In a stunning reversal of long-cherished states' rights doctrine, Texas Republicans now favor a strong national government
with the power to dictate policy to the states.
Texas has long valued independence. Beginning with the struggle to separate from Mexico, Texans have resisted efforts
by politicians in far-away national capitals to control its affairs. By allowing politicians in Washington to dictate
Texas policies, today's conservative Texans have turned their backs on roughly 175 years of Texas history.
This sea change in policy became apparent recently when U.S. Representative Tom Delay (R-Sugerland) ordered Republicans
in the Texas legislature to push through a redistricting plan that would favor Republicans, including Tom Delay, in future
elections. The Republicans should have reminded Delay that a federal office holder, even one from Texas, has no
authority regarding Texas state legislation.
Instead, the Texas GOP said, "We hear, and obey."
There is a long-established practice of redrawing congressional districts every ten years, after the census. Following
this practice, Texas redrew districts after the 2000 census. This map was approved by the Texas Attorney General, a Republican.
The map was also approved by the U.S. Supreme Court, which declared it was in compliance with the Voting Rights Act.
In short, there was no reason to redraw the districts other than to stack the deck against Democrats. Specifically, the
proposed redistricting was aimed at grabbing five U.S. House seats from the Democrats in 2004. It also would have turned many
rural districts into suburbs of Dallas and Houston, thereby depriving rural Texans of a voice in their legislature.
The Democrats believed they had a duty to stop the redistricting, and the only way they could do so was to leave the
state and deprive the Texas legislature of a quorum. Thus, most of them spent last week holed up in a Holiday Inn in Oklahoma.
The GOP yelled that the Dems were cowards; they should have remained in Austin and put up a fight. But as Molly Ivins
pointed out, "The way things got to such a sorry pass is that the R's have been running on rote, lockstep voting. No Democratic
amendment gets considered on its merits, no matter how sensible it is. Shell bills get introduced, and then whole sections
are amended on the floor, in a parody of legislative process." [May 13, 2003
The 55 fugitive Democrats returned in triumph to Austin Friday after the redistricting bill died at midnight Thursday.
(Republicans in Colorado were more successful. Under the direction of White House political adviser Karl
Rove, Colorado Republicans ramrodded into law new congressional boundaries to better their chances in future elections.
However, Colorado has become a haven for New Age gurus and upscale liberal weenies, so such things should be expected in Colorado.
But in Texas?)
This is not the end of the Texas Redistricting Debacle. At the same time that al Qaeda is clearly making
a comeback in the Middle East (Republicans are in denial about this, but that's another rant), the already overtaxed resources
of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were marshalled to track down and arrest the fugitive Democrats. Every Republican
involved, including Tom Delay, is denying he was the one who got the feds involved. There will be investigations.