Texas, BLUE? No, sorry to disappoint. Just wanted to get your attention. There is hope (for progressives, fear for right wing) but no data to suggest Texas will turn blue, vote Democratic in November 2020. But, yes, the “sleeping giant”–Mexican Americans – is stirring; their participation and vote will be significant.
If Mexican Americans and African Americans would vote in the same proportion as Anglos, Biden wins Texas! And wins this crucial US election in a landslide! IF they stay home, as too many did in 2016, all bets are off. Most current polls predict, ho-hum, Republicans win by about three points. Republicans in Texas, as in the rest of the US, know Donald Trump is a “mass murderer” (Filemón Vela, Congressman, 34th US District, cited in Rio Grande Guardian) and DON’T CARE! (Proof: anyone looking at Woodward book and Trump’s own on-tape admissions!)Yet, to their credit, many Mexican Americans, dedicated to changing things, trudge on. They realize many of their Anglo friends—for some foolish (racist?) reason–fear 2045, when Anglos will become the “majority minority” (William H. Frey, Diversity Explosion, 14 May 18); the growth, by the way, is due to birth rate, not immigration. They understand their crucial role in current calculations—their own numbers—37.6 percent of voting Texans, and 76 percent “likely to vote” (Pew Research Center, 8 May, 2019).
Mexican Americans also see the odds they face. First came the racist history of Texas, mob violence and lynchings, often by the government—Texas Rangers themselves! (William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb, Forgotten Dead, 2013). Then, Mexican Americans see and face current racism; e.g., Republican Governor Abbott and his Senate Bill 4, punishing” Sanctuary Cities” (Suzanne Gamboa, “Juan Crow Laws,” CBS News, 3 Jun 2017). Those who follow the careful work about Tejano history by José López in the Rio Grande Guardian know what I am talking about here. His profound scholarship (and that of other scholars and academics) has enlightened all of us about the ingrained racism in much of the educational system.
Mexican Americans are not a solid bloc—many preferred Sanders and want major change, such as a significant increase in the minimum wage. But they are smart, focused on the present, and solidly in the Democratic (Party) camp (Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation, 17 Aug 2020). Polls show Mexican Americans are also in the broader “democratic” camp—that is, pro-democracy, opposed to autocratic government. They seem to understand, as Winston Churchill said, Democracy is the worst system of government in the world!–except for all the other systems!
What Churchill meant was democracy is confusing, often frustratingly difficult to make work. But, compared with dictatorship? No contest. My Mexican American students (UTRGV) knew the “perfect” government (according to Plato) would be a wise Philosopher-King. But what happens when the King dies and his spoiled off-spring inherits power? Then, of course, no wise guidance, no fair play—indeed, a kleptocracy, like that of Trump’s.
What has led Mexican Americans to this point of focused togetherness? We can credit, in part, their several outstanding organizations. Notable are some of the traditional ones, such as United Farm Workers, led in the Texas Valley by LUPE (La Unión del Pueblo Entero, or the Union of the Entire People); LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), 1929, to combat racism; the American GI Forum, 1948, advocating for Mexican American Veterans.
Like Afro American civil rights groups, when Mexican Americans win a court case or legislative fight, they enlarge those rights for all Americans. They work in tandem with progressive Anglos. One such successful group is MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), made up of Anglo, Mexican American and Black young leaders and lawyers, fighting discrimination. A list of respected leaders would include Julián and Joaquín Castro of San Antonio, plus the brave Congressman Vela, and other Mexican American officials I have unintentionally omitted. Each individual and organization has left its mark. They are connected.
Mexican Americans are, therefore, dedicated Americans, increasingly active and notably hopeful and optimistic. They contrast sharply with Republicans (mostly Anglo) who slavishly choose to follow a dictator (who takes them for granted). Perhaps you choose to credit the angry, Anglo loyalty to a Falwellish, evangelical religion? Partly true. Their weak defense is: “yes, Trump’s a dirty fellow, but I’ll still vote for him.”
The mantra goes on: “OK, so he is a racist and misogynist, he denigrates the military, but he hates abortion, so I’ll still vote for him.” Then, see/hear Trump, 8 July 2015, NBC News: “I am very pro-choice.” You still don’t get it? He’s a con man, among other disgusting things (most recently: trampling over national monuments for partisan propaganda.)
But, Mexican Americans, along with the national majority—Black, Brown, White—refuse to be conned. They can see, read, and calculate what is best for their educational future, for their standard of living (and, indeed, for their very right to live, in the face of Trump’s murderous deception about the CoronaVirus). They can and will fight for their souls!
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Dr. Gary Mounce, professor emeritus at UT-Pan American. It appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the author’s permission. Mounce can be reached at: [email protected])
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows a Texas segregation sign in Dimmit, Texas. Signs like these were displayed under a system known as “Juan Crow” laws patterned after Jim Crow laws that enforced racial discrimination against Mexican Americans. (Photo credit: Russell Lee/Dolph Briscoe Center for American History)