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Last week’s power grab by the Republican lawmakers of the Lone Star State was wily indeed. In their rush to lasso the state’s Democratic representatives out of office, the political bandits twisted their state’s congressional districts along clumsy racial lines. By shunting minority voters into their own bizarrely-shaped districts—keeping these predominantly Democratic citizens out of potentially contentious races—the legislators aimed to sweep their Republican pals into the House.
To the civilized world, this trickery might seem low-down. But in Texas, cowboy logic rules, and last week’s array of torturous gerrymanders was only the latest in a string of underhanded tactics. This is the same controversy, after all, that inspired the state’s Democrats to filibuster with their feet, stalling votes on the redistricting by going on the lam from their legislative session—twice.
A small child, unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy, might have taken the preceding months of squabbling for a long-format, low-budget episode of “Rawhide.” That small child would be right.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, Tex.—who headed up the redistricting posse—is no Wyatt Earp. But a hardcore gun-control foe like him is likely packing a six-shooter in his belt, making the world wonder whether the redistricting flap could have been solved faster by a good old-fashioned shootout. No such luck: as DeLay entered the state legislature, tumbleweeds rolling in his wake, his “shoot first, ask questions later” approach to state governance might have finally helped matters—if only there had been a target in sight. Still, despite their notable absence at High Noon, the Democrats’ bellies were far from yellow. They were fulfilling the Cowboy’s code by holding their ground and making an honorable stand—in New Mexico. And Oklahoma. Apparently, in those parts, both the wind and creative legislators come sweepin’ down the plain.
This isn’t the first time Texas’ leaders have proved thorns in the side of democracy. From George Bush to…George Bush, Texas has brought the electoral process nothing but woe. More than 150 years ago, Sam Houston ruled over the independent Republic of Texas, where the range ran free and governmental lunacy flourished on its own—spurning Santa Anna and Uncle Sam alike. Texas lawmakers have shown their preference for far-fetched gambits when it comes to redistricting. Maybe the time has come to follow Sam Houston’s example and let Texas redistrict itself out of the Union.
With its rich oil fields, expansive deserts and knack for producing illegitimate despots, a reincarnated Republic of Texas would be a prime candidate for the newest member of OPEC. And while America won’t kick its dependency on foreign oil, at least Bush might have some luck making friends in the international arena. Unless, of course, he ditches the White House for a peaceful foreign ranch, and runs—at long last—for president of a country whose name he can spell.
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