Republican voters in South Texas became something of a fixation following the 2020 election when the GOP picked up votes in the region. I explained and analyzed the factors that contributed to the election climate and parsed the numbers in Great Latinxpectations which was published in The Baffler.
The ‘Latinos are breaking for the GOP’ narrative however obscured the complexities on the ground. For Mother Jones I wrote about some of the progressive Latina political candidates in South Texas-Rochelle Garza ( Texas AG ), Michelle Vallejo (TX-15) and Jessica Cisneros (TX-28). They are crafting original messages about border security, economics and injustices and, crucially that promoted new visions, not simply responses to GOP messaging.
The new crop of Latina Democrats, though, are telling a different kind of story, one they believe resonates in working-class South Texas. The progressive policies they’re championing, like a $15 minimum wage and Medicare for All, aren’t some form of government handout, but rather a means of dismantling pervasive inequities, particularly in a region where median incomes are roughly half the national mark and nearly 30 percent of residents are uninsured. All Americans should have a shot at success, they say—and shouldn’t be stymied by elites who’ve gamed the system.
And, they were taking on the political status quo in South Texas, which I described in a 2018 piece for The Baffler, Beto on the Border,. As Vallejo put it: “People like us are capable of representing us.”
They have set out to upend a centuries-old business and political status quo that marketed the region as a source of low-paid labor force—first in the cotton and oil fields, and later the service industry—and conceded its landscape to right-wing visions of a weaponized border. The border, they remind voters, is made of the bridges that connect family and neighbors, not the walls that separate them.
“For so long, it seems we’ve only been deserving of investments in the form of militarization on the border or investments in terms of extracting our natural resources,” Cisneros told me over coffee a day after the O’Rourke event in Laredo. A few months later, at a fundraiser in Mission, Vallejo told donors, “We are deserving of more.”
Read the piece here.
*The three candidates featured in the piece did not win their contests.