Texas election results aren’t funny

DALLAS – The second largest delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives, already heavily leaning to the right, tilted drastically further on November 2. The state officers who will draw the lines for new congressional districts, including three or four more seats because of Texas’ population growth, will be even more solidly right-wing Republican than they were during the redistricting scandals of 2002. Many of the most popular Texas Democratic leaders, including the minority leader in the Texas House, have gone down.

Texas may well have even worse news for progressive America, because Governor Rick Perry, a close clone and successor of George W. Bush, handily won an unprecedented third term. He is releasing a book almost immediately after his re-election. It sets forth his far-right, anti-worker vision that included his opinion that Social Security is nothing more than a criminal ponzi scam. Can anyone doubt that he has presidential aspirations? Progressive Texans are not looking forward to extending the years of being shamed about their home state, as we have been since GW Bush took the national stage.

To a considerable number of Americans, Texas may be a crude joke. It’s the place where the governor wants to secede from the United States, where the state authorities change textbooks to glorify rightwing Senator Joseph McCarthy and downplay Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., where there are more official executions than anywhere else, and where every index of unhappiness is so emphatically high that the award for “Most Misery in the United States,” if there were one, would be won handily. But Texas is important to America.

Texas is important because, as the second most populous state, it has the second largest delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives. The American ruling class puts such a premium on the importance of that congressional delegation that they finance all manner of underhanded chicanery to make sure the delegation is made up of the most reactionary politicians in America. Don’t throw up “Rand Paul of Kentucky” to us; his FATHER is from Texas, and has represented Texas in the House since Rand was a mere maggot!

In Austin, former Kingmaker Congressman Tom DeLay is on trial for his role in illegally financing the election of the state politicians who re-drew all the congressional districts in 2002 so that rightwingers would prevail. This phase of DeLay’s legal saga was conveniently put off until the day before the election. Texas voters did not get a chance to contemplate this particular rung in the ladder downward. Twenty percent of them had already voted early, and the other voters didn’t get to read about the DeLay trial until the morning of November 2.

The scandal over the Green Party, in which it was revealed that top Republican strategists had financed the petitioning campaign to put Greens on the ballot and draw away Democratic votes, was months before the election and was largely forgotten. But it shows again how important it is to Big Money to keep the Texas delegation within the far right.

Not all the Texas news shares the same dark shades. The labor movement, led by the Texas AFL-CIO, carried out a strong and largely independent program. They even dared to run “one of our own,” former national AFL-CIO leader Linda Chavez-Thompson, for the top office of lieutenant governor. Like all the other statewide Democratic candidates, Chavez-Thompson’s campaign was buried by big money.

Another glimmer of hope came from the second largest Metropolitan area, Dallas County, where Democrats squeaked victories against the Republican tide. Venerable Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson clobbered her Tea Party-endorsed and financed opponent. The nationally famous District Attorney Craig Watkins will continue to make headlines with his dedication to fairness and cooperation with the Innocence Project. Democrats finally took over the County Commissioners’ Court with significant victories by Commissioner-elect Dr. Elba Garcia and County Judge-elect Craig Jenkins. Labor’s hard work was rewarded in Dallas despite the dim results in the rest of the state.

Texas is important to America, and its importance will weigh heavily on workers everywhere during the next political period.