This is a brilliant move for Texas Dems. Here's why.
Reaction among Democrats on comment threads today has been pretty positive about the Texas House Dems strategy, but there have been some posts saying its a bad strategy. Well, as a proud Texas Democrat, I'll tell you why this is an absolutely brilliant move for Texas Dems. First off, look at where we are. All 27 statewide elected officials in Texas are Republicans. Democrats have been swept the past three elections - no Democrat has won a statewide election since 1996, as we've been swept by Bushmania in every election since. The State Senate has 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats. Ten of the Senate Democrats are from overwhelmingly Democratic, minority-majority districts. The other two districts are held by Sen. Armbrister, a conservative Democrat from Victoria and Sen. Barrientos from Austin. Armbrister is popular and usually wins easily, and he supports Delay's map. Barrientos was targetted hard last year but still won by a 10 point margin over a Dell multi-millionaire in a new, more Republican district and after an extremely negative ad campaign against him attacking him for his DWI arrest. Barrientos is safe. In the State House, there's 62 Democrats, of which over 90% are in safe districts. Republicans won all but a handful of the districts they targetted in 2002, whereas only a couple Democrats won targetted districts (like Rose and Mabry). The one bright spot in Texas is our Congressional delegation. There are 17 Dems and 15 Republicans. Granted, the delegation does include two nominal Democrats - Ralph Hall and Charlie Stenholm, but the rest are good solid Democrats - including a handful that consistently get elected and re-elected in Republican or Republican-leaning districts like Chet Edwards, Max Sandlin, Jim Turner and Nick Lampson.
So the question for Texas House Democrats is "what do we have to lose by breaking a quorum"? Answer. Very little. Even people like John Mabry, a Waco freshman in a tough district can go home to his constituents and say that he did it because Tom Delay was trying to prevent them from being able to send Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Waco) back to Congress. That arguement works in Waco where Edwards is quite popular. Similarly, east Texas Democratic Reps can tell their constituents that they did this for Max Sandlin, Jim Turner and Nick Lampson, all of whom are very popular in their respective districts.
Also, the House Democrats have exposed Tom Delay, and have the moral high ground. A Senate filibuster would have allowed re-redistricting to have died a slow death in that chamber with few realizing what had happened. But the House Democrats made a decision based on their conscience. They made their decision because they believed that it was wrong for the House to take up such a divisive re-redistricting plan when "the Texas House has more important business than satisfying Tom DeLay: a $10 billion shortfall, a school finance crisis, a troubled economy, insurance abuse (our Governor's declared emergency, and still not passed) and a looming disaster in health care for the children, the elderly and the disabled". People like that.
Finally, this has helped bring to life Democrats in this state. For the first time since the election, we can actually say that we're proud of our party. As for Republicans, several have admitted that if they were in the Dems position, they would do the same thing. Others are calling the Dems obstructionists, but I think that they know in their hearts that they've lost the moral high ground.