Saturday, January 13, 2007

Comment on Burka's TX MONTHLY analysis of the Latino Vote

Below is UT Arlington Professor Roberto Calderon’s analysis (in Spanish) --"Futuro latino esta aquí" [meaning, "The Future of Latinos is Here"] that suggests strongly that Burka would do well to not limit his analysis to South Texas and to consider north Texas. You can’t fully understand the Latino vote in Texas with a focus on South Texas. Geoeconomic and geopolitical trends that link Mexico and the U.S. at the “belly button,” as Calderon states, also need to be taken into consideration. Also as the recent massive mobilizations suggest and the electoral ousting of Republican candidates, north Texas—Dallas, in particular— is where a whole lot of the action is.

Burka’s "cultural analysis" regarding low voter turnout is also lacking if not antiquated and stereotypical. Widely researched crucial predictors of political participation across time and space—income, education, and age—merit mention.

I am aware that there is quite a bit of evidence which shows that Latino citizens vote similar to Anglos and African-Americans after taking sociodemographic factors into account (e.g., Campbell et al, 1960; Verba and Nie, 1972; Wolfinger and Rosenstone 1980) —although one study (Cassel 2002) found this to be especially to be true in presidential, rather than mid-term elections. Calvo and Rosenstone (1989) contradict all the other evidence, however, finding that even after taking into account social and demographic factors —at least with respect to the 1984 presidential elections—Latinos were less likely to vote.

The bulk of this research suggests, however, that Latinos are not apathetic and that they do vote at levels that are commensurate with their age and class background. Latinos’ relative youth as a population together lower levels of education and income is what impacts voter participation. Stated differently (politically), if you want to disenfranchise the Latino community, you under-educate or you mis-educate. There’s a lot to know here.


Calvo, M. A. and S. J. Rosentone (1989). Hispanic Political Participation. San Antonio, TX: Southwest Voter Research Institute.

Campbell, A. P. Converse, W. Miller, and D. Stokes. (1960). THE AMERICAN VOTER, NY: Wiley.

Cassel, Carol A. (2002) Hispanic Turnout: Estimates from Validated Voting Data, Political Research Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 2 (Jun., 2002), pp. 391-408

Verba, S. and N. H. Nie. (1972) Pparticipation in America: Political Democracy and Social Equality. Chicago: U of Chicago Press.


Texas Monthly (January 2007)

Minority Report
By Paul Burka

Argue all you want about the level of Hispanic turnout in the 2006 elections, but one thing is certain: Demographic inevitability alone won’t save the Democrats.

THE DAY OF RECKONING IS COMING. It could occur as soon as 2010, more likely by 2014, or perhaps as late as 2022, but nothing can prevent the moment when demographics takes over and the sleeping giant of Texas politics-the Hispanic vote-awakes at last and restores the Democratic party to its rightful hegemony.

Or at least that’s the dream. The stuff the dream is made of can be found in the projections of Texas’s population by state demographer Steve Murdock, at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Assuming that net immigration continues at the pace established in the last decade of the twentieth century, Hispanics will constitute 59.2 percent of the state’s population in 2040, Anglos but 23.9 percent. Long before then, Texas will be a Democratic stronghold again.

Or will it? Both the numbers and the anecdotal evidence suggest that Republicans are doing increasingly well with Hispanic voters here-so well, in fact, that the Democratic dream may be turning into a nightmare. This ought not to come as a surprise. The Hispanic population has become economically diverse. Even in South Texas, which lags behind the rest of the state economically, an upper middle class is emerging. But more than economics is involved. South Texas Democratic politics remains mired in the ways of the past-clan warfare, boss rule, and petty (and not-so-petty) corruption-and the Republican party has been the beneficiary.

The division of the Hispanic vote between the two major parties is one of the most crucial-and most disputed-statistics in Texas electoral politics. The William C. Velasquez Institute, in San Antonio, has long been regarded as the most authoritative source for how Hispanics are voting. But its exit polling of the recent gubernatorial race, based on 440 respondents in 32 selected precincts across the state, is simply not credible: Chris Bell, 39.5 percent; Carole Keeton Strayhorn, 28.6 percent; Kinky Friedman, 14.3 percent; and Rick Perry, 13.9 percent. Perry campaigned vigorously in South Texas. He had the support of eleven mayors (presumably Democratic, although the office is nonpartisan). Democratic sheriffs appeared in his TV ads on border security. A Dallas Morning News poll a few days before the election showed him getting 37 percent of the Hispanic vote. His actual performance in the big South Texas counties suggests that he did considerably better than the 13.9 percent in the Velasquez Institute’s exit poll. Perry got more votes in Cameron County than Bell did (the margin was only a few dozen votes, but he carried the county). He got approximately four thousand more votes than Bell in Nueces County. He lost Hidalgo County to Bell but still received 33.5 percent of the vote to Bell’s 42.67 percent. El Paso was even closer: Bell, 36.2 percent; Perry, 33.04 percent. Even in Webb County, Tony Sanchez’s home base, where Bell beat Perry by a two-to-one margin, Perry had 25 percent of the vote.

Granted, this is not a scientific analysis: There is no way to know how many Hispanics were represented in Perry’s total votes in these counties. But we do know from 2004 population estimates that Hispanics outnumber Anglos by approximately seven to one in Cameron County and by nine to one in Hidalgo County. To be competitive, Perry had to get a lot of Hispanic votes-a lot more than 13.9 percent.

The Velasquez Institute was not alone in doing exit polling in Texas. CNN and the Associated Press, among other national organizations, collaborated on far-more-extensive exit polling-2,090 respondents statewide. Their findings were considerably different from the Velasquez Institute’s: Bell, 41 percent; Perry, 31 percent; Strayhorn, 18 percent; and Friedman, 9 percent. What might account for the considerable variation? In 2004, when the Velasquez Institute gave George W. Bush a lower percentage of the Hispanic vote than most other polling organizations, critics suggested that the culprit might have been an unduly heavy reliance on inner-city precincts, which could have missed the move of upwardly mobile Hispanics to more-affluent areas, where, the theory goes, they are more likely to vote Republican.

Two questions emerge as crucial in the battle for the Hispanic vote in Texas: How do Hispanics vote, and why don’t they vote in greater numbers? Nationally, the increase in Hispanic voting is startling. The pollster John Zogby wrote recently that Hispanics constituted “5 percent of 95 million voters in 1996, 6 percent of 105 million voters in 2000, and 8.5 percent of 122 million voters in 2004.” Projecting to 2008, Zogby says, “With a highly competitive election and a heavy voter registration drive, we could be looking at an electorate that includes a Hispanic component amounting to 10 percent of 130 million voters.”

Imagine what might have happened in Texas had Hispanic participation grown by 65 percent over the past three election cycles. But it hasn’t. Mike Baselice, a well-regarded Republican pollster, says that the portion of the voting electorate that is Hispanic increases by roughly half of a percentage point every two years: for example, from 16.5 percent of the electorate in 2002 to 17 percent in 2004. At that rate, it will take sixteen years for the Hispanic vote to become a quarter of the electorate. And this was a lost year: Compared with the 2002 gubernatorial election, when Tony Sanchez headed the Democratic ticket, turnout in South Texas was dismal. Maverick County had a 15 percent turnout of registered voters, the lowest in the state, down from 26.5 percent in 2002. In Hidalgo County, the turnout dropped by a third; at 17 percent, it too was one of the lowest in the state. In Webb, the turnout was only 18 percent.

The low participation rate, particularly in traditional barrios, has been the subject of considerable discussion on the Internet. “What’s up with the decreasing Hispanic voter turnout [in Nueces County]?” asked a writer for the South Texas Chisme blog. “Blockwalkers were falling all over each other in the west-side precincts. Many of the low performing neighborhoods had 4 or 5 visits to each door.” But Republicans won three high-profile races in Nueces: county judge, sheriff, and court of appeals judge. Some of the explanations offered are obvious (the absence of a big name at the top of the Democratic ticket, strong Republican candidates at the local level), and others are familiar concerns (the perception in South Texas that the Democratic party took the border for granted when it was in power and still does, the grinding effect of poverty, which leads people to believe that voting benefits only the politicians, not the voters).

History and culture play a role as well. I learned a great deal about the history of Hispanic political involvement from the late Ruben Munguia, who, in addition to being Henry Cisneros’s uncle and political tutor, was one of a group of small-business owners who, in the years after World War II, first gave San Antonio’s West Side a voice in the affairs of the city. Munguia’s father was a printer in Mexico who came to San Antonio in the twenties when the successful Mexican Revolution turned left. “In Mexico,” Munguia once told me, “the government never did anything for you, it only did things to you.” That culture was transplanted to Texas, where the patrón system evolved, in which local political bosses exchanged favors (such as paying for funerals or arranging for a job) for votes. Straight-ticket Democratic votes. This was palanca (lever) politics: Vote Democrat and shut your eyes to what was going on. It was enforced by politiqueras, political workers (mostly female) who were, and still are, paid to get out the vote. Politics often took the form of a battle of clans in which power was an end in itself. Take over a county, a city, or a school board and you gained control of patronage: The “outs” got fired and the “ins” got hired. And so it went, decade after decade.

Democratic state representative Aaron Peña, of Edinburg, took on the subject of low Hispanic turnout in his blog, A Capitol Blog. “I am frequently asked why incumbent Court of Appeals judge Fred Hinojosa lost his race to [Republican] Rose Vela out of Corpus Christi,” he wrote. Peña mentioned the respect accorded the Vela name in South Texas and the growing number of Hispanics in the middle and upper middle classes. But he condemned “the sad legacy of South Texas boss or strongman politics which relied heavily on patrón-managed turnout rather than the advocacy of ideas.”

I called Peña to ask his opinion of the Velasquez Institute’s finding that Perry received only 13.9 percent of the Hispanic vote statewide. “That can’t be right,” he said. “Republicans are gaining ground. There has been a dramatic change in my lifetime of an educated middle and upper middle class, a tremendous growth in wealth. The banks are Hispanic friendly. There’s more capital available. This area is not hostile to Republicans. City leaders responded to Perry. Most Hispanics are socially conservative when it comes to gay marriage, respect for the military, and, if you’re older, abortion.” But Peña also assigns part of the blame for Hinojosa’s loss to “the historic neglect of the region by the state and national Democratic party.” There were no Democratic signs up, he said, but Perry and comptroller candidate Susan Combs went to Hidalgo County and put up signs. Even the politiqueras are no longer reliably Democratic; they’ll sell their services to the highest bidder.

Democrats are going to have to clean up their act or they are going to lose more and more races in South Texas. The older people who have lived under the patrón system all their lives are dying out. Younger, upwardly mobile Hispanics will not put up with it. The old ways will not go peacefully, but they will go. If Democrats ever hope to dominate this state again, they are going to have to recruit and elect clean candidates like Juan Garcia, a former Navy pilot and graduate of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, who defeated an incumbent Republican in a legislative race in Corpus Christi. They are going to have to base their appeals to voters on issues, not party loyalty. Otherwise, Republicans will have every bit as much claim to the Hispanic vote as Democrats do.

Peña ended his blog post with “Only time will tell.” He might well have added: “And time is running out.”

Links referenced within this article

Paul Burka
Futuro latino esta aquí

Roberto R. Calderón

Por si acaso nadie se había dado cuenta el 2006 borró toda duda de que el futuro de esta región, al igual que la del resto del estado y el país depende (y dependerá más con el tiempo), de la comunidad mexicana/latina para su propio bienestar.

Claro quedó con la movilización de abril pasado, sin precedentes en esta región, que la fuerza de la comunidad latina es y será contundente. Todos estaríamos más pobres sino fuera por las contribuciones de nuestra comunidad.

Además, Latinoamérica también sería mucho más pobre sin las remesas que contribuye la comunidad latina radicada en Estados Unidos. Para mediados del siglo 21 se anticipa que habrá alrededor de 100 millones de latinos en Estados Unidos. Esta cifra representará una cuarta parte de la población del país. Es decir, lo latino está aquí para quedarse. Lo mexicano también, no faltaba más.

Difícil sería querer borrar la proximidad de un país del otro como pretende hacer el llamado muro del odio que promulgó la mayoría saliente republicana en el Congreso de EU.

Aunque deberíamos decir que tal acción también contó con la complicidad demócrata, menos 83 cogresistas que votaron en contra.Para la comunidad latina este peligroso desdén del partido Demócrata avisa cautela para con un partido u otro. También cabe decir que la falla moral y política de los congresos correspondientes de México y otros países latinoamericanos en relación a la condición reprimida que viven sus connacionales aquí en el norte, fue y sigue siendo notable.

Primero son las inversiones del capital extranjero y sólo después el bien de sus connacionales. En la mayor parte de estos países el capital enviado por los inmigrantes supera el capital invertido por Estados Unidos, Europa o Asia en conjunto. ¿Por qué entonces se le extiende la alfombra roja a éstos pero no a los intereses substantivos de los connacionels emigrados?

¿De dónde nace esta disparidad geopolítica, no obstante las retóricas al contrario de los respectivos consulados y cuerpos diplomáticos?

Obviamente son estas complejas relaciones multilaterales: la del inmigrante y la relación entre su país y Estados Unidos. Si uno creyera en el dogma racista y arrogante que expide el movimiento antiinmigrante en Estados Unidos, uno pensaría que la ecuación es de un solo sentido. Es decir, los estadunidenses y su gobierno sonincapaces de cometer ningún error, ninguna fechoría, ningún atropello en la historia que justificara el movimiento de masas de mexicanos y latinomericanos hacia este país. El trasfondo del movimiento antiinmigrante lleva encima grandes razgos racistas que perciben al inmigrante como un ente menos deseable y, al fin de cuentas, incapaz de merecer su humanidad.

Su humanidad (desaparecida), se torna blanco del desprecio y explotación que se le adscribe y reparte en esta sociedad. Tan sólo está de ver el último ejemplo que fue la gran serie de redadas de la Operación Wagon Train, de las plantas de carne Swift a lo ancho y largo de seis estados hace algunas semanas, para reconocer lo poco que se le reconoce al inmigrante latino su humanidad y sus derechos laborales y políticos.

Las ganacias para el capital extranjero en Latinoamérica se multiplican porque tanto en los países de origen del inmigrante como dentro de la sociedad estadunidense, se generan condiciones óptimas para captar ganancias y divisas imposibles de lograr de cualquier otra manera.

Estados Unidos y México (y el resto de Latinoamérica) están atados del ombligo geográficamente. Podemos decir que el uno y otro coexistirán quieran o no hasta el fin de la historia. La marcha nacional de entre 3 a 5 millones de personas durante el año de 2006, empezando en enero y culminando con marchas históricas que surgieron en marzo y abril y que luego continuaron a menor escala hasta principios de septiembre, marcaron la mayor movilización cívica en la historia de Estados Unidos. Aquello de querer hacer criminales a los inmigrantes que tan sólo y buscan albergue y pan para sobrevivir, que huyen de las economías devastadas de sus países de origen, que cobró cuerpo político en algo que vino a ser conocido por su nombre popular, el Sensenbrenner Bill, o sea el H.R. 4437, detonó un eco masivo que movilizó a este autodeclarado "país de inmigrantes" como nunca antes. Y todo se hizo a pesar de los líderes electos a puestos políticos, a pesar de los medios comerciales de comunicación, a pesar de todo tipo de autoridades. El movimiento surgió del fondo de una esperanza extraordinaria que representa todo un pueblo de inmigrantes. El voto latino en el metroplex es ascendente. Diría que este es el momento en que debemos hacer religión cívica del voto electoral latino, en que todos debemos tomar seriamente el poder que ejercemos de manera individual para expresarnos políticamente de manera colectiva.

No fue accidente que el Norte de Texas y el resto del estado haya empezado a girar de nuevo hacia un dominio demócrata. El ritmo lo marca el cambio demográfico, lo marca el despertar de la comunidad latina al ejercer sus derechos cívicos y políticos. La realidad del inmigrante es que ha reconocido que estamos aquí para quedarnos no importe cuánto queramos al país de origen. Este país en el que vivimos hoy es el nuestro de aquí en adelante. Por cierto, nuestros hijos, nietos y bisnietos ya viven otra realidad y a ellos se les enterrará un día en algún futuro lejano en suelo estadunidense y no suelo del país de los padres y/o abuelos.

Calderón es miembro de la facultad de historia en la Universidad del Norte de Texas.

1 comment:

  1. What was the Hispanic vote in North Texas?