Perhaps you've heard the Democratic Party — fresh off an electoral landslide in 2012 — has set its sights on a new goal: turning Texas into the nation's biggest swing state. Yes, gun-toting, secession-threatening Texas. But don't spit-take your kombucha just yet, because it's a completely feasible idea; here's why.
This week Politico reported Democrats were creating an organization called Battleground Texas aimed at getting traditionally Democratic minorities more engaged in the political process. It's understandable why it sounds ridiculous; Texas and its obscene 38 electoral votes have been red as a beet for years.
The key to the Democrats' success in Texas, however, is the minority vote (which is, ironically, the majority in Texas). Organizers behind Battleground Texas understand turning the Lone Star State blue could take years, saying "there's a realistic view that that will take more than one cycle." In fact, the state is seen as such a lock for the Republicans no exit polls were even conducted there in 2012. But, for several reasons, Battleground Texas' mission is completely feasible.
The Hispanic population in Texas is underrepresented politically. Spending money and time getting them more involved would have enormous consequences on the GOP's stranglehold. According to the 2010 Census, about 38 percent of Texans identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino, while only 45 percent of the state is white non-Hispanic. However, using exit polls from 2008, only 20 percent of voters are Latino. This unrepresented 18 percent of the population is about 4,526,200 people. Granted, many of those 4 millon are likely ineligible to vote, but even a third of those people are enough to overpower the 1,261,719 votes Mitt Romney won Texas by in 2012.
What's more, the Hispanic population in Texas (just like the rest of the country) is growing much faster than the white population—up nearly 42 percent from 2000 to 2010.
This is to say nothing of the fact that Barack Obama managed to pull 41 percent of the vote in 2012 by essentially ignoring the state. Obama made a stop in Texas on Aug. 31, but this was to commemorate the anniversary of the end of combat in Iraq and was hardly a campaign stop. Obama visited Ft. Bliss, an Army camp located on Texas' border with New Mexico (a blue state in 2012) in El Paso County. Sixty-six percent of El Paso County residents voted for the President in 2012. Obama also stopped by San Antonio, another heavily blue area, in July. Were a candidate to pay more attention to Texas, he/she would feasibly garner more support there as well.
It is also of note that Barack Obama was not Texas' choice for the Democratic Party's nomination in 2008. Hillary Clinton won that primary. Should she choose to run in 2016, the combination of greater funding due to Battleground Texas, her higher popularity and a higher minority population could just be enough to tip the scale.
In fact, the blue-shift has already begun in Texas. Of the states' ten largest cities, only Fort Worth has a Republican mayor (the mayors of Arlington, Plano and Corpus Christi are non-partisan). San Antonio's mayor, Julian Castro, spoke at last year's Democratic National Convention and is generally regarded as a rising star within the Democratic Party.
As Houston's Democratic Mayor Annise Parker tells Politico, there's another reason Texas could soon find itself up for grabs. The Republican Party:
"Do I think we're going to turn Texas in two years? Probably not. Do I think we can turn Texas in four years? Absolutely, because I think the Republican Party in Texas is going to drive itself off a cliff," Parker said. "You hear Republicans with rhetoric, literally talking about the jack-booted thugs coming and taking guns out of people's homes, going door to door. You have legislators who will file, once again, virulently anti-immigrant legislation in the state House."
As the Republican Party continues to do itself no favors, the Democratic Party more and more aligns itself with the diverse population that is the face of modern America.
But the number one reason Democrats have a shot grabbing up Texas? The Republicans think they don't.
"The more money they spend on [Battleground Texas], the better it is for Texas and the taxpayers of Texas, because it will basically lead to continued conservative dominance of the state. There's a reason voters are low-propensity voters. They don't vote," [Republican strategist Dave] Carney said. "It's their message that hurts [Democrats]. It's their inability to articulate a message that the vast majority of Texas voters agree with."
Republicans are content to sit back and ignore Democrats as they chip at the wall, little by little.
As mentioned before, Texas carries a ridiculous 38 electoral votes. That's a full 14 percent of the 270 needed to win. Added to Democratic strongholds New York and California, a Democratic candidate who carries Texas starts with 122 electoral votes, and practically guarantees a win. It may cost a lot, and it may take time, but it's worth well-worth both.