Yesterday, 53 Democrats in the Texas House left the state, breaking "quorum" (the requirement that a minimum number of representatives be physically present in order to pass legislation). They broke quorum to prevent the GOP from passing (guaranteed, through their majority) a re-districting bill that would have grossly undermined the democratic process in Texas. Of course, the GOP cries foul, claiming that breaking quorum is a dishonest tactic (though the GOP used precisely the same tactic back in 1971. One of the GOP reps who walked out back then was none other than current Speaker Tom Craddick, who is full of self-righteous hypocritic outrage today).
The GOP agenda is to ignore the grievous need for a sane state budget (Texas is in the throes of such a severe crisis that the Governor demanded that ALL state agencies - underfunded as they are, cut 7% from their budgets for next year), and push instead of this outrageous redistricting bill that does nothing to establish fair representation of constituents, but rather simply serves to buttress GOP control of the Texas Legislature. The Burnt Orange Report has a detailed summary of the propsed bill and why this was such a brilliant move.
Imagine that Texas had 50 million Democrats and 1 million Republicans. The principle behind gerrymandering is to draw the boundaries of the congressional districts in such a way that all the Democrats (in this case, blacks and hispanics especially) are concentrated in a select few districts. This could mean that even if the GOP was outnumbered 50-1 they could still have a majority control. This inequality arises because control of the state government is determined at the granular level of districts, not counties (larger) or towns (smaller) as the basic unit. That's an essential feature of the way our government works, but it is open to abuse, as the GOP has demonstrated. It's also why GOP cries of outrage at the Democrats supposed subversion of the "true majority" is so laughably hypocritical. The GOP wants the politicians to choose the voters, instead of the other way around.
The House does have the authority to try and compel the Dems to return for quorum. But all the public alert bulletins aren't going to help the GOP's credibility. And Gov. Perry's laughable attempt to force Oklahoma to cooperate was shut down fast.
The Texas political establishment is on the side of the Dems. The Editorial responses have been overwhelmingly positive. Kos Charles Kuffner has an essential FAQ on the affair at the Political State Report.
All of this reminds me of the Kobayashi Maru test from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:
The Kobayashi Maru, sir.
Are you asking me if we're playing out that scenario now, Lieutenant?
On the test, sir. Will you tell me what you did? I would really like to know.
(Kirk looks at Bones, who smiles)
Lieutenant, you are looking at the only Starfleet cadet who ever beat the no-win scenario -
I reprogrammed the simulation so it was possible to rescue the ship.
(laughs) He cheated!
I changed the conditions of the test. I got a commendation for original thinking. (pause) I don't like to lose.
Then - you never faced that situation - faced death...
(Kirk picks up the communicator.)
I don't believe in the no-win scenario.
In politics, neither do I.