The Real Sleeping Giant in Texas Politics

For the past several elections, both major Parties appealed to and pushed for the vote of the growing Hispanic population in Texas. So much that Democrats flipped Hays and Williamson counties to favor President Biden while Republicans turned Zapata and Val Verde counties for former President Trump in the 2020 election.

And who can blame them? The Hispanic population grew so much over the past two censuses that Texas officially became a majority-minority state. Furthermore, in the recent census, Hispanics were a significant part of Texas’ 95% population growth. Both Parties see this growing population vital their political survival.

Democrats see Hispanics as the way to recapture their once lived majority in Texas politics, whereas Republicans view them as the way to maintain their dominance. Both sides cite the gains in the aforementioned counties as proof their message resonates and works, but in all honesty, this path is folly.

For who knows how long, Democrats’ goal has been for connection, outreach, and get out the vote efforts for Hispanics and those attempts faltered. Let us not forget that no racial or ethnic group votes in a monolith. While recent research suggests Hispanics to vote more with Democrats than Republicans, it has not made the difference Democrats long for.

So if the “sleeping giant” is not the Hispanic population, is there one? Whom is it? Yes, there is a sleeping giant in Texas politics and it is teachers. There are roughly 375,000 active primary and secondary educators in Texas and 445,000 teacher retirement recipients. Add in custodial and certified staff and administrators, that is roughly a million voters in primary and secondary education. Of course, this does not take into account those in higher education, which could easily be another half a million voters, rounding out the estimation to 1.5 million voters in education.

Teacher (picture from The News & Observer)

Advocacy groups like Texans for Public Education and Pastors for Texas Children urge teachers to vote, for one, and for two, support candidates who promote public education. In 2018 and 2020, groups like these aided in the increase in teacher voter turnout and change seats in key legislative races throughout the state.

The Twitter Profile Image used for Pastors for Texas Children
Facebook Image for Texans for Public Education

While this uptick in voter turnout from teachers paid dividends for their profession, the turnout needs to be consistent. If teachers voted as a consistent voting bloc, there would be no teacher shortage, schools would be fully funded, property taxes would be lowered, retired teachers would receive a cost of living adjustment, teacher retirement would be solvent, health care premiums would be non-existent, teacher pay would be the highest in the country, and, most importantly, students would receive the best education.

The Parties, however, do not view teachers as the sleeping giant. Republicans scare and divide educators with social issues like abortion and guns while Democrats ignore them, claiming time and effort are best spent elsewhere.

Educators, however, are the untapped resource that can set the agenda for generations to come. Public education is the silver bullet of Texas politics. The Party that courts educators’ vote and makes that a permanent plank in a Party platform can realign the state. This, of course, requires persistent work, such as voter registration, consistent outreach, voter persuasion, and creative get out the vote efforts — not to mention governing. But the Parties must make the effort to put teachers in their core constituency, instead of them being a swing group, if such political dominance is to be had.

I wrote several times how public education should not be partisan. Honestly, it should be a unifying issue for Texans and become a source of support among the community. It, however, has not been that way. Just look at the Republican Party of Texas’ 2020 platform and the Texas Democratic Party’s 2020 platform for a current example on the partisan divide. But this can change if the sleeping giant awakens and with it, a force with which that cannot be reckoned.

Until that happens, Texas’ political landscape will remain. Democrats will continue searching for the Holy Grail, while it is right in front of them, and Republicans’ governing will endure.

What is it called when the answer stares someone in the face but he/she refuses to acknowledge it? That is what teachers are in Texas politics, incredibly important yet completely neglected. What else is new?

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Drew Landry

Drew Landry

Government Prof; Baseball fan; Political junkie; @drewllandry on Twitter