AUSTIN, Texas -- Oh great, now we have a bunch of Texas
Democrats hiding out in Albuquerque (which is very difficult to spell), and
I'm here holding the bag, trying to explain what this particular spate of
lunacy in our state is all about. Spare me, Lord.
OK, if I really have to do this deal ... see if you can think
back to when you were a kid -- 5, 6, 7 -- and you were always getting blamed
for something one of your siblings had done, or you didn't mean to knock
over something but your old man whopped you for it anyway.
The classic cry from the heart is, "BUT IT'S NOT FAIR!"
Naturally, further on down the line, all of us experience some variant of
John F. Kennedy's observation that "life is not fair." Exactly when, where
and under what circumstances we give up on expecting life to be fair
obviously varies from cancer to KIA to divorce to other of life's more
Basically, the reason 12 Democratic senators from Texas are on
the lam in New Mexico is BECAUSE IT'S NOT FAIR. You may think that's
childish, but there are some important principles at stake here. Like,
you're supposed to play by the rules. And you're not supposed to change the
rules in the middle of the game. And then, just a minor point, there is the
small matter of democracy.
Starting at ground zero, redistricting -- the drawing of the
maps under which politicians run for public office in various districts --
is supposed to take place the year following the decennial census. In this
case, 2001. Because the Texas House and Senate could not agree that year,
the matter went to the courts, as it is supposed to if the legislature
deadlocks. The courts drew the congressional district maps, as they were
supposed to, under well-established rules -- and that was that.
Redistricting over until 2011.
Then Karl Rove and Rep. Tom DeLay of Sugarland, Texas -- neither
of whom has ever been elected to run the state of Texas -- decided to use
the new Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature to ram a
truly hideous redistricting plan through the legislature without the public
hearings required by law. In the great tradition of artful gerrymandering --
now called Perrymandering in honor of Gov. Goodhair -- this Rove/DeLay map
qualifies as a Dadaist masterpiece, with elements of Picasso. It was a
beaut. Divided Austin into four districts, one of which ran down to the
In order to stop that travesty, House Democrats
fled to Ardmore, Okla., breaking the quorum necessary to conduct business.
End of bill, end of session. Then Goodhair called them all back for a
special session on one item -- redistricting. This time, public hearings
were held, and at every one of them citizens showed up to protest
vociferously -- the Texas Rangers had to be called in at the McAllen
The obligatory committee meetings became ever more surreal.
Meetings would be called for 2 p.m. in one location and then start at 7 p.m.
in another. People started to call it "hide and seek government." Citizens
stayed to testify until 2 a.m. and were treated contemptuously by the
presiding Republicans. Then Senate Democrats, plus the widely respected
Republican Sen. Bill Ratliff, stopped the bill under the Senate rule that
requires a two-thirds vote to bring up new business. Stalemate. End of first
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, announced
he was ditching the two-thirds rule, and Goodhair promptly called yet
another special session. Exit Senate Democrats, busting the quorum in their
It costs the state, which, you may recall, is highly broke, $1.7
million per special session. If you look at it another way, it could be
considered public campaign financing. See, Tom DeLay can pick up maybe six
new Republican votes in Congress under a Perrymandered map at a total cost
to the taxpayers of $5.1 million (assuming the D's stick it out in
Albuquerque and Goodhair calls yet another special session). Whereas it
would cost the Republicans tens of millions to legitimately elect
Republicans under the current districts. So, all Texans are now paying for
the privilege of electing more Republicans.
The irony is that the six conservative rural Democrats targeted
by the R's are elected out of Republican districts, districts where the
majority votes for a Republican president, governor, etc., and a Democratic
congressman because they know and like their congressman. Lot of unhappy R's
In the stupefying hypocrisy sweepstakes, I'd like to salute
Arlene Wohlgemuth for saying, "When we (R's) were in the minority, we worked
in a bipartisan manner." That would be the same Arlene Wohlgemuth who
notoriously killed off dozens of bills in a fit of pique in the infamous
"Memorial Day Massacre."
But the palm for hypocrisy goes to Goodhair for his immortal
declaration that Democrats are harming the poor children of Texas. I thought
I would upchuck. It was Perry and the R's who insisted on slashing social
services, including health insurance for poor children, rather than raise
taxes. He now claims the D's are holding up the distribution of a new pot of
federal money we just got. He didn't even open the call of the last special
session to bills to disburse the money; said it wasn't necessary.
Even in politics, no one gets to lie that bad.
To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other
Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web
page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2003 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.