Despite the results of this year’s election, there are still Republicans who say the party needs to appeal to a more diverse group of voters if they want to win the White House in the future. Specifically, they say the party needs to attract Hispanic voters.
And the case study some Republicans are pointing to when they make this argument is solidly-red Texas.
It was not too long ago that this argument was considerably easier to make.
Right after President Obama was reelected in 2012, Republicans began taking stock. The lesson then-RNC Chair Reince Priebus learned was that the GOP needed to be more inclusive. Priebus appeared on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" during that time. The show’s host, Joe Scarborough, asked him about members of the party who had issues with this strategy.
“How do we take control as a party and make sure those voices are the voices of the minority, and that we embrace a bigger tent?” Scarborough asked.
“Well, you’ve gotta make Reagan’s 80-20 rule cool again,” Priebus responded. “And that’s not just that my 80-percent friend is not my 20-percent enemy. And that we are not going to grow our party by division and subtraction.”
Cut to 2016. The right flank of the GOP, and mostly white voters, propelled President-Elect Donald Trump to the White House and Priebus is set to become Trump’s chief of staff.
To many people who still feel the GOP needs to be more inclusive, this election has brought up a lot of concerns.
“I think the wrong lesson to learn from this election is that the Republican Party can rely on an overwhelmingly white electorate to win future national elections,” said Brendan Steinhauser, a Republican consultant in Texas who's helped Republicans like Sen. John Cornyn win statewide elections.
Part of his strategy has always been that “big tent” strategy –that is, keep the party relevant and don’t exclude and vilify minority voters.
Steinhauser admits that, yes, Trump won by doing the opposite, but he says this will eventually stop working.
“I think that this election in 2016, on a national level, was probably the last election where Republicans could rely on overwhelmingly white voters to win a national election,” he said.
There’s evidence that this is already a problem for the GOP, and that evidence is Texas.
Artemio Muniz, the president of the Federation of Hispanic Republicans, says not only did Trump get 1.2 million fewer votes this year in Texas compared to Mitt Romney in 2012, but things changed on a local level, as well.
“We lost Harris County, which is Houston,” Muniz said. “We went from losing by about 600 votes in 2012 during the Obama wave, to now losing by about 160,000 votes. We saw an increase of about 34 percent of the Hispanic vote.”
Muniz says big urban centers in Texas are the warning shot. The problem, he says, is that GOP leaders are still riding high on their big national wins this month.
“But I am looking at the future,” Muniz said. “I am looking at 2020 as the year that the Hispanic community is becoming the plurality in Texas. And, if you look at the numbers in Dallas and Harris County and other counties, there was a huge representation by the Democratic turnout by the Hispanic community.”
Muniz says he worries this trend could continue not just in Texas, but in Nevada, Colorado and Arizona, too. Down the road, he says, that could keep the White House out of reach for Republicans for a long time.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misquoted Muniz. It suggested Muniz said Trump got 1.2 million fewer votes this year in Texas compared to Mitt Romney in 2012. However, what Muniz said was that the vote difference in Texas between the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates was 1.2 million in 2012 and roughly 700,000 in 2016.