Unfair Park dropped by the Democratic New Leaders Texas PAC meeting at The Kessler last night. The group is billed as a statewide network of Dems "nurturing and promoting the next generation of principled, capable Texas leaders" -- like, for example, the affable and polished state Rep. Rafael Anchia, who was on hand last night, and who many believe has a bright future on the national stage. If he wants it.
We couldn't help but notice that spirits were high.
For the most part, the gathering was youthful, so we forgave them an optimism that bordered on delusion. After all, they belong to a party whose figurehead has approval ratings that resemble the gentle but unmistakable downward slide of a bunny slope. Yeah, yeah, whatever polls are worth at this stage in the election cycle and all that. And, true, the current Republican presidential frontrunners are plagued by acts of sensibility and compassion in their recent pasts. But that ain't the half of it. These kids are Democrats in a state where the two-party system is now a not-so-distant memory.
So when somebody said "Yes, we can" at one point, we thought, "Really? Can you?" Democrats were swept out of the Texas House of Representatives in 2010, and the Republicans, before a slim majority, now outnumbered Democrats two to one.
What the hell? So we asked Anchia about a Democratic ace up the sleeve. And the answer: demographics.
"As the Hispanic community gets older and more politically mature, I think the dynamics will be right for an electoral swing in the state," he told Unfair Park last night. "I think as soon as 2012 or 2014, we'll have a Democratic candidate break statewide."
A new generation with an average age of 26 years old, many the children of foreign-born parents, is "beginning to understand the power of civic engagement in this country," he said.
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And that, he noted, isn't good for Republicans, whose anti-immigrant rhetoric and legislation has grown increasingly caustic over the last few years. Of course, that's a blade that cuts both ways. It's tough to tell yet whether Democrats will pay the price for the hundreds of thousands of deportations the Department of Homeland Security has racked up under the Obama administration. Federal-local immigration enforcement partnerships such as Secure Communities and 287(g) have met stiff local opposition. Promised as a way to snag dangerous undocumented immigrants, both programs have been chastised for picking up too many immigrants guilty of only minor infractions.
"The president has most recently taken great pains to review deportees in the queue to make sure people being deported are criminals and not just grandmas getting picked up for no proof of insurance," he said.
The face of the Texas electorate is changing. Fact is, it has already changed, and the Republicans seem to realize that, if belatedly, with the formation of the Hispanic Republicans of Texas, a PAC aimed to make over an exceedingly Caucasian party into a visage a tad more representative of a state where nearly 48 percent of the population under the age of 18 is Hispanic.
Pretty soon, Anchia predicts, the landscape of Texas electoral politics is going to shift. Question is, while Republicans shore up their base with voter and employee ID measures, how will Hispanic Texans coming of age vote?