A Surprise? Not Really
When I first heard there might be an effort afoot for the Texas legislature to engage in redistricting, I found it hard to take Cragg Hines's outrage seriously.
As I have noted, the current boundaries were set up by a federal court after the legislature failed to agree on boundaries.
That's a circumstance that bothers me.
So when there was talk of the legislature actually putting together a plan and voting on it, yes -- I found that prospect preferable. And still do, even after the Dem vacation in Ardmore, OK.
Furthermore, it's perfectly consistent with the constitutional design of the state.
Now, that's a different issue than whether or not the current drive to remake the boundaries is partisan, or driven by opportunism, or even driven by the desire of a certain House powerbroker from Sugar Land to expand the GOP majority. All of these things are probably true.
But you know what? The status quo is partisan too -- it reflects a Democrat Texas that no longer exists. I don't blame Dems for their own partisan redistricting over the last couple of decades, as Texas trended Republican. Indeed, it's consistent with the constitutional design of this state. The drawing of these boundaries is necessarily political in Texas. We do not have impartial boards to draw the lines like some places. Perhaps we should, but that is a different discussion.
Under the current design, I prefer the representative branch that is charged with the drawing of these boundaries to fulfill the constitutional responsibility to do so rather than pass that responsibility off to federal judges. The folks who are so upset that Tom DeLay (who at least is a federal elected official from Texas) is engaged in politicking in Texas seem completely unbothered to have federal unelected officials engaged in same. I have a problem with that, and I've consistently said so. And I'd like to think that I would be consistent on this whatever party was the out party.
Do I think Governor Perry or Tom DeLay or other politicians are as motivated by concerns of constitutional design as I am? No. I'm not naive. And no, I'm not surprised that the GOP state party chair argued against a redistricting session when Dems held the edge. Honestly, I would expect no less from the party chair, because her job is political. If I were state party chair, I'd probably be forced into the same argument -- and all sorts of Dems could call me a hypocrite and point to all the things I've written here! *shrug*
It seems me to the best approach for the Dems is not to complain about the crass partisanship of a constitutional design that encourages it, but to 1) defeat any DeLay plan outright, which probably could have been achieved via parliamentary maneuvers short of the Ardmore vacation, or 2) let the Republicans hang themselves by overreaching, as the Dems in Georgia did with their redistricting plan, or 3) work in good faith to come up with a compromise that enjoys wide support and mitigates Dem losses.
Yes, (3) might be unlikely, but maybe not, given the level of media support for the Dem vacation in Ardmore last session and the amount of pressure they are likely to exert in favor of a "fair" plan (whatever that Platonic ideal might be in real life).
(06-24-03 Update) While I'm correcting spelling errors, bad links, and other things I missed last night, I might add a (4) to the items above, and that is the argument that a special session is too expensive when the state is in a financial crunch. I don't think that addresses the substantive issues, but it's a reasonable position.
[Posted at 21:28 CST on 06/23/03] [Link]