Democrats in the Lone Star State keep lying to themselves that the state is going to flip
For about two hours early in the evening on election night, if you listened very closely, you could hear the whoops and yee-haws! of Texas Democrats carried with the cool November air.
As CNN, the New York Times, and other news outlets followed the presidential race, Texas was briefly in play and the dream that state Dems had flipped the state blue seemed to finally, finally, be happening.
But then reality happened. It always happens. Texas hasn’t given its 38 electoral votes to the Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy fucking Carter in 1976. And once again, the losing of Texas reads as the inevitable outcome, even in the nightmare roulette wheel that is 2020.
Down ballot, the news was even worse for state Democrats. Mary “MJ” Hegar, a former Air Force pilot, lost soundly to incumbent John Cornyn for U.S. Senate, conceding before 9 p.m. right around the time the yee-haws were turning into mournful oh noooooos.
Wendy Davis, who gained national fame for a 2013 filibuster in the Texas House of Representatives, fared the same, losing the District 21 U.S. House seat occupied by Chip Roy, a Republican who previously worked as a staffer for Cornyn, Ted Cruz, and Rick Perry.
One very small victory Democrats could claim on Tuesday night was that Williamson County, a famously conservative area just north of Austin, went blue, voting Joe Biden and electing in a Democratic sheriff. That felt a little different.
But as of Wednesday morning, Republicans were winning 18 of the 24 U.S. House seats up for election. Texas Democrats lost the railroad commissioner race. They lost four of the six seats in the state Board of Education. They lost all four Texas Supreme Court elections to Republicans, as well as the three Texas Court of Criminal Appeals races. The Texas House? Unflipped.
By any measure (even if some of the late counts change a few of the results), this was an old-fashioned, steel-tipped-boot ass-kicking, a bloody thrashing the size of a medium-rare Tomahawk steak.
It’s a tough swallow for Texas Democrats who’ve been spoon-fed so much hype and hope this year.
There’s nothing wrong with optimism and hard work, of course, nothing that says the hope that springs eternal for a blue (or even purple) Texas shouldn’t be pursued by Democrats. And political writers certainly love writing underdog narratives.
Five days ago, it still seemed possible to some that anti-Trump sentiment and record early voting turnout could make 2020 different from every other Texas election cycle in 44 years. Even a day or two before the election, expectations that mail-in ballots would survive suppression efforts and make a huge impact were still high. News outlets such as the Dallas Morning News wrote pieces exploring the impact that flipping U.S. House seats in Texas would have on the state’s congressional clout. That article now reads like speculative fiction from the 1960s.
There also seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding about Latinos who are Trump supporters.
Writing for the Washington Post, James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, Austin, claimed that even if Biden lost the presidential election, Texas would be viewed as a battleground state for years to come. In order to fend off further gains from Texas Democrats, he argued, state and national Republicans must reckon with an increasingly diverse electorate. “They will eventually need to expand their appeal beyond a base of older, white, and rural voters — all declining demographics in Texas,” Henson wrote.
That’s a very logical sentiment, one that Democrats have been trotting out unsuccessfully every two years. Latinos will fix this, they suggest. Young people will fix this. All those Californians moving to Texas cities will vote Democrat. This is the year. This is the change.
Turns out: Not so much.