Voting Rights Today
Today, as we reflect on Martin Luther King’s life and legacy, it is chilling to see voting rights again under attack. Partisan gerrymandering is one of the oldest tools for stifling voter rights. Last year, partisan gerrymandering was brought down from the attic and used aggressively in Texas and in other states. Yet, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found no fault with the Texas redistricting plan, basing its analysis almost exclusively on the plan’s impact on Black and Hispanic voters and ignoring the broader attacks on voting rights that shredded Austin and other communities.
The newest threat to voting rights is through electronic voting. There is a concern that with electronic voting all votes may not be accurately recorded and reported and that the voting software may be subject to tampering. Amazingly, some of the electronic voting system companies have asserted that their voting software is protected as a trade secret, preventing voting officials from verifying the vote, and some local voting officials have agreed to these limitations. It should be a minimum standard that our voting procedures are transparent and available for inspection.
Here, at the dawn of the 21st Century, we are reminded again that part of Dr. King’s legacy is that our civil rights cannot be taken for granted, that we must always be vigilant, and that we must be ready to both step forward to assert our rights and to protect the rights of others. This is both a part of Dr. King’s legacy and part of what it means to be an American. The American Revolution and our separation from England was based in large part in grievances over voting rights, representation, and governance. Our legacy is older than that, though, extending back to the English Civil War and the wars of religion during the 17th Century that so greatly influenced the early settlement of North America and before that to the Magna Carta, Rome, and Athens. Voting rights are an age-old and eternal question, and we must do our part to hold-up our end of the debate.
Sun Tzu Would Not Approve
I don't belong to an organized political party.
I'm a Democrat
-- Will Rogers
No Democrat filed to run for election in the redrawn 10th Congressional District. Eight Republicans are running to represent the District which extends from North Travis County down Highway 290 to Suburban Houston. Sun Tzu would not approve of the Democrats providing the Republicans with this opportunity to consolidate control over this district that was designed to include a nominal Republican majority. The Republicans running for the seat are in disarray with an east-west tug of war for control of the district and with candidates running on platforms calling for abolition of the IRS and monuments to the Ten Commandments.
The Democrats are not even on the field, though. By not running a candidate in this district, the Democrats are continuing to allow the Republicans to define the terms of debate. Sun Tzu is noted for identifying that “the highest realization of contest is to attack the enemy’s plans; next is to attack their alliances; next to attack their forces; and the lowest is to attack their fortified positions.” The Republicans have planned for the 10th Congressional District to be won by a Republican. Because it is a new district, though, the Republican alliances within the district are weak and divided. It would be challenging for a Democrat to run in the 10th Congressional District, but there is also an opportunity to challenge the Republicans in this district before they can strengthen their alliances and consolidate their control.
The Republicans gained control of the state because for years they were willing to field candidates in races even where they had little chance of winning. The Democrats need to recognize that we are now in the same position the Republicans were in back in the 70s. The Democrats have recognize that the old ways no longer work, that they have not worked for awhile, and that the party must rebuild itself in each county and district and define a new what the party stands for and offers to the voters. To do that, though, the Democrats are going to need to field candidates.
When Are We Going to Get There?
President Bush’s space program is long on generalities and short on specifics and vision. Bush has called for a base on the moon and substantial progress on a trip to Mars by 2030. The only specific deadline he offered was to cut off funding for the International Space Station by 2010. There are still many questions as to why we should go to the moon and whether a manned trip to Mars is even feasible. Some allege that Bush has called for a base on the Moon in order to stake out a permanent claim before China and India get there.
President Bush has, however, created an opportunity for the Democrats running for President and for Congress to engage in a debate on our objectives in space. The space program will continue to be developed through annual budgets and annual debates on what priorities should be funded. A new direction is needed for our space program, and there is still an opportunity to define what that direction will be.
Yes, I am a