Written By: Daniel Roman
Starr County, Texas, seems like an unusual place for a conservative revolution. The per capita income of the county in 2010 was $7,069, the third-lowest in the United States, and just over 50% of individuals lived below the poverty line. Most importantly, from the perspective of the identity politics obsessed Left, 95.7% of the population identified as Hispanic or Latino. Barack Obama had won 84.5% and 86.3%, respectively, and Hillary Clinton had managed 79.1%. It was no surprise Democrats felt they had little to fear from Starr County going into the 2020 elections. It, therefore, came as an unpleasant shock when Joe Biden carried Starr county not with 70% of the vote, not with 60% of the vote, but with a mere 52.1%.
The results in Texas mirror a larger trend that is occurring not only in the United States but around the world–a trend chronicled in this special series on “the Great Realignment.” (Read Part One here.) With each election, we are seeing more of the Left’s voting base reject identity politics and side for the first time with conservatives. In few places anywhere in the world has this phenomenon been more dramatic than along the Texas Border.
Joe Biden was not the only Democrat to receive a shock in Starr County, nor was Starr County the only heavily Hispanic area of Texas, or even of the country, to pour cold water on Democratic hopes in November of 2020. Democrat Henry Cueller, the local Congressman, had never received below 66.2% of the vote in his 28th Congressional district. In 2020, he received only 58%. In the neighboring 15th Congressional district, also located along the Mexican border, Democrat Vincente Gonzalez had won with 57% and 59% respectively in 2016 and 2018. In 2020, he received 50.05%. Cueller’s 28th district, which was only 15% non-Hispanic white according to the 2010 census, had gone for Barack Obama by a margin of 60%-39% in 2012, and for Hillary Clinton by only a slightly smaller 58% to 38%. In 2020, Joe Biden won it by just 52%-47%. Gonzalez’s district showed an even more dramatic shift. The 15th district, which was 82% Hispanic and 15% white according to the 2010 census, voted for Obama by a margin of 57% to 41% in 2012 and for Hillary Clinton by 57% to 40%. In 2020, Biden defeated President Trump by less than two percentage points, 50.4% to 48.5%.
The shift along the border was dramatic, historic, and all but dashed Democratic hopes of finally turning Texas blue. It helped counter Democratic gains in the greater Austin and Dallas metro areas, where Biden made substantial, if less than dramatic, gains among high-income suburbanites. Williamson county, outside of Austin, which was 60% non-Hispanic white in 2010, had voted 59%-38% for Mitt Romney in 2012, 51%-41% for Donald Trump in 2016, yet went for Joe Biden by a margin of 49.6% to 48.2%. Williamson’s economic situation is the exact opposite of that in Starr County. The per capita income was $24,547, more than three times that of Starr’s $7,069, while a mere 4.8% of the population lived below the poverty line, a tenth of the figure in Starr.
The contrasting behavior of the two counties presents the real story of 2020. For four years, the media portrayed Donald Trump’s appeal as being based upon racial resentment. Specifically, white racial resentment. Donald Trump’s Republican party was, to listen to Democrats or the media, the party of whites and the wealthy, while the Democrats stood for the poor, the downtrodden, and the non-white. Democrats and liberals consoled themselves with the belief that Donald Trump appealed to “declining” demographics, while they appealed to the growing constituencies which represented the future. If there was one theme which ran throughout the Democratic National Convention in 2020 beyond “hide in your basement, the virus is coming,” it would be that. Yet in Texas, it was the wealthy, white county which swung to Biden and the poor, Hispanic county which voted for Donald Trump by a historic margin.
In Texas, this shift merely helped to shatter Democratic dreams of winning the state, either at the Presidential level or locally, where Democrats had already begun to feud over the Speakership of the State House. In the end, they failed to gain a single seat in the chamber. Nationally, it was just not quite enough to deliver Donald Trump a second term. Joe Biden carried the key states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania by margins smaller than those of John Kerry in 2004 to slide into the White House. Yet, in the end, it was aging white voters in aging white states who delivered Biden the Presidency. The voters of the future, diverse America, in Florida, North Carolina, and Texas were not all that interested.
It is not only working-class Hispanics who are trending Republican in the United States. Despite Biden’s relatively strong performance with upper-income whites, he actually struggled with upper-income Hispanic voters. There is no better illustration of this than what happened in Florida in November of 2020.
Florida has always tended to be close, and the Biden camp conceded it was not within their primary path to victory. Nonetheless, what happened in Florida must have come as a shock, if not to the Biden camp, then to local Democrats. Donald Trump carried the state by a margin of 371,686 votes, or 3.35%, the largest winning margin for any candidate since George W. Bush in 2004. When compared to the national results, the margin is even more striking. In 2004, Florida voted 1.3% more Republican than the national average. In 2008, that figure was 1.2%, in 2012 1.1%, and in 2016 1.6%. In 2020, Donald Trump did 3.3% better in Florida than he did in the popular vote nationally, more than double the 2016 figure.
At the heart of this overperformance were Florida Hispanics, and what was a little earthquake along the Texas border broke the Richter scale in Miami-Dade. Barack Obama had won the county 58%-42% over John McCain and by 62% to 38% over Mitt Romney, leading Democrats to trumpet the idea that younger Cubans no longer cared about Castro or socialism. This confidence seemed confirmed when Hillary Clinton won the county by a landslide margin of 63% to 34% in 2016. “Socialism” as an issue seemed dead. Which, Democrats seemed to conclude, made it safe to throw off the mask and publicly identify with the ideology over the next four years. As horror stories poured in from Venezuela and Nicaragua, both of which saw large refugee migrations to Miami, Democrats lionized socialist Democrat Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. A few local Democrats began to feel some jitters in late 2020, but their fears amounted to concern that “gasp,” voters in Miami were being “misled” by “fake news” into associating the Democratic party with socialism. Wonder where they would have gotten that idea? In November, Miami voters showed they had not forgotten the consequences of socialism. Biden won the county, but only by a margin of 53% to 46%, or 97,000 votes, compared to Hillary’s margin of almost 300,000.
The rebellion against Democrats extended all the way down the ballot. If anything, Joe Biden did better than other Democrats, implying that what happened in Miami-Dade was a revolt against the Democratic Party itself rather than Joe Biden. In the 27th congressional district, popular Telemundo and Univision host Maria Elvira Salazar, a Republican, defeated incumbent Democrat Donna Shalala in a district which Obama and Clinton won by 53%-46% and 58%-39% respectively, but Joe Biden only carried by a narrow 51%-48% margin in 2020. In the 26th district, Republican Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez defeated the incumbent Democrat, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. The 26th district had voted for Obama over Romney by a margin of 55%-44% and for Clinton by 57%-41%, but Donald Trump defeated Joe Biden in 2020 by 52% to 47%.
If Joe Biden can perhaps take solace in the fact that in Florida at least, he was dragged down by the image of the Democratic Party, as opposed to Democratic candidates being dragged down by association with him, the portents are ominous for future Democrats. Far from being “over” socialism, not just Cubans but Hispanics across the board seem alienated by the Democratic Party’s direction.
If Joe Biden managed to slip into office in 2020, it was on the back of those old, declining constituencies of white voters Democrats love to mock. The nation’s fastest-growing constituencies, the ones Democrats at their 2020 convention highlighted as the future of the country, seem to have determined that their own future lies in the Republican party. And they are hardly alone in reaching that conclusion.
In the United States, corporations may be tripping over themselves to be seen as “woke” and to embrace identity politics, but as the 2020 elections showed, whether in Texas, Florida or around the country, voters are having none of it.