Monday, February 29, 2016

Trump's Texas: Where the Republican Party Will Soon Become an Elephant Graveyard

by Nomad

Texas has always been good for a few eye-rolls and bitter laughs when it comes to politics. In the last few years, the barrel's bottom went bottomless.
Yet, we may soon find that Texas holds all the cards when it comes to the results of the next election. And, that's really bad news for Republicans.

It must have been a daunting task for ProgressTexas to narrow the list of worst Texans down to only ten. Texas takes a lot of bad press for the Far Right politicians it has produced. Some of them have been extraordinarily embarrassing.

The list includes such people as Cecil Bell, Jr.- named by Texas Monthly as one of 2015’s worst legislators.
Bell became famous mainly for two things, wearing a cowboy hat and filing bills to prevent gay marriage in Texas. Of the 20 anti-LGBTQ bills Bell and other Texas Republicans introduced in the legislature, all of them failed to pass.
Not only a complete waste of time but a neglect of other more important responsibilities that did not entail depriving anybody of any rights.

There's Will Hurd from Texas' 23rd congressional district. He earned his place on the 2015 list for having "voted to cut education, health care, veteran benefits and, most recently, to let terror list suspects buy guns."
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick qualifies too.
The moment he took over the Texas Senate, he changed a decades-long rule to give himself and his Tea Party buddies more power to pass his horrendous priority legislation. You can thank Patrick for open carry and campus carry. He further abused his power to wade in on repealing equal rights in Houston — so much for local control — and he’s got big plans to cut health care for the most needy Texans and to legislate discrimination under the false banner of “religious liberty.”
As I said, ten is far too small a number to capture the full scope of the political recklessness found in Austin but it's a good start. Wait til you see who ranks top on the list.

However, let's not forget that Texas is also the state that produced such fine progressives as Republican president Dwight D. Eisenhower whose support for desegregation ended up in a federal showdown with state officials. And what about Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson whose Great Society reforms reshaped the nation in so many ways.
(Conservatives today are still trying to undo Johnson's legislation on the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.)

We also shouldn't forget that Texas is the home state of Barbara Jordon, the first African-American woman to serve in the Congress from a Southern state and one-time governor Anne Richards hailed.
While not a politician, we can't leave out the plainspoken Cassandra of the Bush era, the late Molly Ivins. Ever the optimistic Ivins once said:
Good thing we've still got politics in Texas - finest form of free entertainment ever invented.
While this is a list of shame for the Lone Star state- even if too many haven't realized it, all is not lost. Progressives should also understand that often without access, the public can never be moved to reform.

It's a sad fact of life in politics. It has to get as bad as the majority of people can stand before people get angry enough to kick people out of cushy seats in state legislatures. 

Texas: Republican Make-or-Break State

Juan Wilder, writing for the Greenville Gazette points out that, although Texas is still in Republican hands, no state in the U.S. has as much voter support as Texas, the demographic tide is soon expected to change.

If (or when) Texas shifts from red to blue, the Republicans will be in deep trouble. Why?
With 38 electoral votes, Texas has established itself as the engine of the Republican party. Without Texas’ support, it’s likely that no Republican candidate would ever win the presidency again.
But seriously, how plausible is that? Some political analysts think it is only a matter of time and could happen sooner than most people expect. (That's not necessarily a universal view.)

Like California, Texas is becoming a state in which paradoxically minorities form the majority. In time, that paradox will be a way of life.
According to 2013 census figures, only 44 percent of Texans are “Anglos,” or whites; 38.4 percent are Hispanic; 12.4 percent African-American; and the remainder Asian-American and native American. By 2020, Hispanics are projected by the Texas State Data Center to account for 40.5 percent of Texans and African-Americans for 11.3 percent compared to 41.1 percent of Anglos.
Since minorities, as a rule, tend to vote Democrat, the reasoning goes, the trends seem to tell a positive story for Democrats. 

Of course, with every conclusion as important as this, there are plenty of skeptics who will express doubt. There are, they say, many other factors that play into elections than just demographics.
That's true. 
It's also true that there is a growing realization that the GOP and their candidates will have to undergo some serious policy rethinking if there will be a Republican president anytime soon.
In short, appealing only to the white votes is not a recipe for success anymore. 

In that regard, in this election year, the Republicans must be growing discouraged (behind closed doors) about where Texas is heading.
The trouble is there's not a lot anybody can do about. 

More than Tone and Presentation

Following the Romney disaster, the Republican National Committee (RNC) issued a million dollar report outlining the challenges to the GOP in presidential elections. Too bad nobody bothered to read it because it really does make some valuable points.
But there is also a sense of superficiality. It is in some ways, an admission that the Republican cannot change, its politics are too monolithic and far right to allow any reform at all. Take this suggestion about how to win over the Hispanic vote.

On its to-do list, the Republicans were encouraged to "craft a tone" - rather than a sensible policy which Hispanics can support.
On issues like immigration, the RNC needs to carefully craft a tone that takes into consideration the unique perspective of the Hispanic community. Message development is critical to Hispanic voters.
And another recommendation also had to do with presentation. 
The Republican Party is one of tolerance and respect, and we need to ensure that the tone of our message is always reflective of these core principles. In the modern media environment a poorly phrased argument or out-of-context statement can spiral out of control and reflect poorly on the Party as a whole.  
That was in 2013 and if anything, the front-runner - the guy who appears likely to win the nomination of his party- has somehow managed to do exactly the opposite of anything you can find in the Growth and Opportunity Report.

Had the 2016 candidates taken onboard any of the suggestions from that report, there might now be hope of winning Hispanic hearts in Texas. 

Between Trump and Cruz

That's not what happened. A man named Trump rode into town in a big white limo as long as a bus. He stepped out and then started insulting every minority he could find.  First, he claimed Mexican immigrants were criminals, rapists and drug dealers and when asked to clarify his remarks, he enlarged the insult by including Latinos in general. Huffington Post has a few other remarks Trump has made that Latinos might find offensive.

At the moment, Ted Cruz, with his Cuban father, has a slight lead over Trump. His Hispanic (sort of) background should have given him a slight advantage. 
The problem with Cruz is that there has probably never been a candidate in American history so detested by his own party. He is just plain unlikeable as a human being and that's not really much of a plus when campaigning for president. 

Actually, there are some real qualms about having either of them as the representative of the GOP. An op-ed in The Dallas Morning News a couple of days ago has this:
Like Trump, Cruz is not the type of candidate who inspires the party faithful while at the same time drawing moderate and independent voters into the tent. This is how political parties grow and prosper. These two have proven to be quite the opposite — small-minded and ego-driven.
Even though both of these men have their supporters, the writer is wise enough to know that this means nothing.
That has not stopped them from attracting followings. So did Huey Long and Joseph McCarthy, before history and common sense caught up to them.
Common sense and Republican party politics are not exactly as close as conjoined twins. As one of the candidate dropout recently declared, the GOP has gone "batshit crazy." 

Time has just about run and next Tuesday's date with destiny will probably confirm the Republicans worst fears: whether they like it or not, they seem to be stuck with the orange man with the funny hair. And Trump can hardly be called the candidate of tolerance and respect, by any stretch of the imagination.

Instead, he is seen as "the all-American underdog, the anti-PC, shoot-from-the-hip politician." He says what he thinks and if nobody likes it, tahellwitchoo!
That's his schtick and he plays it well, even though most educated voters- according to stats- can see through it.

If Trump Wins the Nomination...

Nonetheless, Trump's popularity is undeniable. The problem is that it is mostly limited to white middle-class Americans.

In fact, of the four demographic groups, (White, Black, Asian and Hispanic) Trump does the worst with the Hispanic voter.
The breakdown looks something likes this:
To the surprise of no one, Trump polls much better among non-Hispanic, white Republicans than among non-white or Hispanic Republicans. Trump receives 41% support from non-Hispanic, white Republicans, 37% from black Republicans, 30% from Asian Republicans and only 25% from Hispanic Republicans.
Trump's racist- or quasi-racist- rhetoric might be music to the ears of the angry, white conservative, but it must be jarring to hear for a Hispanic American.  (His disrespect to the head of the Catholic Church surely didn't sit too well with the largely Catholic Latino community.)

The question is only whether the minority-majority can ever be motivated to actually register and vote. Republicans must be hoping that they have better things to do on Election Day. 
Expressing all of the fears of the GOP establishment in a single sentence, one Hispanic anti-Trump protester recently said:
“I think the majority will stay in the Democrats because they understand that all the Republicans are standing for right now is hate and this rhetoric.”
Through Texas, a Trump election calamity could very well usher in a new era of Texas politics. The final nail in the coffin for hopes of ever- in its present state- winning a presidential election.

When that happens, Texas will turn from being the laughing-stock of the nation, and into a state we can be proud of. The colorful quirky characters that Texas produces in droves can then find work outside of politics. Some place where they can't do so much harm.

The list of the worst Texans only underscores the perception that the states Republicans politicians are too fixated with Planned Parenthood, with Obamacare and with same-sex marriage to actually think about managing the state properly.
Coupled with this state-level incompetence, the Grand Old Party might also be facing a fitting end to its long hold on Texas.

What Molly Ivins would have made of Donald Trump we can only imagine. We certainly could use her brand of wit and satire to get us through this strange time. 
She is quoted as saying something that certainly applies to Donald Trump and the 2016 election altogether:
The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion.
As confused as the political situation is, still months before the election, Molly would probably have also added that we haven't seen anything yet. 
You won't believe what August is going to look like.