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Democrats' battle should be brought back to Texas floor

Sept. 9, 2003

By Trevor

Cichowski, columnist

Think back to when you were a kid, playing in your friend's sandbox. What happened when your friend did something you didn't like? More often than not it was some underhanded threat amounting to 'if you don't give me my toy back I am just going to hold my breath until my face turns blue.' Of course, most of us wouldn't consider resorting to such a childish response to adult problems, right? Then would somebody explain to me why Texas Democrats are looking so blue in the face lately?

I am of course referring to the 10 Democratic senators still hiding out in New Mexico, the same senators that Clint Cox lauded in Friday's Lariat when referring to a 'blatant power grab' by 'greedy' Republicans. Now, I have had a few 'introductory classes in political science' (as I am sure Rep. Tom DeLay has), and as I recall, when you control the Legislature, you also control what issues appear before the Legislature. At least, that's how it worked when the Democrats controlled the Texas House, so I naturally assumed that's how it would work when the Republicans did.

Even a staunch Republican can admit that the redistricting plan is not without flaws. A worse case of 'Perrymandering' probably doesn't exist. A map of the proposed new districts (found at http://gis1.tlc.state.tx.us/), shows districts that are hideously shaped.

Democrats often refer, as Cox did, to the $3.5 to $5 million being spent on redistricting plans, but overlook the fact that this money could have been spent on even more important items, such as education, if the Democrats had bothered to stick around. Are Republicans responsible for spending the money, or are the Democrats because they keep running away, tails firmly between their legs, thus forcing the expenditure? This issue could have been taken care of without a special session (thus avoiding the cost), but the Democrats in the Texas House nixed that with their jaunt to Ardmore, Okla., in May.

A Democrat may emerge to be the hero in all of this, if hero is the right word. Sen. John Whitmire has returned from New Mexico, vowing that if a third special session were called, he would be there. Said Whitmire in the Houston Chronicle 'we need to return the fight to the Senate floor.'

Whitmire makes a good point, something we should all be clear about, being a representative is a job. This is not something you can do 'when you feel like it.' As a representative, there will be issues that you do not agree with, but these issues must nonetheless be argued over and debated in their proper place. The people of Texas elected their representative to vote on the issues before the Legislature, not just the ones he or she may or may not like.

Most rational conservatives will agree the new district maps are ugly. The proposal does upset precedent for when redistricting traditionally occurs. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst did upset many Texas citizens by suspending the tradition that required two-thirds of senators to vote to bring an issue to the floor. Fewer than half of Texans support the redistricting plan. But despite all of this, the fact remains that there is a time and a place for the Democrats to make their stand against redistricting. That place is in the Texas Legislature, not a motel in New Mexico. So come back to the sandbox, Democrats, and start breathing. There's work to be done.