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Cover 07/24/2013

The Hunt for Blue November: Why Battleground Texas Needs White Women

Photo: Callie Enlow, License: N/A

Callie Enlow

Over 75 people turned out for Battleground Texas’ latest San Antonio voter registration training

Photo: SOURCE: CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS. *ESTIMATES BASED OFF TABULATION AND EXTRAPOLATION OF CHANGE IN ELEGIBLE VOTERS FOUND IN 2008 AND 2011 AMERICAN COMMUNITY SURVEY, License: N/A

SOURCE: CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS. *ESTIMATES BASED OFF TABULATION AND EXTRAPOLATION OF CHANGE IN ELEGIBLE VOTERS FOUND IN 2008 AND 2011 AMERICAN COMMUNITY SURVEY


Two centuries ago French philosopher Joseph de Maistre wrote, “Every nation has the government it deserves,” a phrase deployed many times since to evoke the concept of popular sovereignty. So what did Texans do to deserve culture warrior Rick Perry with his unyielding co-partisan supermajority in the Lege?

How about, “failed to exercise the right to vote.” Gov. Rick Perry was elected by just 18 percent of the citizen voting-age population (CVAP) as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau. Texas recorded the lowest turnout rate in the nation for the 2010 midterms, when Perry won re-election. As the vast majority of the state abstained, activist voters flocked to the ballot boxes, the face of the base in Republican Texas: older, largely rural, evangelical whites. Most elected officials at the state level owe their offices to the same narrow constituency.

Make no mistake: Texans stand among the conservative crowd, but, unlike their government, squarely in a moderate vein. According to last month’s University of Texas at Austin/Texas Tribune Texas Politics Poll, a relative majority of registered voters self-identify as moderate, with an absolute majority describing themselves as moderate or moderate with a liberal or conservative leaning; only one-third label themselves somewhat or very conservative.

The same poll reveals a majority of support for background checks on all gun purchases, including gun shows and private sales, the right to same-sex marriage, access to legal abortion, boosting funding for public education, and comprehensive immigration reform. Yet time and again Perry and like-minded lawmakers soften gun laws, denounce gay unions, and shortchange education and healthcare. (Though this topic was not in the most recent UT/TT poll, other surveys such as the Lyceum indicated most Texans favored accepting the Medicaid expansion, rejected by the state for an estimated loss of $100 billion in federal health care funds.)

“The folks in Austin and in Washington D.C. who are claiming to speak on the behalf of Texans, (a) they don’t sound like most of the Texans I’ve met; they’re far outside of the mainstream with their extremist rhetoric,” says Alex Steele, statewide field director for BGTX. “And (b) they don’t look like Texans.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Texas Capitol is 78 percent Caucasian and 80 percent male. One need not compare census data to know these proportions are unrepresentative. But let’s compare anyway. The Census Bureau reports the state at 45 percent non-Hispanic white and 50 percent male.

De Maistre, a fervent proponent of elite power and the divine Christian origin of political constitutions, would probably approve.   

People Parsing

BGTX is fond of pointing out that Texas, of four minority-majority states (five including Washington D.C.), is the only one still in the red, politics-wise. Whites now make up 45 percent of the population; Hispanics are at 38 percent; African-Americans just more than 12 percent; and Asian-Americans, Native Americans, and others share the remaining 5 percent. Whites account for just over 50 percent of the CVAP, and that is slipping fast into minority territory, too.

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