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Yesterday afternoon, I was invited to join Keith Olbermann for his top story: the recent flipping of two Democratic state reps in Texas has given that state’s extreme right wing Republican Party a supermajority in the legislature; that’s 101 of 150 seats. Olbermann’s point was that this development makes Texas the first “Tea Party State,” and I was invited on to help him imagine, comedically and legitimately, what that might look like.

Now for some extra analysis…

For an idea of what the supermajority means, I recommend this Texas Tribune article which says, in part:

With a two-thirds majority, the Republicans will have the votes to suspend the rules that govern and restrict House business and the numbers to keep working even if the Democrats take a walk.

That would have been handy a couple of times in the last decade. At the end of the 2009 legislative session, for instance, the Democrats in the minority slowed House business to a near standstill by using the rules to drag out consideration of a long list of bills. That particular trick is known as “chubbing,” and it has an effect similar to a Senate filibuster. The legislation they were working to block moved way back. Hundreds of other measures never got considered because of the chubbers. Had the Republicans been in possession of 100 votes, they could have suspended the rules that made that possible and hurried along their way to voter ID — the bill that got the chub-a-thon going.

In May 2003, House Democrats left the state to block a redistricting vote they thought was unfair. They had sufficient numbers to deny the House a quorum, defined in the Constitution as 100 members. Should they become nostalgic for Ardmore, Okla., the Democrats will travel knowing that House business will continue without them. They no longer have the 51 folks it takes to stop House business.

For a smart take on the political cowardice of the Democrats who chose to switch after the election, see Matt Glazer’s piece at Burnt Orange Report. His main point is that switching parties is undesirable but can be understandable. However, to do so after being elected (and funded) as a Democrat is theft and deception, especially in the case of Rep. Peña

We are mad as hell because he is lying to the press. Peña is lying to his district. He has lied to us. And, most importantly, he refuses to let his district affirm or deny him the right to represent them – making him a coward.

Finally, to get a feel for just how far right the Texas GOP is and why this is a frightening situation, see this Media Matters analysis of the state party’s official platform. It calls for items such as the repeal of minimum wage and the Hate Crimes Law, limitation of U.S. citizenship to those born in the U.S. to a U.S. citizen, the continued outlawing of sodomy and opposition to a one-world currency, of course.

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