August 31, 2003
They dumped Thom Marshall for this?

I'm not feeling very pundit-like (punditesque?) today, so I'll go for the easy and cheap shot by pigpiling on the Chron's hotshot new columnist Rick Casey, who comes to the amazing conclusion that maybe, just maybe, competitive districts for elected officials may be good for democracy. This particular effort contains more artificial filler than a truckload of Twinkies:

What would you say if I came up with a plan that gave both of you a chance to greatly increase the number of seats you held in the Legislature and in Congress?

A plan that would ensure that you would never again suffer the kind of stand-off that is now making both sides the ridicule of the nation and the objects of disgust among Texans.

A plan that would strengthen the nation while making the working lives of elected officials more pleasant.

What's the plan? Before I tell you, let me remind you of your commitment to the virtues of free enterprise, competition and a government run more like a business.

Because the fact is, your behavior doesn't reflect your stated beliefs.

When it comes to a commitment to competition, you act in ways that would make John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould and Leland Stanford blush.

If Texaco and Exxon Mobil divided up market share the way you do, somebody would go to prison.

Harris County is not atypical. We have 25 state representative districts, at least part of seven state senate districts and at least part of eight U.S. House districts.

He then spends six paragraphs telling us why this is a Bad Thing before admitting that the idea of competitive districts was suggested to him by someone else, then finally goes for the big finish by touting the advantages of this idea, which are conveniently enough the exact converse of the disadvantages of the current system. Someone get me some smelling salts, all this excitement has me feeling faint!

Does he mention Senate Bill 2 and its faithful companion House Bill 49? Does he mention the March 2001 Texas Legislative Council report, which is called "State and Federal Law Governing Redistricting in Texas"? Heck, since he was really more interested in a computer program to do redistricting instead of people doing it, does he mention that the Texas Legislative Council already owns such a program? Please. Do you eat your Twinkies with a wheat germ chaser? I didn't think so.

Thom Marshall, come back! All is forgiven!

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 31, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack

It's not altogether clear that better policy would result from a larger number of competitive districts.

That would actually be an interesting question. Of course it's the one nobody seems to be asking.

I wouldn't expect it of the Comical, in any case.

Posted by: kevin whited on August 31, 2003 9:38 PM

If competitive elections are so important, why not support term limits as well? Maybe its just me, but it seems like the trope of competitive elections benefiting democracy only seems to have been trotted out as a response to Republican redistricting, not as a matter of general principle.

But maybe I'm just being cynical...

Posted by: Owen Courrèges on August 31, 2003 10:55 PM

I would think it's the case that more moderate politicians would be the result of more competitive districts, but I wouldn't asset that without first looking at some places that have them (like, say, Iowa). Whether that leads to better policy or not depends on your view of what good policy is.

Term limits won't make for competitive elections if the districts are still safe for one party. I mean, if Sheila Jackson Lee and John Culberson were barred from running for reelection in 2004, would you take any odds at all on their seats switching parties? I wouldn't.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on September 1, 2003 10:00 AM

I was sorry to learn Thom Marshall had been replaced at the Chronicle. I had spoke with him when he as at the paper commending him for his courageous pursuit of justice. How can he now be reached? Do you have an e-mail address?

Posted by: v.e. rock on October 8, 2003 1:59 PM

Where has Thom Marshall landed? I miss his great articles in the Chronicle.

Posted by: E. Pryor on January 11, 2005 3:38 PM