The Texas Hammer: Gerrymandering
Fragmenting progressive counties
Nation Without Representation. The most visible symbol of the Texas Legislature's disdain for Austin and Travis County is the Central Texas congressional map. Parts of five congressional districts are located in Travis County – yet not one of those districts is "anchored" (i.e., has a majority of its residents or voters) in Travis. Austin, the 11th largest U.S. city, is also the largest without an anchoring district or a congressman whose primary responsibility is representing the city.
We can thank former (and since disgraced) Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who engineered the initial 2003 re-redistricting at the Capitol. But the GOP-dominated Legislature has been happy to follow his lead, even under threat of judicial rejection and the (now faded) shadow of Department of Justice oversight. Currently, five congressional districts include parts of Travis County, all anchored elsewhere: District 10 (Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Katy); D17 (Rep. Bill Flores, R-Waco); D21 (Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Kerrville); D25 (Rep. Roger Williams, R-Cleburne); and D35 (Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-San Antonio).
Only peripatetic Democrat Doggett has deep Austin ties and a progressive agenda, and indeed a secondary but thus far futile purpose of the GOP map has been to eject Doggett from Congress. (A federal court's recent ruling could change that. See "Court Rules ...," p.17.) He is trenchant on the larger effects of the GOP divide-and-conquer strategy: "Crooked congressional districts, attaching distant communities across Texas to fragments of Travis County, continues to harm communities far beyond Austin. With four-fifths of Travis County now in districts with congressmen aligned with Trump, progressive values are greatly underrepresented. This is what Republicans always intended – cynically denying voters the accessibility and accountability they demand, and that democracy requires.
"For me personally, gerrymandering means that I have had the opportunity to represent a great deal of Texas," Doggett told the Chronicle. "Just not all at the same time. It means that now I essentially live on I-35, determined to remain actively involved across an elongated district, and to never be intimidated by Trump and his Trumpettes."