By: T. Jeffersonian
President Joe Biden declared 77 of Texas’ 254 counties as disaster areas with the White House announcing that President Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Texas due to the state currently grappling with severe winter weather. The declaration will funnel federal funding to Texas’ hardest hit counties. It also allows individuals and businesses to apply for federal aid, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and grants to help support temporary housing and repairs for home damage. State of emergency status has also been approved for Louisiana and Oklahoma, as freezing temperatures have damaged infrastructure and residents suffer from widespread water shortages and power blackouts. Dozens of people have been killed from car accidents and other incidents as a result of the winter storm across the three states. Temperatures are now on the rise in Texas, though tens of thousands of residents are still without electricity, and millions are suffering from water disruptions.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has already supplied Texas with 60 generators to support critical sites such as hospitals and water facilities, 729,000 liters of water, more than 10,000 wool blankets, 50,000 cotton blankets, and 225,000 meals. Biden said he is also hoping to visit Texas as long as his trip would not burden the state as it recovers from both winter weather and the pandemic.
The disaster in Texas brought attention to the Texas infrastructure and the struggles they will face during future bouts of severe weather. This week’s historically low temperatures caught the state off guard and called for significant changes to be made to prevent similar fallout moving forward. For example, Texas’ wind turbines were not equipped with winterization packages like those in the northern United States and machinery for other sources of energy were not insulated enough to deal with water intake issues due to the subfreezing temperatures. While Texas has also long taken pride in the fact that its electric grid is self-sufficient, critics have said that if Texas had remained connected to other states’ grids, Texas could have prevented rolling blackouts that have left millions of Texans in the dark.
Beyond the broad criticism of Texas’s infrastructure, the political fallout for the state’s largely Republican lawmakers has been swift. Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott has called for an investigation into the state’s main power grid, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. However, Governor Abbott has also been the target of criticism for not following a recommendation from 10 years ago regarding the winterization of the wind turbines and gas pipelines. Governor Abbott was further criticized for saying the Green New Deal was to blame, even though the Green New Deal is not in Texas state law. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is perhaps drawing the fiercest criticism after he was seen leaving his Houston home with his family for a vacation in Cancun. Senator Cruz swiftly returned to Texas after the first wave of criticism. Senator Cruz replied that, in hindsight, his Cancun vacation was obviously a mistake, and that he would not have done it.
Is Texas Now a Battleground State?
One of the most widely available metrics in determining whether a state is a battleground is polling. A potential battleground state is any state that is within a four-point margin in a political contest. Other metrics that determine battleground states include how often the state has voted for a particular political party in the past. However, based on polling margins alone, it is not always possible to reliably predict which way the voters will hand in their ballot.
Many political pundits predict that the Democratic Party will eventually be able to overtake the Republicans in Texas, because of new migrations to the state, the growing number of Latino voters, and the large Texan cities are not as Republican as they once were. To the political pundit, it is not a matter of if Texas will become a blue state, it is a matter of when that time will come.
In November 2020, former President Donald Trump won Texas’ 38 electoral votes. Texas has been reliably a Republican state since the 1970s, with only a few deviations. A Democrat has not secured a win in Texas since Jimmy Carter won in 1976. However, Trump’s 2020 Texas margin of victory of 5.8 percentage points was smaller than his nine-point winning margin in 2016. This three percent vulnerability in 2020 in addition to the changing voter demographic in Texas is continuing to propel greater Democratic presence and interest to flip Texas blue sooner rather than later. The recent winter storm caused disasters and condemnation of Republican leadership presents President Biden and the Democratic Party with a very real, immediate opportunity to further move Texas closer to flipping blue. When Texas does flip blue, it will be virtually impossible for a Republican to win the White House.
Some 2020 Election Anomalies to Consider
There are two anomalies to consider. First, 2020 was a very odd political year due to Coronavirus. Pandemics do not typically occur every generation. Similarly, the continued Watergate fallouts were present the last time Texas voted Democratic in 1976. Nixon resigned in 1974 and Gerald Ford replaced and pardoned him. Gerald Ford was never elected by the people for either Vice President or President. He was simply running for the first time after a troubled Nixon Administration and resulting low Republican opinion polls.
The second 2020 anomaly is that Donald Trump shocked the political world by doing well with Latino voters. Trump gained an influx of thirty-two percent of the Latino vote, up four points from the 2016 election.
Why Did Latinos Vote For Trump in 2020
While considering the Latino shift toward Trump, we must reflect on the future of Latino politics in Texas and within the entire United States. We must consider what lessons all Americans need to learn about the Latino population, so that we are not surprised by the demographic’s diverse political views. It means understanding the conversation regarding Latin American identity, and how that identity influences political decisions. It means reckoning with what millions of Latinos found appealing about a former President, whose immigration policies included separating families at the Mexican border, and whether their support was to be expected, or a fluke, or a sign of a red wave to come. In response to these questions, Latino Republicans have a lot to say. Americans political pundits think Latinos are predominantly Democratic and they are not.
Last year, in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, Latino voters, like other Americans, identified the economy as their top concern. Most Latinos are employees, and it was meaningful to them that, under Trump—and before the pandemic—they enjoyed reduced rates of unemployment and poverty, increased rates of homeownership, and rising family median incomes. Donald Trump’s message of true inclusion was a factor that fueled Latino support for the former President. Latinos voted for Donald Trump because he included them as individual Americans vice a Hispanic. Democrats don’t understand this inclusion concept, because they follow the modern political theory of multiculturalism which separates people according to age, wealth, gender, ethnicity, and religion. Separating people marginalizes them and Trump made those who supported him feel included.
Thoughts for Future Elections
Keeping Texas in the Republican corner means that Latino voters must continue to feel included as Americans in every regard. Here are some thoughts for Republican political leaders and Texas political leaders to consider about Latino vote and their future effects on American politics in Texas and elsewhere:
The Latino population, already the nation’s largest minority group, will triple in size and will make up a majority of the nation’s population growth from 2005 through 2050. Hispanics will make up 29% of the U.S. population in 2050, compared with 14% in 2005.
The non-Hispanic white population will increase slower than other racial and ethnic group; whites will become a minority (47%) by 2050.
Nearly one in five Americans (19%) will be an immigrant in 2050, compared with one in eight (12%) in 2005. By 2025, the immigrant, or foreign-born, share of the population will surpass the peak during the last great wave of immigration a century ago.