Royal Masset, a political consultant and longtime political director for the Republican Party of Texas--who played a key role in organizing the grassroots support that took the GOP from marginality to an overwhelming majority--has been predicting a reversal for years.Royal Massett is one of the few GOP leaders with a lick of common sense. He pointed out that the voter fraud bills the GOP was pushing would prevent his mother from voting. (An amendment the GOP offered was to exempt those over 80 from having to provide the documents.) He has been saying that the extremism and hubris of the Texas GOP now will lead to a fall.
"There's a certain inevitability in demographics," he told me. "We knew that if we could win 40% of the Hispanic vote," as Mr. Bush did in 2004, "we'd control Texas until 2030." But in 2006, the number of Texas Hispanics who voted Republican fell to between 30% and 35% (depending on the poll).
This shift alone spells trouble for Republicans. Many conservatives may not want to hear it, but Mr. Masset puts the blame on talk radio and cable TV reaction to immigration reform. He says an uncompromising attitude toward comprehensive reform and appeals to fear sometimes carry a whiff of racism that alienates Hispanics. "Houston is no more than six years behind Dallas," he warns.
And if the demographic shift continues to gain momentum, there's a real possibility that Democrats could achieve a majority in the Texas House by 2010. In 2003, Tom DeLay helped redraw the state's congressional districts to give Republicans six new seats in Congress. In just a few years, Democrats could turn the tables. Mr. Masset sums it up this way: "This thing with the Latino vote is deadly serious."
Last month, an Austin-based polling and political consulting firm decided to quantify the GOP's standing in the state. "We were frustrated by people talking about how bad things are for Republicans in Texas," says Marc DelSignore, vice president of Baselice & Associates Inc. What his firm found dovetailed with the national polls and Mr. Masset's political forecast. Older and white voters who predominate in suburban and rural communities continue to have positive impressions about the Republican Party, but there's an image problem among the state's growing number of younger voters and Hispanic voters, who are more numerous in urban centers. "When we looked at the numbers," Mr. DelSignore says, "this grew into a compelling narrative."
And why not? A similar flip happened in California in the 1990s. What was once Reagan Country became a Democratic stronghold. GOP Gov. Pete Wilson's get-tough approach to immigration was an undeniable factor.
"That's almost is a religious part of the Republican canon that democrats are stealing these elections.Royal on the Texas House:
"It's a lie. It's not true. It does not exist."
"I must have gotten 200 calls from people who wanted a criminal investigation of so-and-so because they lost by 100 votes and were sure there was fraud."
"They could never prove anything."
Almost all of the criticism directed at Craddick is valid. But the problem lies in the institution and not Craddick. Another Speaker in the Texas House, just as we will see with another Speaker in the Washington Congress, will inevitably adapt the behaviors of the ones they replaced.Royal had predicted in 2003 a Democratic controlled Dallas county by 2008, they came in two years early. He didn't have Harris County turning until 2017.
In the Texas House the Speaker must somehow create an institution that studies over 5000 bills, gets rid of he 80% that are bad and improves the ones that are good. Without a strong and stubborn Speaker the 150 member legislature would resemble a gang of Mel Gibson nihilistic Road Warriors. For example it sounds great to say that the Speaker should allow all members a chance to be heard. But the reality is that there is not enough time in God's creation for all legislators to speak. A nice Speaker would be a disaster for Texas.