Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Democrats, Republicans, and Latinos

I'm not sure what message this article is intended to convey... unless it is meant to strike fear into the hearts of the wheezing bible-and-gun-clinging GOP base voters.

Last November, the Houston Chronicle completed a database analysis of the changing population patterns of the state and the changing voting proclivities of key demographic blocs. Our conclusion: Texas would become competitive by 2020 and a true toss-up state by 2024 if current turnout and partisan voting patterns continued.

But what if Latinos — historically a group that votes with far less frequency than the rest of the population — started voting at the same rate as everyone else, as Battleground Texas is seeking to accomplish? How much would that narrow the Republicans’ advantage in Texas?

To find answers, Texas on the Potomac analyzed 2012’s election results and it found that if Democrats could raise Latino turnout to the same level as non-Hispanic whites, Texas would instantly become a battleground state.

Duh. Charles previously noted -- reminded would be a better descriptor -- that this information has been painfully evident and excruciatingly obvious for anyone who's considered themselves a Democrat at any time over the past ten to twelve years or so. Whether you worked on a campaign or just voted, from 2000 (and particularly 2002) all the way to the present day, it was crystal clear to everyone paying attention that when Democratically-inclined minority voters go to the polls -- more specifically, find a reason to do so -- then Democrats get elected. It's true in presidential elections, in statewide elections, and in county elections. Just ask Lt. Governor Texas A&M president John Sharp. Or former Harris County commissioner and now state Sen. Sylvia Garcia. Or former county clerk Loren Jackson. Or any vast number of Democratic county judges turned out of office in 2010, and Republican ones who met the same fate in 2008 and 2012.

Despite the numbers, facts, logic, and charts and graphs representing these, even Republicans understand that when voter turnout increases, they lose. You wouldn't be able to tell that they get it by reading some of the comments on that article... but those are Republican primary voters. They're not supposed to understand anything.

If the GOP actually believed that Latinos were so conservative that by extension they would be potential Republican voters, then it would make sense for them to encourage Latinos to vote. But they do not, of course. All of the GOP's effort is channeled into fewer people voting, again because even the most ignorant of their ilk are capable of comprehending that when that happens, they win.

But back to the Democrats.

Yes, Battleground Texas sees the numbers also, and more importantly is efforting to mobilize national attention (read: $$$) and resources to turn the tide here in Deep-In-The-Hearta. How successful they are remains to be seen. As the Obama for America organization morphs itself into something else to maintain relevance and influence, it will be interesting to see how quickly they can affect change. Like Howard Dean's spinoff Democracy for America has done and is doing again, one of the most visible things you will see as part of the action is that your e-mail inbox will swell with requests for pocket change to help in the cause.

I'm not entirely skeptimistic about BT's work. They are doing the job that needs doing; fighting the good fight. But the nut they have to crack is to create a consistent habit pattern among a demographic -- not just Latinos either, but Asians and blacks as well -- that is historically disinclined to participate in the electoral process. How to change that: get people to start voting on a regular basis who traditionally have never done so? Do you focus on youth, writing off their elders? Young people of all shades do not demonstrate a propensity to get out and vote; why would minority youth? Is it all about engaging voters at the door or on the phone, one at a time? Probably. That's a career with a lot of long-range growth opportunity, at least. But it also has a mucking-out-the-Aegean-stables aspect about it.

There is no change more glacially incremental than voter turnout. The trends are such that even as population grows, voter turnout remains at historical percentages, and eroding slightly over decades. Here is the broadest generalization that can be made: about 50% of all people who are eligible to do so (whether they are labeled Americans, Texans, or Houstonians) are not registered to vote, and of those that are, about half of them will not vote in a non-presidential election. Municipal election year turnout is positively dismal; special elections, even more so.

You can begin to see the challenge for third parties just by examining the obstacles for the Democrats -- money, manpower, voter engagement and potential voter education. That doesn't even take into consideration the two-party's duopoly on a shriveling electorate by restricting ballot access.

So while there's plenty to be discouraged about with regard to our small-d democracy, the bright side is that when you vote, yours counts at least double (for all those who choose not to participate; a sort of self-imposed taxation without representation). But I like to think of it as counting quadruple when you include all those registered voters who stay home. And in a municipal election year like 2013, when turnout will be large if it gets to 20%... why, that's quintuple. 5X. Hey, that's way better than the Powerball mulitplier, isn't it? And you stand a much better chance of holding a winning ticket, too.

Why, the payoff may even be greater if you really think about it.

If we made casting a ballot as easy as buying a lottery ticket (or voting on Dancing With the Stars) then we might wake up one morning and discover that everybody is a winner. Except for a few Republicans, that is.

Update: Every single day there is additional evidence, piled on the existing mountain, that the GOP's minority outreach efforts are being conducted -- on their best day -- with alligator arms and a tin ear. This stuff takes "not getting it" to new heights. Every. single. day.

Anger, bigotry, resentment, and ignorance has carried the Republican party about as far as they can go. But this is still Texas, and the politics of fear and loathing may take somewhat longer than elsewhere to finally die out.

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