James over at Mahatma X Files has an interesting post about demographics and politics in the Oklahoma panhandle. He shows a map that delineates, by country, where the Hispanic population is relative to the national average.
Focusing on the Oklahoma panhandle, you’ll notice that the most populous county, Texas County (it’s the one right in the middle of the panhandle), is running as of 2007 at about 35-40% Hispanic. The counties directly to the east and west of us (Beaver and Cimarron, respectively) are about at the national average, and the rest of the state of Oklahoma – with the exception of a couple counties to the far southwest- is below the national average.
One reason for sharing this with you is simply to give a visual to go along with one of my running narratives – namely that the Oklahoma panhandle really is culturally different compared to the rest of the state. In fact, we seem to be more like the rest of the US Southwest (which I’ll include the southwestern portion of Kansas and southeastern Colorado) than our own state. The trend towards higher concentrations of Hispanic peoples here in the OK panhandle is relatively recent – as I understand it, going back about a couple decades the panhandle was still predominantly White/Non-Hispanic. Although the panhandle is notorious for its affinity for the GOP (in presidential elections, we’re one of the “reddest” areas, and our US and state congressional delegations are uniformly GOP), I’d wager that we’re about to experience some changes.
He predicts political changes coming as a result of the demographics, and makes suggestions of how the Democratic and third parties can take advantage of this shift.
The first suggestion: “Stop ignoring us.”
I know that seems obvious, but unfortunately, the obvious needs saying in this case. But I suspect that the panhandle of Oklahoma will get attention from DC to address its problems before it gets any real respect from OK politicians. Certainly this next term, all their energy is going to be dedicated to poking into the personal lives of women.