Republicans, especially in border states, are terrified by the prospects of easing the path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. The reasons range from more noble ones (immigrants often compete for the very few jobs available for the many low skilled U.S. workers) to more political ones (if they could vote, it would likely be for Democrats). This is a hot issue in the state of Texas and the race for Lt. Governor between Republican state senator Dan Patrick and Democrat state senator, Leticia R. Van de Putte, has largely become a referendum on the immigration issue. Patrick has a significant lead in the polls.
But illegal immigrants becoming citizens are not the only way the state of Texas could eventually become a stronghold for Democrats, there is another way and the GOP is actually behind it.
Texas Republican nominee for governor, Gregg Abbott recently did a commercial in which he boasts about the major migration of individuals from the state of California to Texas in search of better jobs and opportunities. This translates into a dream for chambers of commerce promoting the business virtues of their communities in the Lone Star State, but a potential nightmare for the GOP in trying to maintain political control of it.
Major news sources love monitoring migration trends among states. The Census Bureau has been watching these trends also, and what you find “between the lines” is really quite interesting.
The fastest growing states for population include Wyoming, Utah, Texas, Colorado, Alaska and Arizona.
There are several unique characteristics about these population shifts:
They are often huge. Texas gained over 500,000 people in one year. This is largely attributable to the huge number of businesses that have relocated to the state.
All of these growth states lean Republican or are very Republican. Republican strategists’ lips salivate when they think of these population shifts to their state. This means more Congressional seats moving to their states and away from Democrat states. However, they may be surprised by the longterm results.
They tend to be in the West or the South. This has been a trend that has persisted for decades and continues to be the case. Politically, the implications of this are significant. All of our presidents after John F. Kennedy have been from Texas, California, Georgia, and Arkansas (with the exception of our sitting President and Gerald Ford).
What about states that have seen a decline in population? They include New Jersey, Illinois, New York, Connecticut, and Maine.
They are largely in liberal states and most are “true blue”. This, again, makes conservatives excited and liberals concerned, but the long term implications could prove very different than the expectations.
Most of these losing states are in the East Coast and Midwest, which have also suffered when it comes to political prestige and power.
What are the lessons learned?
The political and economic environment of many of these liberal states have become so hostile to entrepreneurship and economic growth, people are voting with their feet in a quest to find better jobs and opportunities. Michigan would still be on this list a couple of years ago if it weren’t for the fact that it elected pro-business leaders in both houses of its legislature, as well as its executive branch. It has finally curtailed that trend and is actually growing in population for the first time in years. It still has a migratory problem, but it is amazing what a change in public policy can do in a very short period of time.
New York and Connecticut are noted for their constant regulatory pressures they apply on business, forcing many to have little choice but to leave. People are leaving these states on the quest for economic prosperity.
Republicans, who appear to be the long-term winners in these shifts, should be cautious in their enthusiasm. I remember when I worked as an aide for U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire and how his state had become extremely Republican by the 1980s, enjoying growth as people fled the disastrous political and economic situation in Massachusetts just to the south. Eventually, New Hampshire became increasingly liberal as people moved who knew there were things wrong with their home state — taxes, crime, etc. — but didn’t realize that the people they were voting for were the source of their problems. So once they moved to a new promise land, they brought the same terrible policies with them. Today, New Hampshire is largely considered a “blue” state, with Barack Obama winning by more than 9 percentage points in 2008 and by 5 percent in 2012. Abbott’s excitement about all those voters coming from California could soften if they do to Texas what Massachusetts migrants have done for New Hampshire.
The future looks bright for conservative friendly states on paper, but this will only be the case if new voters support the very policies that have made these places so attractive in the first place.