The Democrats’ defeat in 2016 ushered in a parade of pundits who argued that the party had failed because it had assumed demographics were destiny, and had relied too strongly on what they labeled “identity politics.” The truth is closer to the reverse. In Texas and other states, Republicans have sought to engineer the demographics of the electorate to be whiter and older, the better to run culture-war campaigns that scapegoat religious and ethnic minorities for the nation’s problems. The question is, how long can the Republican Party manipulate the political process to pursue an agenda on taxes, immigration, and health care that most of the country does not want?
“Texas has one of the lowest voter turnouts in the country, and the elected officials who currently hold power want to keep it that way,” said Cristina Tzintzún Ramírez, the director of Jolt, a Latino voting-rights group in the state. “They don’t want the people that make up this state to determine a new direction for Texas.”
Texas’s voter-ID law is part of that, but so is its redistricting process. The Texas delegation to Congress consists of two Republican senators, 25 Republican House members, and 11 Democratic House members. My cousin and I are both represented by Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat who has been in Congress so long that he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act and also voted to repeal it. My cousin lives in Austin; I live more than 70 miles away, in San Antonio. The district, two urban enclaves connected by a long, thin ribbon stretched between them, was ruled unconstitutional twice by federal courts, but was then upheld in a 5-4 Supreme Court decision this year. It is an obvious artifact of the effort to pack liberal whites and Latinos into one district, where they can’t threaten Republican dominance of the delegation.
“The Texas House, the Texas Senate, is majority Republican. The governor is Republican. The lieutenant governor is Republican. The attorney general is Republican. The whole state is a ‘red state.’ I’m not a politician, but it would make sense that these politicians who are in power would want to retain power,” said Edgar Saldivar of the Texas ACLU. “So what we’re seeing not just in Texas but across the country is an effort by state legislatures to make it more difficult for minorities, for poor people and people of color, to cast votes, because they might fear that they would lose power, if everyone had a fair and equal chance to vote.”
Texas’s population is 42 percent non-Hispanic white, or “anglo,” in Texas terms, and 40 percent Latino, but the electorate was 65 percent white in 2016, and only 21 percent Latino. White Texans are substantially more likely to be conservative, and Latinos are more likely to vote Democratic. [Continue reading…]