April 5, 2017
TEXAS IS LABORATORY FOR DEMOCRATS' 2020 HOPES
ANALYSIS & OPINION BY RUSS STEWART
by RUSS STEWART
Liberal Democratic political orthodoxy postulates that as America grows less white, as whites grow less young, and as the black, Hispanic and Asian population continues to multiply, there will be an emerging and permanent Democratic majority. The fact that Donald Trump is president belies that notion.
James Carville, the supposedly astute Clinton White House strategist and political operative, predicted a generation of Democratic dominance after Barack Obama won in 2008. Carville's "generation" lasted 8 years.
Texas exemplifies the idiocy of expecting political permanency, and is reflective of the difficulties Democrats face in choosing an electable presidential nominee in 2020. According to the 2010 census, the state's population of 27,469,114 is 39 percent Hispanic, 13 percent black, and 5 percent Asian - and growing. That makes all those pesky, lingering whites a 43 percent minority - and dwindling. Raw population does not equate to registered voters and turnout.
California, which had a 2010 population of 39,144,818, with Hispanics 39 percent, blacks 7 percent and Asians 15 percent, especially in and around Orange County. That leaves whites around 39 percent, with a huge chunk living in and around San Francisco and the northern wine country, and a sizeable gay population. California delivered a 8,753,788-4,483,811, or 62.3 percent majority to Hillary Clinton over Trump, a margin of 4,269,977 votes, and 55 electoral votes. A Democrat cannot win the presidency without California, and non-whites voted monolithically Democratic.
Texas did the opposite. Trump won Texas 4,685,047-3,877,868 (52.5 percent), a margin 807,179 votes, and 38 electoral votes. A Republican cannot win the presidency without Texas, and Trump's margin was slightly less than Mitt Romney's 2012 4,569,843-3,308,124 , or 57 percent win. Democrats are already prophesizing that Texas is on the verge of turning Democratic - maybe sometime around 2044. But Texas remains Republican because non-whites do not vote monolithically Democratic, and because Texas Republicans have adapted to reality, have the monetary support of the business community, and make an effort to appeal to Hispanics, especially rural Mexican-Americans in South Texas, along the Rio Grande, who are culturally conservative and do not want "undocumented immigrants" taking their jobs.
All statewide officials in Texas, including every judge, are Republicans, along with a 20-11 majority in the state Senate and a 95-55 majority in the state House. The congressional delegation is 25-11 Republican, and a Texan chairs seven of 21 House committees, including agriculture, armed services, financial services, ways and means, science-space and Rules. Senior senator John Cornyn, now majority whip, will be majority leader in 2021. Ex-governor Rick Perry is U.S. Energy Secretary. Texans Republicans have power, like the Rayburn-Johnson Democrats in the 1950s. Power attracts money. And money wins elections.
Texas' 2018 U.S. Senate contest, where incumbent Ted Cruz faces re-election, will be a precursor of Democrats' 2020 presidential travails. The glue that unites Democrats nationally is anti-Trump revulsion, but there are serious ideological, geographic, racial and gender fissures. The party's Bernie Sanders-Elizabeth Warren wing is quasi-socialistic, anti-militaristic, diversity-demanding, and harbors the belief that government is good. They want purity. Their opponents, the Clinton wing, exemplified by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, just want to win and retake power.
In Texas, the liberals long ago achieved purity, and a monolithically Republican state. After the Civil War, Texas was a one-party Democratic state, almost entirely rural. It is bisected by an escarpment, with the land to the east humid and farmable, with plenty of timber, and the plains to the west arid, with cattle-raising and wheat predominant. There were constant Democratic primary clashes between the haves and the have-nots: The wealthier business plutocracy, who didn't get their fingers dirty, and were called the "Tories," contested the poorer rural whites who scrubbed out an existence. The Tories invariably won. Other than the German-settled enclaves west of San Antonio, there were no Republicans.
The 1930s Depression upset the balance. Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal" created a myriad of federal agencies in Texas, one of which was run by an ambitious school-teacher named Lyndon Johnson. Ideology replaced economics and geography. There was now a liberal pro-FDR base of government workers, who rejected the Tories' laissez faire attitude. Johnson, at age 29, ran for a South Texas congressional seat in 1937, was the only pro-Roosevelt candidate, and won. Johnson, an anti-Tory, lost a 1941 special senatorial election, but then won the 1948 Democratic primary for that seat by 87 votes, amid charges of massive South Texas vote fraud. Johnson's trajectory to the presidency was launched, as he became a Tory.
Johnson had a knack for right time and right place. In 1950, after Illinois' Everett Dirksen (R) beat Democratic Senate majority leader Scott Lucas, Johnson won the majority whip's slot. In 1952, after Arizona's Barry Goldwater (R) beat Democratic Senate majority leader Ernest McFarland, Johnson became minority leader. In 1954, after the Democrats retook the Senate, Johnson became majority leader - and quickly became a pro-civil rights liberal, in anticipation of a 1960 presidential run. In the House, east Texas's Sam Rayburn (D), first elected in 1912, was speaker. The congressional power of Texas was humongous.
Texas, after World War II, underwent demographic change, prompting a surge of veterans and northerners into Dallas and Houston. Urbanization and suburbanization was underway. Oil discoveries in west Texas, around Midland-Odessa, created a whole new plutocracy, a rich bunch of "Oil Patch" millionaires, including George H.W. Bush, who settled in Houston. Insurance and banking flooded into Dallas. Timber barons rampaged in the east, and oil was discovered along the Gulf. Agri-business, including mining, exploding in the west. Johnson put NASA's space center in Houston. The state was awash with new wealth, and the new elite were all Tories. Mexicans were still plentiful in South Texas, but most were farm workers and there was no urban migration.
But there were counter-vailing forces. Not everybody was getting richer or living better. Liberals were mobilizing, with Ralph Yarborough being a seminal figure. The Tories were behaving more Republicans. In 1952, Democratic Tory Governor Allan Shivers endorsed Dwight Eisenhower (R), who carried Texas 1,102,878-969,228. The key issue was Tidelands oil, allowing private exploration and drilling in federally-owned Gulf coastal waters; Eisenhower was for it, but Adlai Stevenson against it.
Yarborough, an Austin judge, ran for governor in 1952, 1954 and 1956, getting closer in each primary. In 1956, the desperate Tories recruited then-Senator Price Daniel, who barely won, but then Yarborough won Price's senate seat in 1957. Johnson, tapping into the Tory money network, ran for president in 1960, failed spectacularly, but then got on the Kennedy-Johnson ticket because he could "deliver" Texas. That opened his senate seat. In the 1961 special election, 71 candidates filed, and the liberals got a bright idea, an "exit strategy": The way to take over the Texas Democratic Party was not to beat the Tories, but to get rid of them - and into the Republican Party.
Republican John Tower, a Wichita Falls college professor, lost 1,306,625-926,653 to Johnson in 1960, who was on the ballot for two offices, while Kennedy-Johnson won 1,167,932-1,121,699, a margin of 46,233 votes. Tower and a Tory made it to the 1961 runoff, and the Yarborough liberals, comprising a third of the electorate, voted en masse for Tower, enabling him to win 448,217-437,874, thereby creating a Texas Republican Party. The 1963 Dallas events put Johnson in the White House and stymied any Tory exodus for a while. The elder Bush lost the 1964 senate race to Yarborough 1,463,958-1,134,337, but in 1966 Tower was re-elected and Bush won a Houston congressional seat.
The great Tory exodus was expected in 1970. Bush was poised for a senate rematch. Former Democratic governor John Connally (1962-68), wounded in 1963, was ready to switch parties (and did in 1971 after he became Nixon's treasury secretary). But then Tory Lloyd Bentsen unexpectedly upset Yarborough 841,316-726,477 in the primary, and thrashed Bush 1,226,568-1,071,234 in the election. The Tories were back in charge, the liberals leaderless, and the Republicans powerless.
In 1978, Republican oilman Bill Clements was elected governor by 16,860 votes, and Tower re-elected by 12,227 votes. The Tories were inching toward Republicanism. The Carter presidency exacerbated the trend, as did Reagan's ascension. In 1984, party-switcher Phil Gramm rode the 3,433,428-1,949,276 Reagan wave, 64 percent, to a 3,111,348-2,202,557, or 59 percent senate win over a liberal Democrat who beat two Tories in the primary. The Tories had effectively taken over the Republican Party.
In 2014 the Democratic gubernatorial candidate was Wendy Davis, a Forth Worth state senator who gained media fame when she blocked Republican attempts to lessen abortion availability periods to 20 weeks. In the election, against Greg Abbott, the Republican attorney general, who spoke fluent Spanish and had a Mexican wife, Davis lost by 960,951 votes. Rural Mexicans gave half their votes to Abbott.
Ted Cruz will be tough to beat in 2018. He failed to beat Trump in the 2016 primaries and refused to endorse Trump thereafter. The Democrats will field one of the Castro brothers, either ex-San Antonio Mayor and Obama housing secretary Julian or congressman Joaquin against Cruz. Congressman Beto O'Rourke of El Paso is also running. The more liberal the Democrats become, the more Republican Texas stays.