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September 21, 2003

THE DEMS OF TEXAS....Democrats in Texas are a beleaguered group these days, and once Tom DeLay's redistricting scheme goes through they are likely to be even more beleaguered than ever.

So what's the answer? Charles Kuffner invited a bunch of Texas bloggers to figure out what to do next, and today they've responded. Check it out.

Posted by Kevin Drum at September 21, 2003 05:02 PM | TrackBack


Comments

Too bad the Republicans in California didn't have the means the Democrats in Texas had to try to stymie a partisan gerrymander. Oh, but wait I forgot. Partisan gerrymanders which favor Democrats are GOOD, it's only partisan gerrymanders which favor Republicans which are IMMORAL and undemocratic, eh?

Posted by: Brad at September 21, 2003 09:49 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, the march of the trolls! In they come, dropping their little nuggets without a single blush of logic or shame.

What is going on in Texas has nothing to do with gerrymandering. Sure, the GOP there is doing that. But the issue is and has been the flagrant violation of one of the oldest procedures in the American political social compact: the agreement that redistricting occurs just once -- ONCE ONLY -- per decade, after the census.

Gerrymandering is, generally, a distasteful thing. But it is also an old, old practice in the American political tradition. One may object to, or be openly alarmed by, the gerrymandering carried out by one's political opponents following a census. But that isn't the same as saying it's simply illigitimate.

By contrast, what Tom DeLay and the Texas GOP are doing now is filthy, immoral ... it IS, fundamentally, un-American and illigitimate. It reflects the most dangerous kind of radicalism, radicalism that should alarm true conservatives every bit as much as it alarms liberal Democrats.

Posted by: Marsman at September 21, 2003 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

"radicalism that should alarm true conservatives..."

Well, those are few and far between these days, and it's asking a lot to give up partisan advantage for the sake of the country, apparently. Otherwise Delay would have been slapped by his own people for his Texas shenanigans.

Posted by: Linkmeister at September 22, 2003 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

Does the dishonest moral posturing of partisan Democrats know no bounds? Marsman is mightily trying to prove that's so.

So the Texas dispute is not all about gerrymandering, eh?

[But the issue is and has been the flagrant violation of one of the oldest procedures in the American political social compact: the agreement that redistricting occurs just once -- ONCE ONLY -- per decade, after the census.]

Oh, please.

So the new Democratic party standard of standing up for democracy is minority disruption of orderly majority voting on redistricting, so a Federal Court can impose a partisan Democratic gerrymander. For that is the 'democratic' method of redistricting the Texas Democratic minority is now fighting to preserve.

The fact is the Texas dispute is a raw fight over political power. The Democrats have a court imposed gerrymander favoring them and the Republicans are trying to replace it with a gerrymander favoring themselves. And the Democratic minority is using all the dirty means it can to keep power from slipping away. And it sickens me to see the astoundingly dishonest posturing of the partisans that this battle is some kind of principled stand in defense of democracy.

Posted by: Brad at September 22, 2003 01:36 AM | PERMALINK

"So the new Democratic party standard of standing up for democracy is minority disruption of orderly majority voting on redistricting, so a Federal Court can impose a partisan Democratic gerrymander."

Yeah, we all know how partisan the federal court system is, and how it ALWAYS sides with the Democrats in district-drawing and other electoral disputes. In this connection, George Will has written at least twice that he thinks DeLay is opening the gates of hell by doing this -- because, of course, two sides can play this new game equally well (and will, from now on).

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 22, 2003 01:50 AM | PERMALINK

Bruce Moomaw

Are you really claiming the current districts of Texas are NOT gerrymandered in favor of the Democrats? Nothing would surprise me at this point.

Posted by: Brad at September 22, 2003 02:48 AM | PERMALINK

Brad, the Texas GOP deliberately threw the task of drawing congressional districts to the courts. They would have had to negotiate with the Dems, you see, and they didn't want to do that. Instead they gerrymandered the state districts (through a separate process) and waited until they got their folks into the statehouse when they could have complete control. Yes I do dispute the false claim that they're gerrymandered in favor of Democrats. The GOP can't beat democratic candidates in GOP-leaning districts. Their solution is an explicit gerrymander - disenfrachising rural voters and entire cities (e.g. Austin) that don't vote the "right" way.

The idea that you're entitled to redraw districts whenever you take control of state government is deeply destructive to the democratic process.
No amount of partisan noise can change this. Mid-decade redistricting is a virtually unprecedented extension of partisan warfare. Here in Ohio presidential races are close but the congressional delegation is extremely republican. Does this give us the right to redraw all of the lines if the state Dems get power in 2006? If not, why not?

Marc

Posted by: Marc at September 22, 2003 06:33 AM | PERMALINK

The goal of getting lines drawn is to gerrymander the states you control and to get impartial lines drawn by a judge in the states that you do not control. That makes you come out a winner. I think that its fundamentally unfair to have some states gerrymandered while other states are forced to live by the ruling of a judge. Either all states should have court appointed boundaries or all states should have their boundaries decided by the legislatures. Either its a partisan process or its not, and it shouldn't be for individual judges to decide.

Posted by: damon at September 22, 2003 06:56 AM | PERMALINK

Except that each party in each state has always been equally free to appeal to a judge. DeLay's little maneuver, contrary to his fond (and publicly expressed) belief, will not give the GOP any lasting new advantage nationwide -- it will just mean that both parties will now spend ALL of each decade redistricting their states over and over instead of doing it just once per decade, thus reducing still further the time they have to spend on actual state legislative debate. In some states this will give the Democrats an unfair advantage; in an equal number of states, on the average, it will give the GOP one; in some states biased judges will give the Democrats an unfair advantage; in an equal number of states, on the average, biased judges will give the GOP one. So neither party will win -- but the people will lose. Which was my -- and Will's -- obvious point.

Personally, I would be delighted to see an anti-gerrymandering Constitutional amendment -- and one of the best ideas I've been able to come up with so far is one that requires that every border between two House districts within a state must be along either a single line of latitude or a single line of longitude, thus tremendously reducing the ability of both parties to gerrymander at all. There are other ideas, however. Until one is adopted, we should definitely stick with the nation's long-time once-per-decade redistricting custom.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 22, 2003 09:51 AM | PERMALINK

All this appealing to judges might make some sense if we were really talking about NEW lines drawn IMPARTIALLY by a judge. We aren't. The judge drew the districts with his preeminent concern being maximum similarity with previous district lines. Previous district lines were intentionally gerrymandered in favor of Democrats. Therefore the judge was just recertifying an old gerrymander (as far as I can tell out of laziness).

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at September 22, 2003 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Bruce- either you don't know or don't care what the argument of the Texas republicans is. Their argument is that the legislature has the right to set the disctrict lines once after every census. Last year, a judge took control out of the hands of the legislature and set the lines - which means that the leguslature still hasn't had their chance. By the argument of the Texas republicans, once this is done the lines can't be redrawn again until after the next census. To me this is pretty reasonable. There shouldn't be half the states with non-partisan lines set by judges and half the states set by partisan statehouses. In Texas the republicans are in the majority and our system allows them to gerymander the lines to their benefit. Good or bad they should be allowed to do it, just like other states where judges did not step in.

Posted by: Damon at September 22, 2003 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

When a kid breaks a cookie jar they tend to say something like "the jar fell" - while omitting the fact that they made it fall.

If the Texas GOP really felt so strongly against tossing redistricting to a court they shouldn't have deliberately done so. The current maps have a number of GOP-majority districts that elect Democrats. None of the counterarguments presented here even bother to answer the fundamental point:

Repeated mid-decade redistricting does great harm to the political process. Cut the pious nonsense about it making a difference whether a judge drew the lines or not; this happens all the time. Answer the question about whether it is good for the democratic process if we continually redraw districts mid-decade...

Or whether we should stick to once a decade, which has been the pattern in all 50 states without exception for the last 50 years, and has only occurred a handful of times in the last century.

Calvinball is fun in a comic strip, but it is a bankrupt political philosophy.

Marc

Posted by: Marc at September 22, 2003 03:13 PM | PERMALINK

Marc makes a good point.

There are between 19-25 districts in Texas that voted Republican on basically every single race except for District rep. In my old district (very conservative, very religious), Charles Stenholm (D) has never faced a problem with re-election even though his district votes Republican in every other race.

The Republicans have flat-out LOST their District campaigns to Democrats because the people in these districts LOVE their Democrat District Reps. Now my old district will be split between two other major Texas cities, both two hundred miles away, and it is quite possible that our rural and urban representation will be lost to cities like Lubbock and El Paso. In the districts close to my current home, one rural city (population of less than two thousand) will now be split into three separate districts. And what about Austin? The Republicans are too scared to split up that district, mainly because they don't want to be forced to represent liberal constituents that they don't approve of.

This will eventually backfire on the Republicans because they are now setting a precedent that can easily be used against them in the future. This is leaving a bad taste in the mouths of most conservative Republicans that I have spoken with, and I can find very little support for this redistricting issue... even in the Baptist church lobby after Sunday service when every other Republican issue is usually placed upon a pedastel next to the Bible.

Posted by: pink pundit at September 22, 2003 03:29 PM | PERMALINK

Here is where we fundamentally disagree. You think that the system is more fair whenever you can remove gerrymandering. I think that its more fair to have a country where every state has gerrymangered districts than to have a country where half the states are gerrymandered and half are set by non-partisan judges. Having every state non-gerrymandered just isn't a possibility.

There won't be 'repeated mid-decade redistricting" because legislature can only set the district lines once after every census. In texas, the legislature has been unable to set the lines yet because the courts stepped in, now its the legislatures turn to try again. So pull out the crap about repeated mid decade redistricting because thats not the issue in this case.

The issue is whether legislature has the power to set the district lines or whether the courts have that power. It might be better for the democratic process if the courts set the lines in every state, but thats not the rules that have been set out for us to play by. As long as the rules allow for gerrymandering then everyone should be allowed to gerrymander.

Posted by: Damon at September 22, 2003 03:43 PM | PERMALINK

Pink- your argument is against gerrymandering in general and while I agree with you that it sucks, thats just what happens when you control the legislature in a state after a census.

And yes the republicans could get bitten in the ass by this in the future. Do you know if any states have democrat controlled legislatures and redistricting maps set by courts? (georgia I am pretty sure... not sure about others)

Posted by: Damon at September 22, 2003 03:48 PM | PERMALINK

Pink, many of the current Republican districts are just reelecting the Democrats they had from the original gerrymander from back in the days when Texas was a more Democratic state. You are attesting to the power of the incumbent.

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