May 14, 2003

Back to Texas

Setting aside the drama of the situation, what we are really seeing here is the final results of partisan realignment in Texas. The following is true, but the reasons for it aren't well identified in the article:

It was four years ago that the presidential hopeful held up the Texas Legislature as a national model for bipartisan cooperation.

Now, the House is riven by infighting.

It is true that in Texas in the late 1990s, there was a great deal of bipartisan cooperation. There were several reasons for this, the least of which was the deft hand of Governor Bush. I do think that the then-governor was good at reaching across the aisle, but his willingness to work with Democrats was not the main cause of the cooperation. Rather, Texas was still in the process of going from a Democratic state to a Republican one (in terms of local politics--by the late 90s the statewide offices were firmly Republican), even as recently as a few years ago (most of the South is either still in this process, or has just completed it).

Bipartisan cooperation was rampant in the Texas House for several reasons. The first was that the division in he House was close between Reps and Dems in the late 90s, making some accommodation necessary. More importantly, however, some of the long-standing Dems were actually more Reps (i.e., conservative Democrats), but historical trends had meant that you had to be a Dem in Texas. Further, it was clear, even in the early 1990s, that the Dems' days of dominance were drawing to a close. So, the combo of the Dems losing power and a lot of conservative Dems being in office led to cooperation. Now most of the conservatives are Reps.

Also, the current clash is clearly partially the result of the fact that this is the first time since Reconstruction (about 130 years) that the Republicans have controlled the legislature. As a result, there is little doubt that they are a bit heady with their newfound status--and, the Democrats are no doubt having a hard time adapting to being the minority. The result is some childish behavior on both sides.

That having been said, I still maintain that the Democrats are behaving dishonorably, and should take their lumps in the legislature. They are in the minority, and minorities usually lose votes. Its a mathematical thing. Further, they are being somewhat disingenuous in their objections--at least one of the districts that they are defending (the Tenth, which is most of Travis County (i.e., Austin)) is a radically safe Democratic district. If districting in a way that protects one party is bad, there is no intellectual integrity in protecting any safe district. Further, there can be no doubt that over the last couple of decades that as Republicans began to make progress in elections to national office in the state that the Democratically controlled Legislature has drawn lines to blunt the growth of Republican electoral influence. So to cry foul now really is a tad hypocritical.

Source: Parties working to deflect deadlock's blame

Posted by Steven Taylor at May 14, 2003 08:36 AM | TrackBack
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