Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Tom DeLay (R-TX), the most powerful man in the U.S. Congress, has just been indicted on charges of conspiracy to break Texas election law. This is not so arcane and irrelevant to us as it may sound.

Tradition dictates that legislative district boundaries get reviewed and redrawn every ten years, after the results of the cenusus are released. In 2003 -- more-or-less mid-decade, and out of nowhere -- Texas decided to redraw its congressional disctrict boundaries again. In so doing, they packed the state's black and Hispanic voters into a handful of districts. This accomplished two goals: 1) created more Republican districts, 2) made the Democrats seem to be the party of only blacks and Hispanics -- a powerful image to construct in the minds of Texans (powerfully negative to white Texans).

DeLay's role is that he apparently used corporate money to fund the effort to have these districts redrawn. It's that use of corporate money which would be illegal, not the the mis-timed and racist redrawing of the districts. That DeLay may have gotten snagged on a tangential issue like the use of corporate money is good news for all those that subscribe to progressive politics. DeLay has been one the absolute most destructive, most Neanderthal of the Republicans in Congress. Anything that hobbles his power can only be a good thing from that perspective.

However, the larger problem still remains: the ease with which state governments can weaken minority voting power by toying with legislative districts. This is but one of the several aspects of the American election system which undermines black and Hispanic political power. Were there true justice in this matter, the federal courts would also invalidate the redistricting that took place in 2003 as a violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

[Shameless plug] All this and more addressed in my book "Ghosts of Florida."


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