Need More Democrats Like the Texas 58
May 15, 2003
By Jackson Thoreau
Every time I get sick of living in the backwards state of
Texas, something surprises me to make me say, "Hey, maybe
it's not so bad."
The walkout this week by the 58 Texas House Democrats is
the latest surprise. That 58 Democratic politicians would
take such a bold move is encouraging. That 58 Texas Democratic
politicians - who are, as a group, more conservative than
average - would do so is mind-boggling.
I mean, Dubya and the Republicans stole the White House a
little more than two years ago - or was it 200 years ago?
- and you couldn't even get one Democratic senator
in the whole freaking country to do something as simple
as agree to challenge Dubya's "victory" when Congress
certified the results. Only 14 mostly African-American House
members - two from Texas - walked out, leaving that a hollow
Most Democratic politicians have seemed to meekly go along
with whatever slimy, immoral, sleezeball power play the Republicans
shoved down their throats. Such a lack of balls made me leave
the party and become an independent again.
But this walkout, this makes me - and the mainstream media
- take notice. This shows me that some Democrats still have
guts. Some Democrats are tired of taking the Republicans'
crap. Enough Democrats banded together to walk out and shut
down the Texas government. They did what more Congressional
Democrats should have done in January 2003. More Congressional
Democrats should have joined the 14 and walked out and refused
to certify those fictitious results that allowed Bush to steal
the White House. But they didn't. And I lost more faith in
Democrats (it started before that, including when Gore conceded
a victory that he rightly won, but that's another story).
Here it is, two years into the Bush fascist dictatorship,
and we have tax cuts for the super wealthy, illegal blood-for-oil
wars that kill thousands of kids in faraway lands, an out-of-control
regime that cares nothing about working with other countries,
more homeless people, more children without health insurance
while we pay to make sure the surviving Iraqis get health
insurance, concentration camps and people being arrested without
being charged, oil companies gorging on national parks and
other public lands, a vast array of conflicts and slimy business
deals involving Bush administration officials who personally
benefit by the murder in Iraq with large defense, "homeland
security" and Iraq oil and rebuilding contracts for companies
they formerly directed, ad nauseam, ad nauseam, ad nauseam.
I have gotten so sick of the power-hungry, elitist, hypocritical
bastards in the White House that I can't even stand to watch
them speak on TV. Not even that "moderate" sellout
Colin Powell. I can't even stand to think of them. I just
want to switch the channel and try to tune them out. But I
can't. And I won't. I'll keep finding ways to fight the bastards.
One way is this walkout business. What a concept. As states
struggle with budget deficits and cut kids' health insurance
and education and programs that benefit needy people, few
politicians had the gumption to ask why this was happening
when we could give billions of dollars in tax breaks to the
super-wealthy and their corporations. And fewer did anything
Until the Texas 58.
The Texas Legislature has been governed by Republicans who
are about as partisan as they come. House Speaker Tom Craddick
is a fascist who gets his marching orders from U.S. House
Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who gets his marching orders from
the White House. Republicans have spent this session working
to outlaw same-sex marriages, keep pubic hair out of view
in strip joints, get gay Texans out of coverage under the
Hate Crimes Act, and help their campaign contributors with
favorable legislation. Craddick is legendary for conflicts
of interest that border on crimes, such as authoring a 1999
bill that gave Midland's Cap Rock Energy an edge over other
electric utility companies before Craddick received more than
$28,000 from a Cap Rock subsidiary and his daughter was hired
as a lobbyist.
Republicans have also cut programs for the needy to address
a $10 billion deficit, rather than taxing corporations owned
by their wealthy campaign contributors or cutting back on
all these prisons that house the poor. Then as the session
is winding down this month, Craddick all of a sudden says
the most important issue out there is to redistrict Congressional
districts so Republicans can get six or so more seats and
really take control of the U.S. House.
Redistricting is an issue that was already dealt with two
years ago by judges and should not be done again for another
eight years. But the Republicans want to cram this issue down
our throats rather than find ways to keep health benefits
for the needy. So 58 Democratic House members said, "That's
it." They walked out Monday, shutting down the session
since they were at least eight members shy of a quorum.
That's an action of beauty.
What was Craddick's response? Of course, he and partisan
Republican Gov. Rick Perry called out the state police to
arrest these members. They called them "Chicken Ds"
and cowards and bastards and bitches and other names. The
problem was the Democrats made it out of the state, with most
hiding out in Oklahoma and others perhaps in New Mexico, where
they couldn't be arrested by Texas police (yes, there is an
actual Texas law that allows authorities to arrest a politician
for not showing up). And the Oklahoma authorities have so
far refused to get involved, although New Mexico Attorney
General Patricia Madrid, a Democrat, said she "put out
an all-points bulletin for law enforcement to be on the lookout
for politicians in favor of health care for the needy and
against tax cuts for the wealthy."
On Tuesday, Craddick turned to his pal Bush and other feds
to ask them to send federal agents to arrest the Texas Democrats.
That's predictable. Three of the Democrats who walked out
Monday showed up at the State Capitol Tuesday, including one
who said she was rudely told to get in a squad car by a state
trooper and driven back to Austin. In effect, she was arrested
and made to get back to the Texas Legislature by the Republican
I hope the rest of the Democrats stay on their walkout for
a long time. Other Republicans, who call the Democrats childish
for standing up to them, do childish things like pass around
decks of cards with the pictures of these Democrats. They
try to emulate the U.S. military's deck of cards for Iraq's
Most Wanted that just belittles and insults Arabs - it seems
everything, even a war that kills a lot of civilians and children,
is a game to these people. Is that not childish?
Oh, it's funny to put Iraq's deposed leaders on a deck of
cards. It's funny to compare Democrats to the former leaders
of our country's supposed enemies. It's funny to rub it in
the world's face that a country that spends upwards of $500
billion a year on sophisticated weapons can destroy a country
that spends $1.4 billion annually on archaic tanks and Scud
As Texas Democratic Party Chairwoman Molly Beth Malcolm said,
these Texas Democratic leaders should be heralded, not demonized.
"They are showing what true courage and true commitment
are all about," Malcolm said. "Redistricting was
the last straw in a series of outrageous, iron-fisted power
plays by Speaker Tom Craddick. If Mr. Craddick wants to know
who caused this, he should look in the mirror."
Fort Worth Rep. Lon Burnam, the Ace of Clubs and one of the
leaders of the walkout, is among the state's most principled
leaders. He has long headed the Dallas Peace Center –
it's amazing Dallas even has such a center - and been a public
target for far-right bullies for years. If you think it's
hard to work for peace and justice in a progressive city like
San Francisco or New York these days, try our hellhole called
Dallas, the capital of defense contracts and conflicts of
interest. Yet, Burnam admirably perseveres.
More of us need to follow Burnam's and other Democrats' examples
and just walk out on these Republicans. Those working for
Republicans, be it a business or government agency, just walk
out. Refuse to work for the bastards - for at least one day.
We need to organize a National Walkout on the Republicans
And those in states besides Texas need to urge their state
politicians to engage in similar walkouts. What if Democratic
state legislators in all 50 states enacted a similar walkout?
We could shut down the country and send a stronger message
to Bush that we are sick and freaking tired of his crap.
And to those who say that such protests are subversive or
juvenile, I say remember the Boston Tea Party of 1770. Our
history books glorify that protest - and they should. We should
not forget that our country was founded on such protests.
The same Republican hypocrites who are belittling Democrats
for walking out support such walkouts and other protests when
they target a cause they like.
There's evidence that even some Republican voters admire
what Burnam and others are doing. I found this message on
a Texas board: "I voted Republican for the last two state
elections, but I didn't vote for people going all the way
to the right. I think we need to take care of education and
of poor people. I never thought I would say it, but 'Yea to
the Democrats.' They at least show some principles rather
When Republican voters call their leaders mean and applaud
an action of defiance by Democrats like this, something is
changing. It gives me hope for this state, yet.
Texas may be at or near the bottom of education and healthcare
spending and of taking care of poor people and a lot of similar
categories. But for every Bush Texas birth, there is a Molly
Ivins or a Jim Hightower or a Lon Burnam or a Roy Williams.
Before we invaded Iraq, the only sports celebrities I knew
to risk their shoe contracts and question the invasion were
Texan hoopsters Steve Nash and Nick Van Exel. The Texas-born
Dixie Chicks are the only country group I know of to publicly
I may move out of Texas later this year to D.C. to get more
involved in the War Against Bush. But I won't forget that
there are people in this state who make me proud to have lived
in Texas for most of my life.
Jackson Thoreau is co-author of We Will Not Get Over
It: Restoring a Legitimate White House. The updated, 120,000-word
electronic book can be downloaded from his website.
Citizens for Legitimate Government has the earlier version
Thoreau can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.