On my drive back from Austin tonight, radio playing endless commentary about the presidential election, I paused in Temple to go to Clem Mikeska's barbecue. The Mikeskas are all descendants of a Czech immigrant who came to Texas to launch a bbq place in the 1920s, and the various descendant family members launched barbecue restaurants all over central Texas.
As I stood in line to get my half-chicken dinner, I noticed that the walls had a very taxidermical feel to them. Longhorns, deer, and various other preserved things decorated the place. I looked with admiration at Clem's Big Fish Award, commemorating Clem's catching a 27 pound striped bass. I thought to myself how a certificate from the game and fish people is a wonderful way to encourage catch and release of bass. Then I noticed that said 27 pound striper was located in a glass case just above the certificate, in a kind of "leaping" posture, and my fantasy of a kinder, gentler world where people release trophy bass back into the lake faded away.
The barbecue, a moist half chicken, proved very tasty, as central Texas barbecue so often does. I didn't even mind that I was in line behind patron after patron whose orders took forever, as hot link after hot link was sliced for massive "family packs".
I read the Temple newspaper while I ate. The newspaper featured discussion of the central Texas congressional election. Chet Edwards, a somewhat right-wing democrat, ran against Arlene Wohlgemuth, a frighteningly far right Republican. Mr. Edwards was one of five sitting Texas congressmen who had to contend with the results of gerrymandering of the Texas congressional districts. First, massive corporate donations from out of state, secured with the assistance of Tom Delay, assisted candidates in gaining control of the Texas legislature. Second, redistricting during the regular "just after the census" term failed, because some conservative legislators could not agree with one another on a local map. Third, the legislature called a special session to gerrymander the districts. Fourth, the Democrats fled the state to defeat a quorum. Fifth, the Republicans waited them out, and then made deals with induce-able Democrats to return and restore the quorum. Sixth, a redistricting plan was put into place which specifically targeted Democratic congressmen by eliminating or drastically changing their districts, and seventh, the Republican National Committee poured in massive sums of money for advertising to ensure that the former incumbent Democrats were defeated.
A grand jury has been investigating various somewhat related maneuvers, issuing some indictments arising from illegal corporate fund-raising. It's unclear that those will go anywhere, because, like all election-code violation cases, the complexity of the application of the laws make them hard to enforce.
The election results thus far indicate that the gerrymander worked as to four of the five targeted Democrats. The exception is Chet Edwards. Although Edwards is from a very conservative part of Texas, his local constituents thought of him as a good guy. Wohlgemuth ran a series of attack ads, most of which accused Edwards of being a far-left liberal, an unsustainable charge. One ad sought to play upon homophobia by implying that Edwards favored same-sex couple adoptions to the detriment of hetero couples. All this proved too tacky for the central Texas voters. Edwards, by contrast, scored well by pointing out that Wohlgemuth is one of many who favor eliminating the income tax and replacing it with a national sales tax, an unwieldy bit of economic suicide advocated by certain members of the far right as a kind of "aren't I cute, I'm against an income tax" appeal to the base. In fairness, nobody believes that such a bill would ever pass--it's just a derringer used by conservatives to appeal to arch-conservatives. The sales tax gun shot Ms. Wohlgemuth in her foot.
Edwards has been projected as the winner of the election. He is the one bright spot in the congressional races. Locally, Dallas county managed to elect a Democratic Sheriff and a judge or two, as the county is slowly swinging back to the left after years of Republicans. Here in Collin County, of course, the usual massive conservative win obtained.
When I left the barbecue restaurant, I felt a chill in the air, as the rainy weather gave rise to the first hint of winter. I stopped at a truck stop and picked up a CD by the band America, but I was too busy listening to election discussion to play "Ventura Highway".