In politi-speak, “purple” is a code word or shorthand for designating a state as being comprised of a near-equal balance between voters who lean right vs. left. These same states are also referred to as “battlegrounds”. In the run-up to the 2014 election, two states stand out; Virginia with a history of being purple, and Texas which has begun to turn from bright red (conservative) towards purple.
Virginia comes across as a state with a split political personality. Its norther tier is heavily populated by federal government workers who live there and make the easy commute to neighboring Washington, D.C. These folks have reliably voted Democrat for years. The southern tier is partly rural and dominated by rock solid Republicans. The two parties and their in-state organizations compete vigorously for the voters in the geographic and political middle. Obama won Virginia in 2008 and 2012, but Virginians picked a GOP governor. He cannot run for re-election which has set up a major contest between Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat’s nominee, and Ken Cuccinelli, his Republican counterpart. Poll after poll has shown the former with leads that consistently but barely have fallen outside the statistical margins of error. It’s likely that the two men will be separated on election day by less than 100,000 votes.
Given the likelihood of that close an election, the state’s conservative-dominated election apparatus (1) has gone into overdrive to tilt the contest in their candidate’s favor, doing so with new voter ID requirements and the purging of voter rolls. How all this works out remains to be seen. But, the outcome will have implications for both parties as they move beyond 2014 towards the presidential election in 2016.
In Texas, where conservatism has been dominant for decades, an unmistakable shift towards “purple” has been taking place and continues apace. This change has been driven largely by demographics involving the influx of Hispanics, and the coming-of-voting age of younger ones who were born in the US (2) and thus are eligible to vote. The odds are that the vast majority of these individuals will lean left at election time. These changes in the Lone Star state have been joined by an uptick in liberal women’s political activism, a development fueled by the candidacy of Wendy Davis for governor.
Taking note of all this, the state’s Republican party has swung into action. Oppressive voter ID laws have been put in place to combat the voter fraud that the Texas Attorney General has claimed “abounds”, even though hard evidence shows nothing of the sort (3). As counterpoint, the local Democrat party has launched major efforts in fund-raising, making sure that eligible voters have the proper ID, recruiting attractive candidates for lower level offices, and engaging potential voters, especially in the Rio Grande valley. It may take more than one election cycle for purple to become the dominant color in Texas state politics. But, make no mistake, that change in on the way. It is no longer a question of “If?” but “When?”.
1. That Virginia’s election apparatus is controlled by Republicans is a function of the fact that the governor gets to appoint many of its members.
2. These are the so-called “anchor babies” whose parents came to the US illegally, and then gave birth thereafter.
3. Since 2007, 66 cases of possible voter fraud were brought to authorities’ attention. Of those, exactly six were positively identified as such. This stands as simply another instance where Republicans’ rhetoric and legislated attempts to curtail voter fraud do not match up with reality. Recall my previous blog, “A Solution in Search of a Problem: Preventing Voter Fraud; Aug. 15, 2013.