The media got it wrong. Again.
For months, we were told that Texas was turning blue. One outlet confidently assured us that: “the state is just as competitive as more traditional battleground states (and more competitive than some!)” Another commentator declared: “For the first time in 18 years, Democrats are seriously challenging Republicans’ political monopoly over Texas.” A third establishment type mused: “…the Texas House majority is a coin flip.”
Wrong. Every one of them. And by a country mile, too. But why?
A charitable explanation is that the media misread the moment because of bad polling.
In the lead-up to the presidential election—which, of course, held enormous sway over down-ballot races—Texans were inundated with state-level polls showing Vice President Joe Biden edging out President Trump in the Lone Star State. A narrative was pushed and the media trumpeted much of it without question.
National polls added to the problem. Many promised a Biden victory. Some, like the University of Texas at Dallas’ Cometrends survey, predicted a landslide. A blue wave was imminent, or so they said.
But Election Day gave truth to the lie. Trump took Texas by almost 6 percentage points in the end, spurring a rout of the Texas Democratic Party and allowing the Texas GOP to extend its gains into some traditionally blue areas, like the Rio Grande Valley and Zapata County.
Bad polling led the media astray. But so, too, did a mistaken belief.
For years, a passive press has accepted the argument that Texas isn’t a red state, it’s “a non-voting state.” Activating those nonvoters would tilt the balance of power toward progressives, they alleged. But the election proved that a farce too. A staggering 66% of registered voters turned out for the November 2020 election, the most since 1992. The result: Texas conservatives stand dominant.
So why does any of this matter? Why pick on the commentariat now? Because there’s a lesson to be learned here—an important reminder before the start of a brutal 2021 legislative session.
It is this: The media was wrong. Wrong about Biden taking Texas. Wrong about Texas being a battleground. Wrong about the Texas House flipping. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
And because they erred so greatly on politics, we ought not trust their instincts on policy.
The 87th Texas Legislature will bring much debate on many high-profile issues, like the budget, public education, COVID-19, redistricting, property taxes, election integrity, and more. It promises to be an unusually difficult season for lawmakers.
Some, including many in the media, would prefer to solve these problems by giving government more money and power. A spate of opinion pieces and editorials confirms as much, with the authors all but shouting: “Expand Medicaid!” “Raise taxes!” “Defund the police!”
But these left-leaning policy positions are inconsistent with the Texas electorate. Indeed, these ideas were utterly rejected at the ballot box.
So instead of giving too much oxygen to big government fixes, lawmakers should focus on taking the state in the opposite direction—toward free markets and free people. These conservative-minded solutions will best solve what ails us. Voters understand that.
Admittedly, small government solutions are not popular with the media. But let’s stop worrying so much about ink spilled from people who continue to get it oh so wrong.