Party platforms are typically crafted by its activist base, address the standard wedge issues and provide the red meat for our political debates. Changes can reflect a real shift in the mood of the electorate, the sheer will of a small dedicated interest or a strategic play by party insiders. In the case of 2012, the two major parties took different approaches. Democrats addressed criticisms of “not standing for anything” by becoming definitively progressive on controversial issues including calling for the end of the death penalty, decriminalization of marijuana and the legalization of same sex marriage. Facing a different set of challenges Republicans tried to maintain its cumbersome dominance over a changing state without exposing growing fissures in its base.
In its preamble the Texas Republican Party pledges to defend the “dream of freedom and opportunity”. That pledge does not extend to the DREAM Act or marriage equality. The changes to their platform were more recognition of political reality than change of heart. For starters the party's platform will no longer refer to "illegal immigrants" but to “undocumented individuals”. Still, the pejorative was used by the leading candidate for US Senate, David Dewhurst, in his primary against Ted Cruz, a candidate with a spanish surname. Cruz’s criticism of Dewhurst? He’s a “moderate” who allowed Texas to become a “sanctuary state”. The change signals that the Republican establishment realizes that demographics aside, the party’s increasingly rigid conservative litmus test, that seems to have no logical end, will eventually hurt its long term viability in the state.
When the gigante dormido awakes it will want to do more than just “dream” about freedom and Democrats are positioning themselves as a viable alternative to the rat race of Conservative purity. Rather than just make technical changes to its platform Democrats are making tangible strides to include more gays, women and hispanics under their tent. Besides the Promesa Project specifically geared to hispanic youth, their 2012 convention included the dynamic Castro brothers in their keynote address, electing Judge Gilberto Hinojosa as their first Hispanic state party Chair, Mary Gonzales as the first openly gay female State Representative and paying homage to their host city’s openly gay mayor Annise Parker. It was clear the party views these top talents as not just the future of party but the future of Texas.
It's widely known that Texas is a majority minority state but what seems to be lost on the Republican Party and fiscal conservatives is the growing economic impact of gays and lesbians. Same sex marriage is projected to bring in over $638 million into the California economy alone. Richard Florida, international best selling author and one of the world’s leading public intellectuals on economic competitiveness states that, “More entrepreneurial climates are in more accepting, diverse areas” and Texas is no exception. So, while Republicans point to Texas economic success during the recent recession as proof of Conservative superiority much of that progress is being made in our urban centers that often lean Liberal and vote Democrat. The challenge for the minority party which lacks a strong statewide infrastructure is to make the connection between diversity, entrepreneurship, and small business with their candidates and find a way to connect with rural voters who, despite the increasing urbanization of Texas, are still largely influential in the selection of our statewide elected officials.