The Corner

“The Real Sin of Tom Delay”

According to noted political moralist Dick Morris (reg. req’d), it was the 2003 redistricting of Texas’s congressional seats: “Gerrymandering has been with us since the earliest days of the republic. . . . But DeLay carried this pernicious practice to new lows.

“The lines drawn by the Texas Legislature after the 2000 Census were not stacked to DeLay’s liking. So the House Republican leader worked overtime to elect Republicans to the state Legislature so that they could override the map drawn in 2001 with new, even more biased district lines. His tactic worked and five Democrats were defeated in districts that wouldn’t go Democratic even if Adolf Hitler were the GOP nominee.”

Morris hasn’t bothered to get his facts straight. (The same facts that the New Republic has made a practice of conveniently ignoring, Morris out-and-out misstates.) The 1991 gerrymander had heavily favored Democrats. In 2001, Democrats in the state legislature successfully blocked the passage of any attempt at redistricting. Since

Texas had two new House seats, new lines had to be drawn. So a three-judge federal court was forced to draw them. The judges made as few changes as possible from the 1991 map and urged the legislature to pass its own lines in 2003. Which is what the legislature did, with DeLay leading the charge.

So Morris is just wrong to suggest that the legislature had enacted new district lines after the 2000 Census and that DeLay and company redrew them. It never happened.

Morris concludes that DeLay “has subverted American democracy. The lower House of Congress, intended by the framers of our Constitution to be the body that best reflects the ebbs and flows of public opinion, is no longer really democratic. . . . He sublimated the needs of democracy to those of partisanship. He has done his bit to make America a banana republic.”

Morris needs to get a grip (and a new dictionary). The elections that occurred under the “DeLay lines” were more competitive than the ones that had preceded those lines, and their outcomes reflected the state’s partisan balance better than what had come before, too. Morris is, I think, right to suggest that gerrymandering has gotten out of hand, and reforms to make districts more competitive should be considered. But the charge that DeLay made the situation worse doesn’t stand up.

If Morris wants to learn more about the Texas redistricting, he should do what I did and consult Beldar, who has been all over it.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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