Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Trump Could Do to Texas What Pete Wilson Did to California

We often assume that there is something permanent in the red state/blue state divide we see in the presidential electoral map. Part of that has become standard rhetoric about the "coastal blue states." Would it surprise you to learn that from 1952 through 1988, the state of California was "red" in 9 of the 10 presidential elections?

That is the topic of an article in the Wall Street Journal by Jason Riley. He posits that what Republican Gov. Pete Wilson did to California, Donald Trump could do to other currently red states.
Mr. Wilson, who was first elected in 1990, signed a large tax increase that infuriated conservatives and damaged his poll numbers. Eager to change the subject as he began campaigning for a second term, the governor became a vocal supporter of Proposition 187, a referendum that denied illegal aliens and their children access to schools and health care. The referendum passed (though it was later gutted by the courts) and Mr. Wilson won re-election, but the victory turned out to be shallow, while the subsequent political damage ran much deeper.
Mr. Wilson’s support among Hispanics was 47% in 1990. Four years later it was 25%, and ethnic voting patterns would run against Republicans for another decade...
Nationally, what was once a stronghold state for Republicans became easy pickings for Democrats.
It wasn't just that Gov. Wilson drove Hispanics to the Democratic Party.
Part of the problem in California was that the GOP’s perceived animosity toward Hispanics gained notice from other nonwhite voting blocs, which led to a drop in support among the Chinese and Koreans who had a history of voting Republican. The decision to double down on white voters in a state that was becoming less white haunts the party to this day.
Riley is right to contrast that with how George W. Bush reached out to Hispanics in his bid to be Governor of Texas. That state recently joined California in having a non-white majority. Dubya's brother Jeb is the one who sounded a warning bell four years ago about the possibility of Texas going the way of California.
Sitting down across from me, he assumes his role as party Cassandra, warning of the day when the Republicans’ failure to tap an exploding Hispanic population will cripple its chances at reclaiming power—starting in Texas, the family seat of the House of Bush.
“It’s a math question,” he tells me. “Four years from now, Texas is going to be a so-called blue state. Imagine Texas as a blue state, how hard it would be to carry the presidency or gain control of the Senate.”
I've heard no better explanation of why Jeb Bush decided to run for president this year. He knew that it was now or never when it comes to a Republican's chance to win the White House.

Whether he is correct in that assessment remains to be seen. But Riley is right, candidates like Donald Trump (and Ted Cruz - who is trying to prove that he is even more anti-immigrant than Trump) are making it look pretty inevitable.

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