Minority Report

Argue all you want about the level of Hispanic turnout in the 2006 elections, but one thing is certain: Demographic inevitability alone won’t save the Democrats.

The day of reckoning is coming. It could occur as soon as 2010, more likely by 2014, or perhaps as late as 2022, but nothing can prevent the moment when demographics takes over and the sleeping giant of Texas politics—the Hispanic vote—awakes at last and restores the Democratic party to its rightful hegemony.

Or at least that’s the dream. The stuff the dream is made of can be found in the projections of Texas’s population by state demographer Steve Murdock, at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Assuming that net immigration continues at the pace established in the last decade of the twentieth century, Hispanics will constitute 59.2 percent of the state’s population in 2040, Anglos but 23.9 percent. Long before then, Texas will be a Democratic stronghold again.

Or will it? Both the numbers and the anecdotal evidence suggest that Republicans are doing increasingly well with Hispanic voters here—so well, in fact, that the Democratic dream may be turning into a nightmare. This ought not to come as a surprise. The Hispanic population has become economically diverse. Even in South Texas, which lags behind the rest of the state economically, an upper middle class is emerging. But more than economics is involved. South Texas Democratic politics remains mired in the ways of the past—clan warfare, boss rule, and petty (and not-so-petty) corruption—and the Republican party has been the beneficiary.

The division of the Hispanic vote between the two major parties is one of the most crucial—and most disputed—statistics in Texas electoral politics. The William C. Velasquez Institute, in San Antonio, has long been regarded as the most authoritative source for how Hispanics are voting. But its exit polling of the recent gubernatorial race, based on 440

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