by Justin May
More than 40 years ago, Bob Dylan penned a timeless observation: “the times they are a-changin’.” These words were perhaps never truer for the Lone Star State than they are today. With its large cities, boom- ing industry and soaring population, 21st century Texas stands as a foil to the rural range of the past. But those aren’t the only noticeable changes. These cowboys turned suburbanites are also something else: Democrats turned Republicans.
In this new era, there seems to be no end in sight for the growing number of Republican victories in the arena of Texas politics. Every time you turn around it seems Republicans are making some sort of historic gain among Texas’s political offices. From holding every statewide office to controlling two-thirds of the Legislature to composing almost three-fourths of the congressional delegation, it seems absurd that, not long ago, party members used to joke about holding the state convention in a phone booth. In light of this tremendous success, could the political tides ever revert to their previous course? Will Republicans ever lose power in Texas?
The obvious answer is, of course, yes. But giving the issue serious consideration an observer must admit that while it is possible, it is highly improbable.
For nearly a decade now, Republican elected officials have provided both the leadership and the policy to build one of the most prosper- ous states in the country. With low taxes, cheap property and a business friendly climate, it’s no wonder that CNBC named Texas the best state to do business and the fifth-fastest grow- ing state according to the 2010 census.
The burning question for the Republican Party is whether its success has, ironically, planted the seeds of the party’s demise in the Lone Star State.
With a growing number of Americans moving into the state and a burgeoning Hispanic population, electoral demographics are changing. This change in voting age population means that to both survive and thrive in the Texas of the future, Republicans must increase their emphasis on reaching out to and educating their fellow Texans. The case must be made that the GOP’s core policies are at the root of what has made Texas such an attractive state to live in. Thus, while Republicans certainly have the potential to continue winning elections thanks to their proven record, the party’s success depends upon Republicans’ ability to remind and inform voters that the success of the state and the party are essentially intertwined.
In the end, however, the Texas Democratic Party is as extinct now as the dinosaurs of Glenn Rose. Whether Republicans win or lose is solely up them. They have reached a point in politics where they are completely self-defining, which means that so long as they continue governing in the same fashion of the last decade, Texas is theirs.
Justin May is a third year government senior from Fort Worth with a concentration in political philosophy. His involvement in Texas politics includes serving as a Travis County precinct chair, president of The College Republicans at Texas and Republicans on Campus, and an internship in the Texas capitol. Following graduation this spring, May will be attending Wake Forest University School of Law.