In recent months, there has been a chorus of voices discussing the “civil war” within the Republican Party, and the Party’s resurgence from its devastated state after the 2008 presidential elections. The civil war, it is said, is over the soul of the GOP, whether it will be a big tent party that is moderate enough to win over young people, folks of color, and the large section of voters identified as independents, or whether it will be a firmly conservative party that is more narrow in its base but also more ideologically pure. Talk of a GOP resurgence began in earnest over the summer with the tea parties and health care townhall protests, with the emphasis of both on grassroots (some would say Astroturf) activism in rekindling the party, and has only gained momentum after the recent election results in New York, New Jersey and Virginia.
Texas is an important starting point for thinking about what these debates mean. Since earlier this fall, incumbent Rick Perry and Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison have been battling it out for the GOP nomination for governor of Texas in the 2010 election. While heated intra-party contests might normally be cause for concern within the national party, Texas holds extra weight in that it is the second largest state in the U.S. (after California) and currently controls 34 electoral votes, making it an important, if not the most important, piece in the Republican electoral college puzzle. Further, it is a “majority minority” state – meaning white folks make up under 50% of the state’s population – putting it at the center of a debate within the GOP about whether the party will/should develop new strategies and a new identity to win people of color away from voting Democratic in the upcoming years.
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