Soon-to-be outgoing Governor Rick Perry would like us to think otherwise, of course, just as he wants us to believe that his wife “misspoke” when she said recently that “abortion could be a woman’s right.”
Between Perry and George W. Bush, we’ve seen almost 20 straight years of right wing politics in the Lone Star State. But before that, there was a breath of progressive air in Austin when Democrat Ann Richards was the governor and political commentator Molly Ivins was busy writing about the good ol’ boy machinations of the Texas political world — two outspoken, hard-charging liberal women who made big progressive marks in their very conservative state.
So after close to two decades of the cowboy boot-wearing, twangy talking duo of Bush/Perry, it’s time to mix things up in Texas. And it looks like State Senator Wendy Davis, of 13-hour anti-abortion bill filibuster fame, just might be the one to do that, sans the Ann Richards beehive and the Molly Ivins cigarettes.
As she announces her candidacy for governor, many observers will say she’s taking on a fight she’s more than likely to lose, just based on the state’s demographics and historical political leanings. And just a few years ago, I might have agreed with those naysayers. But remember all those people who showed up to support Davis during her attempts to block passage of that anti-women’s health bill (that, sadly, ultimately became law) that severely restricted the already small amount of reproductive services available to Texas women through clinics like those affiliated with Planned Parenthood? Odds are that they, along with the tens of thousands of her new social media followers, are going to be working overtime on her behalf as she launches her campaign.
Davis will have to do more than just fire up the Democratic base, to the extent it exists in Texas. But looking at today’s demographics, that might not be as heavy a lift as her opponents hope for. In 1994, when George W. Bush was elected, he won 49 percent of their votes. In 2010, Perry only got 38 percent of that rising population. Nationwide, Latinos voted for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney 71 percent to 27 percent, according to research from the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project.
Today, the Latino population of Texas has skyrocketed to almost 40 percent of the state (and over 60 percent of its population growth). Within the next decade, it’s expected that that Latinos will outnumber non-Hispanic whites in Texas; Latinos already outnumber non-Hispanic whites in public schools there.
While the Latino community obviously doesn’t vote all Democratic all the time, it has grown more left-leaning, especially as conservatives have fought immigration reform. That’s all good news for Davis, or really any Democrat who wants to run in Texas right now or in the coming years.
And that’s where does Hillary Clinton comes in. Someone has to lay the groundwork for getting Democrats fired up for the 2016 election, and Davis is the perfect candidate to do just that. Yes, 2016 is a long way off, but Texas is a hard political nut to crack for the lefties, so it’s a good idea to start now. And if there is a Democratic woman governor in Texas in 2016? Well, that can only help Hillary if she decides to run for President in three years. With the right get out the vote efforts, the idea of Texas electing a Democratic woman governor (again) and going blue for a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, isn’t all that far-fetched, even with the Republicans efforts at gerrymandering election districts to try to keep them red, even when there are leaning blue.
Making political inroads in Texas with Latino voters would be just the first step for Hillary Clinton. In terms of wooing one of the fastest growing populations in the country, Clinton will also have her eye on California and Florida. Those three states alone count for 122 electoral votes — if a candidate wins that trifecta, he or she is more than one-third of the way to the necessary 270 in the Electoral College. Throw in a total of 49 from her “home” states of New York and Illinois, and six from Arkansas, and soon you’re talking a real political wave!
The image of Hillary Clinton and Wendy Davis campaigning across that big ol’ Southern state is one we can bank on. Talk about a political one-two punch from the Dems against those good ol’ Texas boys.
Joanne Bamberger is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Broad Side. She was formerly known around these internet parts as PunditMom, but now she is trying to be herself. She is the author of Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (an Amazon.com bestseller and now available in E-book form!). She was recently awarded the Campaigns & Elections Magazine/CampaignTech 2013 Advocacy Innovator Award for her research and writing on the power and influence of women online. Joanne is a “recovering lawyer,” but she is still well-versed in her litigator skills and courtroom practices.
Original image courtesy Glennia Campbell, with permission