OPED: The Sleeping Giant of Texas’ Latino Vote
By: Gilberto Hinojosa and Eva Longoria, Guest Contributors*
This might be the last presidential election during which Texas is not considered a swing state. We know that the Latino vote matters in this year’s election. And the sleeping giant of the Texas Latino vote is poised to awaken and alter the fate of every future election.
Latinos are a powerful and still relatively unrealized political force in this country. In Texas, we know this well: Hispanic Texans make up 30 percent of the state’s eligible voter population, and that number is increasing. We also know that Latinos significantly favor Democratic candidates – 67 percent of Latino voters supported President Barack Obama in 2008, and 70 percent are poised to support him this Election Day.
Texas has 38 Electoral College votes, the same number as Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire combined. In 2008, John McCain won Texas by 950,000 votes, but there are 2.1 million eligible Latino voters who did not vote in that election. Increasing the Latino voter turnout in Texas would be a game changer.
So why is Texas not yet an active swing state? In part, the belief that Texas will remain Republican has been a self-fulfilling prophecy. The belief that we’re a state comprised of a tea party-sympathetic majority has distracted from what the actual numbers show.
Take that 30 percent Hispanic eligible voter population and add it to our 12 percent African-American eligible voter population. Combine that 42 percent with our large numbers of rural populists, progressive white, LGBT and youth voters — all of whom also skew Democratic, and the so-called minorities become a collective majority. That’s Bill Clinton-style arithmetic.
Both Texas Republicans and Democrats understand this math. The Texas demographic reality is why the Republican Party has made great efforts to gerrymander districts and push for restrictive voter ID laws in an attempt to suppress the vote. Texas Democrats have fought these efforts at every turn. But we have unfortunately lacked the resources to enact the organizing and outreach strategies necessary to engage all of Texas’s potential voters.
The Texas we know and love is not the Texas represented by our current elected officials. We share common values of supporting public education, economic opportunity, and giving all of our families a fighting shot at the American dream. The dream we both were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to realize.
In contrast to these shared values, Texas Republicans have become increasingly extreme in their policies. The Texas Republican Party has pushed policies that are causing unimaginable harm; harm that most strongly affects those populations that comprise our collective majority.
Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured individuals of any state in the nation. Seventeen percent of Texas’s children are uninsured. The Latino community accounts for 58.8 percent of all uninsured Texans. And yet, Texas Republicans continue to fight against any expansion of health care coverage, and just defunded $125 million to women’s health care.
Texas’s education system is ranked last, or near last, in every educational category. Despite that, last year Texas Republicans cut $5 billion in funding for public schools, and $1 billion in support for higher education. The majority of public school-educated children in Texas are now Latino. We know that a strong educational foundation is required for our children to enter the workforce with the skills to thrive, and that our youth having those skills is necessary for Texas to have a strong economy.
Somewhere in Texas there is a Latina teenager with the next big idea that will someday drive our state’s economy. But today, we’re not yet giving her the education and opportunity necessary to realize her potential. The untapped potential of Texas’s population extends beyond electoral politics. The entire nation loses when Republicans stifle the achievement of our nearly seven million young people.
The reactionary agenda of Texas Republicans, and the plight felt by the majority of our population, is reaching a crisis point which demands change. It is untenable for our elected representation to remain so misaligned with the actual population they represent.
Texas is on the verge of a radical shift in our political outcomes. Out here on the ground, we feel this force of change emerging. But a new era for Texas will only come if we act on this potential. If we examine the math of who truly makes up the population of Texas, the work we need to do is clear.
We need to invest the resources necessary to activate our full spectrum of eligible voters. We need to engage those voters beyond just the upcoming election cycle. And, we need to tell the story of who Texans truly are, and what type of state we have the potential to become.
Through this work, we can improve the lives of families across Texas. And through this work, we can forever change the equation around Presidential politics.
It has never been a good idea to bet against Texas. Out here in the Lonestar State, our true majority looks forward to seeing you in the battleground four years from now.
This piece was originally published on the national news outlet Politico. Click here to view the original post.
*Gilberto Hinojosa is the first Hispanic Chair of the Texas Democratic Party and a member of the Democratic National Committee. Eva Longoria is an actress, activist and philanthropist. She is a National Co-Chair of President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and the founder of the Eva Longoria Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps Latinos build better futures through education and entrepreneurship.
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