In the 43 years since the last Democrat Presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter, won Texas there has been increasing speculation that it could happen again.
A growing Hispanic vote reflected in blue voting majorities in counties along much of the border from El Paso to the south east; and, demographic change which is making parts of Texas more like its liberal heartland in Austin (even if that will never amount to the 74.3% vote Beto O’Rourke won in Travis County Austin in his Senate bid against Ted Cruz) are indicators of what could happen.
There is even evidence, in a state often characterised by its fossil fuel industry, that Texans increasingly support renewable energy and government action on climate change. The state’s huge potential for solar power generation is being increasingly tapped by a variety of companies.
Recent research by Climate Nexus – the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University 4C program – found that “most Texans support policies to accelerate the transition to clean, renewable energy. Two-thirds (67%) of Texas voters say developing more renewable energy sources should be the most important priority for addressing Texas’s energy needs, significantly more than those who say building more natural gas (12%) or nuclear (7%) power plants should be the top priority.”
Majorities also believe that a 100% renewable energy goal would benefit the state’s environment, reduce electricity costs, improve the economy and have a positive impact on rural and farming communities. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of Texas voters also support government action to address climate change, including more than one-third who strongly support it.
Coincidentally a Brookings Institution study found that the estimated economic damage from climate change by 2080-2090 (when Ivanka Trump presumably believes one of her children will be President) as a percentage of income found that nine of the top ten affected states voted Republican in the 2016 presidential election. They are (in order) Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Texas, South Carolina and Oklahoma where by then the corn will be about as high as an ankle. The only Democrat voting state in the list was Hawaii which came in ninth.
When the Texas survey sample was asked about Presidential voting intentions (way back on 20-25 August – a veritable eternity in terms of US political developments) Democrats emerged as competitive at least. Joe Biden was neck and neck with Trump; Beto O’Rourke (even though by then his chances of winning the nomination were slim to non-existent) was within the margin of error just behind the groper in chief; Bernie was further back; and was followed by Elizabeth Warren trailing Trump by six points. It may not be 2020 when the Democrats repeat Jimmy Carter’s effort but it is clear the state’s voting preferences are narrowing the margins between the parties.
Meanwhile the differences between rich and poor in the US are – unlike Texas voting intentions – widening not narrowing. The states where the trend is most pronounced are: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Texas and Virginia – a cross-section of blue and red states. Although – thanks to various bankers, lawyers, lobbyists and CEOs – the gulf was widest in New York, Connecticut, California and Washington DC.
This was revealed in new US Census Bureau data, released in September, which showed that income inequality in the US has hit its highest level since the Bureau started tracking the data more than 60 years ago. The data included the latest Gini index figures for the US which has climbed to 0.485 compared with 0.397 in 1967. The only countries in the 2018 Gini index OECD figures worse than the US were Turkey, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica and South Africa. On the latest US figures, unless things have changed in recent times, has moved up to second place behind South Africa. Pedants should note that there are leads and lags between the Census Bureau and OECD figures and the latest US figures should appear in the OECD data next year.
No European country has a Gini index higher than 0.38, although if Boris Johnson sticks around as PM, Britain’s 0.36 rate will no doubt get worse. Australia is doing better than the UK at 0.33 but its position in the top half for inequality in the OECD reports suggest life is not as simple has having a go to getting go. The countries doing better than us – such as Italy, Ireland and Canada – also suggest that we are no longer the world-leading egalitarian paradise some would want us to believe in.
Noel Turnbull is retired and blogs at http://noelturnbull.com/blog/