Hispanics vs blacks in the US (% pop) and their changing political roll?
Every heard of the HLM (Hispanic Lives Matter) movement? Didn't think so. Yet hispanics represent 18.7% of the US population, compared to 12.4% for Blacks (& 6% for Asians, Whites are 57.8%). Ergo Hispanics are going to have increasing influence on elections and are not necessarily for open borders or voting as their elders.
The Republican Mayor of McAllen Represents the Changing Political Map of Texas
Politicians like Javier Villalobos increasingly appeal to Hispanics in the Rio Grande Valley.
By Tunku Varadarajan
Feb. 25, 2022 6:21 pm ET
It’s early evening on a recent Saturday and Javier Villalobos has just poured me a large slug of mezcal, which he tops up with tequila to “make the taste more smooth.” He pours himself the same daunting cocktail as we converse in the private office where he practices law. “Bienvenido a McAllen,” he says: Welcome to McAllen.
Mr. Villalobos, 55, seems much too convivial to be the face of political ferment. He’s the mayor of McAllen (pop. 141,968), the largest city in Hidalgo County, and was elected in June last year, making him the first Republican to capture city hall here in nearly a quarter-century. McAllen and Hidalgo County are, respectively, 85% and 92% Hispanic. By Texas tradition, this should ensure that their voters are almost adamantly Democrat, which is why his election, he says, made international news—“even in Korea and Germany.”
His victory is part of an absorbing new electoral trend in the Rio Grande Valley. Republicans, previously drowning in a sea of Democrats, are starting to swim. In the past, says Mr. Villalobos, the Democrats “would ignore us because they knew this area would always vote for them.” Republicans “would ignore us because they thought we would never be with them.” But now that “we have competition, things are getting a lot more interesting.” He jokes that Greg Abbott, the state’s Republican governor, “seems to be here almost weekly.”
In 2016, Hillary Clinton trounced Donald Trump in Hidalgo County by 40 points. Four years later, Joe Biden carried it by only 17 points in the face of unexpected Republican inroads into the regional Hispanic vote. As every Republican in these parts will tell you, Mr. Trump flipped nearby Zapata County in 2020, which had been rock-solid for the Democrats and is 94% Hispanic. Mr. Trump also won over Hispanic voters in other parts of the country. But it was his success in South Texas that fired his party’s imagination and instilled in Texas Democrats a fear of what might happen if the state’s Hispanics start to convert their innate conservatism into support for the Republican Party.
“South Texas is being transformed,” says Adrienne Peña Garza, 43, chairwoman of the Hidalgo County Republican Party. “Here on the southern border, it’s been blue for 100 years. And what happens when it’s just one party in control? There’s no checks and balances.”
The first Hispanic woman to chair the county party, she recalls being insulted at people’s doorsteps when she started handing out leaflets in 2012. She was called a “coconut”—brown outside, white inside—or worse, by Hispanics who couldn’t abide “someone who looked like them” being a Republican. It didn’t help that only 1 in 3 Hispanics in Hidalgo County is literate in English, she says. “They didn’t realize that many of their social values weren’t embraced by the Democrats.” She adds that “there was a stigma, that Republicans were rich, old white people who wanted to deport you.”
Mr. Villalobos appears to echo this last point in his frequent calls for the party to embrace “inclusivity.” Hispanic Americans, he says, “have always been conservative,” but the Republican Party “hasn’t always” made them feel welcome. Yet the party’s changing, he says, not least because Hispanics in South Texas have themselves changed.
Hispanics, by the mayor’s account, have always “gone for the Democratic Party because of our parents, our grandparents.” The community, he points out, is much more educated than it used to be. (Mr. Villalobos is proof of this. He went to law school. His father, by contrast, studied only up to second grade, his mother to seventh.) “There are a lot more who own their own businesses now, and this has made a difference to how they think.”
A third factor is at play, too, Mr. Villalobos says, “a kind of catalyst.” That’s immigration, particularly as framed by Mr. Trump. “A lot of times people think that all Hispanic people want borders open. Here, in South Texas, you don’t hear that. Even the people who were once immigrants, they don’t like migrants just to be coming in at will.” The ones who are here, he says, “did it right, so they want other people to do it right.”
Ms. Peña Garza, the party’s county chairman, is in accord. “Down here, the most important thing to us is border security. Hispanic Americans are not in favor of open immigration.”
The newly competitive Republican Party will be put to the test in the coming midterms, particularly in the 15th Congressional District, which includes McAllen. Redistricting has made the 15th significantly more GOP-friendly than it was in 2020, when Monica De La Cruz, the Republican candidate, lost by a whisker to Democrat Vicente Gonzalez. Mr. Gonzalez has chosen this time to run in the redrawn 34th District. Ms. De La Cruz, expected to win her primary, will likely face a Democrat of no great heft.
She was endorsed last week by Mr. Trump, who said that she would be “an incredible Congresswoman.” Among his reasons for backing her was his belief that Ms. De La Cruz—whose grandmother fled from Mexico as a child—would “secure our border.”
Mr. Varadarajan, a Journal contributor, is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and at New York University Law School’s Classical Liberal Institute.