Aside from immigration, education is a leading consistent issue on which Hispanics always poll strongly. They care deeply about the dropout rate.
Population shift could alter politics in Texas
By Gary Scharrer - Express-News
Web Posted: 05/16/2010 12:00 CDT
AUSTIN — They say demographics is destiny, and if so, Texas Republicans will have to try harder in the coming years if they want to keep the state in the red column.
School enrollment shows the state's population transformation is well under way, and Hispanics are expected to surpass the Anglo population sometime between 2015 and 2020, according to the Texas State Data Center.
Hispanics will make up 78 percent of Texas' population growth between now and 2040, while African Americans will account for 6 percent and Anglos only 4 percent, according to the center.
Republicans gained political supremacy in Texas some 15 years ago and today hold all 29 statewide elected offices. But the party has had a hard time keeping Hispanics in statewide office and an even harder time attracting Hispanic voters.
Texas Democrats have been getting about 70 percent of the Hispanic vote, said Jerry Polinard, a political science professor at UT-Pan American in Edinburg and expert on Mexican American political behavior.
There are no Hispanics among the 96 Republicans in the 181-member Legislature, and their support for voter ID bills and efforts to enlist local police in enforcing federal immigration law “reinforce that the Republican Party is anti-Latino,” Polinard said.
Opposing the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, as Texas' two Republican senators did last year, won't inspire Hispanic enthusiasm, either, Polinard said.
The Texas GOP platform demands abolition of bilingual education and supports legislation that would ban noncitizen children from attending public schools.
Its plank on unauthorized immigration is, “No amnesty! No how. No way.”
The 15-member State Board of Education, which is rewriting social studies curriculum standards for public schools, is two-thirds Anglo — and all of its Anglo members and none of its minority members are Republicans. Its draft proposal, set for a final vote this Friday, has been fiercely criticized as Anglo and conservative triumphalism that skimps minority contributions.
“This has consequences,” Polinard said. “Nobody knows when the magic time is, but if Democrats get 65 (percent) to 70 percent of the Mexican American vote, they are going to start winning all the elections.”
When he was governor, George W. Bush reached out to the Hispanic community, avoided immigrant-bashing and won about 40 percent of the Hispanic vote en route to his 1998 re-election, Polinard said.
The state's population trend “without question is showing the absolute, skyrocketing trajectory of Latinos,” Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, who chairs the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.
But he was quick to emphasize that “no political party has the right to claim ownership of the Latino community.”
Texas Republican Party Chairwoman Cathy Adams would agree on that point. She said most of the non-Anglo population moving into Texas is conservative, with principles that align with the Republican Party, she said.
Adams is confident that Texas GOP Hispanics will be elected to Congress and to the Legislature this November. Four Hispanic Republicans are seeking Texas congressional seats, and six are running for the state House.
“We’re quickly making inroads into the Hispanic community,” she said, citing outreach to the Hispanic community to help Latinos understand that Democrats “embrace taxpayer funded abortion and bigger government that hurts entrepreneurship.”
The GOP will need to show action to back any talk about sharing Hispanic values, Martinez Fischer said.
Republicans “don’t seem to place a high priority on reaching out to Hispanic voters and if they do, you will not notice it because it gets drowned out in the echo chamber of anti-immigration and dehumanization of Latinos in Texas,” he said. “It’s a level of mean-spiritness and people have long memories.”
In the past four Texas gubernatorial elections, Latinos have represented between 13 percent and 19 percent of the total turnout, according to the San Antonio-based Southwest Voter Registration Education Project.
Hispanic voters are probably at least 10 years away from delivering 25 to 30 percent of turnout — but their median age today is 27, some 10 years younger than for Anglo voters, said Lydia Camarillo, the organization's vice president.
The leading issues for Latinos, she said, are taxes and services — and immigration.
“Immigration, without a doubt, has become the litmus test for Latinos,” Camarillo said.