Texas is Still Texas — For Now


For a generation, Texas has been the stronghold of the Republican Party. Democrats hoped to break its grip this year, but despite media fixation on a new, Democratic Texas, the state is not about to turn blue, as some progressives believe—though a purple future seems plausible.

President Trump won the state easily over Joe Biden, though his margin this time was just seven points, down from nine in 2016. Demographic changes seem to be part of the reason, as Texas becomes not only more urban—more than 85 percent of the population lives in cities—but also more heavily minority. Urban areas like Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, notes demographer Wendell Cox, have become enormously attractive to the foreign-born, whose numbers have grown at twice the national average.

Yet diversity turns out to be a lot more diverse than pundits think. Hispanics now outnumber whites, and the nonwhite population, including many African-Americans, exceeds 57 percent. Yet Texas minorities tend to be less rigidly Democratic than those in places like California and New York. Indeed, Hispanic voters in Texas broke far more for Trump than expected, giving him a remarkable 40 percent of their votes, even in the longtime Democratic bastion of the Rio Grande Valley.

Texas’s Zapata County, which hasn’t voted Republican in a century, is 93.3 percent Hispanic and went for Trump 52.5 percent. Kenedy County, 76.7 percent Hispanic, went 65.5 percent for Trump; and Cameron County, 88.1 percent Hispanic, gave Trump 44.4 percent of the vote. In Starr County, a 95 percent Hispanic county and one of the nation’s poorest, Hillary Clinton won in 2016 by 60 points; Trump reduced that margin in 2020 to just 5 points. The number of voters leaving down-ballot races blank indicate that many in the county turned out just to vote for president.

This shift among Latinos comes just in time for the GOP, whose leaders fret about losses in the still largely white middle-class suburbs, with their generally well-educated voters, who have dominated growth in Texas. In 2016, Clinton won by only a small margin in the sprawling Houston and Dallas areas; this year, Biden led Trump in Harris County, Texas’ largest county, by 13 points. Growing populations of educated suburbanites, immigrants, and ethnic minorities represent a looming threat to Republican prospects. Only the shift in Latino voting seems to have saved the day.

Texans regard their state as a virtual nation and have enormous interest in local politics. For a generation, the state house and governor’s office were dominated by Republicans, divided between George W. Bush-like corporate moderates and a more rigidly conservative element. Democrats expected to pick this lock systematically; in 2018, they flipped a dozen seats in the Texas house, leaving them just nine seats away from taking control over the body for the first time in two decades.

Read the rest of this piece at City Journal.

Charles Blain (@cjblain10) is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues. Joel Kotkin (@joelkotkin) is a contributing editor of City Journal, the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University, and executive director of the Urban Reform Institute. His latest book is The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class.