Talking Points

Will Elon Musk turn Texas blue?

Tesla is moving to Texas. Elon Musk said Thursday he's shifting the company's headquarters to Austin from California —  one year after he decried the Golden State's pandemic restrictions as "fascist." He's not alone: In the last year, California-based companies like Oracle, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Charles Schwab have all trumpeted their moves to Texas, attracted by the low taxes and dearth of regulations that make it red-state paradise.

But what if Musk and his fellow CEOs end up turning Texas blue?

It's not a completely outrageous notion. The most important divide in America's electoral politics right now is education: People who have college degrees mostly flock to the Democratic Party. Those who don't tend to lean Republican. The headquarters of the big corporations that move to Texas will be staffed, naturally, with a bunch of folks with degrees, many of them ex-Californians.

That makes conservatives anxious. "Are you worried that all these Californians will bring their values and degrade the state of Texas?" Fox News host Tucker Carlson asked Gov. Greg Abbott (R) last December.  "This is the number one question I get from fellow Texans all the time," Abbott replied. 

Some caveats are needed. While Texas is defined by its conservatism, there have been plenty of predictions in recent years that the state was on the cusp of moving to the Democratic column. (Democrat Beto O'Rourke is perpetually this close to winning statewide office.) So far, none of those forecasts have panned out — former President Donald Trump easily won the state in 2020, albeit by the smallest margin of any GOP presidential candidate since 1996. Abbott, meanwhile, says his own polling suggests many newcomers to the state are actually fairly conservative. What's more, we don't yet know how Texas' controversial new abortion law might affect the business landscape; Democratic-leaning job seekers could simply choose to look elsewhere.

Still, as Texas Monthly points out, Tesla and other incoming corporations will undoubtedly influence the state's culture and politics, whatever their own political views. They'll drive up housing prices and bring new residents with higher incomes than the state's native population. One way or another, Texas is about to change.