AUSTIN, Texas – So much about this election year has been bizarre and unprecedented, but one thing has remained the same: I have spent hours crushing the dreams of friends and family across the country in their saying no, hot Texas wouldn’t. t turn blue.
I shouted in a fierce wind of expert speculation inside and outside the state, fueled by hopeful polls and statements like: “Texas is competitive this year. , and it’s a lot more competitive than we’ve seen it for 20 years. ” (James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin). “The turnout is unprecedented, and you better bet people who turn not to turn to maintain the status quo.” (Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo). “Hell yes.” (Texas Democratic Party executive director Manny Garcia asked if this was the year Texas would turn blue.)
Friends in New York, where I grew up, were surprised when I told them that a state they consider redeemable if only people here see it their way … At least not yet.
Texas changes but remains conservative
It didn’t make me happy to be right. President Donald Trump won the state’s 38 electoral votes. The Texans sent Republican John Cornyn back to the US Senate.
The chorus of hopeful voices predicting Democrats would win anywhere from nine seats in the State House, which they needed to win a majority, to 16 extravagant seats, has been muffled. When lawmakers return to Austin in January, Republicans will hold 83 seats and Democrats 67, the same partisan split as two years ago. Democrats won a seat in the state Senate, but Republicans still hold an 18-13 majority. All state offices are still held by Republicans.
I moved to Austin from Washington, DC, in 2002 after traveling the country covering George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign and then covering it in the White House. Before that, I reported to North Carolina, where I lived in Raleigh and covered the Statehouse, and watched Republican rule take hold there from afar. It’s no surprise that my old house opted for Trump as well, with his swinging statehood passed to Republicans in five of the last six presidential elections.
My experience living in two capitals in changing but still predominantly conservative states has taught me that radical forecasts are perilous. Change may well come to Texas, but it will come step by step, one forward, one backward, a reality that hyperbole has obscured. The Trump signs just an hour’s drive in any direction from the liberal capital of Austin – including Johnson City, the childhood home of Democratic titan Lyndon B. Johnson – were a reminder for anyone in need.
Longtime Democratic mainstays understand this reality. My neighbor, a 70-year-old Democrat who served as Travis County’s elected tax collector, never stops sending out fundraising invitations for Democratic candidates. A highly qualified and well-respected district court judge has come forward this cycle for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas. The uphill and losing battle was a step in the march towards a day when a single Democrat would sit on the state’s highest court.
Nothing to lose:I’m from Texas and here is my advice to Democrats: go for it.
There are reasons to hope, but it is important to analyze them without taking hold of hope rather than experience. For each step forward, there is a step back:
►Trump’s margin of victory – 52.1% to 46.5% – has shrunk from 2016, when he beat Hillary Clinton by 9 points. That said, the relaxed support at the top of the poll did not translate into big gains for low-voting Democrats.
►Democrats clung to Hispanic and Latino voters in southern Texas and the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas-Mexico border. That said, the margin was less than half that of Clinton in 2016 (my husband, a Texas native and longtime political reporter, regretted that the constant texts asking for money should have been transformed on the ground, s ‘they were socially left behind, campaigning in this important region for Democrats).
Trump and GOP dominate rural Texas
►Joe Biden won all four of the state’s major metropolitan areas – Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties – and took over the last Republican urban stronghold, Tarrant County. He also won the suburban counties of Hays and Williamson, outside of Austin. The last Democrat to win any of these three counties was Johnson, in 1964. That said, those victories did not surpass Trump’s overwhelming dominance in rural Texas.
►The state’s population continues to shift from rural to more urban and suburban. But whether this change is happening fast enough to pay for the next Democratic presidential candidate remains an open question.
The real working class voted Biden:Republicans as a multicultural workers’ party? This is a delusional thought at Trump’s level.
► The turnout was spectacular, but it didn’t translate into big wins for Democrats. Smarting from 2018, when Democrats won 12 Texas House seats and two Texas Senate seats and nearly lost Senator Ted Cruz’s seat, Republicans came back roaring.
►Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to extend early voting has likely benefited Democrats. At the same time, abolishing direct one-punch voting has likely worked to the advantage of some Republican candidates for the legislature, encouraging voters who distrusted Trump to reject it but say yes to them.
I have come to love Texas and wish it was a fairer place. I want to stop grinding my teeth about woefully underfunded public schools and having the highest percentage of residents without health insurance. Will that day be any closer in four years, when my phone starts buzzing with questions about a Democratic presidential candidate who wins the day?
Maybe, but I’m not betting the firm on it.
Jena Heath is Associate Dean at the School of Arts & Humanities at St. Edward’s University, Associate Professor of Journalism and Digital Media, and Coordinator of the Journalism and Digital Media program. Previously, she was a reporter covering cops, courts, local and state governments, the 2000 Bush campaign, and the White House. Follow her on Twitter: @ JenaHeath2