Texas, Margaret! Texas!
- Last words of Sam Houston
The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that gerrymandering in Texas is just fine. It was as political a ruling as the Court has made in a decade. Each thousand-year-old Justice roused him or herself from their cryptal slumber to weigh in on one of the most pressing issues of our time. Their manner was straight from the Big Dickens Book of parental indifference. As the Post explained:
Over the objections of four liberal justices, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday night that Texas does not immediately have to redraw electoral districts that a lower court found diminished the influence of minority voters. The 5-to-4 ruling almost surely means the 2018 midterm elections will be conducted in the disputed congressional and legislative districts.
Adding to the moral laziness of the high court, the victorious justices declined to give any explanations for honoring Texas’ request to leave its insanely drawn boundaries as-is. Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan displayed their displeasure “by noting they would not have agreed to Texas’s request.” Gorsuch, Trump’s gift to the Court, helped made it happen.
This is a big, Lone-Star sized win for the monstrous Texas Republican Party, who earlier this year put aside the beef sweats to legalize the business of shooting hogs from hot air balloons.
I am from Texas. It is unquestionably the greatest state in the Union—perhaps the greatest political unit of any kind that there has ever been. Or ever will be. But its glory has been diminished by a corrupt and far-right culture of political knife-fighting. And the crown jewel of this the ultra-conservative approach to government is Texas’ infamous gerrymandering practice.
The government of Texas has been taking an epic and much-deserved beating from the American court system as of late. Even in a country where electoral systems shut out the marginalized, Texas is a special case. The fickleness of Texas electoral district drawing is legendary: in 2003, Tom DeLay famously engineered a ridiculously partisan redrawing of the Texas map. As the Times reported in 2006:
Texas’s 2003 redistricting was an extreme case of partisan gerrymandering. The state’s Congressional lines had already been redrawn once, after the 2000 census, producing additional Republican seats in a way that a federal court decided was fair. But when Republicans took control of the state government, they decided to do a highly unusual second redistricting. Democratic state legislators protested and fled the state to deny the Republicans a quorum. But Texas eventually adopted a plan that tilted the state’s delegation even further in the Republicans’ favor.
The entire apparatus is jury-rigged to block out minorities and impoverished people. This new ruling overturns an earlier lower court mandate to redraw the boundaries. Texas!
Texas’ mad jigsaw-puzzle fugue is what happens when we live in a world governed by process: process is mistaken for politics. The law is not perfect, and the machine cannot be trusted to give good results. Texas political process is like trusting a meth-head to cook your croissants: stop believing what the menu tells you. Watch the gonzo with the knife.
Texas’ gerrymandering is treated as matter for the law, but it’s a problem of politics. You can argue about electoral borders, while forgetting how arbitrary they are. Lone star gerrymandering is the result of refusing to play power politics, to see, realistically, what the Republicans are doing. You get Texas. Texas, where it will take a demographic miracle to rescue progressive politics. It frustrates me to no end to see other states condescend to Texas, or write it off.
Praying for the right weather is no way to win a baseball game. Process-trusting cannot reckon with the danger of conservative rule—all-conservative rule—in my home state. If you want to see what the unchecked power of one party can do, may I invite you to peruse the biographies of the members of the State Legislature? According to the Dallas Morning News:
Another freshman legislator, state Rep. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredericksburg, last week sent an offensive “survey” to mosques across the state, demanding response from Muslim leaders about their beliefs in Shariah law and about ideological organizations that claim to oppose Islamic extremism. The letters, which carried Biedermann’s Capitol address, were stamped “urgent”; they ordered mosque leaders to reply by Jan. 20. Texas Muslim Capitol Day is Jan. 31. Biedermann, who seems incapable of experiencing shame, is the same official who once posed as “gay Hitler” at a costume party fundraiser, and who, during his campaign, invited and then abruptly disinvited lawmakers from a polo match and alcohol-tasting event that raised ethics questions.
Texas is what happens when you want to play centrism and civility and bipartisanship, instead of playing politics. This is the iron price, as spooky sea-people of Westeros call it. Texas is what results; yahoos carrying church-guns in one hand, and a hatred for progressivism in the other. Texas is politics. No matter how many fine and fair words you send out in sea-bottles, you eventually have to get down the walnut-shell-cracking business that is politics. There can only be reflective elections where the districts are fair. They aren’t. Faulty execution of the basic conditions renders the final result irrelevant.
This is also why the Democratic party has abandoned any pretense of being nationally competitive: they genuinely imagined that holding the Executive would be enough. The Presidency would suffice; they would somehow figure out the rest on the fly, like a Tinder liar trying to save face during the first date. Texas cannot be a foregone conclusion; it cannot resign itself to being a settled matter for reactionary politics. There have been six flags over Texas. We should refuse to add a seventh: the flag of surrender. Everything is bigger there: let our hopes be larger as well.