10 thoughts on “In case you missed it

  1. It’s a huge jump in the number of women in the Senate, now at a record high. Unfortunately, similar results for senators of color will probably not happen until we get some reform in the whole gerrymandering process to get rid of as many “minority-majority” districts as we can and replace them with a greater number of “significant-presence-of-minorities” districts (see Elizabeth Anderson’s book on integration). Since that’s not a political winner for Democrats, and it’s not actually going to help Republicans in any short-term seat gains, this will not happen until constituencies of color demand it, and hardly anyone is making the case to them that it’s in their best interest to give up the districts that they dominate (but at least those who are doing so are on both sides of the political spectrum). Gender imbalances in political representation at least don’t have segregation-related obstacles of this sort, and I suspect that’s why we can see this sort of change more easily,

  2. Gerrymandering is not the reason for the under-representation of racial minorities in Congress. Senators are elected by state and state lines are not drawn and redrawn by state legislatures (where gerrymandering happens). Black people are woefully under-represented in the Senate because of white racism – white people show reluctance to vote for black Senators and the two parties show a reluctance to run black candidates. But this has nothing to do with gerrymandering.

    In the House, black people are adequately represented, if I’m not mistaken. Unless I’m mistaken, there are 435 representatives, 42 of whom are black. That’s roughly in proportion to the number of black voters. The reason this occurs is because legislation in the U.S. forces states to draw district lines in such a way that black people are adequately represented. You might argue that the elimination of “minority-majority” districts would open up more House seats to black people, but I’m not exactly optimistic. It could very well lead to a situation where black representation in the House looks more like black representation in the Senate (i.e. terrible).

  3. As of 2008, the evidence of a strong reluctance of white voters to vote for black candidates was very thin. The Bradley effect used to be very clearly demonstrated, and now it’s virtually nil.

    Take a look at the kinds of candidates who win elections from majority-black districts. They are not moderate, to say the least, and that prevents them from winning statewide elections. A moderate black Democrat like Harold Ford could win a Senate election in many states. He happened to be running in one that doesn’t tend to support Democrats at all, and he did surprisingly well. The narrative about that election is that he didn’t win because he was black, but he did well for a Democrat in Tennessee. He could easily win statewide in a state like Wisconsin, Ohio, or Indiana that doesn’t reliably vote for either party. But candidates like Ford are rare when most of the candidates with relevant experience are coming from districts where they can win with views more toward the left.

    The gerrymandering debate (aside from race issues) is basically a debate between those who want to have as much representation as possible from the extremes of each party and as few as possible from the moderates (each party thinks this is in their interest) or a greater number of moderates who could find support from a wider variety of people (I would argue this is in the better interest of the country as a whole). Those who don’t like the moderates of their own party because they are too moderate might nonetheless be better off with them if that’s what it takes to win statewide office. Conservatives in New York and liberals or progressives in Kansas can easily see this and are forced to make such decisions in primaries all the time.

    When you bring it to race issues, what Anderson and others, including the conservative Thernstroms and the liberal electoral genius Nate Silver, have argued is that you would have a drop in minority candidates in the House in the short term but that it might not last, and it would allow for candidates who serve the interests of minority voters better, because their preferences could have an impact in more districts (as opposed to being all-controlling in a smaller number of districts). Black candidates, then, would have to appeal to a larger group of voters, and this would produce candidates who could then do better statewide and be better candidates for the presidency. The cost to true progressives is that the candidates would likely be more moderate (or at least be able to present themselves that way). But it would be better for them than having a caucus that’s virtually ineffective because Democrats know they can count on them to vote their way even without doing anything to promote their interests much more than in a very minimal way. And in the long run I do think it would move more in the direction of developing candidates who can increase representation in the Senate and in other prominent positions outside where gerrymandered districts are doing the work to get them there. But even before that point, Anderson argues, it’s worth it for black voters, whose interests would be more widely represented, precisely because any white candidates who might win in their newly-drawn districts would still have to get a significant portion of the black vote to win the election and thus could not persist in ignoring black concerns the way most white Democrats do.

  4. Thanks for the response! That was very informative. In particular, I hadn’t thought of the implications of dropping the number of ‘minority-majority’ districts on candidate ideology.

  5. Jeremy, I’m confused about yoru first two sentences. Are you saying that because the Bradley effect is no longer clearly demonstrated, there is no longer clear evidence of racial bias? I imagine that’s not what you meant, but the first time I read it, it seemed as though the two sentences were supposed to be related in a way (that I can’t quite figure out). It seems as though race is obviously an issue, Bradley effect aside.

    For example:

  6. I suspect what he’s saying is that white people are no longer disinclined to vote for a black candidate simply because he/she is black. Of course, showing the decline of the Bradley effect doesn’t actually do the work needed to support this claim. The Bradley effect is the phenomenon (not empirically supported, as Jeremy correctly notes) of white people claiming in polls that they’ll vote for a black candidate, but reneging once they actually get into the voting booth. Showing that there’s no Bradley effect does not, of course, establish the claim that white people are not reluctant to vote for black candidates.

  7. About the Black vote:

    Exclusive polling by the NAACP on election eve examined the role of Black voters in the 2012 presidential election and offered a glimpse into the political mindset and future of African-American voters.
    “This data underscores the decisive role we played in key battleground states,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP in a statement.
    In the key states of Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Virginia, African-American support for President Obama ranged from 92-99 percent. And Black voters comprised between 12 percent to 33 percent of the vote in the respective states. “We turned out in every place that mattered,” Jealous told the AFRO in a post-election interview.

    Even if we take the lowest black turnout, black congressional rep are down 20% of where they should be.

  8. As far as I can see, the racism against Obama is/was very thinly disguised. I think a lot of people are still disinclined to vote for a black candidate on racial grounds, even if he is “clean” (as Biden noted).

  9. This is why I was confused about what Jeremy said. The racism against Obama is often so obvious, I’m not sure why we would think its not at play in other levels of politics. The Bradley effect is tangential.

Comments are closed.