If you’re inclined that way, you may want to buy one of these Killer D’s T-shirts, which commemorate the current Texas Democrat House of Representatives walkout. (See, the last time anyone did this in Texas, they were called the Killer Bees. Get it?)
Did what, right. 50-odd Democrats just walked out of the Texas House of Representatives in order to block a redistricting bill proposed by Tom Delay, which would have gerrymandered Texas federal districts in such a way as to increase the number of Republican Congressmen from that state. By leaving, they deprive the Texas House of quorum and since Thursday is the last day to introduce new bills (edit: not the last day of the session), the redistricting bill will not get passed. (Thanks to Ginger for the correction there; she has a good piece on this too.)
This is, make no mistake, an abrogation of responsibility. Or, to put it somewhat more kindly, it’s an act of civil disobedience. It is not strictly speaking illegal — nobody’s risking jail time — although they could be returned to the House by force if they hadn’t gone to another state.
However, I believe that if we claim that every lawbreaker is in the moral wrong, we become unable to morally work against totalitarian states or tendencies. (Not that the US is one of those; it’s a statement of principle.) Civil disobedience is a valid tool of political action. So what they are doing is not clearly wrong.
They need to be willing to face the consequences, which in this case are probably failure to be re-elected. That’s how the voters can express their opinion on the matter, and in a democratic system, the voters ought to be the ultimate arbiters.
None of that speaks to the moral consistency of the Representatives in question. I don’t think they’d be doing this to protest a Democratic gerrymander, frankly. So I can’t claim they’re moral in motive, but I can claim that the effects of their actions are a net good and I can say that the voters will have the ultimate say as to whether or not they did the desired thing. In the long term, if the voters disapprove, they can elect candidates who will accept the redistricting. Or, for that matter, elect candidates who won’t redistrict like that.
(This all presumes that one buys into the democratic method. Since our winner-takes-all voting system produces unavoidable distortions of preference, best summarized by asking a devoted Democrat about Nader in 2000, the truth is that the voters can’t effectively express a preference on this issue. A pity that the Founding Fathers weren’t much on game theory, huh?)
T-shirt discovery and general information about the walkout from Burnt Orange Report, which is your source for in depth if somewhat partisan reporting about the matter.