I don’t know much about Nick Lampson, but I know what I like. Lampson is the former Congressman who got out-districted by DeLay and is now out to beat DeLay in his own district; as mentioned and interviewed by Josh Marshall. And what I liked was his ability to stay on-topic and say the right thing.
Now, I’m not going to swear that this guy is always on the ball and ready to go, but I did like this little exchange in that interview:
TPM: Now, this wasn’t just in the abstract, trying to get more Republicans or more Democrats. There were a handful of Democrats who were the targets of this. So how did this effect you, and a few other, former members of the Texas Congressional delegation?
Lampson: Well, it gave us districts that we couldn’t win, essentially. But I think most of us tried to look at it, not so much as what it would do to us, but what it was doing to our communities.
Communities of interest should be the focal point for us trying to do redistricting. You should be able to design a plan that’s going to help people set goals for themselves and be able to achieve those goals for economic growth and for whatever other reasons. You don’t want to have a district that is so diverse, for example, that you have extremely poor people as a small minority within a district that is very affluent, and you fix it so that they have no political say, because the likelihood of their having any of their concerns addressed becomes smaller.
So that was a big thing for me in my own mind. It wasn’t about me. It was about my community. And I think our communities got very seriously hurt because of it.
And that’s the right answer to kind of a weird question. Who cares what this did to Lampson and a few other former Congressmen? Is this ultimately about the Congressmen or even their political party, or is this ultimately about democracy and citizen representation in government? Of course, he really could have fine-tuned that message, to make it as straightforward as what I just wrote. I don’t know how much the phrase “communities of interest” excites you, but it really didn’t do much for me.
But he got the basics right. Re-districting screwed with people’s ability to be properly represented in Congress. Because representation does not simply mean that you got to vote on election day. I know that Republicans act as if democracy happens only once every few years, and is solely performed in a voting booth (which may or may not reflect your specific preference); but that’s not right. Representation means that you have a voice. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you specifically get to speak; it means that people who are like you are given a presence. And the way the system works is that it assumes that like-minded people will live together. And so DeLay’s unprecedented gerrymandering effectively screwed with people’s ability to be represented; and thus, screwed with democracy itself.
And I can attest to this, as I now live in a very liberal neighborhood which has always elected a Democrat, but who is now represented by bad Republican Lamar Smith, who lies to us on his Issues page regarding taxes, healthcare, and national security. You can walk around my neighborhood and see anti-Bush bumperstickers and signs all over the place, yet we’re now represented by one of his henchmen. And I have Tom DeLay (among others) to thank for that. Not because he helped beat the Democrat, as no Republican could have won this district; but because he destroyed the district all together, dividing it into four parts that all got drowned-out by the GOP areas out of town. And by doing so, Tom DeLay took a little bit of democracy out of Texas.
And so Lampson did good by reflecting that fact, rather than answering the question by telling us how he was personally affected by the redistricting.
Thus said, I really wasn’t too pleased with Lampson’s answer to the “Do you heart Bush” question, to which he seemed to believe that Bush was being prevented from doing what he wanted to do by those who “intentionally set out to win their issues”. I’m not sure exactly what he meant by that, and while he did single-out DeLay as a problem, he wasn’t entirely clear whether Tom DeLay was part of those preventing Bush, or if DeLay merely incited them. Somehow, Lampson seems to believe that Bush is getting sidetracked by the politics of polarization, rather than it being his entire strategy. In either case, he made clear that he blames guys like DeLay for screwing up things for Bush.
But on the plus side, when asked about Bush’s job thus far, Lampson correctly identified many of Bush’s biggest blunders, including the foreign policy and tax-cuts. Another clueless moment was when he identified with Bush’s desire for tax-cuts, but then suggested that they shouldn’t have been targeted at helping the rich. Again, he’s assuming that this is an unfortunate side-effect, rather than the entire point.
But he did identify the Bush Blunders, and when you combine that with the fact that he personally knows Bush and that he’s running in Bush Country, we perhaps can excuse him for hearting Bush as much as he does. And as long as he beats Tom DeLay and pushes Bush on the items he gave in his interview, then he can heart Bush all he wants.