Updated: Mar 14
It has long been said in Democratic politics in Texas that Hispanics don’t vote. Maybe that is because we don’t give them anything to vote for.
The future of Texas is Hispanic. That future is already here. The Texas Democratic Party has long been operating under the assumption that, given enough time, Hispanic population growth will return Democrats to power. This of course is based on a plainly false assumption — that all Hispanics will vote in a block and vote Democrat. This is a mistake of cataclysmic proportion.
It is shocking to have to say this in Texas, but there is a long tradition of conservative Hispanic Republicans in Texas, especially in West Texas. Three issues predominate that make it so — abortion, jobs and immigration. The party has to overcome that long tradition if it wants to win in rural West Texas.
The Roman Catholic Church and its teachings hold a strong sway over large swaths of Texas Hispanics. This has been a very strong and long standing conservative force in Texas for hundreds of years. A national progressive Democratic message is not going to change that. Yet, the consistent message from the Democratic Party is that if you are pro-life your views are not welcome. This is an almost impossible obstacle for even a conservative Democrat to overcome. Uncorrected, this by itself may eventually drive Hispanic Democrats to the Republican party by the millions.
Donald Trump also demonstrated, if there was ever any doubt, that many Hispanic voters are just as concerned with border safety, security and controlling unlawful entry into the country as white voters. Many Hispanic families in Texas pre-date the Republic of Texas, and even the United States itself. They are just as American and are just as concerned with demanding that people enter the country lawfully and stop the flow of drugs, and violence from Mexico. Millions of Hispanics live on the border and they understand the reality of the situation all to well. To act as if every Hispanic voter is in favor of open borders and amnesty for undocumented workers is another huge mistake based on liberal and progressive myths and stereotypes. Many immigrants who entered lawfully take great offense at those who enter unlawfully. I don’t blame them. Why should they work so hard and take so long to enter legally, while others don’t and are then allowed to stay? Where is the American sense of fairness in that?
There are several types of Hispanic culture in Texas. Hispanic Texans are not a monolith and they do not all have the same opinions or vote the same way. Many of their differences are based on history, origins, class, wealth, even race. They are individuals and individual voters who their have own opinions, and they may be different than yours. They are great entrepreneurs and hard workers. They are extremely patriotic, small c conservatives, who cherish family, traditional gender roles, religion, guns, and being left alone to live their lives and build and grow their own businesses. They want jobs and success and to improve their lives, just like all people do. If we do not treat them as such and do not create messages and campaigns that address their values, their concerns and their interests with respect, Texas will remain a one-party Republican stronghold for another half century or more.
I do not profess to speak for Hispanic Texans. They can do that very well for themselves. But growing up on the border, and having lived my life in Texas I appreciate that Tejanos are what makes Texas, Texas. What I am saying is that if you want to win their votes you must have a relationship with them. You can’t use them, take advantage of them and then forget about them. You can’t just show up during the campaign. This is what many Democratic politicians have done through the years.
The only way you can know people is to spend time with them, a lot of time. You have to be genuine and consistent. You have to listen and treat them as real people, with real values, real ideas, real opinions and real problems that need solving. You can’t do that just at election time and expect people to support you. It is something you have to do every day of the week, every week of the month and every month of the year, for years and years. In fact, this task will never end. But if you do it right it won’t be a task. It will be a long standing friendship.
Jon Mark Hogg is a lawyer in San Angelo, Texas and a former Democratic Candidate for Congress.