Well, in a minor miracle, the Obama Justice Department said yes and put its seal of approval on the North Carolina Republicans’ new House and Senate Districts, then, before the ink was dry on the page, the North Carolina Democrats filed a lawsuit to stop the plan Obama had just approved.
It’s an odd turn of events in more ways than one.
For years, Republicans have been stoutheartedly arguing against quotas: Hiring quotas, admission quotas, racial quotas. But now they’ve discovered a quota they see real virtue in: Requiring legislators to draw as many majority-Minority districts (meaning a district where a majority of the voters are African-Americans) as possible.
To be fair, Republican legislators would probably say they don’t really like majority-Minority districts one bit – that the whole idea was foisted on them at gun point by Congress and the Voting Rights Act.
But the fact remains Republicans have just created more majority-Minority districts than Jim Hunt or Marc Basnight ever dreamed of, and, now, Republican legislators are in Court arguing for all they’re worth they’re dead right while Democrats – including the NAACP – are arguing just as hard the Republicans (and Obama) are dead wrong.
What nobody’s saying, on either side, is what the politicians are really doing.
The Democrats’ idea of an ideal, say, Senate district is one where 30% of the voters are African-Americans. And from their point of view their logic is impeccable: If 30% of the voters in the district are African-Americans then the Democratic candidate only needs 21% of the remaining 70% to win – which is pretty easy for most Democratic candidates to do. So, naturally, Democrats want all districts they can get where 30% or 35% or 38% of the voters are African-Americans.
The Republicans’ logic is more subtle but just as impeccable (from their point of view). They created ten majority-Minority Senate districts where over 50% of the voters are African-Americans. As a practical matter, on Election Day they’ve written off those districts. But that leaves forty Senate districts where on average 11% of the voters are African-Americans and Republicans are pretty likely to win a lot of those seats unless they’re, say, in Chapel Hill.
The Democrats call that ‘packing’ (as in packing African-American voters into as few districts as possible) and Republicans call it complying with the law. So, now, the Democrats are suing the Republicans for their new quotas and Republicans are in court agreeing with Obama and there’s not a principle in sight anywhere.