|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
emocratic legislators in Texas have once more fled the state to foil a brazen effort by Tom DeLay to add six more seats to his Republican House majority through an extraordinary gerrymandering of Democratic Congressional districts. Eleven Senate Democrats flew to New Mexico two weeks ago after Republicans changed the rules to dilute the Democrats' power to oppose the DeLay gambit in the Legislature. In May, Democrats from the Texas House fled to deny Republicans a quorum.
The standoff is far graver than indicated by all the jokes it has spawned, or the bemusement Texans feel at reports that the singer Willie Nelson was comforting the exiles with bandannas, whiskey and outlaw songs.
Justice Department officials have issued a report documenting an attempt by Mr. DeLay, the House majority leader, to abuse the machinery of homeland security by using it to track and arrest the Democrats. They wisely rejected demands from Mr. DeLay's aides for rawly partisan muscle from Washington as "wacko," but that does not make the efforts of the staff less outrageous.
Texas is crucial to Republicans' determination to follow their stunning victories last year with a final push toward party hegemony. Across 30 years, the Democrats' national edge in popular preference has quietly shrunk from 22 percentage points to a mere 3 percentage points over Republicans. Mr. DeLay and Karl Rove, President Bush's political field general, aim to use the G.O.P.'s current control of government prerogatives to seal Democrats into a long era of minority status.
The Republicans, who languished unhappily under Democratic Congressional control, have every right to try to maximize their advantages in an effort to remain in power. But out-of-season redistricting to give one party an easy ride is a bad tactic, no matter who is trying to get the upper hand. Every year the number of truly competitive Congressional seats is smaller, public interest in politics is lower, and elections become more like a ratification of the inevitable.
Initially, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, a Republican, rated redistricting a low-level priority. He has since devoted two special sessions to it in obeisance to Mr. DeLay's shameless bidding.
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