OK, OK, enough with dancing on the bar, shooting pistols in the air, and whatever else Texans are legendarily credited with doing when they celebrate. News of the state’s projected gain in congressional representation affords opportunities for useful, not to mention sober, analysis of what makes a state really work.
We’re gittin’ them four new seats, boys, due in large measure to a engrained habit of welcoming capital, capitalists, and various other proponents of growth.
Population growth of 20.6 percent over the past decade has both a geographical and an economic basis. Proximity to Mexico has historically made Texas a major destination for Mexican immigrants. These immigrants come — the economic angle emerges here — because jobs in Texas are relatively plentiful. Their plentitude draws more than just Mexicans. As the Dallas Morning News‘ Jim Landers points out, a yearly average of 80,000 Californians moved to Texas between 2006 and 2008. Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana likewise contributed to the influx, Landers says.
Abundant resources — land, petroleum, and so on — create their own blessings; but a collateral blessing to Texas, in terms of creating attractions for population growth, is the state’s taste for relatively small, relatively non-oppressive government. Save for the opposite disposition in states like New York and California, Texas, with its hot summers and taste for the un-chic, might not stand out so favorably among the other states. Stand out it does. Texas doesn’t even have a personal income tax. It accords to business such latitude as comports with observance of mainstream legalities. The state legislature meets just five months out of every 24. The state’s almost uniformly liberal newspapers rag on business a bit, but few enough others do. It’s a good place, Texas is, to make a living.
During the recession, housing values fell less than those in other states, and unemployment never reached 9 percent. Advantages of this sort get noised abroad, and newcomers start showing up. It is what Lenin called voting with your feet — taking yourself and your family where you expect your discrete needs to be met.
For similar reasons, other states set to gain seats — Florida, especially, which is set for a two-seat pickup — are viewed as hospitable to growth. It’s hard, perhaps, to see people flocking to a state represented by Harry Reid, but Nevada — with the largest population gains of the decade in percentage terms — helps prove again the relative insignificance of people who make their living running for office.
Back to Texas. The additional four congressional seats the state will receive thanks to recent census gains will increase its congressional leverage, thus aiding the general impulse to rein in government growth. Wherever the seats are sited, at least two of the new congressmen will be Republicans — which is to say, because this is Texas, conservative Republicans.
This leaves one more thing to say about the next decade, politically speaking. It is that conservatives, in Texas and elsewhere, must work with great deliberation toward the incorporation in their midst of the working, striving, praying Hispanic. Of which type there are many exemplars. Life in Texas suggests as much. In November, several South Texas Hispanic Republicans won election to county posts and even the Legislature. Just days ago, a South Texas Hispanic legislator switched from the Democratic to the Republican party, where he professed to feel more at home.
The notion of the Democratic Party as the logical home for Hispanics was a theme Harry Reid voiced during his reelection campaign, and for which he was rightly ridiculed. Reid will prove correct only insofar as Republicans fail to recognize the important question of illegal immigration must be sorted out intelligently, without shows of contempt and dislike for people who are going to be living among us a long time.
A majority of Hispanics may not soon turn Republican, but the goal of absorbing a third or 40 percent or even more is well within Republicans’ reach. Population is, among other things, destiny. If we’re going to celebrate populational growth we have to note all its consequences.
Throwing Stetsons in the air to mark prospective Republican gains is just one of the many and varied activities that presently seem indicated.