Is Texas the Future of America?
Our Texas Mini-Series Finale
The Purple Principle brings its seven-part series on politics and identity in the already huge, yet fast-growing Lone Star State to conclusion with a guided tour of key insights from notable “Texperts” in all six episodes.
The series began with the operative question: is our nation’s red vs blue infighting eroding what was once a more distinctive and cohesive Texas identity? Jason Whitely, a senior news reporter at WFAA Dallas and co-host of the podcast Y’all-itics, feels that 20 years ago “there was still a Texas identity, this sense of independence, of this is how we do it in Texas.” But that events since have “really just sent Texans into one side or the other.”
Dan Goodgame, Editor in Chief of Texas Monthly, disagrees. “If you ask someone who grew up in Lubbock, whether she identifies first as Republican, or as a Texan, she’ll say Texan,” says Goodgame. “And a Democrat from San Antonio will say the same.”
Goodgame also emphasizes that a small number of Republican primary voters, as little as one million in a state of 30 million, have determined the direction of Texas politics for two decades now. This includes the recently passed docket of “red meat” legislation on abortion, voting access and unlicensed open carry of firearms. Despite the passage of these recent bills not widely popular among Texans writ large, Dr. James Henson of UT Austin’s Texas Politics Project sees little political change on the horizon. But Linda Curtis, co-founder of the League of Independent Texas Voters, expects some mobilization may occur on the issues of local control and also the failure of the Texas power grid in 2021.
Goodgame also makes an important distinction between polarization in state politics versus Texas society. This distinction is echoed and expanded in the research report “Threads of Texas”, by the non-partisan, non-profit group More in Common. We discuss three of seven distinct identities described with report co-author Paul Oshinki, including the alienated “Lone Star Progressives” on the far left, the highly skeptical “Heritage Defenders” on the far right, and “Apolitical Providers” in the political center.
No discussion of Texas identity is complete without consideration of the large Hispanic community in the Lone Star State who constitute a majority in the South Texas region. Former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros highlights the appeal of the powerful Texas GOP with regard to young Hispanic business owners. And Dr. Sharon Navarro of UT San Antonio observes that the GOP has created pathways for Latina candidates in South Texas where the Democratic Party has not.
Nor is any discussion of Texas politics complete without attention to immigration. This finale includes former South Texas Congressman’s Will Hurd’s prescription for expanded legal immigration based on labor needs within the U.S. “Every industry is looking to hire? Guess what? Streamlining legal immigration would help with that problem,” says Hurd.
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. It’s that simple.”
Another type of immigration affects Texas and that’s the large influx of citizens from other states, including California. Our finale concludes with the observations of two best-selling and prize-winning authors who happen to be friends and neighbors in Austin, Texas: the novelist and historian Stephen Harrigan and New Yorker staff writer Lawrence Wright. Harrigan feels the GOP circulated slogan, “Don’t California My Texas” is part of a “rear guard action defending the Texas identity.” But Wright notes “Texas and California have always had a kind of seesaw relationship” while expecting that “California will become more conservative and Texas will become more liberal.”
Is Texas the future of America? Tune in to consider that provocative question and the insights of a dozen informed “Texperts” of different backgrounds, perspectives and locations throughout the nation-sized Lone Star State.
Original music by Ryan Adair Rooney