In the charts that I've embedded below, everything is the rounded two party vote share. The first chart is without accounting for the home state bounce of Bush, Jr. and LBJ, while the second subtracts a net four points (which is about average as presidential bounces go according to the literature) from their scores. What follows is descriptive analysis and logical inference about Texas's previous, current, and some future voting trends. The Obama-Romney results are taken from Nate Silver's current model projections dated September 5th at 10:17 PM Eastern Standard Time. PVIs are single election PVIs, not double election average as is standard. Single election PVIs are better for analyzing longer term trends. Double election PVIs are better for current analysis because they hedge a bit on the newer top-of-the-ticket performances' abilities to predict results.
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1. Once you account for a home state effect of about four net points, and, admittedly, even when you don’t, Texas is still on a long-term Republican trend. You have to reach back until Carter-Ford to find an election where Texas was more Democratic than the previous election relative to the nation as a whole that couldn’t just be a statistical fluke.
2. The Carter-Ford contest probably slightly interrupted the trend based on Carter being a southern religious man. Clinton likely did not have that same effect on the back of his moral issues, and probably didn’t wear well in Texas as an Arkansan (anecdotally, Texans outside of Texarkana, and even to a degree there as well, disdain - or even despise - Arkansans and Oklahomans).
3. Even LBJ could only pull a two party vote performance that tied his national performance.
4. The large jump to a more balanced PVI after Truman and Dewey is probably related to two factors: the eventual effects of the desegregation of the marine corps under FDR and then more broadly under Truman and the fact that Eisenhower was a war hero (a factor which plays well, especially back then, in the South). In fact, I’ve often noted that I never thought the south was lost after LBJ signed myriad civil rights legislations, but was instead lost because of the near-mythical status afforded to the U.S. military forces by the still distinct American South culture and its complete institutional destruction at the hands of Democrat Truman. I know that this is a little bit too explicative of an approach for some and thus not convincing, but the independent variable here is not measurable in any concrete way and thus does not lend itself to a more scientific approach, but I think the sudden change of PVI across the south lends itself to my analysis. The broader launching of civil rights movements throughout the south over the next decade simply baked this new lower level of support into the cake. 1960s civil rights legislation, contra LBJ, only provided a nudge to continue down the road that had already been started. I.E. there was a certain degree of path dependence here that I think is underrated by commentators and intellectuals.
5. The Hoover and Smith race is probably such an aberration due to Smith’s Catholicism. I think alot of people underestimate the degree to which that would have mattered in Texas specifically - notice that Texas was the only member of the Deep South (which during this time period it was a member of along with Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina) to break so cleanly from the Democratic Party.
1. Restricting analysis to the civil rights and current eras, racial polarization in Texas has become more and more pronounced. It would be theoretically possible to have an increase in the Republican PVI over the previous election cycles provided the following was happening: A) the white vote was becoming gradually more Republican, B) the minority vote as a whole was also becoming more Republican with the increase in Hispanics and then Asians - which are less Democratic than the African Americans which are staying stable, or even slightly declining over time, in percentage terms - as a share of that vote, C) and the increase in minority vote share was sufficiently slow as to not offset the gains that Republicans are making among both whites and minorities.
2. On that last point: in order for Democrats - mathematically - to remain at a constant level of support in Texas, assuming they’ve haven't reached a floor with whites (a floor which is dubious at best, and ludicrous at worst), they have to increase the overall minority registered voter share more with each successive election. In other words, they have to go from increasing the minority vote share by 2% (from 28 to 30) in one election, to 4% (from 30 to 34) the next, to 6% more, and so and so forth. This is because with each successive election Democrats do worse with minorities overall, because Hispanics and Asians are increasing in number and African Americans are not, and because minorities are damned difficult to turn out. Unfortunately, this isn’t happening and alone will increase slightly Republican performance. Minorities, instead, are newly registering at about constant increases of about 2% to 3% more each election cycle, which is enough to have bouncy results - some years with Democrats doing better than expected in some races and some years doing worse. The inference here? That Democrats actually are still sinking with whites and are barely just getting along by turning out minorities.
3. Who is to say we’ve hit rock bottom among whites in Texas? In the panhandle, there are still places where we get 25% to 30% of the vote, whereas in other demographically similar places of that region we get 15% or less. We could be looking at further, and prolonged, decreases over the next 20 years there until we reach that 15% (which is probably a legitimate - and absurdly low - floor). The same can be said of East Texas, where there are still places that local Democrats can pull at 40% or better among whites, but that national Democrats - and even Democrats from other regions of the state in statewide elections - can’t reach 30%. And there are other places, again with the same demographic profile schtick, in East Texas that even local Democrats can no longer reach 30%. The same prolonged decreases that I think will happen in the Panhandle should happen here as well, with a similar 15% to 20% floor among whites.
4. Hispanic voting tendencies in Texas are idiosyncratic. Republican can actually win Texas Hispanics in certain areas and depending on the national and local conditions that they’re running in. Given this tendency to act relatively independent from their national brethren, it isn’t out of the question that Texas Republicans are making gains among Hispanics, complicating even further the points 1 and 2 in this section. Adding a little bit of local color to this, the D.C. court in their denial of preclearance in Texas v. Holder actually noted that the majority Hispanic State House District #117 in San Antonio’s western and southern areas was actually trending Republican as well as the Hispanic district based in Atascosa County to the south of San Antonio, both of which elected Hispanic Republican representatives in 2010 (this is complicated by turnout in that election, and the court still held that there was retrogression in both of the redrawn districts, but that doesn’t counter the fact that the districts are trending Republican slowly).
5. There is a profound implication to the idea that certain areas of Hispanics may be trending Republican in that the Voting Rights Act would no longer require that Hispanic majority districts be drawn in those areas because there would be no candidate of choice by definition for that minority in that area. That would allow Republican to retrogress those districts to the point that they could no longer elect Democrats, cementing their hold further on the State House (the State Senate, by virtue of being so small, really isn’t amenable to these kinds of discussions) and the levers of power appurtenant to it.
6. Democratic turnout ability is severely limited in the state for a bunch of reasons that I think are quite obvious, but should be repeated anyway:
A) The democratic base in the state consists of minorities, which are notoriously low turnout groups. This is actually becoming more and more of a problem as time goes on given that the Democratic Party relies less and less on African Americans (and the white Demosaurs that are becoming and endangered species and, frankly, are extinct most places) and more and more on Hispanics due to the demographic realities of the state. On a side note, African Americans, after you account for socioeconomic characteristics, actually turn out at rates superior to that of whites. The problem is that most of them are lower middle class and poor, so their turnout rates are still dismal. Moving back to Hispanics, the fact that Democrats have to rely on their turnout rates to win means that we’re actually just running in place. Even as demographics would appear to presage a Democratic takeover of the state, it takes more and more effort to increase turnout from a lower and lower starting point. And this is really hard to do considering that we...
B) have no money. National Democrats have long since abandoned the state and refused to help the state party at any and all efforts to party build while still relying on in-state Democrats - mostly trial lawyers - to fund national candidates. So not only are they ignoring us, but they’re draining our potential pool of donors.
C) We rely on turning up good margins among white liberals in Austin (and make no mistake about it, they only exist in large numbers in Austin and only because of UT and Texas State). That’s great and all, but there aren’t very many of them and they certainly aren’t sufficient to win statewide. At other universities in Texas, the student bodies are actually quite conservative. Consider Baylor, or Texas Christian, or Mary Harden Baylor, or Texas Tech, or those damned Aggies over in College Station. My alma mater, UTSA, is notoriously libertarian. We just aren’t winning the college vote in Texas like we do elsewhere. And remember that turnout problems exist here as well because this cohort is young.
D) Repeated Republican attempts at voter ID or other measures designed to suppress Democratic demographics will eventually pay dividends for them and only serve to prolong the Republican trend in Texas. This point is so exhaustively covered in the media and on DKE generally that I won’t bother repeating the rote talking points about it another time.
7. The bench of qualified Democratic candidates is very thin, narrow, shallow, and simply a bad fit for statewide office. We have a single candidate now that can launch statewide and have any hope for winning, and she’s likely to lose her reelection bid this year: Wendy Davis. Other highly touted candidates - such as either of the Castro brothers, Kirk Watson, Annise Parker, among others - all have huge debilitating characteristics that would antagonize the last remaining white conservative Democrats that they’d need to get that last few percent in order to win. The Castros are Hispanic, Kirk Watson is from the liberal-bastion of blue in the sea of conservative reactionary Republican red, and Annise Parker is an uncharismatic lesbian that I - as a gay man, ofcourse - hugely admire. They’re just all wrong for Texas and would only serve to worsen the position of the state party. Wendy Davis, on the other hand, clokes moderate to liberal policies in the veil of a moderate to conservative up-by-the-bootstraps life story and in very entrancing imagery and rhetoric. But even she can only hope to win if she runs against reviled secessionist and 2016 Presidential hopeful Governor Rick Perry. She’d get demolished by anyone else if Perry eschewed another run in 2014, and even then she’s at best 50-50 and probably not even that if Obama wins reelection given that it’d be his second midterm (which is usually worse than the first midterm).
8. The final point about whites is meant to casually combat the point that I see alot of people anecdotally making: that domestic in-movers must be liberal because they’re coming from places like California, Ohio, Minnesota, and Oregon. Just because they’re from a blue state does not mean they’re from blue areas of that state, let alone blue themselves. In fact, my personal opinion of this is that we’re attracting conservative people fed up with their state governments (or economies) that have been run by unions and/or Democrats for decades and are moving to the ultimate right-to-work state to be rid of it all. And, in fact, this would make a bit of intuitive sense in another way as well: all these other states that we’re attracting people from have blue trends. Part of that blue trend, ofcourse, is demographics. The typical way that is understood is that minority groups are growing. But it could also be understood in another way: that whites are either not growing or outright leaving. I.E. whites leaving to Texas may actually be partially driving those blue trends. This would actually make a fair bit of sense in California, where for the first time in a generation the state failed to gain a seat in the U.S. House during reapportionment. This also just makes sense in the Rust Belt states as well. Ohio lost seats due to commonly reported white flight from the state and Minnesota came so close that even any-level-of-government nemesis and wacko Michele Bachmann was forced to advocate for her conspiracy minded anti-government constituents to fill out a census form so that she could keep her job.
It just isn’t the case that Texas is getting bluer at the moment. Ofcourse past isn’t prologue, and I’ll be the first to tell you that one day, some day, hopefully sooner rather than later, Texas will vote for a Democratic candidate for President. But that day, as bright and talented as Julian Castro is, is not going to come because of some highly touted Hispanic savior or because of demographics alone. In fact, even demographics - as I’ve shown above - are working in some complicated and nuanced ways against us in the state. For the time being I’d expect Republican performance to increase a bit more and reach a zenith of about R+12 in 2016 - especially, or even higher, if Democrats nominate my personal favorite in Hillary Clinton - before receding in 2020 to a more workable R+9, and R+7 in 2024. It won’t be until then, or even until 2028, that minorities will make up a majority of the voting public in Texas. And even then, if whites sink even further away from Democrats, they’ll have to rely on a better anchor among minorities than they’re currently getting to make it competitive. In other words, whites will be going for Republicans at a higher rate the minorities will be for Democrats. Taken even further, this means that Democrats will simply not be competitive in this state until minorities make up at least 55% of the voting pool and maybe even 60% depending on how well Republican are able to compete with Hispanics at that point - which is extremely far down the line. You just never know. And do remember that they are poised to elect Ted Cruz to the U.S. Senate, a public relations coup (even despite his severe and disgusting conservatism) the likes of which the Democrats will never be able to bank on and that Republicans are extremely lucky to have.