The Texas I moved to in 1984, when the Republicans were taking control of the state, is younger, less white, and less rural now. Crucially, the state’s GOP base is none of those things. Republican Pete Sessions, who represented my Dallas Congressional district for 11 terms, lost in 2018 by seven points. The district had once again become younger, less white, and much more urban. Hispanics have been the fastest growing population group in Texas for at least a decade, and it’s expected to keep growing into 2050. Depending on whose numbers you parse, the state’s white population is or soon will be only about 50 percent of the state total.
The state has spent considerable time, effort, and money recruiting Californian companies. Come to Texas, the state says, and enjoy our low-tax, low-regulation, and pro-business environment.
Having said all that, this is still the state where Trump-flag pickup trucks tried to run a Biden election caravan off the road. Any change needs to be measured against the very real possibility of a backlash. Texas didn’t turn blue this time, but Democrats and Republicans alike will do well to keep their ear to the ground. In the distance, they just might hear the winds of change blowing.
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