They’re back now, but Texas’s few living elected Democrats, who fled to Oklahoma pursued by minions of the law, are said to remain unrepentant. The proximate cause was a redistricting map, but the real reason was a sessionlong display of meanness and unfairness that finally became unbearable. Faced with a $10 billion deficit, the Republicans decided to outlaw gay marriage. Then they kicked 250,000 poor children off a health insurance program that is mostly paid for by the Feds. And when the handicapped came to the capital to protest cuts in their services, the governor had them arrested.

These are Shiite Republicans–they don’t compromise, they don’t deal, they don’t look for the middle way. Because they believe they’re right. They think it’s them against evil. And everybody who ain’t them is evil. I’m just warning you: This is about to happen everywhere. The whole country is being turned into the state whose proudest boast is that sometimes we’re ahead of Mississippi.

After the Democrats’ Big Bolt, the Republicans were left without a quorum. Bills died by the dozen as the lawmakers wanted by the law bollixed up the legislative works (bills not through second reading as of May 15 die automatically, a bit of legislative process the fleeing Dems cunningly used to their advantage). Governor Goodhair Perry, who keeps saying he wants more civility and bipartisanship, denounced the AWOL solons as “cowardly” and “childish.” He asked neighboring governors to arrest the perps on sight, leading New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid to put out an all-points bulletin on any politicians “in favor of health care for the needy and against tax cuts for the wealthy.” Speaker Tom Craddick, the tyrant whose insupportable conduct forced these brave Democratic heroes to leave their native heath, said he refused to negotiate and that the Killer D’s were embarrassing the State of Texas.

But the real embarrassment was US House majority leader Tom “The Hammer” DeLay, who admitted that the Republicans had sought the assistance of the federales in going after the recalcitrant D’s. That, apparently, is how the Homeland Security Department, which is supposed to be making America safe from foreign terrorists, ended up tracking a plane belonging to one of the Democrats fighting against the redistricting bill to Ardmore, Oklahoma. This isn’t just weird Texas politics–creepin’ fascism, that’s what we’re looking at.

The redistricting map that touched off this mess is a masterpiece, a veritable Dadaist work reminiscent of Salvador Dali’s more lunatic productions. But the Democrats’ action has nothing to do with “payback.” The Texas Congressional redistricting plan currently in effect was drawn by the courts and was a great disappointment to the Democrats.

Nor is Speaker Craddick’s sessionlong performance combining the best elements of Dracula and The Eggplant That Ate Chicago payback for some heavy-handed Democratic domination. For the past ten years, the Speaker of the House has been a decent and exceptionally fair man named Pete Laney. If you don’t believe me, go ask George W. Bush. (Of course, Laney does sound exactly like Boomhauer on King of the Hill, but that’s a different problem.)

The Democrats came home heroes to their people. A Democrat from Boise, Idaho, said he planned to confront the state’s legislative D’s with headlines and pictures of the Texas Killer D’s and to label the montage “Democrats With Cojones.” Unfortunately, it was pointed out, there aren’t enough Idaho Democrats to break a quorum.