Dems shouldn’t mess with Texas

By Grover G. Norquist and Patrick Gleason
January 31, 2013


There has been much ado lately about the Democratic Party’s new project to turn Texas blue. What’s lost on the liberals in D.C., California and Manhattan who will throw money at this futile effort, however, is that the Texas Republican Party is different and far stronger than its counterparts in other states. And it’s not just because the Lone Star State under Republican control has become the envy of the nation in terms of job creation and economic growth.

One reason Democrats think the GOP’s hold over Texas is so precarious is demographics. Latinos make up 38 percent of the state population, a portion that is projected to rise to more than 50 percent by 2030. Since GOP nominee Mitt Romney got a dismal 27 percent of the Latino vote in November, it seems intuitive that a growing Latino population would spell trouble for Republicans. Yet Texas Republicans have done far better with Latinos than Republicans nationally because their approach to immigration has not been the antagonistic sort offered by Republicans in California, Arizona and other states.

In 2001, Governor Rick Perry signed a bill that allows children brought to Texas by immigrant parents to receive in-state tuition if they have lived in Texas for three years, graduated high school and been admitted to a state public university. Romney’s vicious and shortsighted attacks on this law during the GOP primaries are widely credited with hurting him with Latino voters in the general election.

The scare tactics the Democratic National Committee used to win the Hispanic vote nationally will not be as effective in Texas – where Republicans have enacted sensible policies and avoided bombastic rhetoric. Perry was re-elected with almost 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2010.

In fact, in June of last year, long before immigration was the issue du jour in Washington, D.C., the Texas GOP adopted a platform that included support for a guest-worker program. It’s worth noting that President Barack Obama opposed a guest-worker program at the behest of Big Labor when he was in the Senate.

It’s not just immigration where Texas is different. Education Secretary Arne Duncan stepped in it in 2011, when he claimed that class sizes in Texas have grown during Perry’s tenure as governor. In fact, they have shrunk over the past decade. The New York Times op-ed columnist Ross Douthat responded to Duncan’s false assertion by warning Democrats against attacking the Lone Star State’s education system. Surprisingly to many liberals, Texas schools do relatively well, according to the numbers.

Minority students do comparatively well in Texas, with Latino and black students outperforming their peers in others states. Looking at the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress exam results, Latino and black students in Texas outperformed Latino and black students nationally in both 4th and 8th grade in all subjects.

Also making Texas less amenable to the left’s scare tactics is the fact that the education gap between white students and minorities is smaller in Republican-controlled Texas than it is nationally. Democrats who are so obsessed with equality should be looking to learn from the Texas model rather than tear it down.

The Texas experience also challenges the notion that Republicans take a lock-’em-up approach to criminal justice. The state has been the national leader in the shift from tough-on-crime to smart-on-crime policies ‑ yielding savings for taxpayers while improving safety and reducing jail time. Such reforms are all the more important for minority communities, which have disproportionately high incarceration rates.

In 2003, Texas legislators passed a law mandating that all non-dealer drug offenders convicted for possession of less than a gram be sentenced to probation instead of jail time. Legislators subsequently passed other meaningful cost-saving sentencing reforms as well. Even with this, by 2007 the Texas Legislative Budget Board projected that the state would need more than 17,000 new prison beds by 2012. Rejecting this costly fate, state lawmakers passed further reforms, using alternatives to incarceration to save taxpayers more than $2 billion.

“The budget adopted in 2007 represented a historic shift,” said Marc Levin, director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Justice. The difference, according to Levin, was “in lieu of building more prisons, policymakers allocated $241 million for residential and non-residential treatment-oriented programs for non-violent offenders, along with enhancing in-prison treatment programs.”

These reforms have been so successful that rather than expand capacity, as had been projected, the state was able to close a prison in 2011 for the first time in its history. That structure had an appraised value of $30 million and an estimated redeveloped taxable value of $242 million.

While Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal recently called on Republicans to get smart, Texas has already shown how Republicans can champion smart reforms that are good policy and good politics ‑- with an agenda that is not commonly associated with Republicans. Democrats’ hopes for taking over Austin are built on a misunderstanding of Texans and Texas politics. Expect the Lone Star state to remain solidly red.


PHOTO: Texas Governor Rick Perry makes a point at the Conservative Political Action conference (CPAC) in Washington, February 11, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst


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rollover grover it’s over.

Posted by mmcg | Report as abusive

It is all about demographics. We are all talking about Hispanics but we forget an equally big population – the urban population. Like Hispanics, the urban change in the voter box lags in time. The big urban growth and shift of the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s means a lot of urban voters still had rural roots. Now you have a majority of young adults growing up in the city or suburbs. An amazing 95% of Texas’s school children are now an urban area. While there’s no reason these Texan’s would not follow their states culture of pro business, anti-union libertarian business sense, the new voters will increasingly be socially liberal. Its happened in every highly urbanized state in America and Texas is the newest state to join the club. This is statistics – urban voting districts that are well integrated are highly liberal. urban voting districts that are racially divided are mildly liberal. Sure, Texas can stay Republican if they are centrists on social issues – but if they start serving tea they will fall – and fast.

Posted by John2244 | Report as abusive

“Scare tactics” from “the left” are hardly necessary when Republicans use their own money to attack each other on TV over and over. Is replaying another candidate dumb video a scare tactic? Or only if you are a Democrat, playing a Republican’s dumb statement, it is a scare tactic? I think Mr. Norquist does not give Texas voters enough credit: they probably see that expensive mandatory prison sentences – which were instituted by Republicans – didn’t work anyway, whatever they cost. So should the voters give credit to the Republicans for repealing their own bad program? Apparently, the Texas GOP has concluded that despite their efforts, some of these Latinos will get to vote after all, and they ought to just make the best of it.

Posted by PhilipWilliams | Report as abusive

Reuters is wrong to publish these op-eds by a partisan shill who can’t even write his own op-eds. Norquist is no more balanced in his opinion than Rush Limbaugh. He promotes positions meant to benefit him. He’s made himself a millionaire as a lobbyist, the very thing that has destroyed the average American’s representation in a governing system that was designed to give that power to the people, not to be taken away by abusive individuals like Norquist.

This is the man who uses bullying and intimidation to force Congress to pass legislation that he favors, legislation he benefits from. If they dare to defy him, he spends millions trying to defeat them in their primaries. No elected politician wants that, and Norquist knows that.

He coerced Republicans into signing a pledge supporting lower taxes for himself and his wealthy supporters, while the rest of America wonders why our government isn’t doing the things we elected them to do. Democrats didn’t sign his insipid little pledge, so now he attacks them, just like he does any legislator who doesn’t bow to his wishes.

This is the guy who claims he wants to shrink our government until it’s impotent and useless, so that the ever-powerful industrialists, represented by groups such as the Business Roundtable, can have free reign over our country. Norquist and a tiny fraction of wealthy and powerful profiteers will decide our fates for us, like feudal lords. This is not a joke. This is really what we’re facing. One side will win and one will lose, either his side or the side of the American people.
And Reuters gives him the platform to pull it off. This is just wrong. It’s not news, nor even opinion. It’s pure self-motivated, political hackery, written coherently by his hired gun because he’s not intelligent enough to write it himself.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive

Texas has enough money to make a place at the base of their socioeconomic ladder for Latinos. Where other ‘red’ state lower-income residents would call for blood over perceived job displacement, Texas has enough easy energy money to employ them at jobs that non-Latinos are being forced to take elsewhere. They are also in the middle of a population boom, taking many people from less well-off states. The authors observations are unlikely to last, as boomtowns change with the wind

Posted by auger | Report as abusive

This article is worthless. Stick to what you know, Mr Norquist. Otherwise, why don’t YOU run for office and prove to us you are more than just a man with an opinion. Lead….or shut your trap.

Posted by krimsonpage | Report as abusive

Norquist presents his opinion when Obstructionist Republicans in Congress are cooperating on immigration reform. Texas has many electoral votes and many immigrants (illegal and legal)and both parties want those votes. So, yeah, Texas is ripe for tipping from red to blue; otherwise, Norquist wouldn’t waste his time buttering up the Texans. Nice to see him brown-nosing, though.

From what I’ve read, the general public in Texas is salivating for strict border control, full prosecution of illegals, including immediate deportation, which are not sentiments the immigrant population is likely to embrace. Popular vote at risk perhaps?

Expect more state-by-state opinions, pandering, and sabre-rattling from Norquist.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive

Grover is still yapping? Didn’t he have an aneurysm over the POTUS election result? Hey buddy, how’s your ‘no-tax pledge’ working out? Irrelevant bonehead.

You know the man has completely lost it when the masters of fear mongering propaganda are actually accusing the other side of fear tactics. Funny, didn’t he just write that the GOP has been espousing antagonistic immigration rhetroic in other states outside of Texas? So Latinos shouldn’t be afraid of that? Hypocritical douchebaggery at its best.

Posted by blah77 | Report as abusive

If Latinos in Texas are for Perry and Norquist, then Latinos in Texas are either unbelievably ignorant or terribly confused – and possibly a little of both.

And it is the Democrats’ responsibility to educate them.

In precisely the same manner they’re trying to educate middle-class and working-class Whites who still believe (against a mountain of evidence) that the Grand Old Plutocratic Party has their best interests in mind.

Posted by jrpardinas | Report as abusive

Perry only got 40% of the Latino vote in a 2010 midterm election with low turnout. Norquist wouldn’t write this article if he didn’t think the Republican party is already in danger. There’s some kind of persecution complex at work here.

Posted by areddy831 | Report as abusive

The one thing I agree with about the column is that people are trying to read a lot into the election results re: immigration. The mainstream media, Democrats and some Republican leaders have always wanted it, and want desperately for the American people to think the same way they do about it. But one election does not a shift make. What Texas shows, if anything, is that a lot of Hispanics are conservative. That’s no big surprise. Obama’s gotten more votes from Hispanics, and he’s gotten more votes from blacks, too. Of course there should be no bashing of anybody, immigrants or anyone else. But that doesn’t mean Republicans have to agree with pro-immigration activists to win elections. Just the opposite, really. Despite the hype from media cheerleaders, Democrats and even some Republicans, so-called immigration reform, aka mass amnesty, will have a hard row to hoe. And that because it’s so deeply unpopular with the American people, pro-immigration activists’ pleas to the contrary notwithstanding.

Posted by Calfri | Report as abusive

You might have been right back in 2010 but the latest AP-Gfk poll would indicate that that the tide has shifted. More Americans favor a ‘path to citizenship’ (not to be confused with immediate amnesty) for illegal immigrants. Even 53% of Republicans favor a change in that direction.

Posted by blah77 | Report as abusive

blah77: You, of course, are correct. Nothing else makes sense. We can quibble over the details, but we only have 3 basic choices on the issue of what to do about our illegal immigrants, and one of them can’t be done. We can devise a path to citizenship; we can do nothing, and allow 12 million immigrants to run around undocumented; or we can ship them all back from where they came, which can’t be done. Of course there’s also self-deportation :O)

So I ask people, which course of action makes the most sense?

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive

flashrooster: Indeed. If the GOP can gripe about the current level of government spending, just wait until they see the price tag that comes with tracking down, detaining, holding and transferring millions of illegal immigrants. Then there is also the inevitable diplomatic and economic fallout/retaliation to consider, particularly in the agricultural sector.

Well, not that mass deportation of that many people is realistic in the first place but facts and pragmatism has not been a staple of the modern Republic party.

Posted by blah77 | Report as abusive

I moved to Texas from Colorado, but I grew up in New York City and have lived in a few other places, including Montreal for a year. I am a brown-skinned. The reasons I like Texas and the Texas GOP:

1) Jobs. Texas has jobs growth while liberal states like California lose jobs. Is it better for people to be on welfare or for them to have jobs? Liberal fiscal policies seem geared to keeping people dependent on government. I think of an analogy – the economy is like a cart. Some people are pulling the cart, others ride inside. Most of us don’t mind pulling the cart while the disabled, the elderly and children get a free ride – but if you keep putting people into the cart, it gets heavier and you have less people pulling it. Eventually you won’t be able to move the cart, and that’s when the economy breaks down. In places like California, where they penalize those who work, workers leave. They come to places like Texas where they are appreciated.

And it’s not all oil and gas related – there are a lot of high-tech jobs in Austin, for example.

2) A belief in our Constitutional rights. That includes the 2nd amendment as well as the 1st. I am actually a pacifist – I don’t own a gun and can’t imagine shooting a fellow human being. However, there is a reason the Founding Fathers put the 2nd amendment in the Constitution. If you’ve read history, tyrants do best when the people have no means to overthrow them. The samurai were the only ones allowed swords. Blacks in the American South were not allowed to have guns. The Jews were disarmed prior to Kristalnacht. Re-read 1984. Do we really want only the government armed?

3) Racism. When I lived in the deep South, I saw some awful racism and I hated it. In Texas, though, I have seen very little racism. People here are friendly to people of all colors. Hispanics in Texas are very well assimilated. I’m not saying there aren’t some racist boneheads in Texas, but I’ve seen less here than in many places, including Chicago, Indiana and Boston. There are Hispanic families here in Texas who have been here for 10 generations. They are part of Texas aristocracy.

A couple of years ago a Muslim family moved into our neighborhood, the Mom admitted to me in private that they were really afraid they’d encounter racism, but instead they were surprised at how welcome people made them feel. Texans are neighborly.

4) A mind-my-own-business attitude.

You buy raw milk if you want (it’s your body, why shouldn’t a transaction between a farmer and a consumer be allowed? Plus it’s better for the environment and more compassionate to the animal.) You can home-school – and that’s not good just for fanatical religious people, but also for kids who have learning disabilities that the schools might not be able to address, for extremely bright students who are bored to death by public schools, students who might be bullied, etc. You can use a mid-wife instead of delivering your baby in a hospital if you choose. You don’t have to worry about trans-fats being banned or tobacco being banned – sure these things are bad for you, but it’s your body, right? I would love if they legalized pot (I don’t use it, but I have had friends with cancer and AIDs who did), and hopefully that will happen soon… bottom line, the laws in Texas are more pro-freedom than in many so-called “liberal” states.

One area Texas is not as good as I’d like – acceptance of gays. It’s fine in places like Austin (where I live), but in many smaller towns – not so good. However, it’s probably not worse than small towns in New York. One thing I do appreciate – while there is a significant gay community in Austin, they are not as in-your-face about it as in San Francisco. I believe gays should be treated like everyone else. And, just like I don’t want to see hetero exhibitionism on the streets, I don’t want to see gay genitalia on display in the public square. It’s your choice who you love and have sex with – but respect my choice not to watch!

Posted by ssohara | Report as abusive

Is anyone who disagrees with this article actually from Texas? Lived in Texas for more than 5 years? LIke the article said, Texas-Republicans and Texas politics are DIFFERENT than what you see else where from Republicans. The “urban = democrat” paradigm does not work in Texas. Yes, the democrat basis in Texas are in the urban areas, but there are far too many urban Republicans for the Illinois affect to happen (where all of the state is red except Chicago which runs the entire show). A great many, especially the up and coming younger generations, of Texas Republicans are more than flexible enough on the key social issues to keep the state firmly red in the future. Young Texas Republicans are concerned about limited government, individual freedoms, personal responsibility, and fiscally responsible economics, the rest of the highly politicized social issues are either something they are willing to compromise on to win or dont really care about in a libertarian sort of way. Think “log cabin Republican” and you will get a better understanding of what a lot of the next generation of Texas Republicans are roughly like.

Posted by slsbtwn | Report as abusive

You got a 38 % white minority per the 2010 census in the state and these cracker heads in Austin have gerrymandered the state where 72% of the congressional delegation is Republican. The entire state of Texas is a “cesspool of corruption and criminal enterprise with “sweetheart deals” handed out by Perry as the CEO. The roads were sold to a Spanish corporation who charges $6 to go 2 miles in rush hour traffic. Simmons pollutes the state with underground radiation. It goes on and on. Texas even assassinated a President and then sent one to DC and he assassinated the economy. “You can’t quarantine a person like Oswald in time and place “ per the Warren Commission. The seeds of racial hate in Texas grow exponentially. How many times have you seen Obama in this “hate filled” racist state since the election? JFK came only once and guess what?

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Grover you’re just another troll. Republican’s are getting smarter. Those big bucks spent on Romney’s campaign by the 2% were wasted. The fat cats are out (boohoo) and demographics are in. I’m going to enjoy watching you languish as your special interest group dies. Betting the contributions are drying up. I see a nice quiet little trailer park in rural Iowa in your future. Enjoy!

Posted by xyz2055 | Report as abusive

When you think about Texas justice, one cannot help but think of all the executions. And wasn’t it a Texas trooper to did a cavity search after a car stop, in plain view of anyone passing by?

Then, the nonsense about school books. That is hardly a national model. And the huge number of uninsured people, and now the war on women by Republicans.

Sure, that is a Norquist utopia.

I give the article a big oops!

Posted by pavoter1946 | Report as abusive

Really Reuters, why print this piece by professional lobbyists? Lobbyists should at least pay for their own PR pieces.

Posted by QuietThinker | Report as abusive

QuietThinker, I agree, maybe they did pay?

Posted by ConstFundie | Report as abusive

Texas used to be a great state, a place my family and I could go to enjoy the lifestyle. But any solidly red state like this, with its Confederate background still in evidence, its support of individual gun ownership, the death penalty, and so many other dangerous Republican policies – well, Texas has become a place to avoid. I’ll connect on flights through DFW if absolutely necessary, otherwise my choice is to stay away from this “whole other country.” On a positive note, I do support their secession from the union. It didn’t work the first time, maybe it will work this time around.

Posted by justine1939 | Report as abusive

Texas does well because they receive more federal aide than most other states, in particular in form of jobs for federal agencies and a huge energy industry and military spending in Texas…

It’s the people from the Blue northern states who fund this

Posted by GA_Chris | Report as abusive

Nothing but threats from Texas. Isn’t that what terrorists do?

Posted by borisjimbo | Report as abusive

There may be a different subtext here than commentators above are highlighting: Democrats can win the presidency without Texas (e.g. 2008, 2012) but paths to the White House for Republicans without Texas are remarkably few and unlikely. If, as a result, Republicans nationwide are compelled to moderate their positions on particular issues, this is good for the country as a whole. And if, instead, they remain trapped in their narrow ideology and find themselves a permanent opposition, this too is good for the country as a whole. I think we have a rare win-win in the offing!

Posted by bcartrite | Report as abusive

I don’t know how to address all you Texas haters. Texas is doing fine. Has a budget surplus. Perry is recommending it be returned to the taxpayer. Legislature only meets every two years. Think how this would help DC. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having the rural area have a say in policy, as opposed to having Chicago run Illinois.
This is the greatest state in the Union. Deal with it.

Posted by davezimmerman | Report as abusive

Don’t mess with federal largess, you may have added. Data compiled by the US Census Bureau (1998 to 2008 being the latest period for which data are available) show that the federal government has been especially generous to the Lone Star State.

The top three recipient states of federal defense spending in 2008 were, in descending order, TX ($63.546 billion), VA ($52.155 billion) and CA ($48.763 billion). In 1998, the first, second and third top recipients in this category were CA ($29.072 billion), VA ($23.079 billion) and TX ($15.994 billion), respectively.

The top three recipient states of total federal spending in 2008 were, in descending order, CA ($299.923 billion), TX ($210.005 billion) and NY ($174.071 billion). In 1998, the first, second and third top recipients in this category were CA ($161.571 billion), NY ($99.766 billion) and TX ($92.019 billion), respectively.

Of the 50 states, TX, which forms the bulk of the 11th (Dallas) Federal Reserve District, enjoyed the biggest proportional increase (2.282-fold) in total federal spending received from 1998 to 2008.

The states with the 2nd and 3rd biggest proportional increase in total federal spending received from 1998 to 2008 were NV (2.281-fold) and AZ (2.257-fold), respectively, both of which lie in the 12th (SF) Federal Reserve District that includes CA, which, at 1.895-fold, trailed 29 other states on that scale.

Among states, NY, which is the largest part of the 2nd (NYC) Federal Reserve District, ranked 43rd with respect to the proportional increase (1.745-fold) in total federal spending received from 1998 to 2008. (At 1.604-fold, ME came in 50th.)

In an unsurprising correspondence, a comparison of job growth among the Federal Reserve Districts shows the 11th performed best, the 2nd performed worst, and the 12th was about halfway between the extremes, as Dallas Federal Reserve chair Richard Fisher has noted.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, although you may wish to choose WA over TX on that score.

Posted by MoBioph | Report as abusive

Conservative ideas can resonate with everyone, but that’s not the message that’s being sent from the Republican party. Texas is proof that it is possible to reach demographics that aren’t reached at a national level. It’s not that the Hispanic voting bloc inherently disagrees with the philosophy espoused by conservatives, it’s that other states aren’t implementing policies that are in line with that philosophy. The party as a whole should embrace immigration, as to reap the benefits like Texas has already done. It is also proof that scare tactics don’t work if sensible policies are in place. Voters don’t want to be threatened, scared, or alienated. Texas is doing just fine, other states should follow suit.

Posted by AlexN5 | Report as abusive