Patrick J. Buchanan
September 24 2003
For those who consider politics a spectator sport, there have been few more
enjoyable spectacles this year than the battle in the Texas legislature – with
the exception, of course, of the California recall.
With Republicans controlling both houses, Gov. Rick Perry has been trying to redraw Texas' congressional districts to add five or six seats to the GOP delegation in Congress. Democratic legislators have sought to frustrate Perry's plans by fleeing Texas and denying him a quorum.
First, 50 House members fled to Oklahoma and holed up until the legislature adjourned. When Perry called a special session, 11 Democratic state senators bolted to New Mexico. In Austin, the GOP majority voted to fine each of the 11 $57,000. But when one Democratic senator broke ranks and returned to Austin, Perry's perseverance appeared to have paid off. He has called yet another special session.
Facing defeat, Democrats have decided to play the race card. As the Washington Post's Lee Hockstader reports, the "sedate and collegial body whose members proclaim their love of consensus" is aflame with charges that the GOP Senate majority is a nest of "racists, supremacists and bigots."
The GOP redistricting plan is suddenly being portrayed as a racist plot to disfranchise Hispanics and blacks. Raged San Antonio Sen. Frank L. Madla: "The last time I was treated the way we were treated on the Senate floor was when I was about 6 years old when I first entered the first grade and I was just a little Mexican boy who had his first taste of what white supremacy was like."
Madla was echoed by Sen. Marlo Gallegos Jr., a Democrat from Houston's inner city, who attacked GOP Sen. Tommy Williams, who hails from the wealthy enclave north of Houston known as the Woodlands.
"The people from the Woodlands did not elect me," Gallegos told reporters. "That's a gated community. The nearest gated community to me in inner-city Houston is the county jail." What is behind these racially charged outbursts?
Republicans had proposed to eliminate the $57,000 fines and merely declare them on probation. It was a gesture of conciliation that black and Hispanic senators took as an insult.
Now let it be said: These incendiary charges of racism are not only fraudulent, they are palpable lies, false on their face. Not only are Hispanic and black districts protected by the U.S. Voting Rights Act, the GOP has no intention of ousting minority legislators. To do so would risk a federal court reversal and the ruin of their plans. The GOP targets are white liberals, and black and Hispanic Democrats know it.
The perverse effect of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is that, in redistricting battles in the South, Republicans are forced to crowd blacks and Hispanics into "super-majority districts." For the only permissible and feasible way the GOP can add to party numbers in Congress under the VRA is by taking out white Democrats.
Assume a state with 3 million people, five House seats and a 60-40 GOP registration. A GOP legislature might normally create five districts with 60-40 GOP majorities. But if 20 percent of the state's population were black and civil-rights lawyers went into U.S. court to claim blacks were being denied a right to elect one of their own, that federal court might order a redrawing of the districts.
The GOP would then create a new district by putting most or all of the black voters into one district. That would meet the demands of the U.S. court by giving black voters an opportunity to elect one of their own. But it would also enable the GOP legislature to create four new, even more solid, 75-25 Republican districts.
Black folks would have gotten a congressman where they had none before. Republicans would be satisfied with the remaining four, even more secure, seats. White Democrats would be out in the cold.
This is where America is headed, as the white population, 90 percent of the nation in 1960, is now around 70 percent and falling, and 50 percent in Texas and falling.
As protected minorities become majorities, as they already have in California, Hawaii and New Mexico, and soon in Texas, the requirements of the Voting Rights Act can most easily be met by drawing districts on racial and ethnic lines, leaving the GOP a white party with a smattering of black and Hispanic supporters, and the Democratic Party a black and Hispanic party with a smattering of white supporters.
As charges of racist, supremacist and bigot fly, and the name-calling across the racial divide increases in intensity and volume, folks will tend to go with their own. That is not how it was meant to be in the 1960s, but it is where we are headed.
Back to Home Page