Turf Wars in Texas Just the Tip of the Iceberg by Becky Schneider, 1st VP/NLR GIA

 In a departure from the usual information contained in the GIA section of the Journal, I felt compelled to tell you about some folks down in Texas.  While the incident itself is a state issue, the core cause and implications reach nationwide.  Some of the references to political parties may rile a few, but that is not the intention.  At stake is our ability to elect leaders we believe will represent our best interests and the best interest of our country, be they Democrat or Republican.  I ask that you look at the whole picture and decide for yourself if this is the America you want to fight for.

Background

            On May 12, 2003, 53 Texas Democrats, labeled the Killer “D’s,” left the Texas House without a quorum to prevent new legislation from being considered.  They set up camp in Ardmore, Oklahoma, as a last resort to thwart the “ram it down your throats” effort for a redistricting bill inspired and pushed by U.S. Rep. Tom Delay, R-Sugarland, Texas.  The National Republican Party decided that not enough Republicans were elected to Congress in a state that, for the most part, voted Republican.  The districts in question switched parties when it came to electing their Congressman, all of whom were incumbent, conservative Democrats who had represented their constituents well, and that was unacceptable.

            Redistricting was decided by the Supreme Court in 2001 because Texas Senate Republicans blocked a redistricting bill believing the Courts would issue a more favorable ruling.  Based on the 2002 election, for the most part, they got what they wished for.  But, Mr. Delay did not think it was enough, so he drew a new map, one that outraged rural Texans from both parties by joining rural districts to Republican vote-rich suburbs.  One of the more ludicrous suggestions was to split Austin, Texas into 4 parts, the eastern section being connected with Houston suburbs and the southwestern section reaching all the way to the Mexican border (that’s a long way in Texas).  Another, highly contested change was to remove the military base of Ft. Hood in Kileen, Texas (central)  and attach it to a suburb of Fort Worth.  Best I can tell, any Texan would be hard pressed to figure out just who they should contact if they had an issue, and forget about stopping by their office 500 miles away.

            There have been hard issues faced by the Texas legislature this session, and the majority party has been heavy handed in their approach to those issues, so this act of defiance was not in retaliation to the majority pushing through their agenda.  The final straw for those opposed to redistricting occurred when the House leadership refused to address any other bill until redistricting was brought to the floor.  These issues were not liberal “bleeding heart” issues.  They involved the budget crisis, school finance reform, parity for Medicaid payments between different parts of the state, as well as aid to children and the elderly.  Even Governor Perry’s declared emergency in addressing the homeowner’s insurance crisis had yet to be brought to the floor.  Compromise was not on the table as far as the House leadership was concerned.  While being part of a minority party in any legislature brings with it the reality that important issues will be passed despite opposition, it does not excuse the “Get Over it, we won” and we want more attitude that flies in the face of  the democratic process.

It appears even the Committee hearings were a ruse.  While lasting into the wee hours of the morning over several days, 121 representatives of cities and counties across the state voiced their opposition to the plan, and only 11 testified for it.  These hearings amounted to nothing more than a “kangaroo court” even Judge Roy Bean would have been proud of.  The actual, preferred redistricting plan was not presented until late the final night of committee hearings after most witnesses had gone home.  From the reactions of committee members it was fairly clear they had known what was to be presented all along and the hearings and testimony were merely a formality.

The Texas House successfully halted that first salvo in spite of hot pursuit by state and federal law enforcement, but in the interest of winning at any cost, Governor Perry called a Special Session to the tune of $1.8 million, which Texas does not have, to readdress redistricting.  It passed the House along party lines, and is now being dealt with in the Senate where opposition is strong on both sides of the aisle.  However, with leadership positions at stake, it may have a chance of passing.  Its approval hinges on using underhanded tactics to promote a fair plan in committee, changing it when it gets to the floor for debate, and changing the rules for voting from a 2/3rds majority to a simple majority.

Issues

            While this particular situation occurred in Texas, and the background given above is a cursory account of everything that went on, the political message is nationwide.  Our rights as thinking, voting citizens of our country are being taken out of our hands and put in the hands of the politicians with less than honorable intentions.  Texas is not the only state where the national Republican Party has pulled these shenanigans.  Every state, whose 2002 elections resulted in a Republican majority, has been targeted.  Texas just stands out for their resistance to it.  This type of strong arm politics has been going on at the national level for several years, but it is increasingly disturbing now that it is hitting closer to home.

            Regardless of your party affiliation, the bottom line is the country should not be ruled by extremists from either end of the spectrum, or by the tyranny of the majority, but by our ability to see both sides of an issue and make determinations and laws based on common sense and what is best for constituents and for our nation.  Our system was never intended to eliminate the minority and create a one-party system.  The fall out from such an occurrence would be devastating for every working person and retiree, rich or poor.  If this tact is allowed to continue, perhaps our next election should be for emperor.

            Bear in mind that the targets of Tom Delay’s reinventing of American politics are white, male, conservative Democrats over 40 (nicknamed for a short time the WD-40’s).  These are not liberals against business or the American dream, just congressman who try to do the best they can to represent the people that elected them.  A self-proclaimed Republican from Columbus, Texas (east of Houston) thanked the Killer D’s for standing up for democracy.  He wrote, “We are all proud of you, this coming from a lifelong Republican, who will never vote Republican again.”

Remember:  In America, voters pick their Congressmen.  Congressmen don’t pick their voters.  It is not about politics, it is about democracy.

To learn more about the GIA, please visit our website with our link from the BLE Website or contact me at (915) 581-1373.

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily that of the BLE or GIA.  Any problems you have should be addressed to Becky Schneider, BeckyGIA1@earthlink.net.