Texas GOP backs hard right amid shifting demographics

Republicans in America's most conservative state have won victories over the years under the slogan "Keep Texas Red," which pledged to stop a blue wave Democrats claimed was inevitable due to shifting demographics.

Texas GOP backs hard right amid shifting demographics

Now, those population transformations have arrived, with the 2020 census confirming that the state got bigger, more suburban and far more diverse. A more appropriate state GOP rallying call for today is "Make Texas even redder."

Texas Republicans are facing increasingly grave demographic threats to their party’s dominance. They have advocated a variety of boundary-pushing conservative policiesmaking that dramatically expands gun right, curbs abortions, and tightens election laws. This is a way to steer a state already heavily to the right.

The party is not moving toward the middle to please Democratic-leaning Texans driving growth in population, but embraces its base and promises to use a new round redistricting to make sure things remain that way through 2030. This will be a national model of staying on the offensive regardless of political winds.

"Texas is clearly a national leader in laws that we pass, and other states follow," Republican Governor. Greg Abbott, who loves to vow to make Texas the "freedom capitol of America", said Tuesday.

Abbott, who is up for reelection next year and often mentioned as a possible 2024 presidential contender, signed voting legislation Tuesday that empowers partisan poll watchers and prohibits a host of measures that made casting ballots easier in heavily Democratic cities amid the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans argue that the new rules boost election security and charged ahead to pass them, even as Democratic state lawmakers fled the state for weeks to block them.

The voting law was nearly overshadowed by national debate over another new Texas law -- the nation's toughest set of abortion restrictions. The state has threatened Roe v. Wade (the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a woman's rights to an abortion) by banning the procedure in most cases and excluding incest and rape cases.

Another law permits virtually anyone 21 years old or older in Texas to own guns without requiring a license. Other legislation prohibited schools from teaching institutional racism, and restricted the state's cities from making decisions about police funding, environmental budgeting, and mask mandates. Abbott also instructed lawmakers Tuesday to try to pass restrictions on transgender student-athletes when the Legislature meets later in the month to draw new voting maps.

These policy wins are set to be consolidated for the future. Republicans control both the Legislature's chambers. This means that the party will determine new congressional and statehouse district boundaries based on 2020 census data. The goal is to make these boundaries as favorable as possible for the GOP so it can maintain statehouse majorities in the next decade.

New maps will be required to correct what appears to be unfavorable Texas Republican census data. The state's Hispanic population grew by nearly 2 million, according to 2020 census figures, accounting for half of Texas' total population increase. According to AP VoteCast (an election survey), 6 out of 10 Hispanics voted for Joe Biden in November, even though the GOP had made gains among Hispanic voters.

Republicans are also seeing warning signs in suburbia. Four of the country's ten fastest-growing cities are located in Texas. They are fueled by vibrant communities outside of Houston, Dallas, and Austin. After many years of GOP advantage in these areas, Biden split suburban Texas voters with Trump, AP VoteCast discovered. He won five of the largest counties in Texas.

Trumpism is being blamed by Democrats for unfettered conservatism. Trumpism was responsible for the birth of "a new Republican Party that's more feisty." It's more fringe," stated Ron Reynolds, Democratic state Rep. and vice chair of Texas Legislative Black Caucus.

Reynolds said that the cow has left the barn and it is difficult to bring it back. Reynolds' district includes suburban Houston. They must entertain and appease these people because they are enthusiastic about voting in the Republican primaries.

Reynolds and other Democrats warn that there will be a backlash from voters. They have no history to support that claim. In 27 years, Republicans have not lost a state race. And they say that it is their fierce commitment to conservativism that has kept the nation's longest winning streak.

"If anyone expected it, their head is too far up their, um, philosophy," Corbin Casteel in Texas, Trump's campaign director, joked about any idea that the state's census figures might cause the Republicans to move to the center.

Moderate Texas Republicans believe that past statements about Democrats benefiting from changing demographics were exaggerated. Travis Clardy, a state representative from Nacogdoches east Texas said that "the rumors about our demise are greatly exaggerated".

Clardy said, "We continue winning with really strong numbers." "I don’t believe we’ve held extreme right-wing, strident positions. "I think we have governed conservatively."

The party still has the ability to moderate in the past. The GOP's 2018 legislative session was extremely quiet after a Democratic wave in Texas and across the country. It focuses on traditional issues such as property tax cuts and public school education.

It wasn't until the party won the Legislature and seats in Congress last November, that it began to turn hard right. This was because it knew that primary challenges would be its biggest electoral threat moving forward rather than being unseated from the Democrats.

Clardy stated, "I have heard that all of this demographic change will catch up to the partyof the old white people," but Clardy disagreed. "The numbers might be changing but they may not trend the way they think they are," Clardy said.

Abbott, an ex-justice of the state Supreme Court, is perhaps the best example of the move to the right. He was once thought to have taken a more measured, deliberative, and business-friendly approach to his job, but has recently gone further right than the Legislature, especially on immigration.

Recently, the governor ordered state police to arrest anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. He also directed a state agency $25 million to build a wall for 2 miles (3 km) along Texas' border with Mexico.

No major Democrat has yet announced a candidacy against Abbott, though former presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke -- who came within 3 percentage points of upsetting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 -- still might. Former congressman Allen West has already challenged the governor, who is a tea party darling and often likens Democrats to Nazis.

Casteel stated that Republicans in Texas and elsewhere are benefiting from doubling down on conservatism. He cited Abbott and Ron DeSantis, a Republican from Florida who is also a governor. Both have gained national followings by being willing to combat unpopular policies like universal mask mandates. This is despite Democrats in both state insisting that failures to combat the pandemic more vigorously could jeopardize their aspirations to reelection, not to mention the White House.

Casteel spoke out about Abbott, saying that he has faced difficult circumstances like few governors. "It's safety or liberty, and he and people like Gov. DeSantis has threaded the needle very well. The results speak for themselves, I believe."

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