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Beast of the Month - November 2003
Tom DeLay, House Majority Leader
"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
In a campaign for California governor that included Arianna Huffington, Angelyne, Larry Flynt and (The Konformist staff personal favorite) Mary Carey, let's give Gary Coleman some deserved credit: he was, after all, only the second most ludicrous candidate who has been known as "Arnold."
Still, let's give the other Arnold who was a Running Man his due as well: he won the election fair and square, and while the mechanism was arguably flawed, it was indeed a legal process. While some tried to compare the California Recall with the Klinton impeachment and the theft of the 2000 election, these facts alone make the dumping of the deservedly unpopular Gray Davis a different animal altogether. The people have spoken, and even if they have chosen a Hitler-admiring, steroid-abusing serial groper, their word is final. (Of course, perhaps applauding Republicans for actually winning legitimate elections is strange, but it's a sign of the pathetic times.)
While the korporate media spent countless time covering the rise of Governor Conan in the Golden State, however, another more sinister attempt by the GOP to thwart democratic values was taking place in Texas. And pushing the entire operation was Tom DeLay, The Konformist Beast of the Month.
Tom DeLay is the House Majority Leader from the Lone Star state, the oily pit of vipers that is home base to the kreepiest characters in American politics and business. Poppy & Shrub Bush, Donkey Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Enron, Halliburton - all have major ties to the land of the Alamo. No wonder the military-industrial complex assassinated JFK there.
Still, even by Texan standards, DeLay is a decidedly kreepy fellow, and arguably the most loathsome man in Congress, which is quite an impressive boast. Before he entered politics, he was an exterminator of pests for a living, which makes him literally homicidal. This after avoiding service in Vietnam, which he actually has tried to explain away by claiming so many minority youths had volunteered, there was no room for patriotic folks like himself. Since then, this overtly nut-job right winger has gained a scary amount of power and influence in the House, rising to the second most powerful member of the Reps as House Majority Leader.
So what has The Exterminator been up to while The Terminator was saying "Hasta la vista" to Gray? Merely attempting to subvert democracy by an unprecedented usage of Congressional redistricting. The process, which historically takes place once every ten years after a census, was called by Republicans in the Texas state legislature after taking control of the state for the first time since the Civil War.
The Republicans claimed that the Congressional map was unfair to them, as it created seventeen districts won by Democrats to fifteen for the GOP in 2002, when the Elephant party won 56.6 percent of the vote in the state. Aside from the amusing irony of Shrub's party whining about illegitimate representation, their claim is betrayed by the fact the map (drafted by a panel of federal judges) was later defended in court by the Republicans themselves on charges it discriminated against minorities. Furthermore, the new proposed map hardly represents Texas accurately: it created 22 seats that are predominately Republican to 10 Democrat, or a sixty-nine percent block of solid GOP seats.
The plan, it turns out, appears to have been cooked up by Bush Kreep mastermind Karl Rove and pushed forward by DeLay for a three-fold goal. One, it helps pad the slim majority the Pubs have in the House of Reps and ensure their continuing domination. Two, by giving over two thirds of the Texas seats to GOP districts, it turns the state into a political goldmine for Republicans and furthers DeLay's goal into becoming the next House Speaker.
The third, and most significant, reason is it anticipates coming demographic trends and spins them in a way that best serves right wing causes. Simply put, Texas is going through a browning, as the state becomes increasingly Hispanic. By 2005, less than half of all Texans will be white, and by 2026 over half will be Hispanic. As one Texas Republican reportedly put it, "We have 10 years until Hispanics take over." Add to that the large numbers of African Americans, and that's a high percentage of overwhelmingly Democratic Party voters. (For some strange reason, African Americans and Hispanics have a vast distrust of the GOP, believing the party is out to screw them.) Left at its own device, this leads to the likely scenario of Texas going like California has from the days of Reagan and Nixon. As Michael Lind (author of Made in Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American Politics) put it to Salon.com, "It went from being a right-wing state based on lower-middle-class whites to being one of the most liberal states because of a coalition of blacks, Latinos and white liberals... Texas is going to go from being one of the most reactionary states in the union to being one of the most progressive."
This leaves the Republican Party with two options: either it can modify its positions and make the party more attractive to minority voters, or they can use cynical tricks to try to manipulate the new reality to their hopeful advantage. Naturally, the party of Karl Rove has chosen the latter.
Gerrymandering is not some new phenomenon in American politics, but the 2003 Texas plan takes the manipulation of district maps to maximize the racial card. The upshot: minority voters are highly concentrated in special districts, while liberal to moderate white voters are stacked in districts that are overwhelmingly conservative. The end result is not only a more conservative congressional representation, but also a more polarized one, both politically and racially.
But for what purpose? As GOP strategist Grover Norquist brashly put it: "The GOP can live with urban liberals, such as (African-American California Rep. Maxine) Waters; it's moderates such as (Texas Democratic Rep. Charlie) Stenholm who are its main target... it is exactly the Stenholms of the world who will disappear, the moderate Democrats. They will go so that no Texan need grow up thinking that being a Democrat is acceptable behavior." In July 2003, Norquist told the New York Times that Sheila Jackson-Lee, an African-American woman from Texas, "will be the spokesman for the Democratic Party." Garnet Coleman, a Democrat state rep from Houston, put it thusly: "Basically you'll be labeled a nigger-lover if you're a Democrat. We've already been through those times. It's all part of the Southern strategy."
Tellingly, the most vocal opponents to the putting of a black and brown face to the Texas Democrats have been black and Latino politicians, who comprised nine of the final ten state senators that fled the state for New Mexico to block the move (the tenth coming from a primarily minority district.) While the Republican plan would increase their numbers, it would ultimately dilute their own political power by decreasing the influence of the Democratic Party in Texas politics, and perhaps more important, decrease the political power of minorities in general by concentrating them in areas with no need for political coalitions to include them.
Faced with a gang of frothing Republicans and their race-baiting plot, 51 Democrats fled the state for Ardmore, Oklahoma to break the quorum needed to conduct business. Though labeled as "cowards" and (tastefully) "terrorists" by Republican leaders, they were dubbed "The Killer D's" and became folk heroes to many: country singer Willie Nelson personally sent them whiskey to salute their fortitude. (The note from Willie: "Way to go. Stand your ground.") Aiding the sympathy for their cause: the offensive usage of the Homeland Security Department by the GOP in an attempt to stop them. Apparently Republicans took the "terrorist" smear too literally. They requested that the Air and Marine Interdiction and Coordination Center locate a Piper turboprop aircraft that belonged to Democrat former House Speaker Pete Laney in order to find where they were. Democrats allege that DeLay himself made the Homeland Security request, the politicization of an agency created supposedly to support the War on Terror. This miscue aside, a campaign of harassment was waged against the D's, their staffers and their family: state troopers followed the Democrats wives, parents and children (they even staked out a hospital where one lawmaker's premature twins were.)
The quorum busting succeeded in May, but in October it was broken on a second redistricting attempt. One of eleven state Senate holdouts relented and returned from Albuquerque, giving the necessary number of senators to conduct business. Though the new plan will no doubt be challenged in court, it is, for now, the law of the land in Texas.
In the end, the persistence of the Killer D's was a political Alamo, a noble last stand over a more powerful opponent. But like the Alamo, it may backfire for the Republicans: while the short term benefit to DeLay and the GOP is immense, in the long run it merely confirms the opinions of many minorities that the Republican Party is run by a gang of power-hungry racists. As the demographics make clear, such a perception is a loser image in the long run.
In any case, we salute Tom DeLay as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Tommy!!!
Homeland Security Department Used to Track Texas Democrats
Remap plan gets approval by House
R.G. Ratcliffe, Houston Chronicle Oct. 11, 2003
The Texas stalemate: It's all about race
They can't go home again
Texas legislators end their Oklahoma exile
Kathy Kiely, USA Today May 16, 2003
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