How Texas Turns Blue
Nate Cohn at the New Republic doesn’t think Texas is going Democratic in presidential elections any time soon, even if “comprehensive immigration reform” passes. He sees 2036 as the earliest the Lone Star State might turn blue with or without amnesty: “About 1.4 million illegal immigrants live in Texas, but not all will become citizens. Only about half a million will, assuming the rate matches that of the 1986 immigration-reform bill. Of those, only 300,000 or so will turn out to vote—hardly making an impact.”
The only scenario Cohn envisions in which a blue Texas emerges sooner—by 2024—is one in which the Democrats field “a presidential candidate who could do as well with white voters as President Obama did in 2008,” and that kind of nominee “would be on his or her way to a national landslide, in which case Texas’s electoral votes would be gravy, not a cornerstone of victory.”
Cohn’s modeling strikes me as altogether too static. The political climate of a state changes as its demographics change, and changes in the climate will affect other demographics besides the one whose growth is most notable. How this will play out in practice is anyone’s guess: should each party try to outbid the other in appealing to Hispanic voters, perhaps Republican suffer a backlash from whites, whose turnout then plummets and allows Texas Democrats to make inroads first at the state level and then at the presidential level. The opposite is within the realm of possibility as well: maybe Republicans actually succeed in increasing their own share of the Hispanic vote and the question of Texas ever going blue—at least within any foreseeable horizon—is moot. Given the GOP’s remarkable knack at present for alienating just about everyone, the first scenario seems likelier than the second, but parties can change dramatically in the spans Cohn is considering.
Even though presidential elections bring far more Democratic voters to the polls, I’d look for the first signs of a blue Texas at lower levels. The Texas Democratic Party won’t have much luck if it’s the Hispanics-but-not-whites party; its future, if it has one, will be as a party that an increasing share of Lone Star voters of various backgrounds embrace. I haven’t seen much evidence that the state party is gaining momentum—though there’s some—so I agree with Cohn that a blue Texas remains chimerical. But if that changes, it won’t just be because of a linear progression of the Hispanic vote.