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November 28th, 2012 8:37 pm
More Thoughts on Partisan Polarization
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Ashton correctly notes below that the Democratic Party is incapable of discovering “diversity” anywhere other than in the melanin count or chromosomal pairings of its members, beyond which measures the party is remarkably homogeneous. I want to add one note to that, which plays into my longstanding irritation with the raw deal that African-Americans get from the Democratic Party.

While Debbie Wasserman-Schultz crows about the greater diversity in Democratic ranks, what goes unspoken is that the process by which minorities get elected to the House of Representatives actually thwarts their ability to move into higher office. Consider: in the outgoing Congress (the 112th), there are 44 black members, or just over 10 percent of the body. Blacks are 12.6 percent of the nation’s population, but there’s no iron-clad law by which we should expect them to achieve elected office in perfect proportion to their share of the population. Still, this is pretty close.

Now, how many black senators are there? 0

How many black governors? 1, Massachusetts’ Deval Patrick

When you consider that the House often acts as a feeder to both of these higher offices, the discontinuity only gets stranger. So what’s the cause?

Of the 44 black House members, 26 (59 percent) come from congressional districts where the majority of the population is black (as a bit of a trivia on the side, it’s worth noting that there’s one district — the Tennessee 9th, located in Memphis — where a majority black population is represented by a white member, liberal Steve Cohen). An additional four come from districts where the black population is over 40 percent. And the representatives who come from districts with smaller black populations include some of the most left-wing members of the House, including Charlie Rangel, Maxine Waters, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Keith Ellison.

The problem is that Democrats have long agitated for lawmakers to gerrymander these minority-majority districts as a means to ensuring electoral success for black candidates. That’s worked so far as it goes, but it’s also generated a generation of black politicians who have no experience appealing to anyone other than their fellow urban blacks. Since that group represents a small population in statewide races (even in Mississippi, the state with the highest percentage of African-American residents, blacks make up only a little over 1/3 of residents), these House members end up being precisely the wrong kind of figures to obtain higher office. Indeed, it’s notable that Governor Patrick and President Obama, the two most prominent black public-sector executives in the nation, never served in the House (Obama lost a bid for the Democratic nomination in the First District of Illinois in 2000).

The vast majority of Americans agree that we should be striving for a color-blind nation. We’ve made remarkably brisk progress towards that goal in civil society for the past several decades. But, if anything, we’re lagging behind on the political front. Segregating black politicians from non-black voters is not the solution.

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