Turning Texas Blue?

Carey McWilliams, the former Nation editor who spent a lifetime studying and advocating for the Spanish-speaking people, is almost certainly having fits over the prediction made by many, including John Nichols [“Building a Blue Texas,” Dec. 18/25], that 2018 will be a year for the Democrats.

Back in the early 1970s, we formed La Raza Unida Party to challenge the one-party dictatorship of the Democrats in Texas and in 16 other states plus the District of Columbia. We lasted a decade before we were outlawed by legislation introduced by Democrats making it harder for alternative parties to get ballot access. Since the mid-1990s, we have endured another one-party dictatorship, this time by Republicans, in Texas and much of the country. Why?

For one thing, thousands of conservative Democrats changed their party affiliation and became Republicans—just as Rick Perry, now Trump’s secretary of energy, did. Second, Democrats continue to work primarily in white and black voter precincts, targeting their messaging and canvassing there. Campaign money seldom trickles down to the grassroots in the Southwestern states or South Texas; it stops in the hands of the few elected Spanish-speaking politicos and their cronies, who use these dollars for their reelection. Few want to increase the number of eligible voters.

Third, Democrats will seek out Republican women over Spanish-speaking voters, and they continue to take Spanish speakers for granted. Their consultants advise them that this demographic does not vote, when, in fact, those who don’t vote either can’t—because they’re too young or are not citizens—or haven’t been asked. Fourth, few high-school administrators register their students to vote when those students turn 18, despite the existence of a law requiring that voter-registration forms be circulated to eligible students.

Fifth, in Alabama, 56,000 Spanish-speaking people of the roughly 190,000 who live there were eligible to vote in 2012; in 2017, by contrast, only an estimated 30,000 were registered. Yet the national media never mentioned these voters.

Sixth, in 2016 Bernie Sanders never got past Austin into South Texas or over to El Paso to ask Spanish speakers for their vote. Both Clintons have made forays into South Texas time and again since the 1990s—and left with millions in donations—but they never came back to ask Spanish speakers for their vote. Good luck, Senator Elizabeth Warren, with better advice.

Seventh, immigration is important, but it’s not the most important issue for Spanish-speaking voters. We did not all immigrate in the 2000s or the 1990s. Indeed, many of us—the US-born, Spanish-speaking persons of Mexican ancestry who are the majority of this demographic—have been in the United States since before there was a USA. Like Native Americans, our lands were stolen, our lives segregated, our labor indentured, our votes ignored and suppressed—as they still are, by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Texas will not turn blue without Spanish-speaking voters being asked directly and made a central part of the entire campaign, from the very top of the presidential ticket to the workers at the polling places. It would also help immensely if many candidates were Spanish-speaking themselves and spoke up for our community daily, not just next spring.

José Angel Gutiérrez
Founder, La Raza Unida Party