Congressional redistricting, Texas style

One of the biggest challenges to being an optimistic professor teaching Texas politics comes with redistricting. I spend a lot of time trying to convince students that politicians are often guided more by principle than partisanship.

And then redistricting comes along.

The initial redistricting proposal from the Texas legislature is pretty ugly. Travis county is divided into 5 different districts. One district (10) ranges from west Austin to western Harris county. Meanwhile, District 36 (below) is  a horseshoe-shaped mess that loops up from northwestern Houston, up and over Lufkin, and then diving back down to snare part of Orange county on the Louisiana border.

The oddly-shaped 36th district

Meanwhile, no incumbents were paired off against each other. Clearly, legislators have decided they care much more about representing partisan interests than the needs of the communities they represent.

Rusty from Squidbillies

***Update***

Now that I look at it, District 36 is more mullet-shaped than horseshoe-shaped. Am I the only one who thinks that it is a bad for your legislative districts look like characters from Squidbillies?

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Bill Clements and the modern Texas Republican party.

Bill Clements, one of the founders to the modern Texas GOP, died this weekend at the age of 94. Stories in the Texas TribuneHouston Chronicle, and Austin-American Statesman provide some flavor of the man and his impact on Texas politics.

Clements ran for governor as a Republican when Republican wasn’t cool–or “smart.” Texas politics was well-stocked with conservatives who clung to comfort of the Democratic party label that assured victory in most districts. Rick Perry, Phil Gramm, and many others still cashed in on the Democratic label. Clements and a handful of others realized that running away from the Republican party label on perpetuated the party’s second-class status. In winning election as the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction Clements lead Republicans out of the closet and into a productive role in Texas politics.

Today, politicians switch party labels for their political convenience. Clements’ claimed the Republican party when it was decidedly inconvenient.

Ron Paul’s run

Ron Paul and "Libertarian Pride"Ron Paul has joined the 2012 race for president. His chances of winning the presidency are roughly the same as those of Newt Gingrich. As Michael Gerson points out in a recent column, Paul’s libertarian brand of conservatism is not going to go over well with most of the Republican base.

The libertarians’ problem with the GOP base is simple: Libertarians want to allow people be naughty and make their own mistakes. Social conservative want to outlaw naughtiness and keep citizens as far from tempting mistakes as possible.

Newt Gingrich’s big announcement

A porcupine playing with a baloon.Newt Gingrich will announce his candidacy for president on Wednesday.

This Far Side cartoon sums up my expectations for his candidacy pretty well.

A comic look at the politics of the state lottery

Today’s Pearls Before Swine comments pretty effectively on the politics of state lotteries (click on the small image if it’s too hard to read). Rationally, the value of buying a ticket just does not add up.

Goat and rat discuss the lottery as a tax on people who can't do math

Stephan Pastis (creator of Pearls Before Swine and a pretty funny blogger) was a political science major before going to law school. So, he knows the score.

One fundamental issue in government is if we should stop people from doing something foolish. Our governments spends a lot of money trying to prohibit vices like illegal drugs and prostitution.

Another fundamental issue is if the state should be profiting from people doing something foolish. Our government makes a lot of money from taxing vices like gambling, tobacco, and alcohol.

Or, maybe Texas government is not the best judge of foolishness.