One of the major conclusions from the election earlier this month was that if the GOP is to remain relevant, it is imperative that it expand its base among minority groups. According to a recent article on Politico, the state of Texas might provide the model for the party to make this transition. It notes that although the state is “nearly 40 percent Hispanic, all statewide offices are held by Republicans.”1 The article asserts that the GOP has seen these positive results in Texas because in contrast to the party’s national platform, GOP leaders in the state adopted language “supporting guest workers at the state Republican convention last summer.”(1) While some may argue that the Republicans dominance in Texas is due to the party’s strong showing among white voters in the state, it is evident that this acceptance of guest worker programs has had helped the party reach out to Latino voters.
However, many are skeptical that this acceptance of guest workers doesn’t represent a sudden change of heart for the Republican Party. According to the spokesperson for the Texas Democratic Party, by allowing guest worker programs, state Republicans are “essentially saying that Hispanics are not welcome in our neighborhoods, but they’re welcome to work in our fields.”1 Moreover, it is important to remember that earlier this year the Texas GOP proposed redistricting lines and voter ID laws that were rejected by Federal Courts because it was determined that they would negatively effect minorities.(2,3) These veiled attempts to undermine the Latino vote in the state suggest that the guest worker plank is shrewd political maneuvering rather than a fundamental shift in ideology.
It should also be considered that although Latinos constitute 38% of the population of Texas, only 18% of the state’s delegation to the House of Representatives is Hispanic.(4) If issues important to Latinos in Texas are going to be fairly considered, it is important that this growing segment of the population gets its fair share of representation. While Republicans and Democrats will continue to bicker over immigration policies, I believe that which party Texas Latinos vote for will ultimately come down to which party puts forth more Latino candidates. The GOP has realized this fact, as Republican Senator Ted Cruz ran as the party’s candidate for State Senator last month. If Democrats follow suit and sponsor more Latino candidates, it is possible that they will gain a stronger foothold in Texas and that the state will begin to shift to the left. While it is easy to laugh at the idea of a “blue” Texas, similar shifts have happened in Colorado and New Mexico. If the state’s Latino population continues to grow, there is a chance that Texas could be in the Democratic column within the next twenty or thirty years.
– Evan Tolley