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20ogBook Reviews463 Lines in the Sand: Congressional Redistricting in Texas and the Downfall of Tom DeLay. By Steve Bickerstaff. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007. Illustrations, tables, maps, appendix, notes, glossary, index. ISBN 9780292714748, $34.95 cloth.) In November 2002, the Republican Party gained control of the Texas House of Representatives. In many close races, the winner benefited from expenditures by TRMPAC, a shadowy political action committee organized by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. In die ensuing 2003 legislative session, DeLay and his allies pressed for an unprecedented "mid-decade" congressional redistricting —with the avowed purpose of replacing incumbent Anglo Democrats with Republicans from newly drawn suburban districts. In two called sessions, redistricting failed due to defections among Republicans and disagreements over maps. Lacking the two-thirds vote needed to bring a stalled redistricting bill to the floor, the Lieutenant Governor abandoned that parliamentary requirement, precipitating a walkout by Senate Democrats. After five weeks in Albuquerque, one Democrat returned to restore a quorum for a third called session. The "conference committee" map ultimately adopted was not the one previously approved by either house, but a new version traceable to DeLay which "packed" minorities and diluted rural voters. Under that map, the Texas delegation in 2004 shifted to a 21-11 Republican majority. Several new districts were subsequently found to violate the Voting Rights Act, leading to a court plan under which Democrats in 2006 recaptured two seats—including DeLay's. These events are the subject matter of Lines in the Sand, a magisterial recounting by law professor and redistricting expert Steve Bickerstaff. His challenge was to craft a coherent, evenhanded account of an emotionally charged, complicated swath of recent Texas history. He succeeds, and his meticulously researched narrative will be an authoritative resource for generations of historians and redistricting attorneys. Describing redistricting's convoluted legislative fights would have been difficult even without the related web of civil and criminal litigation. Bickerstaff dutifully tackles both, demystifying the civil suits and the criminal prosecutions arising from the 2002 campaign and the courtroom challenges to the redistricting map. He candidly admits diat all chapters are not intended for all readers, and separates more subjective analyses into chapter summations labeled "commentary ." Three decades of experience in Texas redistricting qualify Bickerstaff to explain these legal disputes, and he does so capably, duly noting the impartiality and diligence of mostjudges who addressed redistricting related claims. The 2003 redistricting fight was initially seen as a costly but significant political win for DeLay and his party. The new Texas districts briefly shored up their majority in Congress, but scandals soon drove DeLay from office and the Republican's Washington majority disappeared in a surge of voter dissatisfaction. If the book has a fault, it is the author's unspoken assumption that political alignments enshrined in DeLay's map will withstand changing political tides. As Bickerstaff observes, redistricting is a divisive and bruising political exer- 464Southwestern Historical QuarterlyApril eise that must be accomplished each decade. In 2003, diough, it was one party's "war of choice." No major newspaper in Texas supported mid-decade redistricting and public opinion opposed it. Redistricting began with electoral abuses, succeeded only through legislative abuses, and generated racial polarization and partisan bitterness. BickerstafFs conclusion says it best: The appropriate goal of governance in this country is not the success or failure of a political party or even a particular ideology. It is die welfare of the American People and die American state. No single party or person always has die right answer for serving that goal . . . Tom DeLay's intense and ruthless pursuit of success for his adopted party . . . blinded him to the destructive effects of that success on the welfare of this nation, and to the negative legacy he eventually would leave behind" (390). Austin, TexasJames E. Cousar ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9560
Print ISSN
0038-478X
Pages
pp. 463-464
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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