Tuesday, April 4, 2006

DeLay departure

by Andrew Swift, DI editorial writer

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay announced late Monday night that he will not run for re-election and will resign his position representing Texas' 22nd District. DeLay has been indicted for money-laundering in a case involving state legislative candidates' campaign funds. He is also closely linked with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff - two of his former staffers recently pleaded guilty to corruption charges.

It is likely DeLay saw the writing on the wall. After easily winning the GOP primary for his seat, he faced a strong Democrat challenger. Polls had consistently shown that DeLay no longer had majority support in his district.

DeLay's blatant corruption should not be construed as a one-man show. While media spinmeisters will focus on DeLay's cronyism, they will undoubtedly miss the larger picture. DeLay's alleged lawbreaking has been consistently defended and covered up by the House Republican majority. GOP lawmakers even went as far to change the ethics rules so that a majority leader could serve in the post under indictment. (The rule change was stopped, after general outrage.)

Sadly for the Republican revolutionaries who swept to power in 1994, it appears that the GOP will not create a permanent congressional majority. This is not to say that Democrats have not been, and will not be in the future, corrupt. It's just that the GOP has been exponentially better at it - whereas the Democrats took decades to corrupt the House, it barely took Republicans a single decade.

But most worrying about DeLay is his underhanded tactics to rewrite the Texas districting map, ostensibly removing five Democratic representatives from Congress. I'm only mildly saddened for political reasons; the greater danger is the ability of elected officials to redistrict their states for their party's political gains. This year, only a few dozen congressional seats will legitimately be in play, because of widespread gerrymandering. This creates corruption problems, as incumbents are tainted by Washington lobbyism and close contacts with influence peddlers.

Electoral reform is desperately needed. While my dream goal would be to replace the single-member district system with a proportional representation system, the first problem to fix is partisan redistricting.

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