By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
DeLay was refreshingly honest about his motives: “I’m the majority leader, and I want more seats.” There’s only one way for Republicans to get more Republican seats in Texas. DeLay had to pack African-American and Latino voters into electoral Bantustans, where they will elect their own members of Congress but cannot work in coalition to influence any other elections. It’s a smart political move. Electoral apartheid, after all, allows whites to elect whites, Latinos to elect Latinos, and blacks to elect blacks. Where they can’t pack minorities, they disperse them. So the Texas Republican Party is celebrating the creation of “minority opportunity districts.”
Houston Representative Garnett Coleman doesn’t buy it. The dweeby African-American policy and politics wonk who represents a big slice of Houston’s black community calls the DeLay plan exactly what it is: a continuation of Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy. By eliminating white Democrats, even white Democratic conservatives like West Texas Congressman Charlie Stenholm, DeLay is creating a Democratic Party of Color. It’s an arrangement that allows Republicans to characterize white Democrats as “nigger lovers,” said Coleman.
Not only are conservatives and Democrats wiped out by Plan DeLay; urban white liberals are also retired from Congress. After you carefully carve up minority communities in rural Texas to eliminate white conservatives, you slice cities like Houston, Dallas and Austin like a pie, with the point of the slice in the urban core to dilute urban minority representation and eliminate white liberals. In a state in which the racial and ethnic minority will be the majority in a few years, the Republicans have held the future at bay.
Coleman finds amusing (and offensive) that Republicans are suddenly interested in creating minority opportunity districts. Given his choice, he would have African-American members of Congress representing African-American voters. “When possible, you want to have the pigs represent the interests of the pigs, like in Orwell’s breakfast story,” he said. “If that can occur, that’s what you want. If it can’t occur, you want the next best option. You want someone who represents your interest. When we can’t elect representatives who have walked in our shoes, or literally walked in our skin, we are smart enough to elect someone who will represent our interests.”
Coleman would prefer an urban Democratic liberal like Austin Representative Lloyd Doggett — or even a conservative rural Democrat like Stenholm — to a suburban Republican like DeLay. Anybody who believes Tom DeLay is interested in what is good for black and brown people, Coleman said, also believes “the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan is interested in what’s good for black and brown people.”
“The Voting Rights Act is about the color of voters,” Coleman said, “not of elected officials.”
So the DeLay-Rove redistricting plan signed into law by the governor now moves on to the federal courts. But Republicans, and a few cross-dressing black and brown Democratic surrogates supporting them, have a hard time making the case that this is a good deal for black and brown folk. Joining Texas Democrats in line at the state’s federal courthouse are the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the (Mexican-American) GI Forum and the NAACP.
“Black people and other people of color are not as stupid as the general public thinks we are,” Coleman said. “We’ve already been through these times. It’s all part of the Southern Strategy.”
Lou Dubose is co-author with Molly Ivins of theNew York Times best-sellerBushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush’s America. He currently divides his time between Austin and Washington, D.C., where he is working on a political biography of Tom DeLay.