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We 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 statement.

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 about it.

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 fascists.

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 missiles. Hardeharhar.

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 Day.

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 than meanness."

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 criticize Bush.

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 here. Thoreau can be emailed at jacksonthor@justice.com.

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