Few things are as precious as those who continue to believe in the old fashioned lure of democracy; as if the entire messy process itself could be reduced to an inspiring slogan or patriotic symbol. Cynicism has taken hold in many respects, but there are those defiant few who, when they invoke the very idea of America, conjure up images of ballot boxes, passionate volunteers, and demonstrations in the streets. As such, they simplistically connect the activities of a few true believers and a result they have come to understand as the “democratic process.” One is tempted to scratch such babes in the woods under the chin, pinch a cheek or two, and attribute their naïveté to a curious American idealism that refuses to accept the actual state of things, despite the conflagration. It’s the same sort of detachment that can demand reduced taxes and increased spending, or the very ideal of a commonweal in the midst of a punishing, Ayn Rand-style individualism. We’ve never hidden our delusional lust to have it all, only now, with the idea of representative government battered against the same rocks as other quaint notions of the human experience, we risk throwing our once proud republic even further down the rabbit hole of rule of, by, and for the few. As such, it’s come time to accept that we’re finished; only then can we embrace the possibility of genuine change. I don’t believe it, of course, but until we face our collective defeat, we’ll live the lie with that intolerable good cheer.
Maybe I’m feeling unseasonably generous, but despite Tom DeLay’s status as one of the world’s creepiest assholes, I would not hold him fully accountable, despite the revelations and reiterations of this documentary. DeLay was, is, and will always remain the sort of Lone Star prick who could never be tortured enough for my satisfaction, but it’s always important to remember that he’s been elected and re-elected by those presumably unencumbered by pistols to the head. What’s more, Tom has never hidden a single grain of his agenda, and if anything, he’s the most honest politician we’ve seen in a generation. Back in 1994 when his true reign of terror began, DeLay cheerfully announced his intention to eliminate the Department of Education (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Like a tiger recently released from confinement, he – along with the “revolutionary” newt Gingrich and his “fabulous freshmen” – declared unconditional war on the very idea that government should exist to protect its citizens. A free market meant an unencumbered market, and the people were left to the whims of the corporate class.
The film provides the necessary clips to portray the DeLay of record, and yet here we stand in judgment of his corruption. The film takes a lifetime of abuses, wrongdoing, and megalomania and focuses on redistricting and illegal contributions, but this seems to be a nod to the restrictions of time, rather than a deliberate avoidance of the larger issues. And because DeLay tried to get away with something here, it can be argued that the good people of Sugar Land, Texas were duped, though in a state that openly brags about its constant flirtations with rebelliousness (Texas-speak for “the unethical softened by its technical legality”), this seems very hard to believe. Simply put, DeLay – along with his Texans for a Republican Majority – accepted donations from corporations (a felony in the state of Texas), funneled the money to Washington, and accepted it once again, now “cleaned up” as individual donations. It’s all neat and tidy and brilliantly staged, but a complete violation of the statutes currently on the books.
Next, and in order to secure Republican dominance well into the next century, DeLay and his group sought to redistrict the entire state between the census period in order to favor Republican candidates, as well as create new seats. Texas Democrats trucked to Oklahoma to avoid a vote, but eventually the Hammer fell, and the plan was pushed through intact. Sure, the redistricting violates the Voting Rights Act and discriminates against minorities, but this was little more than a naked power grab, little noticed by anyone but the parties involved. DeLay had his state safe for the Republican Party, and corporate chieftains were secure in the knowledge that at no time would pesky regulators stop by to check on the so-called “rights” of the working classes. Pollute at will, exploit to your heart’s content and hell, mosey on in to Austin to craft the very legislation that is meant to hold you accountable. It’s Texas baby, we’ll do what we damn well please. And so they do. It’s telling that the legislature meets only once every two years, and the Governor is, at least constitutionally, the weakest in the fifty states.
And so with the help of Jim Hightower, Molly Ivins, and Lou Dubose, we relive all the outrageous, embarrassing details of DeLay’s meteoric rise and presumed fall, though it’s painfully clear that even as a private citizen, Hot Tub Tom (so nicknamed because of his deal-making in Jacuzzis) will influence Texas politics as if he never left. He knows where the bodies are buried, after all, and his “sacrifice” was little more than a way to remove the focus while he continues to bring about the desired state of a plutocratic paradise. And he’ll get there, because few Americans even understand the law – or care to peruse the founding documents outside of a high school civics class – and they’ll be so numb to the process that once achieved, it will all appear quite normal. DeLay, then, for all of his sick, twisted evil, is a product of the American Way, a man who entered politics to get Washington out of his bug business, and then decided that it should step back from the whole deal: self-interest masked as a noble cause.
Will Tom DeLay spend a day in jail as a result of his obvious crimes? Perhaps, but at this point it doesn’t really matter. He has secured what he first sought, and DeLay clones wait breathlessly in the wings to continue his fight. Sure, I want the fucker dead and would clean my guns and catch an early flight if I had an ounce of courage, but if we’ve learned anything about assassination, it’s that the new boss really is the same as the old boss. We can move the pieces around, sacrifice a few well-deserved lambs, and even “throw the bums out”, though I have little confidence that the upcoming mid-terms will shift the balance of power one iota. The American people just seem to like Republicans, even the kind who overtly express – and legislate – their contempt for working people. Tom DeLay merely tapped that bizarre self-loathing, and somehow, he’s right in being shocked at finally being called on the carpet.