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Makes Me Want to Pull a Natalie Maines
by Jan Ireland
15 August 2003Texas

OK, I'll say it.  "I'm ashamed the Texas Eleven are from my state."

I’d like to get a really large venue somewhere, one that would guarantee me press coverage from the mainstream media, prance on stage and say it.  I just want y’all to know, I’m ashamed the Texas Eleven are from my state.  And that goes for the Filthy Fifty before them, too.  You could call it, pulling a Natalie Maines.

If you’re confused, Natalie Maines is part of the singing group Dixie Chicks, who pranced on stage in London at the beginning of the Iraq War, announcing that she was ashamed President Bush was from her home state of Texas.

I’m afraid I have to report that, though Natalie would undoubtedly whoop, as of this writing we adults here in the state of Texas are still waiting for those Texas state senators to come home.  But it looks like they’re going to have to suffer through golf and sightseeing and partying at the posh resort in Albuquerque, NM, a little longer.  The Texas State Supreme Court has rejected the Republican suit asking that the Texas senators be forced to come back to work. For those who don’t live in Texas, a recap may be helpful.

Eleven of twelve Texas state Democrat senators absconded; flew the coop; skedaddled; got out of Dodge – ran off from their job more than two weeks ago.  Their motive was to prevent the formation a quorum, so state business cannot be done in Austin.  Their first stated reason was to get Tom DeLay, Republican Majority Leader in D.C., out of local politics.  Baseless, and obviously obfuscation.  Certainly not the real target of the Democrat animus, since Tom DeLay is as much a citizen of Texas as they are.

Republicans are in the majority in Texas for the first time since statehood, holding all major state-wide elected offices, and garnering substantial voting margins in both 2000 and 2002.  You would expect representation in Washington to reflect that.  But it doesn’t.

Legislative redistricting in Texas is a constitutional obligation.  It’s done every ten years, after the nation’s census.  In 2000, sides couldn’t agree, and federal courts got the matter.  They made minimal changes, leaving the map essentially as it was before, favoring Democrats, despite substantial Republican gains in the state.

You may have heard the word gerrymandering lately, which is another obfuscation Democrats are throwing about.  They say the map is gerrymandered for Republicans.  (Pardon me, but the map doesn’t exist yet.  Democrats didn’t stick around long enough to finalize any maps.)

Democrats, we could argue, are more than passingly familiar with gerrymandering.  Ex-president Bubba’s nominee for assistant attorney general for civil rights Lani Guinier proffered incredibly gerrymandered maps years ago, leading to her quick political demise.  Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson, in charge of the 1991 Texas redistricting, has admitted that she sees redistricting as a power grab.  That episode, in which Democrats with about half of the votes drew districts that took about two-thirds of the seats, was described by some as the most outrageously gerrymandered redistricting effort in the nation. There is also a report of one legislator who got an out of season redistricting gift when he wanted to build a new house that would not have been in his old district.

As it is now, with the extended map from years ago, people in communities who voted Republican find themselves represented by a Democrat.  Some would argue that a party label really doesn’t matter, that these Democrats are conservative anyway, reflective of their districts. That’s another obfuscation.  Take a look at the voting records.  It surely does matter.  Bi-partisanship, you know, is only ‘one’ away from partisanship.

Drawing lines is a task done by the party in power, to the benefit of the party in power. It is obvious to all, except perhaps Democrats scratching for any last morsel of power, that those lines are even more out of date today.  People move.  Voting patterns change.  Businesses relocate. Republicans insisting on redistricting are not power grabbing.  They are trying to bring about up-to-date representation for the citizens of Texas.

Texas could conceivably emerge as the largest Republican Congressional delegation in the nation.  Consider what that would mean, with the national Republican majority in the House, Senate, and the White House. All these things have gone against the Democrats in Texas, making them the minority party.  That’s why they so furiously fight to keep even the word redistricting from being uttered.

It is interesting to note some of the current Texas media response to this issue, since response in 1991 seems to have been somewhat ho-hum.  Ken Herman of the American-Statesman chooses a title that seems on the surface to consider each side equally.  But look at a sentence inside.  “The battle was engaged by Republicans, including Gov. Rick Perry, being somewhat blinded by the arrogance of numbers.”   And consider this from Chris Robison of the Houston Chronicle:  “But the real ‘emergency’ for Perry, DeLay and other ‘scorched earth’ Republicans is to elect more members of their party to Congress.”  Note to Chris.  It’s not their emergency, it’s their job.  Question to the Chronicle.  How did Chris get to be Austin Bureau Chief.  Shouldn’t he be at least outwardly unbiased to have that job?

Makes you wonder how the coverage would have read, had the parties been reversed.

Senator Todd Staples (R-Palestine) pointed out that in the last three decades of redistricting episodes, Republicans have never once tried to bust a quorum.  In response, Senate Dean John Whitmore (D-Houston) derisively pointed out that there weren’t enough Republicans in all that time to manage a bust.  Even if they could not have busted the quorum, they could have chosen the same path as the Democrats.  I’m sure they would have enjoyed being fawned over by celebrities, or going on TV, more than sticking to their posts being voted down completely.  But they did not run off.  They did their job.

One commentator noted that redistricting would force minorities into Republican districts where their voices would not be heard.  Obfuscation here also.  No mention of 100 plus years of Republicans not being heard in just about any district.  No mention that more and more minorities are turning away from the Democrat party.   And no realization that that can happen to you when you buy a house in a new neighborhood.  You might just land in a hotbed of opposite party homeowners.

Yet another obfuscation is just poking its ugly head out, as if it had been saved for playing only if all other roadblocks seemed to be crashing.  Some are seeking to make this a civil rights issue.  Quorums were put in place to insure minorities had a voice, not to insure that dissenters could stop an entire legislature when things weren’t going their way.  These Texas Elevens are like the bratty rich kid, who wipes his nose and screams that if you don’t play his way, he’s taking his ball and going home.

Leticia Van de Putte (San Antonio), chairwoman of the Senate Democrat Caucus, said at a press conference recently that Texans should have government that “works for us, not against us.”   Tish said that, at a press conference she called in New Mexico.  It follows that if she was in New Mexico saying that, she wasn’t here in Texas working for us as she was supposed to be.  That’s her job.  That’s what she and the others were elected to do.  Texans should have state representatives and senators that work for us, and not against us. Tish’s statement is obfuscation galore.

We taxpayers are dealing with the effects of bills that died when they left.  Are they using state cards to get discounts in any way?  Are they receiving state funds in any way?  Are they being charged for the money taxpayers are expending because they ran off rather than facing an unpleasant aspect of their job?

And what about the illogic?  It’s a Texas issue, but the first group goes to Oklahoma, and the second goes to New Mexico?  It’s a Texas issue, but we’re giving planned spontaneous press conferences to national satellite feeds.  It’s a Texas issue, but whoo-oo-ee!  We got bandannas from Willy Nelson and we’re gonna be on HBO!

And here’s the kicker, folks.  After all their pontificating; all their bandannas; all their bussed-in, paid and unaware protestors; all their golfing, sightseeing, partying - their entire premise is a lie.  And, in my opinion, the greatest obfuscation of all.

I don’t think this whole issue is about redistricting.  I don’t think it’s about Tom DeLay or Rick Perry.  I don’t even think it’s about their losing power, poorly adjusted to that fact as they are.

I think the entire issue revolves around money.  And the fact that Republicans stood their ground, and would not let Democrats raise taxes to balance the budget.  Democrats were forced to accept cuts.  Deep cuts.  Cuts in money and services and perks, that they were used to having at their disposal to dispense for votes and power.  I think Democrats would have ‘adjusted’ to being the minority, sure that enough vestiges of power remained for them to continue their reign in actuality if not in name.  After all, they’re good at playing political hardball.  They learned from the Clintons.  (And by the way, this whole gameplan has a whiff of Clintonista. Is Bubba’s imprint on this, as it is said to be on fighting the California recall?)

But the Republicans stood their ground.  And, like children throwing tantrums, all that Democrats have left is lashing out at the parent.

In this case, lashing out will ultimately be about George Bush.  If they get their way, they’ll fester this.  They’ll simmer it.  They’ll stretch it out to the 2004 election.  Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the game plan all along.

Wouldn’t Natalie whoop about that?

Jan Ireland is a counselor and teacher.

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