If Barack Obama secures the Democratic presidential nomination, he will owe a small piece of his victory to Ronald Reagan. Could there be a more delicious irony in an election season chock-full of them? In 1992, a panel of three Reagan-appointed federal judges in Texas approved a state senate redistricting map that gave Republicans control of the Texas state senate for the first time since Reconstruction. This scheme provided the foundation for Tom Delay's subsequent gerrymandering of congressional districts - and ultimately will prevent Hillary Clinton from winning a significant majority of the 126 delegates up for grabs in the Texas primary on March 4th. (Another 67 delegates are chosen in a Texas caucus in June; the way the Texas caucus works, the division of these delegates will not be known until then.)
Of course, the Texas Republicans' original intention had been all about themselves. While drawing district lines in such a way that ensured victory for a Republican state senator, the Republicans also made sure that the Democrats in each new district were divided between moderate whites and/or African-American Hispanic minorities. The thinking was that these competing Democratic constituencies would cancel each other out--and that is exactly what is likely to happen come March 4th, because by putting a bit of black in as many state senate districts as possible, the Republicans have blunted the chances for Hillary Clinton to take a majority in districts that have 4 delegates to offer. Most of the 31 state senate districts that will determine the Texas primary deliver 4 delegates. Therefore, Hillary Clinton will be hard-pressed to find a way to a clear-cut victory in Texas.
This gerrymandering of Houston/Harris County must be seen to be believed. (There is no direct link, but a click on the map icon at the bottom of each state senator's page brings up the map. See districts 6, 7, 11, 13, 15 and 17.) At the time the new districting took effect, then governor Ann Richards said, "They have carved up this state like a nonunion meat cutter working on a one-legged turkey." Another less-colorful way to see the map is a piece of paper scribbled on by a toddler. Because the state Republicans back in '92 knew that they couldn't get away with completely disenfranchising minorities, District 13 was drawn to be largely African-American and therefore produce an African-American state senator--currently Rodney Ellis, who has endorsed Obama. In 2006, District 13, the second largest in the state, held well over half of Houston/Harris County Democrats and therefore has 7 delegates to award on March 4th. Not surprisingly, District 13 is base camp for Obama forces here in Houston.