These color-coded questions deal with the electoral math that turns Republican-friendly states red, Democratic-friendly states blue, and swing states a mixture of cyan and magenta to make purple. Anyone familiar with campaigns that catered to early 20th-century immigrants or disaffected Southerners of the latter part of the 20th century will see a looming battle in Texas for what it is: identity politics.
In a November article, New Yorker political writer Ryan Lizza discussed this possibility with Ted Cruz, the newly elected Republican U.S. senator representing the Lone Star State. “If Republicans do not do better in the Hispanic community,” said Cruz, who is Hispanic, “in a few short years Republicans will no longer be the majority party in our state.
“In not too many years, Texas could switch from being all Republican to all Democrat. If that happens, no Republican will ever again win the White House. New York and California are for the foreseeable future unalterably Democrat. If Texas turns bright blue, the Electoral College math is simple. We won’t be talking about Ohio, we won’t be talking about Florida or Virginia, because it won’t matter. If Texas is bright blue, you can’t get to 270 electoral votes. The Republican Party would cease to exist.”
Steve Munisteri, the Republican Party of Texas’ chairman, told Lizza the state’s changing demographics are a cause for concern. “We are the only majority-minority state in the union that people consider Republican,” he said.
This isn’t to suggest that Cruz, Munisteri and other Republicans have accepted demography as destiny. Munisteri is sounding the alarm to his fellow GOPers: “You cannot have a situation with the Hispanic community that we’ve had for 40 years with the African-American community, where it’s a bloc of votes that you almost write off. You can’t do that with a group of citizens that are going to compose a majority of this state by 2020, and which will be a plurality of this state in about a year and a half.”
Enter Miriam Martinez, a 40-year-old former broadcaster for the Spanish-language channel Univision. Martinez announced last week she is seeking the Republican nomination for Texas governor in 2014. Two of her likely Republican opponents are Gov. Rick Perry and Greg Abbott, the state’s attorney general; both are Anglo.
“I don’t see Abbott as a threat. I don’t see Perry as a threat,” Martinez told the McAllen, Texas, Monitor newspaper. “The difference between them and myself is I’m Martinez. And there are more Martinez in Texas than Abbott and Perry.”
Let’s stipulate that Martinez’ track record isn’t great. She’s only been a registered voter since 2011. In a losing campaign for a seat in the Texas Legislature last year, she tossed out wild and unproven allegations against her opponents, including charges of drug use and “sex parties,” according to The Monitor. She described herself Monday as the “Hispanic Margaret Thatcher … half Eva Perón and a little touch of Madonna.”
On the Texas political entertainer scale, Martinez might even challenge Kinky Friedman, the author and singer who has campaigned for governor under the hopeful slogan, “My Governor is a Jewish Cowboy,” and whose singing career yielded underground hits like “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in Bed.”
Despite her baggage, Martinez might be on to something with her line about the Martinez surname outnumbering last names like Abbott and Perry. Someday, perhaps very soon, a well-paid political consultant will craft a more sophisticated version of that quote.
In fact, last week Politico reported that Jeremy Bird, a former national field director for the 2012 Obama campaign, is heading up Battleground Texas. The organization’s aim is to “make Texas a battleground state by treating it like one.”
“With its diversity and size,” Bird told Politico, “Texas should always be a battleground state where local elections are vigorously contested and anyone who wants to be our commander in chief has to compete and show they reflect Texas values.”
Responding to an email last week, Alabama author and historian Wayne Flynt took note of these changes that may break up the once-solid South. If Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas swing from red to blue, Flynt wrote, “Then ‘the South’ will essentially no longer exist as the Southern Baptist/white evangelical, reject-progress-in-any-form, keep women at home in the kitchen and pregnant, economic development based on recruiting jobs that will be in Africa or Asia in a generation after tax rebates expire, etc.”
He added: “I will not be sad to see the day of many Souths instead of one South arrive, whatever the last name or accent.”
Bob Davis is associate publisher/editor of The Anniston Star. Contact him at 256-235-3540 or firstname.lastname@example.org.