August 5th, 2003 10:08 am
August 5th, 2003 10:05 am
So it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I feel compelled to discuss a topic being hotly….well, okay, NOT being hotly debated in the Texas legislature today. The issue of redistricting. It seems some democrats have scurried off to another state to avoid the responsibilities. While this is typical of clinton-esque politics, bend any rule if the ends justifies your means, it is costing the taxpayers of Texas money. What really surprises me is how some people I’ve come to think are intelligent and fair-minded are being duped by the talking points of the Donkey Party. These fleeing legislators are NOT heros, they’re just more political hacks, afraid of losing their power and trying to find some way to blame Republicans for it. Blame Bush, blame DeLay, blame Christianity, blame God Himself, but don’t under any circumstances, by any means, for whatever reason, put the blame where it should squarely rest…..on the shoulders of those responsible……the “Texas 11″. You see, these morons think that the Republicans are making a “power grab” that will cost them their jobs. They don’t quite understand that VOTERS may actually want them out of office. This is typical of clinton-esque politics. It’s NEVER their fault. It’s NEVER an issue of whether they’re wrong. It’s got to be those stupid voters who don’t know any better. It must be that religious conspiracy melting their brains.
Now that I’ve pissed off every liberal wandering in here, let’s discuss the REAL ISSUE. You see, I didn’t want the liberals to venture this far into my message for fear they might stumble across the TRUTH…..and we all know they prefer to avoid that, when it doesn’t suit their agenda.
Dissenting Democrats fled Texas to prevent the state House of Representatives from achieving the quorum necessary to move ahead on pending matters. Read that carefully…..they FLED the state to avoid a QUORUM necessary to move ahead. You see, like the democrats in Washington stonewalling on the Estrada confirmation hearings, the Texas democrats don’t even want to let the system work as it was intended. Instead, they’re finding the exceptions in the rules and exploiting the hell out of them to prevent negative events from happening to them. Obviously, we all prefer not to endure negative events, but at least admit that’s why you’re doing it…. don’t try to hide under some shroud of heroism, it’s shameful.
Now why are the Texas democrats running away like cowards to shirk their duties as elected officials? Why are they fleeing to avoid even THE OPENING OF THE DEBATE on redistricting? Yes, their tactic is only delaying the opening of debate…. it’s not stalling some covert conspiratorial attempted coup by the Republicans, it’s delaying the opening of a debate…. a debate these folks were elected to partake in….
Here’s why: With a few exceptions, the initial responsibility for drawing congressional district lines is vested with state legislatures. Producing a new map is often a pitched battle, especially in chambers where party ratios are close or the governor is of a different party from the legislative majority.
Usually, through a combination of political pressure and horse-trading, Republicans and Democrats are able to reach agreement on new lines — typically bringing forth a map friendly to most, if not all, state and federal incumbents.
Where a deadlock exists, responsibility for drawing a new map generally defaults to the courts.
The modern era of redistricting began with 1962’s Baker vs. Carr decision. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially used the “equal protection” clause of the Constitution to curtail gerrymandering. Generally referred to as the “one-man, one-vote” decision, the court’s finding changed the redistricting process.
Before the decision, deadlocks were sometimes broken by the presentation of “at-large” slates of congressional candidates. In 1932, four states — Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia and Minnesota — elected their entire delegation on an at-large basis. In 1962, the year of Baker vs. Carr, the entire Alabama delegation was elected at large. Such a fix would now be considered unconstitutional.
Since Baker vs. Carr and the passage of federal laws governing civil rights and elections, the courts have played an increasingly prominent role in the redistricting process.
Prior to 2003, there is no example of a state legislature returning to the task of drawing federal lines once a court had asserted jurisdiction over the process as it did in North Carolina in the 1990’s, where a federal three-judge panel redrew the congressional district lines several times as a result of repeated legal challenges to the constitutionality of the districts. As a rule of thumb, once the process moves to the courts it stays there.
In the post-2000 redistricting in Texas, as in several other states, the normal redistricting ground to a halt because of a political impasse, necessitating intervention by the courts.
The standard on which courts rely to draw lines, says Polidata’s Clark Bensen, a redistricting consultant, is different from the standard employed by politicians.
“Courts operate under different rules when drawing or choosing plans,” Bensen says. “They do not function as super-legislatures or super-reapportionment boards. Rather, they are generally supposed to adopt or approve plans that are neutral from a partisan perspective, something of an alien consideration among legislators.”
The three-judge panel working on the new map concluded, in Bensen’s words, that Texas plan used in the 1990’s constituted “a Democrat gerrymander.” Michael Barone, author of “The Almanac of America Politics” and one of the most astute analysts of election data in the country reached a similar conclusion.
Writing in one edition of the almanac, Barone called the Clinton-era Texas map “the shrewdest gerrymander of the 1990s.”
The Democrats won 70 percent of the Texas congressional seats in 1992, the first year in which it was operative, while taking half of the total number of votes cast for Congress statewide. This measure, while imprecise owing to factors like uncontested races, is nevertheless a very good gauge of party support among the voters at the congressional level.
The map put in place for 2002 is somewhat more equitable, but is, as a number of analysts suggest, still a gerrymander. Republican candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2002 won 57 percent of the total statewide congressional vote while winning 15 — fewer than half — of the seats in the 32-member delegation. In that same election the Republicans won every statewide office on the ballot and, for the first time in 130 years, became the majority party in both chambers of the state Legislature — and by sizeable margins.Redrawing congressional lines after they have been put in place by a court or other body is neither illegal nor unprecedented. In 1984, for example, the California Legislature was forced to redraw the congressional map after the voters approved a statewide referendum overturning the existing lines.
Whether it is politically advisable is another matter. Such a move promises a partisan standoff, as the Texas Democrats’ flight to Oklahoma demonstrates.
The Colorado Legislature recently approved a new congressional map, amending the court-drawn plan put in force for the 2002 election. The legislation was signed into law by Republican Gov. Bill Owens but, before it could go into effect, Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar, a Democrat, sued to stop the new plan from being implemented.
Advocates for the new lines in Colorado and Texas say there is ample precedent for a Legislature to mediate court-imposed solutions through legislative action. In the case of redistricting disputes, the legislative remedy was not available because of political stasis. An effort to reopen the issue in the state house would produce a similar impasse to that which landed the map in court initially.
In Texas, balance is no longer an issue, the partisan alignment having changed as a result of the 2002 election. The balance shifted away from the Democrats to such a degree that a legislative remedy became a viable option for ending an impasse that had been resolved by the courts. The same is true for Colorado.
But the democrats in typical fashion have decided that they don’t like the outcome, so they’re just not going to show up for work. Just imagine if we all did that to our employers……