2014 may be good year for Tea Partiers in Texas, but not for Latino GOP voters

By Alex Gonzalez

Two weeks ago Gallup had poll showing Hispanic voters, though self-identify as conservative and independent, favor Democrats over Republicans 2-to-1. Coincidently, at the same time, the Pew Center also released an extensive poll on who Republicans favor, and what the Tea Party Republicans priorities are. As expected, when you put the two polls together one can see that the priorities for Republican Tea Partiers is to harden the Party’s positions on socials issues like immigration and gay marriage; hardened, and purely ideological, views that will inevitably drive Latino voters away in Texas in 2014 since Latino voters are concerned with education, healthcare and immigration and jobs, and thus, the problem for GOPers who  want to woo latino voters. And, since both the Pew Center and Gallup are very reputable research groups, their findings can be applied to predict what will happen in Texas

According to the Gallup report, Hispanics in the U.S. identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party over the Republican Party by about a 2-to-1 margin, regardless of whether they were U.S.-born. Hispanics born outside the U.S. do have slightly less attachment to either party, and are more likely to be politically independent, but these differences do little to alter the basic underlying advantage Democrats enjoy across the entire Hispanic population.  Hispanic immigrants are more likely to identify as independents and slightly less likely to identify as Republicans than are Hispanics born in the U.S., but all Hispanics — regardless of nativity — remain significantly more Democratic than Republican, by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

If you follow voter opinion polls, you know that the main issues for Latino voters are education, healthcare, immigration and Jobs, very different from those priorities emphasized by tea partiers. For is stance, in the Pew Center poll on Republican voters shows that for the self-identify as  tea partiers, their priority are  issues like abortion, gay marriage, Immigration and “limited government” and they believe the Party is not “conservative enough” on those issues.

The Pew poll shows that:

Tea Party Republicans are split on the question of whether the Republican Party “mainly needs to make a stronger case for its current policy positions” or if it “also needs to reconsider some of its policy positions”  on to reconsider some policies on Abortion, Immigration, and Government spending.  The polls also shows that The segment of the Republican electorate that is affiliated with the Tea Party differs substantially from other Republican voters, both demographically and ideologically. Overall, Republican voters are evenly divided by gender. Six-in-ten (60%) Tea Party Republicans, by contrast, are male. Those who agree with the Tea Party are also considerably older.(67% are 50 or older, compared with just 52% of other Republicans).

But if you contrast the Pew Center poll with the poll by Gallup, one can easily draw that the tea partiers sit opposite of what Latino voters concerns are– education, access to healthcare, immigration and jobs.

And this contrast between tea parties and Latinos will be more visible in Texas in 2014. In Texas, tea partiers have influence in the Texas primaries since some Party activists within the RPT (Republican Party of Texas) use the Party apparatus, at the county level, to promote Tea Party events in a effort to  further de-legitimize the Obama administration; but that is having counter effects since RPT operative have given too much power to tea party groups that now also attack Republicans. As a result, Republican candidates who want to be viable in the primaries will have drink the TEA if they want to win.

Tea Partiers, 2014,  and Latino Voters

And the best example of this Tea Party influence within the RPT party apparatus is the re-election of Sen. John Cornyn. It is not coincidence that Sen. Cornyn, anticipating a strong Tea Party influence in the primaries, voted against Senate Bill S.744 and hired two tea partiers from Freedomwork to run his campaign. It is clear that he does not want to be perceived as too “Establishment;” he knows what happened to Lt. Gov. Dewhurst against Ted Cruz in the primaries of 2012. Too, FreedomWorks has laid out preliminary plans to spend nearly $8 million in Texas. If you follow the “defund” spectacle by tea partiers n the Senate, you know that Fredomwork has been attacking  Sen. Cornyn for refusing to join  Ted Cruz  in calling the shutdown of governmen to stop  Oabamacare. It is not clear whether Cornyn hired two tea partiers from FreedomWork to run his camping to stop the attacks, but it is fact that tea partiers will be running Sen. Cornyn re-election campaign.

I say this is just an spectacle because not even Greg Abbott and Sen. Cornyn, and  most Republicans in Austin, think “defund” via shutting down the government  is terrible idea since  about 40% of the Texas budget comes from the federal government and Republicans will be blame for it. Thus, the only who think this is a good idea are Tea Party groups making money promoting this foolish idea, like the Heritage Foundation, and Tea Party  candidates and junior Senator who want to challenge the GOP “Establishment” to move up in  ranks quicker.

Moreover, the politics of tea parties in Texas is opposition to any bills that has to do with funding for education, healthcare and investment in infrastructure in the state, as it was the case during the 83rd Texas Legislature Session. For instance, most Tea Party groups in Texas opposed the $3.4 billion re-funding for public education, the “Water Bill”, and funds for infrastructure, but they supported the so-called  “Abortion Bill.“ But as Pew Center shows, tea partiers are “older and whiter,” and that may be the reason why they oppose any thing that has to do with education and infrastructure investment for future generations.

But, Republicans in the Texas legislature are not easy to be fooled with pure ideological schemes and they understand that the Tea Party views is only rhetoric that lacks serious policy direction; so they passed spending bills on education, water,  and infrastructure since they know the state needs to invest in the future and the growing population in the state that is transitioning from a rural to a suburban, even if that irks Tea Party groups and the libertarian Texas Public Policy Foundation that also opposed funding for infrastructure and the so-called “water bill.”

So unlike Republicans in Congress, Republican legislators  in Texas–under the leadership of Gov. Perry –do perform their jobs and legislate. They pass bill that are good for the state, even if tea partiers don’t like it. But legislating in Austin is very different from politicking throughout Texas in the campaign trials. The fact is that tea partiers will still have a big influence in the outcome of the primaries since, as stated earlier,  due to meshing of RPT operatives and Tea Party groups; so many RPT operatives are opting to ride the anti-Obama Tea Party van wagon. And hence, will be promoting the issues that are popular among tea partiers, like “defund” Obamacare, oppose “amnesty,” border security first and cut education funding, even if this opposition  does not have any real policy significance.  As a result, Latino voters within the GOP ( the ones that voted for W. Bush attracted to Compassionate Conservative and emphasis on education  ) and tea partiers will be in a constant class over issues, and tea partiers can even make the primaries process too hostile for Latinos.

Moreover, some Republican candidates will try to out-TEA each other with outlandish statements on immigration and Obamacare to win votes. The real question is for those who are following the transition of Texas into a “competitive state” is how egregious and far to the right will Sen. Cornyn and Greg Abbott–or those running for Lt. Governor–go, rhetorically, to appease tea partiers. Also, since Texas and the DOJ (Holder) could get into a legal battle over voter ID, and if the Congressional map in Texas is not approved in time for 2014, March primary races, the longer the primaries are prolonged, the more inclined candidate will be  to use  harsh political language on Obamacare (healthcare), Immigration, and border security, redistricting –issues important to Latinos.

So 2014, may be a good  year for Republican tea parties, but it will not be a good year for Latino Republicans who want to bring more Latino voters to GOP under the mantra of  George W. Bush.

Conversely, the anti-Obamacare wave is only strong in Texas since Texas is surrounded by states where Republican governors have signed up for Obamacare already. Thus, it will be difficult for Republicans to argue rationally, as a matter of policy, to Latino voters against  Obamacacare when in neighboring states with Republican governors Like New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada and Florida–all states with a large Latino population–have already signed up for Obamacare. Similarly, all senators from those same states, including Republicans ones, voted for the immigrating bill in the Senate and only the two senators from Texas voted no; and in in those states, the issue of redistricting was settled two year ago when Republican governors agreed to Latino single-minority-majority Hispanic congressional  districts.

In Addition, both Republicans, Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval of Nevada, have gained popularity among Latino voters because they have made education one of their top priorities. In other words, issues of Obamacare, education and immigration are still hot only in Texas due to tea party opposition to them. Consequently, tea partiers may end up driving Latino voters away on issues that in other states Republican governors are using them to woo Latinos to the Party.

The Gallup poll shows Democrats have 2-to-1 advantage over Republicans; and this was true  in 2012 in Texas where only about 30-35% of Latinos voted Republican, 8 point down from 2010 when 38% of Latinos voted for Rick Perry. Texas is one state where more Latinos ( mainly Mexican-Americans) self-identify as conservatives yet they are shunning  the GOP, at it was the case in 2012, since the tea party is making to party too hostile. Also, unlike California and Arizona, Texas has the largest Latino assimilated middle-class, and business-class, since Mexican-Americans in Texas have been imbedded within the “Anglo” political and business class for years; yet this class of wealthy, Mexican-American (Latino) middle-class of Texans is not flocking to the tea party messages. Quite the opposite, they are fleeing the tea party hostile nihilistic mantra, as voter pattern show in the state.

If this Latino 2-to-1 attitude is consistent, thus far, the RPT has behooved from a low Latino turnout. it would seem that Republicans know this so they like to keep Latino voter as passive spectators only rather than angry voters. Republicans in Texas know that they need Latinos not to get angry enough that they will be motivated to vote, they know what happens in other states like California ( prop 187) and Arizona (SB1070). For example, in Arizona before SB1070 was passed, the Latino share of the total state turnout was only 11% in 2010. But, by 2012, and after fight over SB1070, the total Latino share of the state turnout increased to 18%, or an increase of 60%. The same was the case in California after passage of 187 in 1994, when thousand of Latino registered to vote.

In Texas, the Latino share of the total state voter turnout was 22% in November of last year. If the Latino vote was to increase 60%–as it did in Arizona after Latinos got angry over SB1070 and registered to vote–from its current 1.8 million voters, out the 4.2 million that are eligible to vote, the Latino share of the state could increase to 3 million. And thereby, changing the power structure in the state since Republicans are having problems increasing its own state Republican turnout, which has remained stagnant at 4.5 million for the past 10 years. Texas ranks 48th in voter turnout.

Therefore, Republicans  in Austin know it is important not to pass any bills that could create a wave of angry Latino voters; so they pass education bill–and thereby keeping them as non-voting passive spectators– in Texas that may end up voting for Democrats, as the Gallup poll suggest. But, tea partiers don’t care about this passive spectator Republican objective since they are more concerned with nonconcrete ideological rhetoric and a more “conservative” speeches than growing the Republican mantra that includes Latinos.

As the Pew Center  poll shows “Tea Party Republicans” only want the  party to take a tougher stance on issues that Latino voters already see the GOP  too harsh and hostile for Latinos; and that is why in the Gallup poll Latino either identify as independent or vote 2-to-I democrat. Furthermore, Democrats are willing to turn Wendy Davis into a sacrificial lamb, if she agrees to run for governor, to get more white pro-choice female, ticket-splitters and Latino voters registered. And this is important because Texas will only shift with a strong voter surge since for the next 7 years all districts, Republican and Democrat, will remain as “safe” districts.

Furthermore, this 2-to-1 democrat’s advantage in the Gallup poll is stronger among native Latinos than immigrants. Tea partiers presume that if an immigration bill passes, immigrant will register as democrats in 15 years when they become citizens. But the fact is that the real problem for the GOP is not an immigrant problem, they have native Latino voters’ problem, and egregious tea partiers are only exacerbating this trend.

The hardened tea party views are bad news for the GOP because the issues of Obamacare, Immigration and Redistricting are already issues settled two years ago in other Republican state like New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Florida, state with large Hispanic populations. It will appear that the longer Republicans keep this issues alive in Texas, the more room there is for tea parties to push Latinos voter away.

Most likely Greg Abbott and the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate candidate will win in 2014. But the real conundrum for the RPT and Republicans seeking to grow the Party with the Latino vote will be by how much the gap between Republicans and Latinos will increase due to the Tea Party demands that Party becomes more “conservative“ on issues important to Latinos.

Alex Gonzalez  is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote!  He received a Bachelors Degree and a Masters’ Degree, with emphasis in American politics,  from San Francisco State University.
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