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The Brief: Nov. 26, 2010

He lost this battle, but Tom DeLay may have already won the war.

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on Nov. 1, 2010, before opening arguments in his trial.

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

He lost this battle, but Tom DeLay might have already won the war.

The former U.S. House majority leader made national headlines on Thanksgiving after a jury convicted him Wednesday on money-laundering and conspiracy charges. (The not-a-lot-to-be-thankful-for jabs ensued.)

DeLay immediately struck back, calling the ruling "an abuse of power" while his foes gloated. "You cannot wipe the grin off my face with a stick of dynamite," one said.

But short-term politics aside, DeLay, who may still only receive probation, had already left an enduring stamp on state and national politics by wielding redistricting as a political weapon for Republicans, who — as exhibited on Nov. 2 — are still reaping the benefits of his efforts.

And as the Texas Legislature looks ahead to redistricting in 2011, DeLay's legacy may come even more sharply into focus as lawmakers fight using efforts honed by the man who "destroyed whatever was left of the Texas congressional bipartisan tradition," as one political scientist puts it to the Houston Chronicle.

And as our own Ross Ramsey writes today:

"Eight years later, DeLay’s political career is over. He’s had his perp walk, taken his lumps on Dancing with the Stars and gone on trial for the PAC’s transgressions during the 2002 elections. He is done — but his maps are still in place. The Texas congressional delegation, which stood at 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans before the maps were in place, now has 23 Republicans and only 9 Democrats. The only verdict that really matters had already been returned before the criminal case went to the jury."

CULLED:

  • In today's Austin American-Statesman, the story of one small Central Texas town's foray into one unlikely combination of politics and sport: socialism and golf. In the past three years, the city of Lago Vista has taken on ownership of two golf courses that have become, in effect (yes), too big to fail.

"It's almost an Aristotelian tragedy that [Tom DeLay] presumed he could do this and he did it and it led to his fall."Lou DuBose, co-author of The Hammer: God, Money and the Rise of the Republican Congress, to the Houston Chronicle

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