Editorial: Texas GOP needs Latinos

Dallas News Editorial

As Republicans start gathering Thursday in Fort Worth for their 2012 state convention, they once again are on top of the Texas political universe. They have a message that largely resonates with voters. Otherwise, they wouldn’t control every major state office. Texas is not New York or California — voters look for candidates who want to control spending and keep taxes low.

Texas is also changing, rapidly so. The large growth in Latino families is driving the state’s demographics. Hispanics were responsible for about 65 percent of Texas’ population growth from 2000 to 2010. Now half of Texas’ public school students are Hispanic.

The Latino expansion is not a new reality. Texas has been trending that way for at least a decade, but that reality often appears lost on some within the GOP.

Consider the animus that some Republicans have toward an immigration policy that goes beyond securing the borders. We don’t doubt that some Hispanics are equally passionate about a secure border. But many Latinos who are listening to the tough GOP talk about border security and deportations are likely to keep shopping elsewhere for a political home.

To his credit, Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri gets this point. The Houstonian has been traveling the state preaching a message of inclusivity.

In an interview recently with Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka, Munisteri said his party needs to embrace the people who are coming to Texas for economic opportunity. That naturally includes Hispanics, whom Munisteri is making a point of reaching. He wants his party to win Latino voters from all walks of life, not just those connected to politics.

Of course, George W. Bush did that as governor and president. To some extent, Rick Perry has done so as governor. For instance, he signed a controversial DREAM Act, giving children of illegal immigrants a shot at college in Texas.

But the party as a whole continues to do all it can to sabotage any effort to win Hispanics, some of whom are likely to share the GOP’s beliefs about strong families, national defense and economic opportunity. GOP lawmakers last year drove a bill through the Texas Legislature that requires voters to show an ID at the polls. While rank-and-file Republicans may have thought that sounded reasonable, many Hispanics complained that it put a target on their backs.

Texas Republicans are not likely to reverse course this weekend in Fort Worth. They may even cheer that voter ID bill. But they ought to pay attention to Munisteri’s warnings. The GOP is popular in Texas now, but that won’t remain the case if the Grand Old Party doesn’t look ahead to the state’s future.

A Bigger Tent

Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri on his party’s challenge:

The key to Republican success in the future is to reach out to Hispanic, African-American and Asian voters because the state is growing increasingly diverse. The failure to do that will result, in the not-too-distant future, in this turning from a Republican state to a swing state.”

SOURCE: Texas Monthly

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