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Is Everyone Asleep at the Wheel?
Despite rhetoric on protecting democracy, Texas organizations fail to mobilize against redistricting efforts.
When we listen to our elected leaders in the wake of the rise of fascism in America, they talk about how important democracy is and how we need to do everything we can to protect American democracy. It looks good on paper, but where are those same leaders when it matters?
On Monday at 10:45 am, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick assigned committees. Of course, he appointed Joan Huffman as the chair of the redistricting committee. Almost right away, Huffman scheduled redistricting hearings. Republicans plan to gerrymander the maps again to give themselves an upper edge in the 2024 elections by using the 2022 election results to determine how the maps will be drawn.
By law, the legislature must give the public a 24-hour notice of a committee hearing. That’s why Huffman scheduled the first hearing for Wednesday at 1:00 pm. There will be five more redistricting hearings by Saturday.
Huffman scheduled the hearings immediately after being appointed chair to give the shortest amount of time for Democrats and activists around the state to respond.
Here is the article I put out yesterday about it:
Registration was supposed to close 24 hours before the hearing. Maybe it’s possible that Huffman didn’t post the notice to the meeting until 1:00 pm on Tuesday, not allowing anyone to sign up. I didn’t get wind of it until 3:00 pm. Regardless, no one showed up. Not any citizens, no attorneys for civil rights groups, no elected leaders, or activists from around the state. No one.
Is it possible that there wasn’t a large enough window from when the hearing was posted, and the registration was closed?
Absolutely. We’ve known Republicans to do worse. We’ve known Joan Huffman to do worse. Maybe the registration was only open an hour, perhaps it wasn’t open at all, but for anyone paying attention over the last several years, shouldn’t we expect the GOP to pull out all the stops to prevent Democrats from being heard?
Even if that’s the case, I haven’t received any email or text messages from the Texas Democratic Party or other groups alerting the public of these hearings. (And I’m on a lot of email lists.)
However, in the last 24 hours, I did get three separate emails and one text message from the Texas Democratic Party regarding James Talarico’s bill to give Texas teachers a $15,000 pay raise and asking for a donation.
Even the email with Talarico’s name came from Gilberto Hinojosa’s email address.
While Talarico’s bill is good, and teachers should get a raise, one can’t help but wonder that within the four separate times, the TDP sent out a marketing blast in the last 24 hours, if it ever crossed their minds to alert the public of the gerrymandering efforts happening in Austin this week.
And we wonder why the Texas Democratic Party has been failing. Sure, a raise for teachers is on the party platform, but so are fair maps. After all, the TDP’s job is to promote the party platform, educate voters on the issues, and advance efforts to influence the government.
During the last redistricting session, hundreds of people showed up to testify against the GOP’s racial gerrymandering efforts.
But even if thousands of people testify, we already know the outcome, so why should they even bother?
Even if the outcome of these hearings is preeminent, testifying against any gerrymandering efforts from the Texas GOP is how we have our voices heard. It’s a way to hold them accountable.
Democrats in Texas should send the GOP a message that they will not go unchallenged and that we are watching them closely.
If the maps are passed, the testimony and documentation of the public’s opposition to gerrymandering can be used in future legal challenges to the maps. It also sends a message to other citizens and the media that there is still support for fair representation. Something that most Texans don’t have right now.
It’s not just the TDP that dropped the ball on these redistricting hearings. Organizations like the Texas ACLU and Lulac have also failed to adequately alert the public and mobilize citizens to take action. Their lack of action is not only a disappointment but also undermines the very values and principles that they claim to stand for.
Gerrymandering is a corrupt practice that undermines the very foundation of our democracy. It allows politicians to pick their voters instead of the other way around. It dilutes the power of marginalized communities and leads to increased political polarization, as politicians are only accountable to their base instead of the general electorate.
Despite the disappointment and exhaustion many of us may feel following the recent election loss, we mustn’t give up on our efforts to protect democracy.
We cannot afford to become complacent or disengaged, as the stakes are too high. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we stay engaged, informed, and actively working toward a more equitable and democratic society for all. Whether it’s through testifying at redistricting hearings, supporting organizations that fight against gerrymandering, or simply staying informed about the issue and speaking out against it, there are countless ways that we can make our voices heard and push for change.
Real progress is made through persistent efforts.