I will give Republican Rep. Jason Villalba credit for this much. He recognizes and openly admits that, sooner or later, the Texas Republican Party is going to follow the Whigs and other political dinosaurs into extinction if it doesn’t start addressing the needs and concerns of Hispanics, the emerging plurality of the state’s population.
In a speech to young Republicans in Austin Thursday night, the legislator from Dallas went so far as to say the “ultimate survivability” of the GOP is at stake, according to The Texas Tribune.
Oh, yeah, you may say, news reporters have been writing for years about the growing Hispanic population that one day is going to wipe the Texas Republican Party off the map. And, yes, Hispanics who actually vote cast their ballots overwhelmingly for Democrats, but many Hispanics still don’t vote, and Republicans remain firmly in control of Texas government.
But at some point, Villalba recognizes, that will change as more Hispanic citizens reach voting age.
I think the Ted Cruzes, Dan Patricks, Greg Abbotts and other Tea Partiers recognize that too and, in a very real political sense, are scared, fearful that their days as a political force are numbered. That’s why they are trying to stop the clock. That’s why they spend so much time bashing immigrants, trying to seal the border, and erecting barriers (namely the voter ID law) to make it extremely difficult for many Hispanics to vote.
Villalba is urging the rabid Republicans to tone down the rhetoric and address immigrants from the south as the humans they are. That would be the decent thing to do, but decency apparently is going to require change at the ballot box.
Now seeking a second term, Villalba is one of only three Hispanic Republicans in the Texas Legislature, and it is going to take a lot more than softening the rhetoric on immigration for that number to get much larger.
Republicans also are going to have to get serious about governing. This means doing more than waving the flag, hawking guns and fighting abortion. It means taking concrete, workable steps to develop the infrastructure and the programs to ensure that Texas remains a functional, livable state for everyone, Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike.
That means adequate funding for a public school system, which is particularly crucial for Hispanic families wanting to realize their dreams of economic opportunity for their children. It means strengthening the health care system so low-income children aren’t coming to school sick and their parents are able to work.
It means finding a way to maintain and improve highways, so kids can get to school safely, parents can get to work and Texas products can be delivered to customers. And, it means keeping our water and air clean enough to drink and breathe.
For now, the prevailing, Tea Party wing of the Republican Party isn’t the least bit interested in doing any of the above – for Hispanics or anyone else. Its goal, instead, is to shrink government and gut public services. Villalba can make all the speeches he wants, but you can’t drive forward if you are stuck in reverse.