May 29, 2003
Tom "Toxic" DeLay Used to Exterminate Bugs. Now He is Exterminating Democracy.
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
Leave it to the ex-exterminator to try to wipe out the Democratic Party, one district at a time.
Pulling strings from his perch in Washington, Rep. Tom "The Hammer" DeLay and White House senior adviser Karl Rove have been at the forefront of an unprecedented, anti-democracy redistricting movement that, if successful, is sure to result in nothing short of legislative anarchy.
Armed only with an extraordinary amount of hubris based on the bizarre belief that Texas Republicans should naturally have a majority of congressional seats since voters recently elected more Republicans than Democrats at the state level, DeLay has gone about trying to make those seats more easily obtainable. After all: Why leave up to voters what Republicans can decide for themselves?
Not one for subtlety, DeLay told reporters, "I’m the majority leader, and we want more seats."
Texas Democrats have succeeded in stopping the madness -– for now, at least -– but it required more than 50 of them to temporarily leave the state to deprive Republicans of a quorum. Now there's an investigation underway to determine whether prominent Republicans used their influence to involve the Department of Homeland Security in the search for Democrats who hightailed it to Oklahoma rather than participate in their own demise. And in another example of the type of conflict that arises when you put together an administration based on the "Good 'Ol Boy School of Connections and Diplomacy," the chief internal investigator has been forced to step aside because of his close ties to the Republican Party, including a failed run for Congress on the GOP line in 1992.
"Someone who was not successful in joining the Texas Republican Congressional delegation is not the correct person to conduct an objective investigation concerning efforts to divert federal resources for Republican political purposes against Texas legislators," Democrats said in a letter to secretary of homeland security, Tom Ridge.
"Using Homeland Security resources for political purposes during the war on terrorism is a very serious matter," the Democrats added, marking what may indeed be the understatement of the month.
But DeLay has his sights set on more than just Texas. Republicans in Colorado and Georgia have also tried for a power grab. Colorado Republicans were able to rush through a redistricting bill in the final days of the legislative session. State Democrats have since filed a lawsuit in Denver District Court charging that the plan to redraw Colorado’s congressional boundaries is unconstitutional.
Signed into law by Gov. Bill Owens earlier this month, the redistricting gives Republicans a comfortable 29,000-vote margin in a district previously evenly divided among Republicans, Democrats and independent voters. (Republican Rep. Bob Beauprez won that district's seat in November, but only by a narrow 121-vote margin, and Republicans want to put in place guarantees they won't lose the seat in the next election.)
In an editorial May 13, the Denver Post came down on the side of the Democrats: "In their rush to pass the infamous 'Midnight Gerrymander,' legislative Republicans may have run afoul of the state Constitution. ... Senate President John Andrews tried to outflank the requirement to read the 28-page bill by having 14 clerks each read two pages -– simultaneously. The result was a cacophony that clearly violated both the spirit and the letter of the law -– which was clearly intended to ensure that legislators understood laws before voting on them."
So what's the deal with this rush across the country to redraw districts? And why now? Redistricting normally takes place after a census is completed, as the number of Congressional seats is dictated by population. The governing party in charge usually has the advantage when it comes to divvying up districts.
But after Republicans won gains in the 2002 elections, DeLay and Rove apparently got greedy and decided that now was the perfect time to ensure Republicans pick up seats in 2004.
"Those close to Tom DeLay say he always harbored a secret ambition to be speaker of the House -- of the Texas House, that is," Carl Hulse wrote in the May 15 New York Times, before going on to note that undergoing a Congressional redistricting between census periods is "aggressive and rare"; indeed, other than the Republican efforts underway in Colorado and Texas, "[Democrats] can find no other time in the last 50 years when a state engaged in midstream redistricting without a court order to do so."
In the May 16 Atlanta Journal Constitution, deputy editorial page editor Jay Bookman previewed the political anarchy that would take place if the GOP approach to redistricting became the norm: "If that new approach takes hold, if maps will be redrawn every time control of the Legislature changes from one party to another, the outcome would be disastrous."
"Redistricting battles are always painful; they consume not merely time but legislative patience. As the Texas example illustrates, nothing gets politicians lunging at each other's throats more quickly than a redistricting fight," Bookman continued. "If we get into a situation where maps are redrawn three or four times a decade, the few remaining relics of bipartisanship still existing in this country will disappear altogether. It would also mean that citizens already alienated from their government will have even less of an idea who represents them from year to year."
Not that the notion of good government means anything to DeLay & Co., but it should be of great concern to members of the public who believe in the archaic notion that a vote still counts for something.
Told he could not smoke a cigar in a D.C. building recently due to federal law, DeLay declared, "I am the federal government."
The Republicans have only disdain for democracy -- and the Democrats, with the exception of the "Killer D's" in Texas let them get away with it.
DeLay can only succeed because Nancy Pelosi and Tom Daschle act as if the dismantling of democracy is just business as usual.
DeLay deserves more than a few snickers from the national Democratic poobahs. He deserves an indictment.
But right now, Tom Ridge and the Republican Governor and Legislature in Texas are covering up for DeLay -- and you hear barely a word of protest from Pelosi or Daschle. Are they wimps, moles, or just incompetent?
cause of their passivity isn't really the issue. It's the result
that is troubling.
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
otherwise noted, all original