posted on July 15, 2013 12:36
The other day Thomas Edsall of the New York Times reported that a terrible thing has happened. Since the Voting Rights Act passed, the number of Black state legislators has grown from fewer than 5 to 313 – but at the same time, Black political power has diminished. The problem: Most Black legislators are Democrats which makes them members of the minority party now that Republicans control every state legislature in the “former Confederacy.”’
It’s what’s called, Edsall reported, the ‘Re-segregation in Southern Politics.’
The way Edsall sees it, two varmints are responsible for this sorry state: Southern whites leaving the Democratic Party and Republicans drawing redistricting plans.
Now there is a whole dollop of subtle forces at work here which make this lament a little like the fellow who got exactly what he asked for – but then cried foul because it wasn’t what he expected.
North Carolina’s an example.
The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to remove roadblocks on Black voter registration. And it did. Then it evolved into a kind of affirmative action program to help elect African-Americans to office. And it did that too.
But, in 2011, after Republicans got control of redistricting, one of those subtle forces (with an acute sense of irony) moved, and when it finished moving Republicans were taking electing African-American politicians a lot more seriously than Democrats ever had.
Once, years ago, a friend who wanted to run for State Senate came to see me and said, What do you think? And I looked at the demographics in his district and said, I’d pass. Thirty percent of the registered voters in the district are African-Americans – I don’t see much chance you or any other Republican will win it.
That was just harsh reality. When 30% or 40% of a district’s voters were African-Americans, demographically, it meant the district was almost always going elect a Democrat. And Democrats understood that. So when they redistricted they always created lots of districts where 30% to 40% of the voters were African-Americans.
That elected the most Democrats.
But it didn’t necessarily elect the most African-Americans – because a lot of the Democrats representing those districts were white.
Then, in 2011, when Republicans controlled redistricting – maybe due to temptation or just plain calculation or, maybe, listening to that subtle voice – they reached two straightforward conclusions.
The first was that the way to comply with the Voting Rights Act (and elect more African-Americans) was to create more districts where African-Americans were a majority of voters.
And that’s what they did.
Republicans legislators drew more ‘majority-minority’ districts than Democrats ever had, and the next election more African-American legislators were elected than ever before.
The second conclusion was that creating more districts where 50% or 51% of the voters were African-Americans meant the other districts would be more likely to elect Republicans.
And that happened too. It worked just as planned – so far.
Of course, the Democrats were unhappy so they sued to overturn the Republican redistricting plan – which led to the ironic circumstance of Democrats standing up in court arguing only 40% of the voters in a district should be African-Americans while Republicans were arguing, Well, if 40% is a good idea why isn’t 50% better – it means more African-Americans will be elected.
And, of course, the only answer Democrats had was odd too – faced with a plan to elect more African-Americans but fewer Democrats they said, No way.
So, in the end, the Voting Rights Act worked just as it was intended. African-American registration grew. Turnout grew. More African-Americans were elected. The Democrats got exactly what they wanted. But then – in what must have seemed like an act of malicious magic to Democrats – the whole thing backfired.
Monday, July 15, 2013 7:12 PM
That was excellent, Carter. Democrats are only interested in "helping" African Americans if it helps the democratic party. As you've presented so well here, having more African Americans in political office is not important to the democratic party unless it means more districts are represented by democrats and more democrats are in office. Once again, African Americans are being used by democrats for political purposes and ONLY for political purposes. It's been the case for decades now. I'm just SO surprised that the African American community doesn't see it. I guess the free stuff just keeps them in the democratic fold.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013 2:06 PM
Carter, good analysis. Yea Dap it's amazing how the free goodies keep the slaves on the plantation. We are generations away from black people in this country understanding that they are being purchased with money from other people. Not sure how Republicans would combat that, could be there is no answer and that is one of the catch 22's about a free republic. Wasn't there a guy named DeToqueville, (spelling?) who could see this problem early on in our country's history. Also why Jefferson only gave the new country a 50 year chance, and then you need to start over.
Monday, July 22, 2013 11:35 PM
Here's the quote of the day, Choo. It tells the whole story.
"When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic." - Ben Franklin.
This guy saw it coming. Well guess what, it's here!