Is Texas the Future of America?

From the Editors | Everything’s Bigger, More Complicated and Influential in Texas | Issue 13 | April 18, 2022

TPP began this seven-part series featuring ten distinguished “Texperts” posing the question, “is our national angry red vs. disdainful blue politics eroding that once distinctly independent yet neighborly Texas identity?” 

The co-hosts of Y’all-itics, Jason Whitely and Jason Wheeler, state that, yes, that is absolutely the case, while Texas Monthly Editor-in-Chief Dan Goodgame counters that Lone Star Democrats and Republicans still identify as Texans first. UT San Antonio Professor Sharon Navarro  observes that the powerful Texas GOP successfully conflates Texas identity with Republican loyalty. And former four-term San Antonio Mayor and Clinton Cabinet Secretary credits the GOP stronghold on political and regulatory appointments in turning young Hispanic business owners toward the Republican Party. Last but not least, New Yorker staff writer and author of God Save Texas, Lawrence Wright, turns our question on its head by countering that Texas politics is continually spilling out of the state to influence the nation writ large.

Is Texas then the future of America? Read on to consider the factors behind that hypothesis and tune into these Purple Principle episodes for more perspective on the state that was once a nation, and so often seems it would like to be. 

The South Texas region, running 800 miles from San Antonio to El Paso, and tracing one-third of the US-Mexico border, is the most pivotal district in the state and central to any discussion of politics and identity. Our Purple Principle podcast series focuses two episodes on South Texas – largely Hispanic and traditionally Democratic yet very much a swing district in recent elections. TPP had the honor and privilege of speaking with former three-term Congressman Will B. Hurd about his South Texas district and the way to get big things done in the US today. His new book, American Reboot, conveys an optimistic yet realistic brand of political entrepreneurship largely absent from both major parties today.

“We have a real crisis on our southern border. The amount of illegal immigration and drugs coming into our country is the highest it’s ever been. Streamlining legal immigration would help reduce some of the pressures that we’re seeing on the border. When you look at every industry that needs workers, every industry is looking to hire. Guess what? Streamlining legal immigration would help with that problem.

If Florida needs agriculture workers, and Texas needs hospitality workers, that should be based on a need. And then we can increase the number of those kinds of working visas based on that need in that particular location in that particular state. It’s that simple.” – Will Hurd

— Attribution
Will Hurd and Beto O’Rourke on their famed 2017 road trip

Vast, Varied & Pivotal: The 23rd congressional district

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Quintessentially American, Yet Ever More Polarizing: Immigration in Texas

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Is South Texas Turning GOP?

Dr. Sharon Navarro of UT San Antonio (Dept. of Political Science & Geography) is uniquely situated and qualified to analyze the shift of South Texas Tejanos (Texans of Mexican descent) away from the Democratic and toward the Republican Party. A native of the region, she’s authored & co-authored numerous publications on Latino and Latina candidates and officeholders from both parties, including Latina Legislator: Leticia Van de Putte and the Road to Leadership (2008), Latina Trailblazers in Texas (2008), and Latinas in Latino Politics (2016). Her observations changing political identities strongly resonated in the recent 2022 primary successes of GOP Latina candidates in South Texas.

“When I hear discussions of, ‘is this new to the Democratic Party?’ These sorts of changes have been taking place for quite some time. It’s just that the Democratic Party hasn’t been listening to these changes. And while there is a higher propensity of male Latino voters who vote for the Republican Party, there are also some Latinas who are returning or turning to the Republican Party because they see the dominance of the Democratic Party in Southern Texas. These candidates have been there for quite some time. And then when they decide to retire, there is already a male heir apparent. These Latinas are looking for an opportunity and the Republican Party has been listening.”

— Sharon Navarro

Although the national media has only recently picked up on this trend, those on the ground in South Texas have noted a gradual and incremental shift among Latinos, and lately even Latinas, in terms of political loyalties. Disinformation may have played a role here. But several TPP guests have noted that certain more extreme positions within the Democratic party on immigration, the INS, gun ownership, etc, have factored in as well.

Not a Monolith: Diversity Among Latino Voters and Politicians

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Dr. Henry Cisneros has been both a seminal influence on and a longtime observer of South Texas politics from many different vantage points. First as a young San Antonio City Council Member, and later in 1981, at the age of 33, as one of the first Hispanic mayors of a major city in the US. After serving 4 terms, Cisneros became HUD Secretary in the Clinton Cabinet and subsequently the first president of Univision, the nation’s largest Spanish language media company, with deep roots in San Antonio. Cisneros has had a lifelong involvement in issues of urban planning, housing, and infrastructure both as an elected official, a scholar, investor and private sector executive.

Dr. Cisneros and other TPP guests have noted the substantial growth of elected Latino officials over the past several decades within both major parties. In an upcoming TPP mini-series, the diversity within the Latino community nationwide will be explored, including the divisions along countries of origin, religion, education, and economic class, as well as generation and gender. 

Former Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo confirmed to us that many Latinos from his district tend to be natural independents, not entirely comfortable in either party. And that observation holds water nationwide. In some cases, more culturally conservative but fiscally liberal, Hispanics very likely constitute the largest bloc of swing voters nationwide. Hence the increasing attention on issues important to Hispanics from both parties.

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Partners in Purple

Center for Inter-American and Border Studies (UT-El Paso)

The Center for Inter-American and Border Studies contributes to UTEP’s mission, vision, and goals by conducting and promoting research, academic programs, and public outreach on the Americas and Border Studies. These include culture and language, the arts, economics, trade, society and migration, history, ecosystems and environment, sciences and engineering, politics and government, health, and education.

LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens)

The League of United Latin American Citizens is to advance the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, housing, health and civil rights of the Hispanic population of the United States.

Immigration Reform: Bridging the Partisan Divide | US Chamber of Commerce

This illuminating 2021 conversation between Representatives Kathy Manning (D) and María Elvira Salazar (R) underscores the common ground Republicans and Democrats share on immigration reform, particularly when it comes to meeting the demands of the market.

Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation: 2022 Report on Texas Hispanic Voters

This is the first of three reports released by the TXHPF on voter intentions in Texas for the 2022 state election season. We’ll be keeping an eye on these surveys throughout the spring and summer to monitor how Hispanic voters respond to the gubernatorial campaign platforms.

CAMPI – The Strauss Center

CAMPI aspires to create educational opportunities, research activity, and community engagement that will spur sophisticated inquiry into the causes, dimensions, and consequences of violence and migration in these regions, as well as the adequacy of past, present, and potential policy responses at both the national and international levels.

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