The story ran in The Hill, which, as many readers are aware, is a daily newspaper devoted to coverage of Congress. An excerpt from the story:
“They do not want Anglo Democrats representing any part of Texas,” Doggett said. “They went after [former Democratic Reps.] Martin Frost and Chet Edwards, and I’m the third one they have sought to eliminate.
“They’re trying to complete the task that [Republican former House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay’s staff set out for them.”
DeLay infamously pushed state lawmakers to redraw Texas’s lines in 2003, which helped Republicans take a majority of the state’s House seats. There were 10 White Democrats in the state’s delegation in 2002. Doggett and Green are the only two who remain.
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I wrote something similar during the 2003 redistricting. It was obvious that DeLay’s idea was to get rid of the white Democrats. Some will remember the infamous memo by a DeLay aide–I think it was Jim Wilson–who kept saying ha-ha-ha about the Democrats who were marked for annihilation (Frost, Edwards, Doggett). DeLay’s map eviscerated seats that had been Democratic for eons, including the old Wright Patman district in northeast Texas and the Charlie Wilson seat in the big timber country around Lufkin. Republicans really don’t care if minority Democrats hold congressional seats. The R’s can be fairly certain that, this being Texas, minority politicians will seldom have influence outside of their districts–of course, there are exceptions, like Barbara Jordan.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that the 03 redistricting wasn’t nearly as important as it seemed at the time. It was symbolic of how far Republicans were willing to go to destroy the vestiges of Democratic Texas. It turned out that they didn’t have to do anything. The 2010 election did it for them. Obama’s unpopularity could not be overcome. Chet Edwards had no chance, and Doggett barely won reelection. Only Gene Green will be left, mainly because he represents a low-turnout Hispanic district.
The irony of Doggett’s attack on the Republicans is that almost no one has done as much damage to the Democratic cause as he did. In 1984 Doggett ran for the U.S. Senate nomination in a three-way race that included Kent Hance, then a conservative Democrat, and former congressman Bob Krueger, who had narrowly lost a race for the Senate against John Tower in 1978. The Republican nominee was Phil Gramm. What still amazes me about that race is that Doggett apparently was under the illusion he could win. How could he have had so little self-awareness as to not know that he had was too liberal to win a statewide race? If Hance had won the nomination, on the other hand, I think he could have held the seat for the Democrats. But Krueger finished a close third in the primary, and Doggett edged out Hance for the nomination. Hance’s loss was a signal that there was no place for conservative Democrats in the party. So, as I see it, nobody should mourn Doggett’s departure from the political stage, if that occurs. He was responsible for one of the party’s worst debacles.
I think it is true that DeLay’s ultimate motivation was not just to win more congressional seats for his party. I think he wanted to drive Texas toward a politics in which there was a white party and a party of color. And you know what? When the next redistricting occurs, in 2021, the Republicans will find out that DeLay got his way after all. Only, the majority party may not be the white party.