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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

There was nothing "culpable" about the 2003 Texas redistricting

I'm angered to read the following passage in a very silly and badly informed article called The End of Gerrymandering, and in particular, I'm dismayed to read it in the Weekly Standard:

But Republicans have not been without culpability, especially in recent years. The mainstream media has naturally sought to highlight this, especially the "DeLay Plan" to gerrymander Texas to the GOP's advantage mid-decade without even waiting for a new census. This occurred in 2003, when the Texas legislature, newly controlled in both houses by Republicans, redrew lines established by a court in 2001 after legislative deadlock. The gerrymander, which created several more GOP-leaning seats in the Texas delegation, ultimately was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Incoming Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, then chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, opined: "Every redistricting is a partisan political exercise, but this is going to put it at a level we have never seen. That's the gift that the Supreme Court and Tom DeLay have given us."

I have several questions for the authors, Christian Whiton and Larry Greenfield: Why do they think it was appropriate for the citizens of our nation's second most populous state — a state that has trended Republican since the early 1990s, and been solidly Republican for more than a decade — to continue to live with a pro-Democratic gerrymander from the 1990s that no longer remotely reflected Texas' majority-Republican status? Why should we have to continue to submit to a Congressional district map that was specifically designed to give, and in fact gave, Democrats a majority of Texas' seats in Congress when not a single Democrat could win election to a statewide post?  Why should we pretend that a three-judge federal court — one whose judges candidly and expressly recognized their own lack of political legitimacy, since it was comprised of unelected judges holding life tenure from the single branch of the state or federal government least responsive to small-d democracy — was entitled to have its decision (which made the least possible changes necessary to the 1990s pro-Democratic map to accommodate Texas' new seats due to the 2000 Census) written into stone?

Why, in short, are Christian Whiton and Larry Greenfield swallowing hook, line, and sinker the most incredibly misleading anti-democratic clap-trap of the disingenuous Hard Left (viz: Rahm Emanuel!), describing as "culpable" a readjustment of Texas' districts to closely reflect modern-day Texans' own voting patterns?

What Rahm Emanuel meant was that Tom DeLay and the Supreme Court had given lying Democrats like him a fact-pattern that they could continue to twist, in order to mislead people into thinking that a legitimate democratic process reflecting the wishes of a majority of Texas voters, as expressed through their elected state legislators and governor, was instead a racist and improper one.

I expect better of the Weekly Standard's editors than to print this kind of drivel. The byline tells us that "Christian Whiton is a State Department political appointee. Larry Greenfield serves on the Resolutions Committee of the California Republican Party. The views expressed are their own." But that frankly doesn't excuse the fact that this piece goes out of its way to insult the citizens of Texas and their duly elected state leaders.

Far outside the Beltway, here in Texas, we don't see a problem with our own elected officials — rather than even very good federal judges — drawing our Congressional district map. Culpable? No, that's democracy. That's why America has a Census every ten years, and that's why redistricting is supposed to be done by the combined action of state legislatures and state governors thereafter. Indeed, the voters of Texas reacted to the Dems' 2001 stonewalling in the state legislature by electing more Republicans, who as a result were able to break the Dems' attempts to stonewall and boycott in 2003. There's nothing wicked about voters punishing a party which was badly abusing even its minority status; rather, it's a text-book example of the success of representative democracy.

(The rest of the Whiton and Greenfield piece expounds the great virtues of the new system just passed into law for California that is supposed to make redistricting "nonpartisan." That's about as clever, and is about as likely to be effective, as passing a constitutional amendment requiring state legislators or state governors to be "wise." Redistricting is inherently a political exercise. Moreover, Supreme Court precedent and civil rights legislation, most prominently the Voting Rights Act of 1965, make it impossible for states to redistrict in a random, apolitical fashion anyway: Even if they try to avoid partisan issues, the law's assumptions (among them the repugnant proposition that only Democrats can represent blacks and hispanics) and repercussions will require them to consider the political effects of their actions. I have no confidence that the new California plan will work; indeed, California seems to me and many of my fellow Texans to be most useful as the political laboratory for testing out the most conspicuous failures that the other 49 states can then observe and avoid.  (See point #5 here.) But I wish them luck in what I nevertheless believe to be an impossible and unrealistic task, and I would thank those like Whiton and Greenfield who believe otherwise to withhold their insults to the State of Texas at least until the day — indeed the decade, or two — in which the new California plan has proven itself to be an even arguably viable alternative.)

Posted by Beldar at 12:44 AM in Politics (2008), SCOTUS & federal courts, Texas Redistricting | Permalink


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(1) Brownie made the following comment | Nov 26, 2008 8:08:40 AM | Permalink

I started to read this insane article but couldn't finish it. The authors evidently drank a great big cup of gullible just before writing it. Once again, you said it all just the way I wish I could have.

(2) A.W. made the following comment | Nov 26, 2008 9:18:31 AM | Permalink

Gerrymandering is a questionable practice, even when done on the up and up.

I think we have reached the stage where a well-written computer program could draw the districts without any partisan considerations, and frankly i think maybe that is the right way to go. No one should have an artificially safe seat in congress.

This article might not speak very intelligently on the subject, but it is a bad practice.

(3) Carol Herman made the following comment | Nov 26, 2008 10:39:42 AM | Permalink

Here's another fine example of how some of the greatest talents in the GOP get crushed. Tom DeLay went to DC, I think back when Reagan won. 1980? 1984? What made Tom an amazing talent is that he could do exactly what democrats did. He could wield power. (And, this scared the hoozy-wat'sits out of the arses of the other GOP winnahs.) I know. I Know. I write sentences that are incomprensible to right wingers. So be it. They suffer from the same disease: Easily spooked.

But DeLay, understanding power, USED IT! Sure. He became a threat TO THE OTHER SIDE! And, if you think "the other side" has no way to deal with the GOP, then most of you right wingers are just nuts. Not that I care.

But just like a race horse expects the rider and saddle; ALL politicians know the sharpest knives are held by their own, as close to their backs as possible.

Anyway, along came charges (from Austin). So, I've now learned that Austin, in particular, wields State powers far in excess of what they might deserve IF powers were actually spread about fairly. THEY. ARE. NOT!

Powers, naturally, may not spread at all?

That's why a few nutters (and, I believe this is also coming out of Austin. Where some "religious folk" have gotten ahold of the State's curriculum; and they want to "schtupp" in "Intelligent Design." The argument that God made the universe in six days. Scientific evidence be damned. Even if the oil is underfoot. And, got "made" more than 6,000 years ago. Doesn't matter when you're selling fairy tales.

Oh, well. Tom DeLay made a deicision to step "out" of the House. (In our universe, today, when lots of men decide to "step out of da' house.") Why? Well? DeLay is a middle-class guy. And, what he saw were LEGAL EXPENSES that would have bankrupted him out of his kazoo. While he was also getting treated "in da' House" ... the way Newt Gingrich learned happens with the GOP kiesters get all lathered up. You want to blame the donks? Go ahead.

Sometimes, let's say you go and look at the Pentagon. You could just scratch your heads. How come there's brass on top deserving nothing else but the CAPTAIN QUEEQ award, and instead they sit in swivel chairs; dictating idiotic policies? Worthless, when it comes to helping out the president with good advice. And, guess what? A man can cut his career short IF the "swivel chairs" go into one of their extended uproars. Again. Not as if I care.

But Tom DeLay had one talent others don't possess. He was very clear cut on his rights to having a right-wing opinion. And, he also made clear to all those who stick their hands into taxpayer pockets; via the "legislation process." That the good days, when they had to appease only democrats, was over.

That's how DeLay fell. Too much jealosy among his own team. Because? He couldn't have been sacrificed, otherwise.

Sacrifice, he was.

And, today? DeLay isn't even a "spokes-person." That "honor" goes to Newt Gingrich; so used to "being a professor" that he can't understand it's not the fault of students. Nope. It's the guys that stand next to ya; claiming the same mantle.

Sure makes it easy for the democrats to take away your candy.

And, to make things worse, now? Dubya didn't even see the wipe-out coming.

(4) stan made the following comment | Nov 26, 2008 11:17:49 AM | Permalink

There are two kinds of Republicans -- those who get their "news" from the MSM and those who know better. It is becoming increasingly easy to see which are which.

(5) Michael J. Myers made the following comment | Nov 26, 2008 1:44:07 PM | Permalink

Mr. Dyer, redistricting is indubitably a political exercise. So the question is, who do you trust to do it? Here in California we've had numerous opportunities to redistrict as the state's population grew. You add or lose Congressional seats and you cut up the pie again. The folks up in Sacramento have perfected the art to the point where they've got it "just about right". What they mean by "just about right" is that the districts are so thoroughly gerrymandered that they might as well be rotten boroughs in early 19th century England. Increasingly there is no real contest once the GOP and the Dems have picked their candidates in the primary.

For the last 30 years, I've lived in what used to be a reliably Republican congressional district. Carlos Moorhouse (R) sat in the House of Representatives for 30 years or so. As a then registered Democrat, I would go down to the local voting precinct during the primaries. At the time the precinct usually had something like a 90% voter turnout; there would be a line to vote, and the poll workers would be canvassing the line looking for Democrats because "there's no waiting" at the one booth where Dems could vote. The Democrat primary candidate was usually some loyal party worker or school teacher set up like a lamb for the slaughter. He or she was encouraged/allowed to run by the Los Angeles County Democrat Council as a reward for loyal service.

Times and the precinct lines have changed. My District's Congressman, James Rogin(R) was a floor chairman of some sort for the Clinton Impeachment Proceedings. In the 2000 redistricting the boys in Sacramento made damn sure that Rogin would not ever serve in Congress again--and changed the district lines. I live where I've always lived--but I'm now in a solidly Democrat district where Adam Schiff(D) will keep going back to the House of Representatives until hell freezes over--if he chooses.

But aside from punishing Rogin, the boys in Sacramento generally agreed that districts should be set up as a series of "safe seats", i.e. no incumbent would be seriously challenged by an opponent from the other party.
I think just one of the California Congressional members faced a serious challenge in 2008. Similar results occur in our various State Senate and State Assembly districts.

I'm not certain that setting up an Electoral Commission for redistricting purposes will be any better than allowing the incumbent political carnivores in Sacramento to do the job. Their goal is the preservation of incumbency. The Commission's goal is goo goo government. And of course the Commission is beholden to their political masters who appointed them.

I'm not sure which method of redistricting is worse, but I voted for the Commission and I'd like to see them try in 2010.

(6) Beldar made the following comment | Nov 26, 2008 3:04:15 PM | Permalink

A.W.: With due respect to both you and the combined art and science of computer programming, politicians already make heavy use of computers in redistricting, but it's all data-base management. To write a program which would actually conduct the redistricting itself, one would need to quite literally reproduce, at a working and functional level, the combined professional and political consciousnesses of both a master lawyer/judge and a master politician.

But let's first assume that you've decided quite arbitrarily to cut out the politics. That means you don't care if, for example, the random result of your computer program is a Texas redistricting which gives, say, 28 of Texas' 32 Congressional seats to the Democrats — even though somewhere between 55% and 65% of the state's actual voters have voted for Republicans for the last 20 years or so. (Or 28 seats to the Libertarians — you weren't intending to cut them out of the process just because they haven't managed to actually elect anyone, were you? Because that would be partisan politics.) And you'd forfeit all of the state's seniority on House and Senate committees, all of its chairmanships and subcommittee chairmanships (or ranking member positions); you'd randomly redraw the districts to give no preference whatsoever to incumbents. Or would you? Maybe you write the program to address one of the main criticisms of redistricting as done by flesh-and-blood politicians, which is that it tends very strongly to protect incumbents. Fine, then, how much of an anti-incumbent bias are you going to introduce into your software? 10%? 50%? Because humans can already dial that sort of thing up and down, just through data-base management, using the existing programming, so you have to answer that question to write your program. No, sir, I'm sorry, the simple fact is that you'd have to write the politics into the program if you didn't apply it "by hand" because the issues to be resolved in redistricting are inevitably, quintessentially political issues.

But suppose you had some broad consensus among the citizenry to confer political legitimacy upon whatever arbitrary and rigorous political functions you'd written into your software. Under the Voting Rights Act, in the entirety of the Old South, and in significant chunks of even states like California, you'd have to satisfy the DoJ pre-clearance requirements. You'd have to show not only a lack of discriminatory intent -- which means trooping your programmers, and the people who gave them their marching orders, back into court to be picked apart on cross-examination -- you'd have to show a lack of discriminatory effect. Well, good luck there. I consider myself to be a good part-time scholar of the law on these subjects, such that there's a rough positive correlation between my predictions on what courts are likely to do on these legal challenges and what they actually turn out to do; but part of what I do in predicting is to take into account such things as the voting patterns and philosophies of specific judges based not just on who appointed them, but cases that aren't even superficially similar to VRA cases. Which is to say, I couldn't tell you exactly how I do it even if I tried, not with the precession a programmer needs to model that process. And even if your software could model the legal expertise of the very best legal scholars on Voting Rights Act and related matters, their success rates at predicting the outcome of the actual cases is only modestly better than mine; and while we're on that topic, do you choose the liberal pro-Democratic "expert" or the (more rare but not non-existent) conservative pro-Republican one? If the latter, is it the fiscally conservative pro-libertarian GOP law professor who you model, or the (still more rare) compassionate conservative family values one?

And after you've made all those choices — are you still going to point to the result as being "apolitical" or even, more mildly, "non-partisan"?

No, sir. This is a process which is inevitably, entirely, fundamentally a matter of human judgments. We can make babies now without sex, or anything that is even remotely erotic. We can't make Congressional districts without politics, though — not without repeal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and, probably, some sort of amendment to the federal Constitution. It's a fool's errand. And more than that — it's a mistake to even try. Yes, redistricting is hardball politics at its most gritty and raw and unattractive; but that's the necessary truth when it comes to pointing at people and saying, "You ... not you ... you ... you ... you ... not you ... not you," just like when the kids are picking their teams on the playground. The best one can hope for is that it's kept at the most representative level of democracy — which, in our federal system, is at level of the state legislature (with bill-approval functions of the state executive): Those are the politicians closest to the people, most responsive to their will, easiest to hold accountable, and easiest to replace (as Texans did to quite a few Democrats in 2002) when they misbehave.

Mr. Myers: With due respect, neither you nor anyone else knows right now how the commission in California is going to come down on such matters as how much weight to give to incumbency protection after the 2010 Census. All you, or anyone, knows is how the members will get picked, sorta kinda and in theory; no one even knows whether there will be a serious attempt by one or both sides to exert some influence notwithstanding the new layers of supposed political insulation and involvement of the "non-political classes." All California has done is take an exquisitely sensitive political decision -- which party ought to get how many safe districts, and how safe should they be for incumbents -- and put that into the hands of people they can't vote out of office if they don't like the result. That seems to me to be profoundly anti-democratic, especially when most of the perceived problems (lack of real competition, incumbents holding seats forever regardless of their competency) so obviously cry out for more vigorous small-d democratic solutions.

Commissions just screw up accountability. Accountability in politics is a good thing; we need more, not less. I'm all in favor of Californians having the right to try to prove me wrong on this, but I personally think it's an awful, awful idea — one that I oppose now for my own state, and one for which I would want to see several decades' success elsewhere before even beginning to seriously consider arguing for on a nationwide basis.

Someone is about to say in these comments, as always on my redistricting posts: "Well, Beldar, you rock-ribbed Republican, you died-in-the-wool conservative, you know that when the worm turns and the Dems return to majority control in Texas, then Martin Frost or his political heir is going to do another pro-Democratic gerrymander, and you'll cry bloody murder then, won't you?" The answer is that I'll cry bloody murder at the prospect of giving the Dems back majority control in Texas, and I'll do my best as a blogger, pundit, occasional political campaign contributor and volunteer, and voter to prevent that. But yeah, I believe in small-d democracy, which means that I have to acknowledge that — just as the Dems have regained control nationally — the Dems may regain control statewide. Elections have consequences. And the consequence of winning them at the state legislative and state executive level is that your side gets to do the next gerrymander. This is not new news.

(7) stan made the following comment | Nov 26, 2008 4:04:54 PM | Permalink

OT, Beldar, but comments like this just irritate me no end. From Megan McArdle "But no one wants to hear that. Everyone wants a villain: lefties want to hear that it was greedy bankers, or cold-hearted deregulators (or better yet, both!) who are entirely and 100% to blame; conservatives want to hear that it was poor people taking out loans they knew they couldn't pay off, and a pandering government that leaned on companies and the taxpayer to hand those irresponsible wretches free money."

I've never heard or read any conservative who has said that poor people are the villains. Not one. Megan debases her currency with this garbage.

(8) Leif made the following comment | Nov 26, 2008 5:23:43 PM | Permalink


Is the repugnant assumption that only Democrats can represent blacks and hispanics, or that only blacks and hispanics can represent blacks and hispanics?

(9) qrstuv made the following comment | Nov 26, 2008 6:35:44 PM | Permalink

Leif, please don't tell me you honestly need help with that.

(10) Beldar made the following comment | Nov 26, 2008 11:05:35 PM | Permalink

Leif: Mostly the former. One of the "targets" in the 2003 Texas redistricting was liberal Congressman Lloyd Doggett, as close to a San Francisco Hard Left Democrat as has ever been grown in Texas. When his district effectively disappeared, he immediately decided to run in a new district that had been created, which ran from the edge of Austin all the way down through the Rio Grande Valley. It was a majority hispanic district, and was expected to produce a new hispanic Congressman, almost certainly a Democrat. Indeed, a hispanic female with local government experience in the Valley ran for the seat. But Doggett promptly moved his residence into the new district, outspent his opponent something like 20 to 1, and buried her in the Democratic Primary. This makes me angry and sad, but the Dems are just thrilled to simultaneously accuse the GOP of practicing racial politics that are effectively mandated by the Voting Rights Act while themselves sticking to the 1940s-era "El Patron knows best what to do for his little brown brothers" mentality. Doggett will lead the Dem chorus, whining and lying relentlessly about how the GOP has "disenfranchised" black and hispanic voters, when in fact he's more guilty of that than any Republican at any time in Texas history.

(11) Michael J. Myers made the following comment | Nov 26, 2008 11:35:50 PM | Permalink

Mr. Dyer, I understand that you don't like commissions because they screw up accountability; similarly one ought not to like redistricting by judicial fiat because that screws up accountability. I'm certainly all for accountability--political mistakes should have consequences.

But I can't agree with your assertion that leaving it in the hands of the legislature provides for accountability. In a thoroughly rotten boroughed state like California the only thing that changes when an Assembly or State Senate seat changes hands is the name of the new incumbent. The (R) or the (D) behind the seatholder's name stays the same. I happen not to care for my Congressman Adam Schiff(D). I can vote in as many elections as I want--and Adam or someone else with a (D) behind his name will still represent me. Where is the accountability in that? All over California voters are in a position where one party is going to win the seat virtually for the foreseeable future.

I agree that some communities in the state are firmly set in their political preferences. I doubt that a Republican could get elected to any office in the San Francisco Bay area, and a Democrat would have trouble in some, but not all, parts of Orange County. Nevertheless we've got an entire state where no more than one or two Congressional seats are seriously in play as between the two parties in any given election cycle. That's simply wrong. These guys have taken an Incumbent's Protection Oath to insure that each party preserves any seat that it has forevermore. The only time change occurs is when they have to cut the redistricting pie when a new decennial census comes out--and then any correction made is only at the margin.

(12) Carol Herman made the following comment | Nov 27, 2008 1:44:49 AM | Permalink

Come on. Tom DeLay was not Mr. Goody Two Shoes! He had the moxey to go to lobbyists, back in the days when the GOP had strength in Congress; and he spelled out to them that "he was the new guy in town." And, he expected to be treated as well as they were used to treating democrats.

In other words? Tom DeLay demanded JOBS for people loyal to him. And, this was new. Since only democrats had made those demands in the past. And, no one knew what to do with DeLay!

Here he was, a middle class guy, who was suddenly able to deliver the political bounty when your party reaches majority.

I read DeLay's delightful autobiography. He said when he first got to DC, he was known as "hot-tub Tom." And, he spent a good deal of time getting drunk (on free liquor). And, enjoying the perks. He nearly killed his marriage. And, he saw very little of his daughter, who was quite young. Later, around 1987, he straightened out. And, came clean with his wife. And, lucky him, he did find a really great woman. So the womanizing wasn't even worth it. Except that when you're elected, guess what? Candy falls in your lap.

Tom DeLay came into his own when Newt Gingrich began his "Contract with America," 1994. And, DeLay began wielding power!In the world of politics, this is going to make you enemies.

Just too many independent egos running around DC.

But DeLay wouldn't have stepped down if he didn't see clearly that fighting the fraudulent charges brought against him, would have bankrupted him. (That's why when you get victories, it's called Pyrric.)

As to redistricting; it's a shame a "commission" took over; because the only reason you want to be in politics is to finally wield power. And, call it what you want, dragging the borders around to outline different seats; among the House members, shows ya that to stay in DC you need to think ahead. And, yes. To garner voters who are easiest for you to please.

James Rogan, by the way, LOST his seat, because he was, in fact, on the House Committee to impeach Bill Clinton. (He had been a former judge.) Still, when the roomful of lawyers got to question Monica on TV; she bested them. And, James Rogan? He was punished for pushing himself high enough to be noticed. And, angry voters voted him out. (They also didn't put any signs out on their lawns.) I live in this district.

And, if you'd like a really big surprise; since people don't do "lawn signs" like they used to do ... Obama had lawn signs out in the most exclusive neighborhood. In this district. You bet, I was surprised. I didn't expect it. And, the signs ran 8 to 1. No one, here, seemed all that enthused with McCain.

David Drier is the congressman from this district. (Same one that tossed James Rogan.) Yes, Drier is a republican. And, the only signs of his I saw, were high up on lamp posts. Stretching through Arcadia and Monrovia, as well. Because Drier voted for the bailout, I'm sure he sweated it out. But he won. Though, in the House, republicans are watching their seats shrinking away.

I think it's interesting that Nancy Pelosi, who knows a thing or two about wielding power; doesn't get the "investigations" that came DeLay's way. Yes, DeLay admits he was a "son-of-a-bitch." But a brilliant politician!

And, a brilliant politician, seeing the landscape developing, can realize it's time to leave. DeLay did. Hastert did. But they leave as individuals. If there was a team? You don't see any holes. And, when you have teams, and people leave, believe it or not the losses are obvious.

I'd take Tom DeLay over Newt Gingrich any day of the week. Now, if Tom DeLay was going to measure "loyalty," what do you think he would tell ya?

(13) Beldar made the following comment | Nov 27, 2008 2:57:10 AM | Permalink

Mr. Myers: I'm not arguing that state legislatures always, or even usually, set the right balance between incumbent protection and competition in redistricting. I'm arguing that redistricting as done by state legislatures is the least worst way to do redistricting. And ousting state representatives and state senators, or even a state governor, is something that is often more doable than ousting a junior Congressman. I'm not arguing that state legislators are perfectly representative. I'm arguing that they're vastly more representative, however, than some independent "commissioner" or board made up of same, and more representative than their federal counterparts, and a million-jillion times more representative than any three-judge panel pulled from the federal judiciary (which is who had had the last word about the Texas Congressional districts prior to the 2003 redistricting). Churchill had it exactly right: "Democracy is the worst form of Government, except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Well, sir, redistricting is small-d democracy at its least attractive and most unavoidable; everything else is worse. Redistricting by federal judges is absolutely the worst of all — better than outright canceling the post-Census elections by a hair, but only just that. The fabulous thing — to their enormous, but entirely (except for this blog) unsung credit — is that the federal judges who produced the 2001 map were very, very blunt and candid in expressing their extreme discomfort in being forced to become involved in this process, in being forced (by the Dems' stonewalling and intransigence, their intentional and unconscionable dereliction of their most solemn legislative duties) to take up the task of accommodating the new Congressional districts to which Texas was entitled based on the movements and growth of millions of people to Texas since the 1990 Census. The federal judges begged the state legislature to do its job; thanks to the 2002 election returns, it was finally able to in 2003. But the Dems persist in lying through their teeth about the results of that process. Those lies are what is "culpable."

Ms. Herman: I think you may have an exaggerated idea of the role that Tom DeLay played in the 2003 Texas redistricting. Yes, he and the Texas GOP congressional delegation were in frequent and close touch with their state GOP counterparts, just as Martin Frost and the Democratic congressional delegation had been with theirs in the early 1990s. But Tom DeLay had exactly zero votes of his own to cast. There was, instead, a broad-based consensus among Texas state representatives and state senators, one certainly including Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, to the effect that they had not only a mandate, but a political responsibility which obliged them, to complete the redistricting process that the Dems had stonewalled in 2001. You're being suckered by the press, and by Dem fable-makers and outright liars like Rahm Emanuel, if you think that redistricting was all about Tom DeLay, or even mostly about him. It just wasn't. If he had been hit by a bus walking across Congress Avenue in Austin during the middle of the process, it still would have happened, in just about exactly the same way.

(14) Carol Herman made the following comment | Nov 27, 2008 11:08:34 AM | Permalink

Ah, Mr. Dyer. You want to separate out Federal powers from State ones. And, I think this is a mistake. Everything ebbs and flows from DC. Which is why the RINO name calling has done so much damage.

Here, I am, definitely not "hot" for right wing ideas, and I'm telling you I'd vote for DeLay!

No, when he first got to DC, and the GOP was in the minority, all DeLay did was whore around. He became a worse drunk because the boozing was free. And, his nickname became "Hot Tub Tom." Definitely NOT a man I'd vote for!

But Tom DeLay, in his bones, owns leadership strength.

True, the states do "their own thing." And, the governor of Texas is notoriously a figure-head; like a hood ornament. Still, Dubya had left Texas for the White House.

And, just to compare two politicians; take a look. Dubya wasn't "halping" the GOP in Texas at all. What? Was he lacking in experience?

In 1994, when Newt Gingrich became MAJORITY Leader; you saw events turn. Finally, for instance, the GOP controlled all the committees. Who sat on them. And, this includes the flow of political monies NOT coming from lobbyists. Coming though from legislative packages.

Every single HOUSE member comes into DC through local politics. So, I'd suggest "why separate State from Federal?" On a local level, the districts "pick" the people they want to send to Washington. (Sometimes, it's like looking at the brides friends pick. And, you just scratch your head at these selections.)

On the other hand? DC seduced Tom DeLay. And, it nearly cost him his marriage. He wrote (in his autobiography), that when he got some help (and he mentions someone inside Congress.) He went on his knees and he cried like a baby. Whoring really doesn't give ya what a good marriage; and an adorable child can give. That's just the facts. (OR? When a man figures out his penis isn't his brains. And, he switches how one controls the other); you can see "a new person emerging from a rotting shell."

You're right, Mr. Dyer. Tom DeLay, stripped of his office, is not a power that speaks to anyone. Except a few. (Like Adlai Stevenson; when he was told "every intelligent person in America was going to vote for him," responded: "Alas, that's not enough to win."

Can you imagine if Tom DeLay's voice still got heard? What do you think he'd be able to do?

And, by the way, just for comparison, given that Sarah Palin is a natural on TV; what happens, ahead, when she speaks UP?

Very few people get the gift of swaying the public. Heck, it's like having Frank Sinatra's voice. Do you know there were people who said Frank Sinatra's voice wasn't "all that good." That there were "better singers." And, singers who didn't get the words out after the musical keys were struck.

Which could mean a lot of critics talk through their hats.

But if you want to really tackle the "gerrymandering" ... you'd have to have one of the brightest teachers in the room, given a platform.

The press can't sucker me. I don't even put on the TV! I cancelled the "Dish" ... and now save $40 a month. Where do I see the news? On the Internet. And, if I see something challenging, I'll read it.

Texas is so big, it should thrive, politically. And, it doesn't. Does New York State? Or California? How do you want to weigh this? Would be "influencing trends" be one measure?

As to "gerrymandering," a lot of good it did James Rogan! But he got replaced by another republican: Encumbent House Member David Dreir. Who just won his re-election bid, even though he voted FOR the bailout.

As to the bailout; the "insiders" knew the bonds in question were garbage. But Moody's and the S&P rated this garbage TRIPLE A. And, sold billions and billions. Then? There was a default rate that reached 14% of the mortgage holders unable to pay their monthly premiums. And, this collapsed those "split up and spit out" C.D.O's and C.M.O's. Now, what's that?

Here's how our economy got in trouble: By splitting apart good mortgages, and mingling a few into the "sand traps" of crap that wasn't worth ANY price ... in other words in a crunch would have their values drop to ZERO ... Is what Bush and the Congress faced. (After first legislating to form this collosal mess.)

It seems to stay afloat, the investment bankers were selling garbage to the "big guys." Pension funds. And, places like "The Korean Development Fund." Who got used to the high profits. And, nobody seemed to care that there was no underlying quality.

America, ahead, will suffer for years. There's no easy way out of this. Even though the TRILLION given to the monsters that created this stacked deck; has pretty much just flown out the window.

In our last Great Depression, people got so scared they ran to the banks to withdraw their savings. That's what faced FDR, as soon as he entered the White House in March of 1933.

If you think problems aren't interconnected; I think they are. Which is why so many who actually read my comments get so confused.

I think just like the ocean is a mass of interconnected molecules of water; so, too, are the things that spring between State and Federal legislation. Not so easy to separate. And, made worse, because it's hard to find good people.

And, then? How do you define "good people."

I'm saying Tom DeLay was among the few who understood power, and exercised it. Now, I'd say the same thing about Nancy Pelosi. You may think she's just a "crazy old lady." But she knows how to use her knife in the standard political knife fights. (And, I'd also point out that the knives don't go into her. Like they went into Julius Caesar, so long ago in the senate. And, then, yes. How Tom DeLay "got it." Because the GOP gets hissy fits when the news reports get nasty.

See if you can win with hissy fits.

(15) Xrlq made the following comment | Nov 27, 2008 9:26:16 PM | Permalink

I don't know enough about Texas to speak to the particulars, but as a general rule, the notion that having legislators determine their own districts is the "least worst way to do redistricting" doesn't pass the laugh test. The very concept of democracy demands that voters choose their legislators, not the other way around. Let the democratically elected Legislature determine everything else, but when it comes to their jobs, someone else has to be the one to decide.

As one who lived in California most of his life before moving to the United States to seek political asylum three years ago, I carry no torch for that state, but I can say without reservation that I do not share your non-confidence in the new California plan. The court-drawn boundaries of the 1990s may not have been perfect, but they were a hell of a lot more representative of the electorate than the districts the Legislature itself cooked up in the decades that preceded or followed.

(16) Beldar made the following comment | Nov 27, 2008 10:05:42 PM | Permalink

Xrlq, my friend, you're badly mis- and under-informed.

Courts virtually never draw up district maps from scratch. They haven't done so in Texas, and I would be stunned if they've ever done so in California either. Courts make the minimum changes necessary to a pre-existing map (drawn up by legislators) to permit an election to go forward. That's their only role.

The maps always start as something that state legislators have drawn up. State legislators draw up their own districts. And they draw up Congressional districts. That's the way it's always been done. If you don't like the way your state legislator votes on these maps, you should vote for a different state legislator, or run yourself. Use your First Amendment rights to urge others to do so too. That's the remedy. It's always been the remedy.

Offer whatever snarky remarks you want about my observation not "passing the laugh test," but yes indeed, throughout the entire history of the United States, legislators have indeed chosen their voters. I'm sure you already know that the very term gerrymandering dates back to 1810 and Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry — and it wasn't a new practice then, just a new funny cartoon drawn from a map drawn by Gerry.

And if there ever was, there simply no longer is anyone else who can decide these districts in an apolitical or nonpartisan manner. You think the California commission is going to be genuinely non-partisan? I've explained — about five times in this post alone — why it can't possibly be non-partisan, even if its members all genuinely wanted to be, because the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as currently interpreted and enforced by the federal courts, doesn't permit that. It's just naive to think you can take politics out of this; and being militantly naive is still being naive. Fuss and fume all you want, but there is no possible way that redistricting can become nonpartisan or apolitical unless that statute is repealed, and that's just not going to happen.

You hate the process. Fine, then you necessarily hate small-d democracy. What dictator do you propose to nominate to make these decisions? And once he can, what prevents him from making every other decision, at least indirectly? And how will you then vote against, and urge others to vote against, him? (Or "them.") Only someone very gullible can believe that you solve a problem of insufficient political accountability by creating a structure which insures less political accountability. I, for one, am unsurprised that a slim majority of the voters of California have proven to be that gullible; but I'm quite surprised that you choose to join them, my friend.

Wishing things were sweetness and light is a waste of your time, and with due respect, that's all you're doing here. Legislating sweetness and light is also a waste of time, and that's all the California proposition is doing.

(17) Leif made the following comment | Nov 28, 2008 12:54:27 AM | Permalink

Ah, I see now, Beldar. I was confusing the repugnant assumption in the Voting Rights Act -- that only blacks or hispanics can represent blacks or hispanics -- with the repugnant assumption to which you referred: The assumption by Democrats that only they can speak for blacks and hispanics.

(18) Xrlq made the following comment | Dec 1, 2008 4:27:24 PM | Permalink

I never said the new commission would be apolitical. Nice strawman, though. What I am saying is that they will not be self-interested in the way the legislators themselves are. Which should make their process about as political as the other 99% of what the legislature does.

And contrary to your hand-waving, California's district boundaries were a hell of a lot more reasonable in the 1990s than they are/were in the decades preceding or following. Anyone with a passing knowledge of California can tell that by a quick glance at the maps, or by a rough comparison of voter registration to party breakdowns in the Legislature, or by just about any other objective measure. The only measure by which the court fails vs. "democracy" is ideological.

(19) DRJ made the following comment | Dec 1, 2008 11:37:32 PM | Permalink

I can't decide between these two sentiments: Thank God for Texas -or- Don't Mess With Texas. So I'll just say Thank God for Beldar, the defender of Texas.

(20) A.W. made the following comment | Dec 2, 2008 1:15:11 PM | Permalink

Sorry for not speaking sooner.

Well, of course, I was talking ideally, and I stand by it.

For me there are process issues and there are outcome issues. Districting is a process issue and I really don't think it should be subject to politics.

And, yes, we can draw it by computers. Easy. You divide each state like a pie. Each slice's size and position is determined by a mathematical formula designed to make sure that each district is, within a trivial variance, exactly the same size, population-wise. It won't be pretty, it won't be what we normally think of as a district, but it would be above simple politics and because this is a matter of process rather than outcomes, that is a good thing.

Again, no one of either party should have a "safe" seat. period, unless the tumbling dice happened to fall that way.

Would this require alot of laws, even constitutional provisions to be changed. yeah, probably. but even the founding fathers were wrong on some things, or in this case they just didn't have the right tools at their disposal.

So every 10 years we run this program. no fighting, no arguing, it divides the state up like a pie and everyone's slice is measured scientifically, down to the house. and no one is made artificially safe.

Is it perfect? nah, of course not. but it beats what we currently have.

(21) fat tony made the following comment | Dec 10, 2008 8:41:21 PM | Permalink

Mr. Dyer,

I have to side with Michael J. Myers as to the situation in California. The problem here isn't partisan, as such, but that the political class cooked up districts that protected incumbents of both parties at the expense of the voters. Taking the matter out of the Legislature's hands via the initiative process was the only viable option for reform.

Years ago we instituted term limits, which are also arguably contrary to small-d democracy, but I have to tell you we are mostly happy with their effect. Redistricting reform was always meant to be the second prong of our attack on the entrenched political class. The fact that most of the opposition came from that group tells me we are on the right track.

The idea isn't to make redistricting entirely apolitical (your points as to the impossibility of that are well taken), but to restore some balance. None of us out here is under the illusion that the new mechanism is perfect. Rather, we hope only that it might be better than the current one. If not, we are only one ballot proposition away from undoing our mistake.

We've made numerous attempts over many, many years to pass one of these reform plans fighting a marriage of convenience between the cynical politicians and the idealistic "government as it ought to be" types each and every time.

The proposition we just voted in is a fairly well-crafted, though admittedly imperfect, measure to address a problem that has resisted EVERY previous attempt at reform. May I suggest that just as Texans should be presumed to know what is best for Texas, we otherwise unrepresented Californians should be given the same courtesy?

(22) Beldar made the following comment | Dec 11, 2008 2:34:38 AM | Permalink

fat tony, I'm in favor of term limits, and agree that they are a blunt but justifiably effective tool to end perpetual incumbencies.

I also certainly acknowledge and support the right of Californians to experiment with other ways to redistrict, and if they can prove me wrong — if the new structure proves superior — then terrific.

The problem is that it's based on an illusion, and the one thing that it does for certain is remove the voters' ability to punish bad districting behavior with their votes. I'm repeating myself because, with due respect, no one has yet offered a rebuttal to my argument that it's a mistake to try to address a problem of democracy being insufficiently representative by deliberately making it even less representative. So: Do Californians have a right to proceed? Sure. A right to do so without my prediction that it'll fail? No, sir; and I do so predict.

(23) fat tony made the following comment | Dec 11, 2008 7:51:29 PM | Permalink

Mr. Dyer,

I made a couple of comments that appear to have been eaten. Are they in a moderation loop somewhere?

(24) Beldar made the following comment | Dec 12, 2008 3:58:24 AM | Permalink

fat tony, I can't find the missing comments in a spam filter. Typepad is making some revisions to the software, and that might explain how yours have disappeared. I'm sorry for that, and invite you to re-post them if you can recall them.

(25) Michael J. Myers made the following comment | Dec 15, 2008 4:10:09 PM | Permalink

In re Fat Tony's comments on California. Yes term limits do sweep the politicans out of office before they're barnacled over. But the term limits don't really solve the problem of districts set up to protect the right of one party--whether it be GOP or Democrat to "own" that district forever. You can change the name of the representative from the rotten borough, but you don't change the party. In my current rotten borough, I can vote GOP until I die--and I'm going to be represented by a Democrat--until I die or move somewhere else.

Mr. Dyer may well be correct that this most recent California attempt will fail. While I will never see it, I wouldn't be opposed to simply dividing the state up into the requisite number of Congressional districts, state senate districts, and state assembly districts--then getting a Cray supercomputer, a smart techie from Stanford, and a set of instructions to use the latest census data to come up with districts each with an exactly equal number of people in the smallest contiguous boundary that the machine can manage. A fellow can dream can he not?

(26) Guy made the following comment | Dec 22, 2008 3:05:11 PM | Permalink

Inasmuch as The entire region of New England features exactly 0 Republican seats in the Federal legislature, one might think that, if gerrymandering was to be explored, one might start there.

(27) Steve Buttell made the following comment | Dec 29, 2008 5:18:59 AM | Permalink

[Comment deleted for departing wildly from blog guidelines re civility. — Beldar, Mon 29 Dec 08 @ 7:50am.]

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