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31 August 2003
Political Theater of the Absurd: Act II
The Unforgiven

Here in Texas, despite our status as America’s second-most-populous state, we are cordially ignored by the national media unless we do something that reinforces the national belief in our cowboy backwardness. And what could make for a more knee-slappin’ bit of Western-style political theater than the current standoff at the “I’m OK, You’re Not OK” Corral?

I’m referring, of course, to the latest chapter in the confrontation between the Perry Posse, under the orders of “Exterminator” Tom DeLay, vs. the Texas Eleven — Democratic state senators who vamoosed across the New Mexican border to deny the Posse a quorum to force a redistricting that would supposedly favor the Republican faction in Congress.

I must say, it surprised me to hear that our state constitution, which prescribes such niggling matters as the interest rate for veterans’ loans and must be amended over questions such as investment in South Africa or allowability of home-equity loans, does not limit redistricting to once a decade. The decennial redistricting cycle, it turns out, is a mere custom, though DeLay’s gambit has never been attempted before. Back when the Texas Democrats were a functioning party rather than the shade of one, someone with the audacity to bulldoze through a second redistricting in two years might have feared future retaliation. Indeed, if the national Democratic Party ever ceased impersonating a school of mollusks, it might propose to draw new districts in every legislature it controls. But we know the corporate owners who make sure Democratic legislators keep throwing a dive would never allow such a counterpunch.

The Clinton impeachment, Election 2000, the California recall, Texas redistricting. The GOP accepts the results of no election, it seems. It’s hard to decide whether to condemn their venality or admire their will to power. Whether or not you support the Texas Eleven in their flight to New Mexico to sabotage yet another special legislative session, they are at least attempting to serve the constituents who elected them to their custom-drawn districts.

But, if the Dems succeed in stopping an ill-conceived redistricting move, let’s not make the mistake of celebrating the result as one of principle. Instead we should be asking: Do single-party districts really benefit the electorate?

When I go to the polls, I want to see a choice between credible candidates representing many different positions. Single-party districting — no matter which party gets to draw the map — offers the individual voter only one credible candidate rather than a genuine choice. Whether it’s a race for Congress or the state legislature, too often we are offered no more choices than in a one-party state.

Also, the districts that result from single-party gerrymandering result in absurd collocations of voters who have no real common interests, despite technical party affiliation or ethnic affinity. A serpentine district that includes South Austin with communities along the Mexican border is a practical absurdity that mocks the idea of citizens’ having access to their representative, no matter what sense it makes in terms of partisan tactics.

While we await the appearance of milk cartons bearing the face of Gonzalo Barrientos in our local supermarkets, Texans are suitably distracted by a new flap over a flag totem. One of the few things the Lege actually accomplished during the recent regular session was the passage of a law requiring students to salute the Texas flag every day.

It’s hard for me to get the symbolism of saluting the Lone Star Flag but, since many Texas classrooms don’t actually possess one, it is awfully nice of our legislators to ensure continued employment for Chinese teenagers in textile sweatshops in this fashion.

Act I
Arnold Schwarzenegger  •  Gray Davis
Cruz Bustamante  •  Arianna Huffington
California Split

The Golden State opts for entertainment over governance in this lame comedy based on a goober-natorial recall.

Judge Roy Moore is
The Apostle

A misbegotten epic, this Moore vehicle attempts to remake The Ten Commandments but comes off more like a pale Forrest Gump.

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