Demise of the DeLay Machine?
In today's Salon, Lou DuBose -- one of the best reporters on Texas politics around -- echoes my point Wednesday about how Tom DeLay has been able to stay in power despite years of scandal:
The answer to that question involves the two constituencies most indebted to Tom DeLay: The Republican members of the House who selected him to lead them in 2003 and (for the moment) continue to support him; and the Republican campaign and advocacy groups enriched by huge contributions from the same corporate lobbyists and clients who pick up the tab for DeLay, his family and staff to play golf in American Saipan, Scotland, England and Russia.
Again, I think Tom DeLay is a useful case study in how pure machine politics still trumps "framing" and the other techniques of persuasion currently being pondered by progressives. Not that these are unimportant -- they clearly are. But they only have traction when backed up by real muscle -- in DeLay's case, money and his willingness to "drop the hammer" on opponents.
But alas, DeLay's fiefdom of cash and fear -- like so many political machines -- was based on transparent cronyism, bending the law, and other ethical lapses. Which leads DuBose to a conclusion very similar to mine:
Will DeLay survive? He brings in millions of dollars and is an indefatigable party builder who last year added six Texas seats to the Republican House majority by redrawing congressional district lines in Texas. So it's hard for House Republicans to say goodbye. But as DeLay's name becomes synonymous with political corruption, they might have no choice. If the party decides DeLay is too much a liability to carry into the off-year elections, a delegation of his colleagues will pay him a visit at his Capitol office just off Statuary Hall and thank him for all he's done for the party.
Chris Kromm is executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies and publisher of the Institute's online magazine, Facing South.