Why a Democrat in Texas feels like a minority
By Tamanna Khan
Nov. 3, 2020
Alan Hutcheson in Austin, Texas on Nov. 2. Photo taken over zoom by Tamanna Khan
Alan Hutcheson’s Facebook profile picture shows a horse, but the Austin resident is no Texan cowboy.
The photo, showing a pink My Little Pony toy, which his wife, Nina Morris, loved as a child, is Hutcheson’s way of shielding himself from the intrusive nature of Facebook by not sharing his photos or other private details.
But Hutcheson does not shy away from declaring his political support for the Democrats, even though he lives in a red state.
“I feel like, my vote doesn’t matter for the president, really. I mean, Texas could go for Biden, by some miracle if a whole bunch of people, more people show up, but most people aren’t expecting that,” said Hutcheson.
Democratic party supporters are common in urban Austin under Texas’ Travis County which has consistently voted Democratic presidential nominees since 2000, but the majority of Texas votes red.
“Democrats’ political strength in Texas is primarily in urban centers, and to a lesser extent in suburban and exurban centers of the of the state,” said Andrew Johnston, professor at Carleton University’s department of history and an expert on liberalism and pluralism in American social thought.
But Elliot Tepper, a Carleton political science professor, pointed to a change happening in the traditionally deep red state with almost all Republican office holders.
“Donald Trump has gone from winning the state last time by nine percentage points (to) today the two parties are essentially almost even,” he said referring to the 2016 election results and the most recent polls.
“Behind the rise of the Democrat in Texas is a sharp change in the demographics of Texas. The number of Latino votes. But more importantly, most importantly, the growth of very diverse cities and suburbs are shifting the possibilities (of) who can win this state in this election,” Tepper said.
Jason G. Crow, Hutcheson’s high-school friend, lives in his family cattle-ranch in Hardin county about a five-hour drive east of Austin. He tends to vote Republican.
Crow, a devout Baptist and who is against abortion, said his political views are shaped by his religious belief. He disagrees with Hutcheson, who is an agnostic and supports women’s reproductive rights.
Both friends, however, voted early this year.
Hutcheson said he sides with the Democrats because he feels they will help everyone access affordable healthcare and pharmacare.
Hutcheson, a data analyst at the city-owned Austin Energy and father of two boys, is currently the only earning member of the family. His wife has applied for disability benefits after the traumatic birth of their five-year-old son, but has yet to receive it. Hutcheson said her application is going through the appeal process now.
Though 48-year-old Hutcheson considers himself as upper-middle class, he said a large part of his paycheck is spent in getting psychological therapy that the family now requires.
According to a 2019 report by the U.S government, disabled beneficiaries aged 18 to 64 make up 4.4 per cent of the population in the that age group. In Hutcheson’s opinion, Democrat candidate Joe Biden’s plan would give people like him and his wife an option to choose between a public versus private option for healthcare.
“Whereas Trump’s plan seems to be, just blow up whatever Obama did and then replace it with something that’ll be ‘great.’ What is that?” he asked.
U.S. President Donald Trump did not detail his healthcare plan, but called Joe Biden’s plan “socialized medicine” during the second presidential debate on Oct. 22.
Tepper said there has been an increase in the number of people who have lost their health insurance in Texas due to the changes in the Affordable Care Act.
And as such, “A large number of people are motivated to vote for the Democrats this year in Texas,” said Tepper.
Hutcheson feels that “the government has a role in solving societal problems rather than thinking that somehow the magic of the free market is going to fix everything.”
But Crow, who is a veteran and get his healthcare from the Veterans Administration, believes that government run programs are well-intentioned but ineffective.
“I think socialized medicine, or a government run health care program is not going to work because I’m actually in a government run healthcare program,” added Crow.
Hutcheson said some of his friends think that everything should be run by the private industry because there is a lot of waste in government services.
“I always say, there’s a lot of waste in private industry too. They just call that profit,” Hutcheson said.
UPDATE: This story was corrected at 10:24 a.m. EST to indicate Hutcheson’s wife has applied for disability benefits, not received them.