Is demography destiny? If you listen to any Texas Democrat, the answer is yes. Ever since they lost power in the Lone Star State 20 years ago, after more than a century of dominance following Reconstruction, Democrats have openly pined on race to restore their fortunes. They believe that once Texas’ population becomes more Hispanic, Democrats will start winning offices again. They don’t need to change any policies or listen to the people. No need to moderate on gun control or abortion. They will rely on race.
Troubling that narrative, though, is the fact that Texas is already a majority-minority state — yet Republicans keep on winning all of the statewide offices and have kept their hold on the legislature.
Now further troubling that narrative, not just for Texas Democrats but for the national Democrats’ racist strategy, is how millions of Hispanics are refusing to play along. The New York Times has a story that suggests Hispanics are assimilating in ways that the Democrats will not like or welcome.
An estimated net 1.2 million Americans of the 35 million Americans identified in 2000 as of “Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin,” as the census form puts it, changed their race from “some other race” to “white” between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, according to research presented at an annual meeting of the Population Association of America and reported by Pew Research.
The researchers found that 2.5 million Americans of Hispanic origin, or approximately 7 percent of the 35 million Americans of Hispanic origin in 2000, changed their race from “some other race” in 2000 to “white” in 2010. An additional 1.3 million people switched in the other direction. A noteworthy but unspecified share of the change came from children who weren’t old enough to fill out a form in 2000, but chose for themselves in 2010.
The data provide new evidence consistent with the theory that Hispanics may assimilate as white Americans, like the Italians or Irish, who were not universally considered to be white. It is particularly significant that the shift toward white identification withstood a decade of debate over immigration and the country’s exploding Hispanic population, which might have been expected to inculcate or reinforce a sense of Hispanic identity, or draw attention to divisions that remain between Hispanics and non-Hispanic white Americans. Research suggests that Hispanics who have experienced discrimination are less likely to identify as white.
White identifiers are likelier to be second- and third-generation Hispanics than foreign-born and noncitizen Hispanics. They also have higher levels of education and income.
The Democrats’ racist strategy of divide to conquer may not be working. It certainly won’t work if Hispanic continue to rise economically with each generation. The Democrats will have to come up with a new racist strategy. Rest assured, the party of the Civil War, the KKK and Jim Crow will do just that.