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Does Gerrymandering Set Potential Black Candidates Back?

June 16, 2010
tags: gerrymandering
by Brett

Thomas Young recently had a very interesting guest column in the Meridian Star where he talked about a couple pretty significant issues that are in play nationally as well as in Mississippi: racial gerrymandering and the lack of black Senators and governors. In his view- and mine- the two topics are very much related. He was talking about on a national level, but you can also look at this within Mississippi where many have pointed out that the state has never elected an African-American to statewide office. Some will charge racism because it is the easy thing to do but lets look at the issue further.

The idea of creating majority-minority districts came from the thought that blacks (or other minorities) would have a better chance of being elected- and thus be better represented- in a district where the majority of the voters in the district are black. In Mississippi, the Second District is one of those districts where about 64 percent of the voters are black. In the other three districts, the black population ranges from about 25-35 percent. The Second has had a black Representative consecutively since 1987, so does that prove the system works?

Yes and no. Yes, Rep. Bennie Thompson will get re-elected in 2010 and every year after and chances are when he retires a black Democrat will succeed him. But, could Thompson ever win statewide? No. He is simply too liberal. He is fine for his liberal, cut out district which he needs to be, but that would not fly in the state as a whole. Thompson can win re-election without a single white vote, something else he couldn’t do statewide (and based on his vote totals I doubt he is receiving too many white votes).

Here is how Young put it:

The problem is that their districts are not representative of the state as a whole because of the deliberate elimination of all those who are not traditional liberal, democratic voters. Such efforts ensure that the best-financed and most well-known black candidates will tend to project a political philosophy that resonates strongly with their district’s minority constituents; however, this excludes positions and messages capable of appealing to statewide voters as a whole. Social statisticians understand the real reason there are so few black senators and governors is that voters statewide are far more politically diverse than the constituencies of black congressional districts.

The same point could be made for most districts in the state House and state Senate. There are twelve majority-black districts (out of 52) in the Senate and 39 in the House (out of 122). Fact checkers can back me up but I believe there is one black member of the legislature not from a majority-black district- Sen. Eric Powell of Corinth.

If African-Americans from the state legislature want to win a statewide election, they are simply going to have to moderate their positions on a host of issues. Of course, they risk losing the black vote when doing so. Take a look at the recent Alabama gubernatorial primary on the Democratic side. Rep. Arthur Davis, who represents a majority-black district in the House, moved sharply to the right in anticipation of his run and even opposed Obama’s signature initiative- healthcare reform. He also downplayed the significance of black leaders in the state (maybe took them for granted) knowing that wasn’t going to win him a general election. The end result, he lost the primary, interestingly, to a white candidate who carried most of the majority black counties in the state. It is a tough and tricky road.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Nochilders permalink
    June 16, 2010 4:55 pm

    You question if Gerrymandering sets black candidates back, what does it do for the people of the district? In our state district 2 is by far the poorest district. Our these people served by having a mega liberal represent them?

  2. marmie permalink
    June 16, 2010 5:12 pm

    If 13% of the population of the USA is Black, what is the percentage of black people who hold state and national office? I think the White House is staffed Black people well over that 13% figure. By the way, women makeup over50% of the population,does the Justice Dept need to gerrymander to create a district for us?

    • Mississippi Elitist permalink
      June 16, 2010 5:45 pm

      Excuse me but we are taking this opportunity in the WHITE House to make up for all of the years of no representation.
      If gerrymandering a new District for the advancement of women means we get stuck with another Pelosi I am totaly against that. If you can gerrymander a District and insure that not to happen then I am all for the advancement of women Representatives.
      I someone should come up with a District that ensures that illegal aliens are represented in Congress. Oh wait they already are….by liberals.

  3. Tea Party Leader II permalink
    June 16, 2010 6:25 pm

    I think Angela McGlowan also found out the moving to the right and criticizing Obama did not win her the black vote either. Will we ever get to the point where the color of your skin and your political views will not have to be corresponding values for a run for office?
    What about Colin Powell? Could he win a majority of white and black voters if he ran for Senate or Congress or even the Presidency? Does this mean that we have all taken a step back in the USA? Does it or should it really matter how many of each color, religion, etc. or should it always be who is best for the job? Just wondering?

  4. RileyDad permalink
    June 17, 2010 6:50 am

    What about Colin Powell? Could he win a majority of white and black voters if he ran for Senate or Congress or even the Presidency?

    Let’s hope not. Colin Powell is pro-abortion, pro-gay rights, and pro affirmative action. He would probably be liberal on a host of other issues as well

  5. RileyDad permalink
    June 17, 2010 7:09 am

    “Fact checkers can back me up but I believe there is one black member of the legislature not from a majority-black district- Sen. Eric Powell of Corinth. ”

    I don’t know if you’re right about this, but I think that Eric Powell or someone like him would be much more likely to get elected in a statewide race than someone like Bennie Thompson or Barbra Blackmon (or even Angela McGlowan, bless-her-heart ;-) )

    When I ran for Ag Com in 2007 he and his opponent both spoke after me at an event in Ripley. Both from their speeches and from conversations I had with the two of them afterwords, Eric seemed more conservative, more level headed, and more humble.

    This opinion was shared by a good friend (and 3rd generation uber-conservative) who lives in the district and decided to vote for Eric after spending time examining both men. He does not regret that decision now.

    Eric also had as one of his campaign advisers and personal confidants a man who has been a leading conservative GOP mover-and-shaker in Northeast Mississippi for 20 plus years & who has been in the “inner circle” (top two or three advisers) of several big name GOP/ conservative office holders. He told me that he knew Eric’s character was impeccable, and that he would be open-minded & independent to conservative on a broad number of issues.

    I am NOT saying that Powell is a true conservative or that I would vote for him for a statewide office, so please do not misinterpret this. I am only making the point that the passing reference that Brett made to Powell points us to a man that (from a purely strategic, political standpoint) proves the point of this article

    • Mississippi Elitist permalink
      June 17, 2010 8:49 am

      Good points Riley Dad. For quite some time I have felt that an African American candidate would do quite well in a statewide election if they could bring five main things to the table.
      -Highly educated by that I mean a great education but not Stanford or anything like that.
      -Either be a conservative or have a proven track record of being a democrat without being a liberal.
      -A proven person of integrity.
      -Accessibility…Lack of accessibility was one of the things that turned many people off to McGlowan.
      -This is a big one lifelong Mississippian and proud of it.
      When an African American candidate brings these five simple things to the voters of Mississippi I think they will walk away with a win.

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