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Field trip to Texas (06-11 Nov) – Republicans: Houston we have a problem!

Houston by night, 11 Nov 12

In Houston, a traditional Republican territory, Chile is served con carne.  No mushy beans to mess up with the original recipe, period.   Yet scores of Mexican fast food outlets are now doing just the contrary, introducing ‘frijoles’ (beans) in platters all over the city.  And that is also the new reality, period.

The population of the state of Texas grew by 4.3 million people from 2000 to 2010 and about 90% of them came from the coalition that brought back Obama in the White House:  Latinos, Asian Americans and African Americans. Whites currently form only 20% of the student population in Houston universities. This is leading political experts to predict a potential parity between democrats and republicans in the state of Texas within 3 presidential elections!  Houston might just be holding one of the keys to the future of the Republican Party.

By tacking to the right in numerous policy proposals, the Republicans allowed the Democrats to craft a two-prong strategy that returned them to the Oval Office:

–          Aggressively paint the Republicans in a negative way, mostly as an irresponsible bunch led by the 1% meant to manage for the 1%.  As Karl Rove said after the election, the ‘Grand Bet won’.

–          Strengthen a largely urban coalition amongst the rising middle class: Latinos, Asian Americans, Afro Americans and young professional women. And it worked.

If the latter coalition were to transform from an emerging tactic to an enduring strategy, that would spell good news for Southern Democrats and dreadful news for Northern Republicans.  Media eyeballs are now rapidly shifting to the South, where the political stakes between Democrats and Republicans will be growing faster than expected.

Texas politics work rather well because there is a fair space allotted to bipartisan discussions and negotiations. Politics seem to achieve more in Texas than in Washington. For one thing, the economy stands in pretty good shape.  The Houston region has a cutting edge in three vital sectors:  Oil & gas, health care and space.  Houston is often dubbed the ‘Energy capital of the world’.  Capacity expansion at the main refinery of Port Arthur will soon raise production to 600,000 barrels per day, above and over the combined needs of France, Italy and Scandinavia! Yet that production is intended only for the United States.  Houston has the largest and most modern medical center in the nation.  And NASA, located in the suburbs of Houston, remains by all means the center of space technology.

Like or not, Houston and Texas thus need qualified immigration.  And qualified Immigration calls for softer policies in education, health and social issues. Policies that are indeed appreciated by the rising middle class. This stands in contrast with what Mitt Romney and the Republican Party spent a whole year advocating. George W. Bush once rode to the White House brandishing his down-to-earth compassionate conservatism program.  It worked to put the man in the White House.  But the right wing quickly took control and soon cast away the cloak of the middle ground.  We all know It eventually led to war and financial ruins.  In light of the past election results, a decisive win for Obama, more than ever the moderate voice of Southern Republicans will resonate.

And you have not heard the last from the Bush family.  George P. Bush, son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Mexican-born Columba Bush, has filed last week his intent to run for congressional elections.

A less spicy Chile con carne on offer.

André Du Sault

MBA (LBS), MPA (Harvard)

Sources: Wall St Journal, USA Today, the Houston Chronicle


Posted in Country visits, World economy.

One Response

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  1. VLA says

    Very astute commentary.

    A healthy dose of pragmatism, a focus on entrepreneurship and innovation to move the economy, and a good sense of social justice to build and enlarge the middle class.

    That would be a winning formula.

    Whether the Republicans would heed that call, is another issue, they seem to be too tied up wih their ongoing ideological dead ends of opposing abortions, opposing same sex marriage and opposition to immigration. O yeah, and ruling the world with over 200 military bases (more than there are countries in the world) and the capability to destroy the world 50 times over (once is enough, helloooo, the other 49 times is a waste of taxpayer money).

    The Democrats seem to have understood the formula.

    All we need is to implement that in Canada. But first, the Liberals have to win in Parliament 🙂


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