by Victor Landa of NewsTaco.com
Ask most people who aren’t from Texas what they think about the state and the people from it, and you’ll get a pretty stereotypical response: Boots and trucks, boasts and guns, Republicans and rednecks.
Truth is we’ve got some of those, usually in the same package and more than likely concentrated in the same parts of the state. But there’s more to Texas than that, and according to one of the country’s preeminent demographers, it’s changing.
A friend of mine, editor of the editorial page for the local daily, recently posted this on FaceBook: Willie Nelson represents my Texas, not Gov. Rick Perry (or something to that effect). Folks outside of Texas may want to pay attention because what’s happening here will happen soon enough where you are.
There’s a shift going on, from rural to urban, from white to brown, and it’s changing everything from politics to perceptions.
Dr. Steve Murdock, the famed demographer I mentioned and past head of the US Census, is the chair of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University. He recently spread the numbers for an article in the Dallas Morning News.
In the past ten years Texas has grown by 4.5 million people, and “90 percent of that growth comes from just five areas: Dallas-Arlington-Fort Worth, Houston-Galveston, San Antonio, Austin and the Rio Grande Valley.”
Murdock pin-points Dallas as a microcosm of what’s going on within that growth:
“In 2000, Dallas County was not quite 45 percent white. But in 2009, it was about 34 percent white,” Murdock said. “The black population was about 20 percent in both [years], Asians increased from a little over 5 [percent] to 6 percent, and Hispanics went from 30 percent to 40 percent.”
Over that period, he said, the white population in Dallas County decreased by 140,000 to 150,000.
The political exchange is important. Rural, conservative, white counties will loose congressional seats, while urban, minority, progressive counties will increase their representation in congress. Can you imagine Texas no longer being a Red state? It’s really always been purple, but the blue in it is getting darker. It will all come to a head later this year when the state legislature tackles redistricting.
“Redistricting doesn’t automatically mean that areas with the most growth will get the new seats,” Murdock said, “but some of the new seats will be in those growth areas.
“It would be very surprising to me if two things don’t happen — if we don’t see more seats in growth areas and if some aren’t lost in rural areas,” he said.
Remember those 4.5 million new Texans since 2000? 85 percent of them are Latino. According to Dr. Michael K. Moore, associate professor of political science at the University of Texas at Arlington, who was also quoted in the article
“Hispanic voters in general vote Democratic, but not as solidly as blacks, and that’s an important point. If you’re the head of one of the major parties right now and you’re working on a 10-, 15- or 20-year plan, a major question is, ‘What do we do about Hispanic voters?’ Because they’re divided depending on the issue.”
On economic and immigration issues, for example, Hispanics tend to support Democrats. But on social issues like abortion, the largely Catholic population sides with Republicans, Moore said.
What does this mean for people outside of Texas? Well, think of it as a symptom. If your area is experiencing growth it’s because of Latinos, that’s pretty much the way it is across the country. It also means that the balance of power and congressional seats is in play because this is redistricting time.
Oh, and if you see a Tejano wearing cowboy boots, don’t worry – we’ve always done that.
(Photo by M. Glasow)
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