May 24, 2005
I've got a long memory. Having a blog with categories and archives helps, since I can easily search for stuff I know I've written about in the past. One of the things I remember well is how State Sen. John Whitmire sold out his Democratic colleagues by unilaterally ending the Senate standoff on redistricting in 2003. Had he been able to control his happy feet for another 30 days or so, the Democrats would have won by running out the clock - there would not have been the time for a new map to get passed, reviewed, and litigated prior to the January filing deadline. He's never given an adequate explanation for his choice, nor has he ever (to my knowledge) expressed regret that he helped Tom DeLay get his way. I'm still pretty bitter about it, and I know I'm not alone.
But I have to admit that he's had a pretty good session this year. Injustice Anywhere lists some of Whitmire's accomplishments, and she's got a point. Last month, Marc Campos claimed that Whitmire is the "leading voice" among Texas Democrats right now. I'm not sure I'd agree with that, and I certainly hope that in a few months' time, once the campaign season has really kicked into gear, we'll have some stiff competition for that designation, but Whitmire's seniority and visibility on criminal justice matters arguably makes him the most influential Dem in the statehouse.
After last year's elections, when the map that Whitmire helped to enable knocked off five good Congressmen, I was ready to sign up for the campaign of whoever would challenge Whitmire in a primary. I'm a bit calmer now, but I still won't shed any tears if someone does go after him, as maybe then we'll finally get to hear what the hell he was thinking. I can't say that such an endeavor would be guilt-free, however. Which annoys the crap out of me - I like my good and evil to be clearly delineated, dammit!
I haven't forgiven John Whitmire, and I'll never forget the choice he made in September of 2003. I haven't yet resolved the mostly-good work he's done this session (and his mostly-good track record overall) with those feelings, and I may never succeed at that. If you feel more certain about him one way or another, that's fine. I'm still working on it.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 24, 2005 to That's our Lege
Ya know, I really have to call BS on the original post. Whitmire a hero? And the only supporting argument is a few items regarding parole and traffic stop searches? Yeah, that really makes up for the sellout on redistricting, doesn't it?
Look, if the question is whether or not John Whitmire is a competent, capable, hardworking legislator, then the answer would be heck yeah. He is. Problem, though, is that he lacks a core belief system that has anything more than the accumulation of power at its root. As a result, redistricting has to be about him. Bill White getting too much pub and Dewhurst wants a few dings in that armor? No prob, just take that task on yourself, Whitemire.
Ideologically, there may be far worse than Whitmire. But given where our party is these days, there's two responses: accept it or change it. And Whitmire seems hellbent on acceptance by most appearances. If you really want to see progress on a whole host of issues that go a lot farther towards establishing one as a hero (schools & health care, perhaps), there's simply one way to go about it - put Democrats back in charge of the Lege. I fail to see how Whitmire has done anything to affect that. And as a result, I think I'll be a bit pickier with my own heros.
It took a lot for me to get beyond those feelings. But after seeing how some of our Democrats in Austin have been acting, I was able to push the 2003 thing to the side.
I decided to keep it stored just in case.
Sen. Whitmire mounted a pretty strong self-defense at the TYD convention this year. I think, at the very least, coming in front of a group of hyper-partisan folks and explaining things took some guts.
I'd agree with Jim on that. When Sen. Whitmire took all of the alloted question time and more to answer for why he did what he did I was extremely pissed. However, I took the time to listen to him, and have some sympathy for his position. Whitmire made a good point that there was no exit strategy for the Dem senators, and that several of the other Dem senators (annonymously) applauded him for being the fall guy. Furthermore, he claimed that his actions saved the 2/3rds rule in the state senate - something that may have some truth to it.
My final take on Whitmire is that I think the best way to deal with him is to "forgive and remember". Personally, if we go after any Dem senators in primaries, I'd like to see Lucio and Madla knocked off. As for state reps, I'd like to see Al Edwards ousted. Still, I'm very disappointed in Sen. Whitmire, and he did betray our trust, and that will be hard to get over for a lot of us.
Charles, I'm with you on the ambivalence between the good things that Sen Whitmire has done this session, and memories of last session. But I think Greg is being too dismissive about criminal justice leadership. The number of people in prison in the state and in the country is a deep problem, leadership towards improvement merits hero status.