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In November 2018, Texans faced an unusually close race between Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke for the seat in the US Senate. The reason for discussing this situation in much detail is that, during many years, Texans have been supporting Republicans, and O’Rourke’s certain success in the race has provoked debates regarding current political trends in Texas. It is important to understand how voter distribution and demographics, particular citizens’ issues of concern, and the role of certain interest groups and political action committees could influence the development of politics in Texas. Although Texas is widely known for supporting Republicans, changes in voters’ demographics, their visions regarding certain social and economic issues, and the impact of interest groups have contributed to changing political trends in the state.
Voter Demographics and Distribution in Texas
Since 1994, Texas has been perceived as a “red” state where voters widely support Republicans. However, during the recent years, the situation has begun to change in the major cities of the state that became “blue.” This was observed because of the interest of the Hispanic, African American, and younger population in Democrats’ ideas and views (Svitek and Livingston). According to Wallace, voters in Texas tend not to support Republicans directly because they usually prefer not to vote as it is indicated with reference to a low voter turnout in the state. Therefore, according to some views, Republicans usually win elections referring to the tradition of citizens in Texas to vote in the context of the “red” framework.
Still, the situation seems to change, as it is demonstrated with reference to the US Senate elections of 2018 when Democrat O’Rourke gained significant popularity among Texans. Ramsey states that “a purple Texas will emerge eventually, according to folk wisdom … Republicans still have the upper hand, by most accounts. But Democrats are enthusiastic.” In spite of the fact that it is almost impossible to argue that Texas is currently “purple,” voters’ demographics and their reaction to Democrats has altered.
The current voter distribution with the focus of many young citizens on Democrats’ views allows for speaking about a significant impact of voters on politics in Texas. O’Rourke has succeeded in changing voters’ opinions regarding the Democratic course and took advantage of shifting from orienting toward “red” middle-aged and older voters to younger ones who chose between following Republicans or Democrats (Wallace). From this perspective, changes in voter distribution and demographics in Texas helped O’Rourke gain support in large cities, but there was also a comparably low voter turnout among young and Hispanics citizens (Wallace). As a result, Republican Cruz won the election, but it is possible to concentrate on observable changes in political trends in Texas that provided some challenges for Cruz. Still, they helped O’Rourke to become an actively discussed political figure in the state and nationally.
Issues Texans Care About
The key issues Texans care about and focus on while selecting a candidate to follow are health care, education, gun control, and immigration. As in many other states of the country, health care and the consequences of adopting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are widely discussed by Texans. Cruz actively criticizes the ACA and wants to provide citizens with other opportunities to purchase insurance (Galen; Yount et al.). O’Rourke is not as radical in his views regarding the necessity of more health care reforms, and he supported the ACA in the past (Yount et al.). Referring to education, Texans are concerned about its costs, and Cruz is oriented toward changing the role of the US Department of Education in influencing educational policies and curricula in states. Thus, Cruz states, “State and local governments should be the decision makers in public education. Washington’s one size fits all policies do not work” (Yount et al.). In his turn, O’Rourke proposes increasing governmental aid to public schools because “Every child deserves access to a high-quality education” (Yount et al.). These ideas reflect the courses traditionally developed by Democratic and Republican parties in Texas.
The issue of gun control is actively discussed by Texans in relation to the question of education as the reaction to school shootings. Cruz responds to this issue in the following way: “I believe that taking away law-abiding Americans’ constitutional rights is not the way to make our schools safer” (Yount et al.). O’Rourke’s ideas are similar to Cruz’s ones, “Texas should lead the way in preserving the 2nd Amendment while ensuring people can live and go to school without fear of gun violence” (Yount et al.). These politicians’ positions regarding the immigration question are different and reflect the ideas typical of the representatives of their parties. Cruz tends to support initiatives directed toward preventing illegal immigration by all possible means, and O’Rourke is against radical activities and the family separation as a consequence of these activities. Thus, it is possible to state that both Cruz and O’Rourke closely follow official positions of their parties in order to accentuate the difference in their views. In the context of current trends in Texans’ support for Republicans and Democrats, this difference works to attract more followers among the target audience.
The Role of Interest Groups and Political Action Committees
The election to the US Senate in Texas attracted numerous parties and political action committees (PACs) that were focused on supporting a certain candidate to promote their interests. Before starting his campaign, O’Rourke refused to accept resources provided by the PAC in order to fund his campaign, preventing the impact of interest parties’ and committees’ views on his political course. However, O’Rourke raised more money in comparison to Cruz while taking into account only donations. Thus, “donations, most of them small but hundreds of thousands of them, began rolling in — with some supporters motivated in part by O’Rourke’s emphatic refusal to accept money from PACs” (Svitek and Livingston). As a result, O’Rourke’s wide campaign in social media and on other Internet platforms was sponsored by his adherents, indicating voters’ support for this Democrat’s course. From this perspective, O’Rourke’s position regarding non-accepting PAC’s money contributed to increasing his popularity among his followers in Texas who eagerly demonstrated their support.
In his turn, Cruz was actively supported by the PAC to guarantee the majority of Republicans in the US Senate, and he did not refuse to take financial support. As a result, he received access to more resources in order to finance his campaign with reference to PAC’s aid and donations. Both candidates raised millions of dollars with the help of their followers that made the elections of 2018 extremely expensive (Wallace). Thus, it is possible to state that Cruz’s position regarding accepting money from the PAC also contributed to his success in the elections. The Republican received an opportunity to spend many available resources on his campaign without being limited only by private donations, as it was in the case of O’Rourke. It is also possible to assume that the PAC’s support also contributed to the victory of Cruz in the elections that were developing in the context of a rather new political situation in the state. Therefore, the positions of both candidates in terms of using PAC’s resources were helpful for them depending on the specifics of their image among Texans.
The 2018 elections in Texas have demonstrated certain changes in Texans’ views and perceptions regarding political courses. Significant alterations in voter distribution and demographics created the grounds for developing an effective campaign to support O’Rourke in the context of the mainly “red” state. Hispanics and younger citizens became interested in the social media campaign developed by O’Rourke’s team. As a result, Democratic views gained a response in the minds of some Texans. However, the results of the elections indicate that the process of shifting from being “red” to being “purple” or even “blue” in Texas cannot be quick, and the majority of active voters still supports Republicans. Nevertheless, voter demographics, citizens’ visions regarding issues of health care, gun control, education, and immigration, and the role of PACs and interest groups provide triggers for changing political trends in Texas. One should state that the overall process of changing the political situation will be long and complex, but it is almost impossible to ignore the predispositions for such changes referring to Texans’ opinions and choices.
Galen, Reed. “Ted Cruz Is What’s Wrong with Texas Politics [Opinion].” Houston Chronicle. 2018, Web.
Ramsey, Ross. “Analysis: A Viewer’s Guide to the 2018 Texas Elections.” The Texas Tribune. 2018, Web.
Svitek, Patrick, and Abby Livingston. “How the Race Between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke Became the Closest in Texas in 40 Years.” The Texas Tribune. 2018, Web.
Wallace, Jeremy. “Cruz vs. O’Rourke Is Most Expensive U.S. Senate Race in History.” Houston Chronicle. 2018, Web.
Yount, Emily, et al. “We Took Young Texans’ Questions Straight to the Candidates. Here’s What They Said.” The Texas Tribune. 2018, Web.