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Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Imaginations run wild

In a story posted today at 6:11pm, the San Antonio Express News quotes a Democratic Congressman as "decrying the apparent agreement" just reached this afternoon on redistricting by Texas Republicans — "even before it was announced":

“The latest redistricting map is an affront to minorities and clearly dilutes the voting strength of Hispanics in Texas,” said U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio.

"As Republicans cynically seek to destroy the districts of Anglo Democrats, itself an attack on the political voice of minorities, Tom DeLay and his operatives in Austin gut the voting power of Hispanics in South Texas. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst is obviously going back on his word not to undermine minority opportunity districts.

“We have come too far to stand by while Republicans in Austin and Washington work to sideline the voice of Hispanics as they work day and night to gerrymander us into oblivion,” Rodriguez added. “They split communities and create unwieldy districts with greatly diminished Hispanic voting power, especially in the border districts of South Texas. This is retrogression, plain and simple.”

But the Houston Chronicle gives this report:

Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said the deal was complete except for checking the proposed map with a computer program for potential problems such as violations of the Federal Voting Rights Act or a Congressional district with too few people in it. The computer check, which began around 5 p.m., would take about two hours to complete, Nelson said.

So what do you call a Congressman who purports to be making nuanced factual judgments about a Congressional district map that he can't possibly have even seen, much less studied at length? 

My imagination fails me. 

I'm quite willing to make a large bet, however, that when we do get to see the map, we'll find that Congressman Rodriguez himself hasn't been "gerrymandered into oblivion."  Any takers?

According to another story in the Express-News, state senator Leticia Van de Putte claims that an unnamed Republican state senator "told Van de Putte that if Democratic senators acted 'like Mexicans, you will be treated like Mexicans.'"  But two other Dem senators who Van de Putte claims also were present to hear the comment — Frank Madla and Judith Zaffirini — "told the San Antonio Express-News on Tuesday that they couldn't recall the comment from any Republican colleague." 

It seems Sen. Van de Putte's imagination hasn't failed her.  Nor has Rep. Rodriguez' imagination failed him.  That's because for the Dems, it's all about making people think it's all about race — regardless of the facts.

Posted by Beldar at 07:25 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier), Texas Redistricting | Permalink


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(1) Mark Harden made the following comment | Oct 8, 2003 9:01:20 PM | Permalink

I posted at length on the latest Van de Putte race-mongering.

(2) omit made the following comment | Oct 9, 2003 1:14:25 PM | Permalink

My bet is that he did see the map. The computer check you're mentioning is a technicality, and I think basing your argument shows what a weak argument it is. I looked at the map for 10 seconds and could tell that it was unfair.

(3) Mark Harden made the following comment | Oct 9, 2003 1:29:55 PM | Permalink

I looked at the map for 10 seconds and could tell that it was unfair.

You will be pleased to know that the mandated Justice Department review of the map to ensure it does not adversely affect minorities will take much longer than 10 seconds.

Ciro, like Van de Putte out in New Mexico, is speaking irrelevantly when he speaks of a redistricting map that will adversely impact minorities - the Voting Rights Act, by definition, ensures that does not occur. This will be certified as fact in reference to whatever map comes out - that it does not disfranchise minorities. Period. Anything said by anyone else before or after the review is simply irresponsible race-baiting - whether they've seen the map or not.

(4) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 9, 2003 4:47:39 PM | Permalink

Omit, thanks for posting. But you're demonstrably wrong.

Re-read the newspaper article I quoted:   Ciro was speaking "before [the agreement] was announced." And per today's Houston Chronicle, "Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said that around 2:30 a.m. today, the map was finalized, paving the way for a vote by Texas' House and Senate on Friday."

Your ten-second argument shows that you, too, have no interest in the actual facts, but only in blasting what the Republicans are doing. You couldn't have taken a serious look in that amount of time, and you therefore can't be taken seriously when you argue that it's "unfair."

(5) George Purcell made the following comment | Oct 10, 2003 11:35:16 AM | Permalink

Sorry, you're an idiot. The portions of this map dealing with the Valley and Dallas/Houston are the same as King's House map released earlier this week. Rodriguez had plenty of time to look at that.

(6) omit made the following comment | Oct 10, 2003 12:31:21 PM | Permalink

I think you're being disingenuous here, and you're mincing minor points to discredit Rodriguez and Democrats. In fact, we could turn this statement around on your own opinion: "you, too, have no interest in the actual facts, but only in blasting what the Democrats are (saying)."

I usually respect your educated opinions, but I can't respect this one. As George mentions, Rodriguez was probably privy to a version of the map that wasn't changed that greatly by a computer program checking for potential problems.

It's an extremely gerrymandered map. A 1st grader could look at the map and understand that in 10 seconds. Just look at the ridiculous curvy-swervy District 19 in West Texas. The map pays no attention to either the House or the Senate maps, and it kowtows to Craddick's immature ambition to have a Midland district at the expense of much larger areas in Texas.

Though I don't support what the Republicans are doing or the way they're going about it, I was perfectly amenable to the Senate map. The Republicans could have used that map to gain a few seats without the court rewriting it. But they made an obscene power grab, which if it does pass, will make people even more cynical about the political process in this country.

(7) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 10, 2003 12:39:12 PM | Permalink

Mr. Purcell, ad hominem attacks generally reveal more about their makers than their targets, and it's for that reason I've left yours unedited. Be advised, though, that while dissent is welcome here, incivility is not.

Some of Congressman Rodriguez' remarks referenced "border districts of South Texas"; others were directed to the map as a whole, or if only to portions, then to those portions currently represented by Anglo Democrats. From press accounts, it seems reasonably clear that changes and adjustments were being made in the latter up until the last moment, well after Congressman Rodriguez' comments had been made and published. And until the final map was published, there was always a real possibility that portions previously approved provisionally would still be changed, including the South Texas districts.

My original point was that Congressman Rodriguez had clearly already decided to cry "racial discrimination" before a final product had been agreed upon. That's a useful fact to know in evaluating his credibility, I think. And it clearly is a fact.

Omit, again, thanks for your post. I haven't yet had the opportunity to study the map at length, and the discussions I've read about it so far certainly conflict with each other, but I'll keep your comments in mind when I do so. I'm not yet commenting on or defending the map because unlike the good Congressman, I'd like to know what the hell I'm talking about before I do.

(8) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 10, 2003 9:44:39 PM | Permalink

I've pondered this post and its comments quite a bit today.

Omit, upon reflection, I must acknowledge that, at a minimum, I may have read your comments to say something different than what you intended.

You are certainly right that even at a quick glance — ten seconds' worth — the map is clearly "gerrymandered." There are a great many more extreme examples of bizarre, non-compact district shapes in recent history in Texas and elsewhere. But there can, and should, be no doubt that the district boundaries have been deliberately manipulated for political purposes. From the start of the Republicans' redistricting efforts, it's been absolutely clear that (a) voices from Washington, chief among them US House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, have had considerable motivational influence, and (b) there was a desired partisan end result to the effort, which was to remedy the odd situation where Democrats lack sufficient popularity among Texas voters to elect even a single state-wide official, yet continue to elect a majority of the state's Congressmen. The Republicans are correct to argue that what they've engaged in is a "counter-gerrymander" to undo the persistent effects of the 1991 Frost pro-Democratic gerrymander. But the likely result — assuming it gets past DoJ pre-clearance and then private lawsuits under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — will be a pendulum that has swung not just back to center, but right of center. And as I've noted before, because of the distorting influence of the Voting Rights Act — whose original anti-racist original intent has morphed into a profoundly racist current form — it's the white male incumbent Democrats who are going to take the likely hits simply because they're the only "legal targets" for partisan gerrymandering.

One can make a principled argument that this result — and indeed, that all partisan gerrymandering — is "unfair." If that's your point, Omit, then you and I probably agree, at least in the abstract. But unless and until the Supreme Court surprises us — which they could do in the pending gerrymandering case from Pennsylvania, although I doubt they will (which is a subject for another thread altogether that I'll start in due course) — partisan gerrymandering is legal, commonplace, and the most ugly but unavoidable exercise of small-d democracy in American politics today. It's gonna happen.

If instead you meant, however, that the new map is "unfair" because it's the product of racist intentions, then we do not agree at all. And that is my objection to the talking points of the Truant Texas Dems™ (or the "Texas Ten," if you'd rather) and to Congressman Rodriguez.

Genuine racism is a horrible, horrible thing — vastly more ugly than mere extreme partisanship (Republican vs. Democrat, Liberal vs. Conservative, Neo-Con vs. Pragmatist, Naderites vs. New Democrats, whatever). I'm a native-born Texan who attended a segregated elementary school and then an integrated high school. My grandfather was a Texas Republican who literally risked his life by challenging Ku Klux Klan members parading around the courthouse square in my home town during an era in the early 1920s when the Klan damn near took over Texas politics outright (also a good subject for a later post someday). I don't deny that there are vestiges of genuine racial hatred left in Texas, but I'm proud to claim that they've mostly been driven underground now. And I genuinely do not believe that racism has motivated the current redistricting efforts. Racism gets in the way of raw partisanship; racial stereotyping is no longer a smart proxy for political viewpoints.

For those who are serious about opposing genuine racism — for those who are committed to the idea of a future that is color-blind — what Congressman Rodriguez is doing, what Leticia Van de Putte is doing, what MoveOn.org is doing is profoundly offensive. They lack evidence to back up their wild cries of Republican racism. And at the same time, they treat minority members as only being "meaningful" if they're Democrats, and insist that only Democrats can represent minorities' viewpoints. They've become the party of stereotypes and hysteria, but they seem insistent upon "playing the race card" again and again because it still has emotional resonance even when it's without logical, factual underpinnings.

That's more stomach-turning than the most extreme partisan gerrymandering because it's based on a lie, and because it's deliberately manipulative of the very people who the Democrats are falsely claiming to be "protecting" and "representing."

(9) Laura in DC made the following comment | Nov 6, 2003 1:58:35 PM | Permalink

Just because it had not been announced publicly does not mean the Democrats did not know the details of it.

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