As the year draws to a close, Texas Standard looks back at 2019. Host David Brown spoke with some of the people who have been thinking and writing about this year as it unfolded in real time – familiar names to longtime listeners. Important issues on their minds included immigration, gun policy and the changing political landscape of Texas.
Victoria DeFrancesco Soto is director of Civic Engagement and lecturer at the LBJ School of Public Affiars at the University of Texas at Austin. She says immigration isn’t only the biggest story of 2019, but the biggest since the day in 2015 when Donald Trump declared his intention to run for president.
“This is a trend that’s continuing,” DeFrancesco Soto says. “And, spoiler alert, it’s going to be the same thing for 2020.”
Lauren McGaughy is an investigative reporter for The Dallas Morning News. She says that especially in Texas, where there have been four mass shootings in the past two years, gun violence is an issue of growing significance. And the number of shootings in a short period of time has added to their impact.
“It felt really concentrated,” McGaughy says. “It felt like all of a sudden, all eyes were on this issue here in Texas. Lawmakers got involved. The people on the ground were asking for different things than we’ve seen them ask for in previous years with Sutherland Springs and some of the other big shootings.”
Brandon Rottinghaus is a professor and Pauline Yelderman Endowed Chair of Political Science at the University of Houston. He says the politics of shootings has been a challenge for the GOP-run political leadership of Texas, which typically opposes any law that would restrict gun rights.
“The politics of that are really changing,” Rottinghaus says. “We have majorities in the state that want stricter gun control laws. They want stricter background checks. Fewer people have no opinion because these events have really crystallized thinking about this.”
Politics are changing overall, too, as Texas suburbs, long a stronghold for Republicans, change their demographics and their voting patterns.
“When we look at 2020, those are where the Republicans are really worried about losing some key seats,” McGaughy says. “Democrats are just nine seats away [from] taking control of the Texas House.”
DeFrancesco Soto says the evidence that Republicans’ control of the state isn’t as firm as it once was can be found in the differences between the 2017 and 2019 legislative sessions. Where 2017 saw highly contentious bills introduced by social conservatives, the 2019 session was relatively drama-free.
“The Republicans knew that they didn’t have the wiggle room to play around and to go for those hardcore social, moral issues,” DeFrancesco Soto says. “They knew that they needed to roll up their sleeves and show that they were a party that could do, and didn’t necessarily have to play to that extreme base.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.