Friday, December 15, 2006

Texas and the future of Australian politics

This week a delayed Congressional election, saw Democrats win a further seat in Congress in Texas on the Mexican border (map from here) with candidate Ciro Rodriguez over Republican Henry Bonilla. He had been the only Mexican American Republican in Congress but some called him a 'coconut', brown on the outside and white on the inside. The election was a run-off from the earlier national elections as neither candidate had an absolute majority then. Nevertheless the Republican incumbent had polled 48% on November 7 and the rest of the vote was split between several Democrats and an Independent with the highest vote being for Bonilla at only 20%. But Rodriguez won with 54%, this is a pretty impressive performance and he is a former social work academic. In part it reflects the collapse of Republication morale since the elections, and a reaction against Republican advertising that accused Rodriguez on being linked to Islamic terrorists. But the seat is majority Hispanic and Republican support for immigration restriction and the border fence was a major issue. Texas will become steadily more Hispanic in future years leading the American trend. The association of the Republicans with nativism may become increasingly counter-productive, even if a majority of voters express nativist views, those to whom the issue is central are more to be migrants and they will vote against the Republicans. This is the 'mobilisation of the base' strategy that the Republicans have used, but now it works against them. Even the ultra-conservative Human Events admits that:
Bonilla was also slightly harmed, and certainly not helped, by his embrace of the conservative position on the border security and immigration issue. Once again, it proved woefully ineffective in bringing out white voters, and whatever-sized effect it had among Hispanic voters -- who make up more than 60 percent of the new district -- it was a negative effect. Bonilla lost counties in the second round that he had never lost in any previous election. This race has implications for Republican hopes to win the Hispanic vote in the future.
Texas go blue as some speculate? Not soon but perhaps in the future. A similar situation may arise in Australia, despite the conservatives' best efforts in the silly citizenship test; the ethnic composition of the Australian electorate will change at an increasing rate into the future. The ethno-cultural politics of the right may become a liability rather than an asset. It is already the major reason for the marginality of John Howard's seat.

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At 6:40 PM, Blogger Jim Belshaw said...

This was an interesting post, Geoff. I do like finding out things about US politics thta simply don't get reported in Australia.

Your point about ethnicity and Australian voting is an interesting one. The ethnic element has been important in Australian politics since the original Irish/English split. Then when new groups came in with the post war mass migration rpogram they, too, affected voting patterns. Now we have the most recent round of migration related ethnic changes.

How they will affect voting is very uncertain in my mind.

One issue is the concentration of particular ethic groups - the concentration of incoming migrants in Sydney combined with internal migration especially from Sydney is leading to a different ethnic mix across the country.

A second issue is the reaction of longer standing migrant groups to the new groups. Those who have made it may well identify with the Howard message.

Overall, I think that there are some important issues here that are well worth teasing out further.

At 5:17 PM, Blogger Jim Belshaw said...

Geoff, a happy Christmas and a great new year to you and yours. I look forward to our discussions in the new year.

At 3:50 PM, Blogger Geoff Robinson said...

Hi Jim and a happy Christmas and new year to you also. My blog may be a bot more active in Januaty as i am through marking. Good point about different groups of migrants. Goot shows that recent migrants tend to come quickly to agree with majority opinion on immigration levels but remain more sympathetic to multiculturalism even into the second generation.


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