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All eyes on Texas. “Trump and Biden are tied in Texas 48-48% with 4% undecided,” declares the most recent polls in the traditionally Republican Lone Star state. This came as a surprise to most national political pundits who did not think that Texas could one day be a big battleground and turn into a blue state. If Texas, a state that is geographically bigger than California with 38 electoral votes indeed votes for Biden, the elections are over, regardless of what happens in the other battleground states.
A Brief Primer on Texas Politics
This unexpected development did not come as a surprise to this author, as a resident and close observer of Texas politics for the last 40 years. In fact, I had predicted as far back as three presidential elections ago that before long, Texas becoming a battleground state and eventually turning blue would be inevitable. Decades ago, before and during the reign of Lyndon B. Johnson and his Democrat Senators and Governor, Texas was a democratic bastion. When the Bush family took over, the state switched parties and has since consistently voted Republican. The last Democratic president who won Texas was Jimmy Carter in 1977. Although the Democrats have always carried the inner capital cities of Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso due mostly to their large minority populations, the blue-collar white voters in the vast suburbs (some locally described as anti-immigrant rednecks) have dominated the elections, both national and local. It is worthy of note that the southern half of the state is now predominantly Hispanic, a strength in numbers that has really never been effectively leveraged by the Democrats. Like the Filipino and Asian communities that have also grown exponentially in the major cities, the majority of the large Latino community has never appreciated the importance of registering to vote, preferring to shy away on election day. There are indications that this may change this year.
Reasons why Texas could possibly turn blue this year and role of the Filipino vote
- The traditional Republican firewall of suburban and rural whites is showing signs of cracking. Biden is now leading by a large margin with the suburban white women while still losing with the white men. Suburban families in Texas are starting to feel the economic pain of the pandemic and blaming Trump for mishandling the crisis. Filipino families, along with other minority families have also started to feel the results of COVID-19. Texas Filipinos who in the past were almost untouched by unemployment woes are now joining the welfare ranks and many small businesses are floundering. And lastly, the ongoing migration of workers from democratic West Coast to Texas and the young people in rural Texas moving to larger counties that are sharply leaning to the left and becoming more politically active brings on increasing electoral importance to large cities such as Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso. Texas’ growing economy and booming cities backed by technology, real estate, oil and gas are all magnets. These will all be a significant factor in the potential obituary of the Republican Party in the state.
- Texas has a large number of military bases. The surveys of military personnel who used to be strongly pro-Trump show that Biden is leading in double digits with the active military voters, although still behind with the veterans. Evidently, Trump’s reported denigrating of active military servicemen as “suckers” and captured war veterans and those killed in action as “losers” had a lot to do with the military’s change of heart. Filipino sons and daughters of WWII heroes felt insulted by the president’s harsh words and have vowed to punish him in the November elections. The Filipinos’ national pride was also hurt by what Trump publicly said in a Portland rally that Filipinos are “mendicants, terrorists, and animals.”
- Health Care. It is a big issue in Texas, which has one of the worst records of uninsured families among the 50 states. Many are assisted by Obamacare and have pre-existing conditions. The fear of the Republicans messing with their health care and their Social Security and Medicare cause the low-income and average Texans to gravitate towards Biden and the local Democrat leaders. The Filipino doctors and nurses, also called “Pinoy Frontliners”, also went through extreme difficulties during the early stages of the pandemic when the state was running out of hospital beds, essential PPE equipment, test supplies and personnel shortage. They are sophisticated enough to know how the pandemic ran out of control and who was responsible.
- Big name Republicans in the Lone Star State. Like the families and supporters of the Bush family, they are distancing themselves from Trump and are now openly supporting Biden. Even when keeping a very low profile, the Bush family still wields a huge influence over Texans, who still feel a strong sense of affinity and loyalty towards hometown leaders who have proudly strong sense of affinity and loyalty towards hometown leaders who have proudly represented them in the national and international arena. If this trend continues, it will be a big boost for Biden.
- Formidable Coalition of Minority Voters Organizations. A phenomenon that has not been seen in this state, the minority communities of Hispanics, Blacks and Asian-Americans (also called AAPI) including Filipino Americans are getting united, coming together and sharing resources to fight a common adversary – the anti-immigrant and anti-minority occupant in the White House.
The Hispanics in Texas have been a sleeping giant that is now waking up to take Donald Trump into account for his harsh treatment of immigrants, including willful separation of thousands of babies from their mothers at the border, and for rescinding the Obama executive order protecting the young DACA “Dreamers” which include about 50,000 Filipino students from being deported to their parents’ original countries of which they know nothing about.
The demographics in this large border state have dramatically changed in the last two decades. The southern cities that are within 300 miles of the border are now predominantly Latino, and population experts are predicting that in the next two decades, Hispanics could outnumber all other ethnic groups including whites in the entire state.
Hispanic and Asian-American candidates for U.S. Congress like half-Filipina Gina Ortiz Jones, an Iraq war hero who is running for a seat in the U.S. Congress, a historic first for a Filipino-American, and others have an excellent fighting chance to win in Texas, buoyed also by a possible down vote effect of a Biden victory.
A suddenly energized and very well-organized Asian-American voter community which includes Filipinos can make the difference in November’s presidential elections. The Asian-American (AAPI) Victory community has never been as excited as it is now mainly because of the inclusion of Senator Kamala Harris on Biden’s ticket. Harris is an Asian-American.
SUMMARY: Texas is no longer taken for granted as a traditionally red state. Texas is now thrown in the political discourse with a good possibility of joining other states that voted for Trump in 2016 that have suddenly become competitive, such as Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and even Georgia. We are seeing a sudden surge of interest in the state among the candidates and their campaign leaders, as evidenced by the large cash investments in this previously ignored but vote-rich state. Based on an instant polling of Texans’ reaction to the first presidential debate, a large majority is now favoring Biden over Trump. Whether that enthusiasm translates into actual votes is hard to predict.
The large constituencies of the Fil-Ams for Biden-Harris movement, both national and in Texas, firmly believe that with all the positive elements enumerated above coming together like planets aligning with each other, the political world could see a strong blue wave in the state. This optimism is buttressed by the worsening popularity and mushrooming scandals of the incumbent president among independent voters, the immigrants and minorities, the military, the suburban whites, the disaffected traditional Republicans and the surging young progressive voters — a powerful merging of forces that could make their dream of transforming the state from red to blue, albeit still against formidable odds, within the realm of possibility this year.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gus Mercado is a Filipino business and civic leader in Texas for 40 years. While his wife, Honorary Consul Ethel Reyes-Mercado is a devout Democrat, Gus is a registered Republican who votes Independent in national elections. He is State Chair of the FilAms for Biden in Texas, a coalition of Democrats, Republicans and Independents against Trump. Reactions to this article may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org