pageok
pageok
pageok
[Abigail Thernstrom, guest-blogging, August 18, 2009 at 3:16am] Trackbacks
Race-Conscious Districting: Needed and Costly

Over time, the Voting Rights Act morphed in an unanticipated direction -- a change that had both benefits and costs. The act's original vision was one that all decent Americans shared: racial equality in the American polity. Blacks would be free to form political coalitions and choose candidates in the same manner as other citizens.

But in the racist South, it soon became clear, that equality could not be achieved -- as originally hoped -- simply by giving blacks the vote. Merely providing access to the ballot was insufficient after centuries of slavery, another century of segregation, ongoing white racism, and persistent resistance to black political power. More aggressive measures were needed.

In response, Congress, as well as courts and the Justice Department, in effect amended the law to ensure the political equality that the statute promised. Blacks came to be treated as politically different -- entitled to inequality in the form of a unique political privilege. Legislative districts carefully drawn to reserve seats for African Americans became a statutory mandate. Such districts would protect black candidates from white competition; whites would seldom even bother to run in them.

The new power of federal authorities to force jurisdictions to adopt racially "fair" maps was deeply at odds with the commitment to federalism embedded in the Constitution, and the entitlement to legislative seats designed to elect members of designated racial groups was equally at odds with traditional American assumptions about representation in a democratic nation.

In 1965, however, a century of Fifteenth Amendment violations demanded what might be called federal wartime powers, and, as on other occasions when wartime powers were invoked, the consequence was a serious distortion of our constitutional order. It was fully justified in 1965; it is not today.

The history of whites-only legislatures in the South made the presence of blacks both symbolically and substantively important. Racially integrated legislative settings work to change racial attitudes. Most southern whites had little or no experience working with blacks as equals and undoubtedly saw skin color as signifying talent and competence. Their stereotypical views changed when blacks became colleagues.

In addition, southern blacks came to politics after 1965 with almost no experience organizing as a conventional political force. Thus, race-based districts in the region of historic disfranchisement were arguably analogous to high tariffs that helped the infant American steel industry get started: They gave the black political "industry" an opportunity to get on its feet before facing the full force of equal competition.

Most Americans do not like public policies that distribute benefits and burdens on the basis of race and ethnicity. But, while it is relatively easy to take an uncompromising stance against racial classifications in higher education, for instance, it is more difficult when the issue is districting lines drawn to increase black officeholding.

Context matters. Racial preferences at, say, the University of Michigan were not dismantling a dual system. Moreover, the alternative to preferences in education has never been all-white schools, as William G. Bowen and Derek Bok, in their 1998 book, The Shape of the River, acknowledged. They calculated that approximately half the black students in the selective schools they studied needed no distinctive treatment to gain admission.

Finally, there is strong evidence that racial preferences in higher education don't even work as advertised. The rich empirical work by UCLA law professor Richard Sander, for instance, has shown that black students preferentially admitted to law schools have disproportionately low rates in passing the bar exam. It is possible, he finds, that racial preferences have reduced, rather than increased, the supply of black attorneys.

The contrast with the realm of politics is marked. There are no objective qualifications for office -- the equivalent of a college or professional degree, a minimum score on the LSATs, a certain grade-point average, or relevant work experience.

Race-based districts also work precisely as intended. They elect blacks and Hispanics to legislative seats. In the South such descriptive representation has had an importance far greater than increasing the number of black and Hispanic students at, say, Duke University.

In suggesting that race-conscious maps were a temporary necessity, I do not defend what are often called bug-splat districts -- constitutionally problematic, racially gerrymandered constituencies. They were the product of an aggressive Justice Department that labeled districting maps as intentionally discriminatory if the ACLU and other civil rights groups had come up with what they regarded as a superior plan.

Nor do I deny the serious costs that accompanied race-driven districting -- costs that have increased in importance as racism has waned.

Such districting continues to reinforce old notions that blacks are fungible members of a subjugated group that stands apart in American life, requiring methods of election that recognize their racial distinctiveness. In 1993 Justice Sandra Day O'Connor described race-driven maps as "an effort to 'segregate . . . voters' on the basis of race." As such, she said, they threaten "to stigmatize individuals by reason of their membership in a racial group."

Racially gerrymandered districts flash the message "RACE, RACE, RACE," voting rights scholars T. Alexander Aleinikoff and Samual Issarcharoff have written. Racial sorting creates advantaged and disadvantaged categories -- groups that are privileged and groups that are subordinate, they argued.

The majority-minority districts upon which the DOJ insisted have become safe for black or Hispanic candidates, as intended, but they have also turned white voters into what these two scholars called "filler people." Whites have become irrelevant to the outcome of the elections in districts designed to elect minorities, unless they serve as the swing vote in a black-on-black contest.

America has experienced an amazing racial transformation in the decades since 1965, and race-conscious districts are no longer necessary. Today, their costs outweigh their benefits. Indeed, they have become a brake on the pursuit of political equality -- tending, as they do, to elect representatives who are generally too isolated from mainstream politics and on the sidelines of American political life.

Black political progress might actually be greater today had race-conscious districting been viewed simply as a temporary remedy for unmistakably racist voting in the region that was only reluctantly accepting blacks as American citizens.

This is a point I will address more fully in my fifth post -- at the end of the week.

Ricardo (mail):
The history of whites-only legislatures in the South made the presence of blacks both symbolically and substantively important. Racially integrated legislative settings work to change racial attitudes. Most southern whites had little or no experience working with blacks as equals and undoubtedly saw skin color as signifying talent and competence.

Another possibility is simply that black representatives may be more likely to look out for the interests of their black constituents. India is an interesting comparison since it is also a democracy with a history going back to ancient times of Jim Crow-like restrictions on the rights of low caste people. India has actually gone much further than the U.S. by mandating that certain electoral districts have a parliamentarian from a low caste.

Rigorous empirical research by Rohini Pande in India showed that this switch really did influence policy in those districts that experienced a switch in the caste of the representative. This despite the fact that the demographics of these districts did not change significantly.

Now, it may be that our own race-conscious districting system has outlived its usefulness or is no longer necessary. However, in the 1960s the arguments for making sure African Americans had representatives in Congress were very strong. It's not clear their interests would have been defended as vigorously otherwise.
8.18.2009 3:43am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Rigorous empirical research by Rohini Pande in India showed that this switch really did influence policy in those districts that experienced a switch in the caste of the representative. This despite the fact that the demographics of these districts did not change significantly.
On all policy, or only on race-related (er, caste-related) policy? And were those changes for better or for worse?
8.18.2009 6:10am
J. Aldridge:
Merely providing access to the ballot was insufficient after centuries of slavery, another century of segregation, ongoing white racism, and persistent resistance to black political power.

Don't single out just blacks. Women were not allowed nowhere near the ballot box either.

In 1965, however, a century of Fifteenth Amendment violations demanded what might be called federal wartime powers, and, as on other occasions when wartime powers were invoked, the consequence was a serious distortion of our constitutional order.

What Fifteenth Amendment violations can you point to? I'm not aware of any Southern laws that had "white" written into them, which was the purpose of the water-downed Fifteenth Amendment that was finally adopted out of reality the northern states would never adopt anything stronger.
8.18.2009 7:23am
ERH:
In suggesting that race-conscious maps were a temporary necessity, I do not defend what are often called bug-splat districts -- constitutionally problematic, racially gerrymandered constituencies. They were the product of an aggressive Justice Department that labeled districting maps as intentionally discriminatory if the ACLU and other civil rights groups had come up with what they regarded as a superior plan.

The problem arises from the fact that even if they were a temporary necessity, the their results ensure that it will incredibly difficult to do away with them. There's almost an iron triangle formed by the DOJ, minority politicians, and republicans (who have been the main beneficiaries of majority-minority districts).
8.18.2009 7:28am
corneille1640 (mail) (www):

Black political progress might actually be greater today had race-conscious districting been viewed simply as a temporary remedy for unmistakably racist voting in the region that was only reluctantly accepting blacks as American citizens.

My quibble--if it is a quibble--is how temporary is temporary? Five years? Twenty? Fifty?

Take the example of Reconstruction. Although the record varies, for a brief period after 1865, blacks served in state legislatures and Congress (I don't know up until what year). After a while, however, Jim Crow tightened its grip. I'm not saying that a reversion to the late 19th century is going to happen, but a similar regression may have seemed possible in, say, 1975, only 10 years after the Voting Rights Act.
8.18.2009 8:11am
Rebelyell:
I certainly agree that black representatives are more likely to look out for their black constituents. When a prominent Greenwood, Miss., planter stopped by the office of newly elected Rep. Bennie Thompson the receptionist asked, "Who are you with?" When he responded no one, he was just stopping by to make a courtesy call he was told, "Rep. Thompson doesn't see anyone unless they are with a black." You've got to love it.

There are essentially no more white liberals in the South. They generally need a few black votes to succeed, and when all the blacks are drained off into super-majority districts that leaves all the remaining districts in the state tilting to the right. You've got to love it.

Districts have long been Gerrymandered for reasons other than race, since the word itself dates from 1812. It's a bad practice no matter what. We ought to require that all districts, state or federal, be decided according to a single algorithm that would encourage compactness, the grouping of people of similar economic interests and the respect for natural and political boundaries. We should allow tinkering with the algorithm, but the same algorithm should be used for all.

Such an algorithmic system will frequently produce black-majority districts on its own. In the 1950s and 1960s, many states actually took steps to prevent the formation of these districts. This was wrong. But the government should not mandate districts that take in an urban area, narrow down to nothing and then grow again to take in another urban area 200 miles away. This is ridiculous.
8.18.2009 8:33am
MarkField (mail):
There's lots of rhetoric in this post, but it's fact-free. Actual studies would help, particularly ones showing that white voters will actually vote for black candidates. Right now, I see no reason to believe that is true in the South, though I'm cautiously optimistic in other areas.
8.18.2009 10:03am
Soronel Haetir (mail):
MarkField,

And how much of that is candidate selection? Or is being white and opposed to Obama's election somehow automatically racist? I would have been just as unhappy if Edwards had won, perhaps a little less unhappy if Clinton had won, but that only because I believe she is simply incapable of compromise and would rather get nothing than most of any proposal.

If you run someone who is unelectable policy wise in a district it doesn't really matter what their race is, they are still unelectable.
8.18.2009 10:22am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Mark, in the South almost all the black politicians who run for office have politics which are very much to the left, and are also almost exclusively staunch Democrats. That those particular politicians get little support from white voters is in no way an indication that white folks down here won't vote for somebody simply because they are black.

In my own hometown of Baton Rouge, 4 years ago we elected our first black mayor. Not, as in many other cities, because of some overwhelming change in the demographics, but because people were tired of the old frumpy boring white guys we had been electing from the northern (almost exclusively white) communities, and our current mayor ran on a platform of bringing about fresh new changes to the downtown area and support of Smart Growth policies. He was also very no-nonsense about crime issues and appointed a police commissioner (who is black) who is respected and admired by just about everybody in town, and who recognizes that one of the biggest real problems facing the black community in town is black-on-black crime. The election took place in the fall of 2004, and I remember seeing an awful lot of yards in town with 2 campaign signs in front... one for George W. Bush and one for Kip Holden.

Now, that's not to say that there are no problems at all regarding to race. At an election party that night, I overheard one person remark to a friend that the out-going mayor was lucky that his challenger was black, otherwise he would have been defeated 80-20 rather than 60-40.
8.18.2009 10:27am
gerbilsbite:
In suggesting that race-conscious maps were a temporary necessity, I do not defend what are often called bug-splat districts -- constitutionally problematic, racially gerrymandered constituencies. They were the product of an aggressive Justice Department that labeled districting maps as intentionally discriminatory if the ACLU and other civil rights groups had come up with what they regarded as a superior plan.
I think you've glaringly omitted a word here. Allow me to offer a clarification:

They were the product of an aggressive Republican Justice Department that labeled districting maps as intentionally discriminatory if the ACLU and other civil rights groups had come up with what they regarded as a superior plan from the GOP's perspective.


The best example of an ACLU plan being adopted that I can recall was covered in Miller v. Johnson (1995), where the ACLU's reapportionment plan for Georgia (created at the behest of the state's legislative black caucus) was selected for preclearance as the third option, after the Bush I DoJ rejected two earlier plans with more compact and contiguous districts. And, notably, that reapportionment scheme helped the GOP claim a majority of Georgia's US House districts in the 90s, and likely aided them greatly in taking back control of Congress.

I think clarifying the extent to which preclearance became a way of isolating the Democratic-leaning black constituencies in the Deep South to the benefit of the Republicans would strengthen your point, as it shows that the effects of race-conscious redistricting can prove counterproductive from a black empowerment perspective--yes, you end up with more majority-minority districts, but you also end up with no ability to influence (and possibly moderate) the politics of surrounding districts.
8.18.2009 10:28am
Fugle:
Excellent post Professor.

Then we have:

Actual studies would help, particularly ones showing that white voters will actually vote for black candidates. Right now, I see no reason to believe that is true in the South, though I'm cautiously optimistic in other areas.

Please, give it a rest -- we had the 2008 Presidential Election. I believe the winning candidate received substantial "white" support (though I'm sure the whites who voted for the other guy did so ONLY because they are racists.)
8.18.2009 10:30am
David Drake:
MarkField--

In Georgia, where I live, about one/third of the population is black. We have elected for years a black attorney general (Thurbert Baker) and a couple of black Georgia Supreme Court justices (Robert Benham and recently retired Leah Ward Sears, both of whom have served as Chief Justice.) All are elected in state-wide elections so there is no chance for a gerrymander. So a substantial number of whites must be voting for them.

Having lived both north and south of the Mason-Dixon line, my sense is that really outspoken racism is worse in the north than in the south--it was when I left over thirty years ago, and it still is when I go back north and spend time with a group of whites. Detroit and Chicago are the most racially segregated cities I have ever been in.

Regarding the initial posts--the U.S. is paying a terrible price for the racist use of otherwise legitimate policies such the literacy test to keep blacks from voting. The old "joke" about a black man trying to register somewhere in the south in the early 60s and being given a Chinese newspaper to read comes to mind.

I would like the VRA extended to all states, and some reasonable standard tests of literacy and identity agreed upon.
8.18.2009 10:30am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Corneille makes a good point. I personally have friends (older than me) who have clear memories of being required, as a young child, to drink from the "colored" water fountain. I've had long conversations with the first black staff lawyer hired by my state's legislature, and he shared a lot of stories with me about his early experiences. Many of the white legislators who treated him very poorly when he first started working were still in the legislature 20 and 30 years later. 1965 wasn't that long ago, in the grand historical scheme.

Our greatest peril is that government-enshrined racial preferences can engender new animus between the races in today's generation. They don't understand all that history, the terrible things done in the past which led us to this point, so all they see is the less-qualified black kid getting a scholarship while they have to work an extra job or borrow more money. That breeds resentment, over time. It's definitely time to start the transition away from the "wartime" necessities.
8.18.2009 10:34am
David M. Nieporent (www):
What Fifteenth Amendment violations can you point to?[/quote]Why don't you try reading some reference material other than a blog written by a guy who is neither a lawyer nor a historian? Say, a history book?[quote] I'm not aware of any Southern laws that had "white" written into them, which was the purpose of the water-downed Fifteenth Amendment that was finally adopted out of reality the northern states would never adopt anything stronger.
The Fifteenth Amendment says nothing about "laws that had 'white' written into them." Indeed, it says nothing about laws at all; it says that the right to vote "shall not be denied or abridged ... on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
8.18.2009 10:54am
11-B/2O.B4:
A personal note from when I was younger. My first year of college, I had a good friend, a black female who lived across the hall. We had similar interests, I dated some of her friends, and we had many long conversations about politics, philosophy, etc. (as colleges students will). I found out one day that she was the recipient of a merit scholarship that I had applied for, and lost. Now, both of us were poor enough that we couldn't afford to pay for school. We had both worked our butts off to get good grades and applied for dozens of scholarships. This one was notable because it was a coveted "full ride" scholarship that was supposedly based on scholastic ability alone. We compared notes on it, and discovered that, while she was a very high-performing student, I had consistently higher grades, had taken harder classes, and did better on the SAT and ACT. So, am I resentful? Not in the least. through a combination of school and private scholarships, working part time, and a couple small loans, I managed to get into and through school. But I do think that the bureaucracy that disadvantages one race or sex is bound to eventually produce that. And more immediately, it lowers the perceived merits of whoever benefits by them. Every time I see a female or a minority on a merit scholarship, I can't help thinking there's probably a poor rural white guy somewhere who would have done better, but never had the chance.

Here's to you, Aisha, you taught me many things:)
8.18.2009 11:11am
Mark Buehner (mail):

Actual studies would help, particularly ones showing that white voters will actually vote for black candidates. Right now, I see no reason to believe that is true in the South, though I'm cautiously optimistic in other areas.

You there! What year is it?!

Didn't Obama just win Virginia, NC, and Florida?
8.18.2009 11:12am
klp85 (mail):
What role does House size play in this? It's my understanding that the expectation in the early Republic was for regular increases in the number of representatives, which we haven't had in quite some time.

Of course, Gerrymandering can happen no matter what size the legislature, but in terms of a) respecting neighborhood and social/economic/political boundaries and b) compactness, it would seem that, up to a point, smaller districts might alleviate some of the concerns mentioned above, since, to the extent that Black people might be expected to share similar political values based on the interests in "a," they'd be more easily grouped together, while respecting "b," and without the side effects of outright racial Gerrymandering.

Which is a long way of saying that I agree with Rebelyell, but (political viability of the proposal aside) would also advocate increased House size.

PatHMV,

I just wanted to add that I've agreed with pretty much everything that you've said in this and the other post in this series. I think that probably the biggest problem with this issue (and others of a racial nature) is the lack of perspective, and with this lack of perspective comes an attribution to the other side of bad intentions or bad faith. I think that it's perfectly fair to be concerned about regressions in the absence of current protections. It's also fair to be concerned that the current protections will live past any usefulness they may have arguably ever had, and will actually breed long-term negative effects. The question then becomes figuring out a way to advance the interests embodied in the first concern in a way that prevents the damage that is the focus of the second.
8.18.2009 11:12am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
klp... thanks! I work in the political realm in a relatively moderate, fairly well-educated city located in a largely rural, old South state. It leads one to spending a lot of time contemplating such issues.
8.18.2009 11:19am
M. Gross (mail):
This is awful lot of post-hoc rationalization for something that doesn't appear to have ever been even vaguely constitutional, not to mention actively harmful to democracy.
8.18.2009 11:19am
J. Aldridge:
David M. Nieporent said: Why don't you try reading some reference material other than a blog written by a guy who is neither a lawyer nor a historian? Say, a history book?

What, 20 years as a historian with the library of congress doesn't qualify as a "historian"? And I have read other sources, such as the "Legislative and judicial history of the Fifteenth Amendment" (1909), and the Congressional Globe. I know you prefer the Warren Court, but I prefer something more grounded in reality that is verifiable.

David M. Nieporent said: The Fifteenth Amendment says nothing about "laws that had 'white' written into them."

Sixteen states in 1869 had constitutions and laws that had blacks excluded from suffrage by the use of the word "white" as one of the qualifications of voters. The 15th says you cannot exclude them because of "color." That was agreeable, but any other condition was not popular and so a stronger voting amendment was not possible (such as education tests).
8.18.2009 11:27am
MarkField (mail):

And how much of that is candidate selection?


There were several responses to my post along the same lines. I'll respond to this because it's representative and came first. My answer is short anyway:

A good study should be able to factor out the variables.

Several other posts directed me to particular cases, including Obama's victory in a few states. Anecdotes aren't data.

This brings me back to the substantive point I made originally. Partisan and ideological bias tends to affect this issue perhaps more than any other. In that context, it's critically important to back up mere assertion with actual data (again, not anecdote, data). The post fails to do that. In fact, it somewhat embarrassingly offers data from AA studies in lieu of actual data. All the theoretical arguments in the world aren't worth much if, in fact, discrimination still exists against black candidates.


I personally have friends (older than me) who have clear memories of being required, as a young child, to drink from the "colored" water fountain. I've had long conversations with the first black staff lawyer hired by my state's legislature, and he shared a lot of stories with me about his early experiences. Many of the white legislators who treated him very poorly when he first started working were still in the legislature 20 and 30 years later. 1965 wasn't that long ago, in the grand historical scheme.


I'm old enough that I personally remember those days. We lived in TN in the 1950s. We traveled in the South, and even as late as the mid-60s conditions were atrocious. I saw stuff there that I'd be embarrassed to see in a Third World country -- people living in scrap metal shacks at the side of the highway; segregation everywhere, not just 10 years after Brown but 20 years and 30 years in many places (more subtle, but still there); and blatant racism by demagogic politicians.

I'm not going back to that, not ever again. AFAIC, the South has to prove that it's no longer racist, and the way to do that is by showing, not by arguing.
8.18.2009 11:36am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
M. Gross... could you be a little more specific in your condemnations? What exactly in this very wide-ranging conversation do you think is "actively harmful to democracy"? I presume you don't mean taking steps to ensure that the right of black people to vote is effectively protected, so you'll need to be more specific.
8.18.2009 11:42am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Mark... with your last statement, you are engaging in the same prejudice we are trying to alleviate in the rest of society. White and Southern = "racist" in your mind, until proven otherwise. We won't end bigotry by practicing it.

Meanwhile, please note that while you demand statistical date from the poster, you offer none to support your own blanket condemnation of the South.

I'm fairly certain that if I drove through Detroit today, I'd see stuff that I'd be embarrassed to see in a Third World country. Should I conclude from that that black people can't govern themselves, since Detroit has been majority black for quite some time now? Of course not. It would be ludicrous to make that claim. But you will condemn today's generation of the South for the sins of their fathers based on your experiences 40 years ago? Please.
8.18.2009 11:46am
JakeCollins:
Mark Field's request for statistics on whether whites will actually vote for black candidates is a good one. A lot of people dismissed it, since conservatives are pathologically opposed to facts. Most said, "Obama got elected, right?"

But did any of ya'll look at the white Southern statistics for the past election. For example, in Georgia Obama only got 23% of the white vote. Across the South, Obama did 10% worse than Kerry although he did much better than Kerry everywhere else. I've lived my whole life in the South, and the majority of us are in fact still racist. Stop patronizing us and telling us we've overcome racism, when any honest white Southerner knows this is a flat out lie.
8.18.2009 12:05pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
Anecotes aren't data? Jebus. You're the one making the assertion, and you're the one who needs to provide the data.

When confronted with the statement "white Southerners won't vote for a black candidate," all it takes is one couter-example to disprove it. Now, if the proposition is "white Southerners won't vote for a black canditate unless A, B, and/or C," we can test out that hypothesis, too.
8.18.2009 12:06pm
DeezRightWingNutz:

I've lived my whole life in the South, and the majority of us are in fact still racist. Stop patronizing us and telling us we've overcome racism, when any honest white Southerner knows this is a flat out lie.


This, coming from someone demanding statistical evidence, is funny.
8.18.2009 12:08pm
Traditionalist:
I believe that all alleged anti-discrimination laws, including the Civil Rights Acts as well as the Voting Rights Act violate the Constitution. First, they violate the principle of federalism. Second, they violate an individual's as well as a community's freedom of association. Individuals and communities should have the right to associate with whomever they please. Third, they promote reverse racism. And fourth, the founders would have never tolerated them, otherwise the power to impose them would have been in the original Constitution. The Thriteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments were designed to continue the Civil War through legal means once the actual fighting had stopped. It is now time to stop the continuing "legal Civil War" against the South and repeal the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts (as well as all other "pro-descrimination" laws.) The only national prohibition should be prohibiting states from enforcing similar pro-descrimination laws.
8.18.2009 12:21pm
JakeCollins:
To DeezRightNutz, I did offer statistical evidence a propos to the issue at hand... white Southern voting patterns. So go back to ironing your "I'm not a racist" T-shirts and watching the Glen Beck. The rest of us will continue to try to ascertain the facts.
8.18.2009 12:24pm
JakeCollins:
To Traditionalist: Of course the Founding Fathers wouldn't have tolerated civil rights laws. They loved them some slaves. I can tell that the your being forced to associate with niggers is causing you grievous psychological harm. I retract my previous demands for enforcement of civil rights law. After all, it's just so rough on the racist white Southerners!
8.18.2009 12:28pm
Daniel San:
Mark Field: Actual studies would help, particularly ones showing that white voters will actually vote for black candidates.

Certainly the plural of anecdote is not data. But actual election results are not mere anecdotes. In a republican system, elections are our data. Will the voters support a candidate of a particular race? The answer is in the election results.

Could you design (or imagine) a study more conclusive than an election that show that white voters will (or will not) vote for black candidates. In actual elections, white voters did vote for black candidates, therefore, those white voters will vote for black candidates.
8.18.2009 12:30pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Thanks for the insightful post. One point I would like to suggest though is that the political costs of opposing a system which has outlived its necessity are substantial, and that the fear of returning discrimination is often something that has a life of its own.

While I agree that the issues were real and that they needed to be addressed, we are at a point how where continued racism is used to justify fear of a return to Jim Crow. However, the political cost for opposing such renewals is still so severe that it is impossible to address the issue of what we do today on its merits.
8.18.2009 12:31pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
JakeCollins:

To Traditionalist: Of course the Founding Fathers wouldn't have tolerated civil rights laws. They loved them some slaves. I can tell that the your being forced to associate with niggers is causing you grievous psychological harm. I retract my previous demands for enforcement of civil rights law. After all, it's just so rough on the racist white Southerners!


I find your comments needlessly offensive. You leave out all the racist white Northerners out too. After all, when I lived in Saginaw Michigan in 1980, I was in the only racially integrated neighborhood in the entire city. Horrible thing that (or at least my white neighbors thought so-- my black neighbors were much more friendly).

But I suppose to you Michigan is part of the Deep South, so.....
8.18.2009 12:35pm
Allan Walstad (mail):

In 1965, however, a century of Fifteenth Amendment violations demanded what might be called federal wartime powers, and, as on other occasions when wartime powers were invoked, the consequence was a serious distortion of our constitutional order. It was fully justified in 1965; it is not today.

Interesting analogy. Seems to me there was a time when wars had definite beginnings and ends. Now they just seem to drag on indefinitely, with shifting rationales and no clear-cut termination point. Like so many other government programs.

...statistics on whether whites will actually vote for black candidates

Wait a minute. It's one thing to enforce the right to vote, and to prevent gerrymandering that systematically shuts out certain groups. But am I to understand that we need federal intervention, including mandated gerrymandering to produce black-dominated districts, because some whites choose not to vote for blacks? How about if some blacks choose not to vote for whites? Shall we collect stats on that? Intervention has to end somewhere short of preempting the choice people freely make in the privacy of the polling booth. Agreed?
8.18.2009 12:48pm
Allan Walstad (mail):
And what einhverfr said.
8.18.2009 12:50pm
MarkField (mail):

Mark... with your last statement, you are engaging in the same prejudice we are trying to alleviate in the rest of society. White and Southern = "racist" in your mind, until proven otherwise. We won't end bigotry by practicing it.

Meanwhile, please note that while you demand statistical date from the poster, you offer none to support your own blanket condemnation of the South.


Pat, neither statement is fair or accurate. First, I'm not the one with the burden of proof here. The poster is. She's the one arguing for an end to the current system. Now, at the time of renewal, it's fair to ask the proponents of renewal for evidence justifying renewal. But we're past that point. She's the one making affirmative statements, so she's the one with the burden of proof.

Second, we have over 350 years of Southern bigotry (and lots of Northern too) as evidence, including decades of resistance to the enforcement of the VRA (and, for that matter, the CRA). Even in the last election -- which several people were kind enough to point out to me; darn my ignorance of public affairs! -- Obama underperformed John Kerry by a very significant margin. That's pretty hard to explain on objective factors alone. Criticizing me for taking that history into account is blaming the victim on a pretty grand scale.

I do want to be clear about what I'm saying. It certainly is NOT the case that all Southerners are racist. That wasn't true even in the worst of times, and it certainly isn't true now. The US of today is a very different place than it was in the 1950s and we should all be exceedingly grateful for that. Nor am I saying that even the majority of Southerners are racist. They don't need to be. All that needs to happen is that a few can ruin it for the rest by their behavior.

Frankly, I'm astonished that anyone would object to a call for actual evidence in support of an argument. The poster has been given a platform on a very well respected blog. The argument is not one I'd dismiss out of hand, skeptical as I am, but it is one which requires actual facts rather than rhetoric in support.

Let me leave with an analogy. If some poster today announced that Israel should open its borders to Muslim immigrants and allow them to vote, would anyone in these threads take seriously such an argument in the absence of evidence that bigotry wouldn't affect their voting?

I thought not.
8.18.2009 12:59pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
According to Jake Collins' assertion, Obama did 10% worse than Kerry. The most that evidences, then, is that 10% of voters in the South will not vote for a black man for President.

Of course, we have no way at all of knowing that the reason Obama got fewer votes than Kerry in those areas was because of race, seeing as how both Obama and Kerry are two different people with different politics and different pasts. How many Vietnam Vets did Kerry get because of his service? Those votes may not have transferred to Obama, seeing as how Obama never served. Surely nobody voted against Obama because he spent 20 years going to a church run by a pastor who likes to preach "God Damn America!" Or are you saying that any such criticism of Obama, any decision to vote against him for such reasons, is itself racism?

If one assumes that a vote by a white person against Obama is a vote based on skin color, isn't that prejudice against the white Southerners? It's not a controlled test (like the covert real estate investigations, where they create two fake personas, both substantially similar, and then have a white person and a black person with those personas try to buy the same house or rent the same apartment or get the same job.

Mark Field, I'm not objecting to your call for actual evidence. I'm objecting to your hypocrisy in calling Southerners racial bigots without providing actual evidence, based primarily (so far as you've said) on your experiences in the South 40 years ago. You say you're not slandering all of us. Glad to hear it. What percentage are you accusing of racism? How different is the percentage of racists in the South from the percentage of racists in the North or the West? What criteria would you offer to decide when a given voting district will or will not be subject to the pre-approval requirements imposed currently on the South?
8.18.2009 1:12pm
MarkField (mail):

Wait a minute. It's one thing to enforce the right to vote, and to prevent gerrymandering that systematically shuts out certain groups. But am I to understand that we need federal intervention, including mandated gerrymandering to produce black-dominated districts, because some whites choose not to vote for blacks? How about if some blacks choose not to vote for whites? Shall we collect stats on that? Intervention has to end somewhere short of preempting the choice people freely make in the privacy of the polling booth. Agreed?


Let me take your points in order. First, there is no equivalence between blacks and whites in this case. This is true for two reasons. One is the history -- whites are the ones who engaged in discrimination (that's a polite euphemism) for over 350 years. Second, in most areas whites form the majority and don't have any problem getting elected. We can use the actual results to see that the two situations aren't symmetrical.

Second, no, gerrymandering is not a good solution, but it may be the only one. Consider two issues. One, suppose that people in a voting district admitted they were racist and wouldn't vote for a black person under any circumstances. Further suppose that the effect of this racism was that no blacks would ever be elected. Would gerrymandering in such circumstances be a bad but necessary solution to an otherwise insoluble problem? In my view, it would.

Two, consider the purpose of representative democracy. The purpose is to create a legislature which mirrors the people represented. If there's some extraneous factor which prevents that from happening, we need to take that into account in designing the electoral system.
8.18.2009 1:15pm
MarkField (mail):

Mark Field, I'm not objecting to your call for actual evidence. I'm objecting to your hypocrisy in calling Southerners racial bigots without providing actual evidence


Let me rephrase it then. I'm saying that there's a history of racist behavior in the South by which blacks were prevented from voting and serving in public office. If Southerners want to argue that this practice no longer exists, it's up to them to provide evidence of that change.

I think your accusation of hypocrisy is pretty hypocritical in light of the historical record.


The most that evidences, then, is that 10% of voters in the South will not vote for a black man for President.


Ten percent is a HUGE margin in most elections.
8.18.2009 1:20pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
In other words, the burden is on today's Southerners to prove that we are not racist assholes like many of our grandparents or great grand-parents were. Got it.

Meanwhile, because the racists in the North generally didn't own slaves (not because they thought much of black folks, but simply because their economy was manufacturing-based rather than agricultural), they don't have to prove themselves no longer guilty of racism. Got it.
8.18.2009 1:37pm
Ken Arromdee:
Second, we have over 350 years of Southern bigotry (and lots of Northern too) as evidence, including decades of resistance to the enforcement of the VRA (and, for that matter, the CRA). Even in the last election -- which several people were kind enough to point out to me; darn my ignorance of public affairs! -- Obama underperformed John Kerry by a very significant margin. That's pretty hard to explain on objective factors alone.

What, you don't think "they're in different political parties, which have different platforms" count as objective factors?
8.18.2009 1:40pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
You're asking for proof of a negative. It's not possible, because your standards will keep changing. Do we have to have a really liberal black man carry the entire South in a Presidential election in order to prove it? Most black candidates down here, as I noted above and you have not refuted with any data, are quite liberal in their policies. A lot are Al Sharpton-types (not as many as the north has, thankfully, but still enough). Is it racist to vote against them because of their politics? Will you force some conservative black people to run for office to see whether white conservatives will vote for them?

How exactly do we prove what you want us to prove? What is the criteria we must meet?
8.18.2009 1:40pm
Floridan:
"Our greatest peril is that government-enshrined racial preferences can engender new animus between the races in today's generation."

No, it just gives cover to preexisting animus.
8.18.2009 1:43pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
One key assumption amongst the anti-racists is that Black politicians endorse similarly effective legislation as do White politicians. Ergo, that there are no salient political differences between the two, so Southerners voting against Black politicians become de facto racist.

(What in tarnation does the word "racism" mean anyway? In a different world where a bunch of little green men went about maiming all the little yellow men, would it be correct to call the Yellowers "racist", as a pejorative? For that reason, "racism" is much better defined to be an irrational belief that has racial dimensions.)

That, of course, is preposterous on its face. There's a reason it's called white fight, and a reason that Detroit is becoming wild brushland. A reason that New Orleans is known as the murder capital of the United States, and a reason that East Baltimore is the subject of The Wire. It's because Black politicians are in control in those areas, and since the Democratic apparatus allows them get away with explicitly racialist policies, disaffected Whites quickly learn to generalize and tar any new upcoming Black politicians with the same broad brush. Even Obama the Lightworker was aware of the stark truth of this reality, which is why he worked hard to gerrymander his district with Whites so that he wouldn't be identified with the Rushes and Sharptons when he ran for more prominent office.

The way some people analyze racism seems positively jejune to me. It's like they pretend the previously well-educated Progressives were racist only because they randomly plucked a group out of space to hate, since of course they are the nefarious "Other". No. Even when one doesn't approve of some bigotry, one should work very hard to understand the root causes behind it, because something so seemingly pervasive and long-lasting must necessarily have a compelling narrative behind it. The anti-Semites, the anti-Irish, the anti-Polaks, the white supremacists, they all have/had their reasons. If liberals really wanted to end racism, they would stop dismissing their ideas as if they were those of children.
8.18.2009 1:47pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Take a look at this brief book review of a book which discusses racial segregation in the north, and the efforts of many in the north (both white and black, in some cases) to continue it after the Civil War and well into the 1950s and 60s. I'll see if I can dig up some statistical data. Meanwhile, however, I don't know what the criteria are to determine which communities should and which should not be presumed racist voters.

Floridan: So you're saying that racial animus exists at birth?
8.18.2009 1:47pm
Angus:
Whites just not voting for black people is not a problem unique to the South, though it is worse there. Look at the total number of black candidates elected in statewide races in the past 130 years or so (after Reconstruction).

There have been only 2 black candidates elected governor, one in Virginia, one in Massachusetts. A third, in New York, got the office through succession.

There have been only 3 black candidates elected to the U.S. Senate after 1913 in the popular vote era, one in Massachusetts, two in Illinois. A fourth, in Illinois, got his position via appointment.

Note that of the 5 candidates/7 office holders on the list, four of them got their positions in 2004 or later.
8.18.2009 2:02pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Ok, here's some stats from the very northern state of Pennsylvania. According to the census, 10.8% of the Pennsylvania population is black. There are 253 members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly (203 Representatives and 50 Senators). Based on membership in the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, there are 21 black men and women in the General Assembly. That's 8.3%, 2.5% less than the proportion of black people in the Pennsylvania population. Evidence of racism? According to Wikipedia, there were only 16 members of the Black Caucus last year, which would be only 6.3%. Does this mean that Pennsylvania is 2% less racist this year than last?
8.18.2009 2:03pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Angus... and none of those figures tell us if the problem is that white people won't vote for black candidates because of their skin color, or because the black people running in the races tend to hold political views not favored by the white population.
8.18.2009 2:04pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
In other words, there were a great many legitimate reasons to vote against, for example, Carol Moseley Braun.
8.18.2009 2:06pm
visiting texas lawyer (mail):

Actual studies would help, particularly ones showing that white voters will actually vote for black candidates. Right now, I see no reason to believe that is true in the South,


Well, in Wichita Falls, Texas, A.B. Williams, a female Black J.P. was elected time and time again when running in an at large election against white candidates in an 80% white area (with a 90% white vote).

Though she was a Democrat, the Republican Party actually endorsed her over their own candidate at least once. She finally retired.

Of course you might consider Wichita Falls, Texas the West rather than the South (it really is not the South West), but it makes a good example.
8.18.2009 2:37pm
David Drake:
Dave Leip's Analysis of U.S. Presidential Elections

2006 Georgia statewide results


reports that in the Georgia statewide elections in 2006, Thurbert Baker, the only black candidate for the four constitutional statewide offices, was also the only Democrat who won election.

His share of the vote (over 57%) was greater than the Republican candidates for Lt. Governor and Secretary of State (around 54%), although less than that for Governor (just under 58%) or for Insurance Commissioner.

Unless you assume that a large number of blacks came to the polls and voted ONLY for General Baker or voted GOP for other offices, hundreds of thousands of whites who voted GOP for Governor and Lt. Governor, where two whites opposed each other, voted Democrat for AG, where a black Democrat opposed and defeated Perry McGuire, a white Republican.
8.18.2009 3:20pm
MarkField (mail):

In other words, the burden is on today's Southerners to prove that we are not racist assholes like many of our grandparents or great grand-parents were.


No, I'm asking that there be evidence presented that the past practices have stopped. They can be assholes all they want, even racist ones, as long as they'll vote for a black person (who may also be an asshole) and not try to exclude them from the government.


Meanwhile, because the racists in the North generally didn't own slaves (not because they thought much of black folks, but simply because their economy was manufacturing-based rather than agricultural), they don't have to prove themselves no longer guilty of racism.


No, that's not it at all. Northerners were undoubtedly racist (and some still are). The distinction is that they have no history of violating the voting rights of their black citizens, at least not on anything remotely approaching the scale in the South. You keep wanting to write off the historical record as if it were inconvenient. That's no more possible here than it would be in, say, Germany when it comes to anti-semitism.

I'm not sure what I'm supposed to make of claims that northern states are "just as" racist. That hardly seems like a defense of Southern willingness to accept blacks in the government. If your only point is that the pre-clearance should apply nationwide, I can only say that current SCOTUS doctrine (which, as I understand it, requires evidence of past de jure practices) wouldn't allow that.


You're asking for proof of a negative.


I don't think so. If whites are voting for blacks, that's easy to show in the election statistics. It's an affirmative, not a negative.


Do we have to have a really liberal black man carry the entire South in a Presidential election in order to prove it?


I assume this is rhetorical. As I said in response to Soronel early on, a good study should be able to factor out the variables. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of elections over, say, the past decade. It shouldn't be that hard to come up with some data.

In fact, the commenters in this thread have provided infinitely more data (since any multiple of zero is infinite) than the poster. I don't expect you personally to have to come up with the data, but I do expect someone posting as an expert to provide some.

You seem to think I've pre-judged this issue. I haven't. Yeah, I'm skeptical that the leopard has changed its spots here. But if there's actual data -- not individual examples, not anecdotes, but data -- then I'm open to changing my position.


Evidence of racism?


Putting aside the issue whether PA is "very" northern, I'd say the figures you supply are within the reasonable margins we should allow in any electoral system. The outcome is *a* test of the system, but I'm certainly not demanding that it be perfect. I'm only demanding that it be reasonable (with all the vagueness that entails).
8.18.2009 3:46pm
MarkField (mail):

What, you don't think "they're in different political parties, which have different platforms" count as objective factors?


I don't follow you. Kerry and Obama were and are in the same party. Kerry is generally more liberal than Obama and I think a reasonable argument can be made that he ran as a more liberal candidate.
8.18.2009 3:48pm
Marky Mark (the 2nd) (mail):
All I want to know is where are the Asian, Hispanic, gay, Croatian, and Muslim districts? Assuming that race, sexual orientation, religion and national origin are also protected categories....

My point-- the arbitrary and politically driven nature of these things is pathetically obvious.
8.18.2009 3:57pm
Angus:
Angus... and none of those figures tell us if the problem is that white people won't vote for black candidates because of their skin color, or because the black people running in the races tend to hold political views not favored by the white population.
There have been conservative black politicians who have lost in blowouts. I don't think the problem is political views so much as just "the view."

reports that in the Georgia statewide elections in 2006, Thurbert Baker, the only black candidate for the four constitutional statewide offices, was also the only Democrat who won election.
Of course, Baker's case is a little different in that he originally became AG through appointment, and then got to run for re-election as an incumbent. In lower-profile contests, incumbency can overcome pretty much anything. I highly doubt Baker would ever have become AG if he had to run for election initially.
8.18.2009 4:02pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Mark Field:

No, I'm asking that there be evidence presented that the past practices have stopped. They can be assholes all they want, even racist ones, as long as they'll vote for a black person (who may also be an asshole) and not try to exclude them from the government.


With all due respect, the past practices have stopped due to the voting rights act. That much is unchallenged.

The question you are probably trying to ask is whether the behavior patterns have abated, or whether the practices will come back. Unfortunately, that is a problem that has no epistemologically sound answer.
8.18.2009 4:06pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Mark, you still refuse to give me the criteria for what it is I'm supposed to establish with statistics, what test the south has to meet to be removed from the burden of pre-clearance, what level of numerical representation distinguishes it from the north. You continue to assert the differences between the north and the south, but you cite only "the historical record." I don't and have never denied the problems the South has had and continues to have with racial issues. But I don't have the slightest idea whether, numerically, it's significantly different from the north, or at what point over the past 100 years those differences arose.

We've given you several examples of whites (and large majorities of them) voting for blacks. Those, of course, disprove your earlier categorical statement that you have "no reason to believe" that "white voters will actually vote for black candidates" in the South. You continue to insist that careful studies could distinguish between whites voting against black people because of race and voting against black people because of the politics of most black people in the voting area. Are you really so sure of that? What studies have you looked at? Do you have any idea how monolithic black politics in some southern areas can be? What percentage of black voters in the South are registered Democrats? What percentage of black candidates in the South run on a Democratic ticket? How do you measure with a particular black candidate is a really liberal candidate or more like a "Blue Dog" Democrat? How do you factor in, in a large-scale study as you seem to want, personal issues like veterans status, personal scandals, etc.?

Tell me exactly what you want me to demonstrate with statistics, and perhaps I'll go out and find them. But you can't demand that the South jump over hurdle after hurdle without telling us just how high the hurdle is. What data would convince you that your prejudices against the South are wrong?

By the way, if Pennsylvania is not "very north," then only New England itself could possibly qualify as northern.
8.18.2009 4:10pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
MarkField:

No, that's not it at all. Northerners were undoubtedly racist (and some still are). The distinction is that they have no history of violating the voting rights of their black citizens, at least not on anything remotely approaching the scale in the South. You keep wanting to write off the historical record as if it were inconvenient. That's no more possible here than it would be in, say, Germany when it comes to anti-semitism.


Ok, but in both cases, the laws have changed to change many of those patterns. At what point do such intrusive laws outlive their usefulness? How do you know when you come to that point?

My own thinking is that there is no need in Germany for laws against holocaust denial, and there is no need in the South for racial mandates for now. The key issue is that until you remove the intrusive controls, you don't give anyone an opportunity to show that things have changed.
8.18.2009 4:12pm
MAM:
Cato, ever the egalitarian, uses the old foil of "splaining" racial differences in voting to the lack of effectiveness of black politicians and black people, in general, via examples of black cities, etc., that are corrupt.

It's about as useful as saying white people don't deserve to govern b/c of Watergate, Tammany Hall, Monica Lewinski, etc.

One thing the author is s/what correct about is the infancy of black politics in the 1960's, particularly in the South. Blacks were basically denied the right of association for centuries. It was illegal for a black person to learn to read in certain areas. Political meetings, particularly in the 60's, could result in a lynching or other forms of intimidation. Blacks were largely relegated to sharecropping and, for the elite, teaching and possibly medicine. HBCUs cropped up post-reconstruction but were always castrated by white legislatures that didn't want to fund black colleges (easy to do this when black are denied the vote by the State). These incubators of black autonomy were also subject to physical intimidation. White mobs were known to threaten black college students and administrators at any whiff of political activism.

I recall my father, a veteran, traveling through Shreveport, La. in the early 60's on his way to his post in the state of Washington. He bought some food from a store and wanted to use the restroom. The polite gentleman explained to my father that "the restroom for niggers like you is that tree over yonder." My father returned the food, got on the bus and didn't eat or use facilities until he got to a state that treated him with the same dignity as anyone else. When my father and I would go bass fishing in southern Louisiana, it was not uncommon for a white gentlemen to display his gun at us and call us "niggers" as we were evidently not allowed to have a boat and fish in public waters.

The institutionalization of white racism cannot be overstated as it relates to the effect it had on black people. That an individual did nothing personally to a black person, does not absolve a society from a system that dehumanized an entire people for no greater reason than race.
8.18.2009 4:30pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
MAM. You are certainly correct that it's not really possible to overstate the damage caused to our society as a whole, and particularly to people such as your grandfather, by institutionalized racism. (I am grateful, by the way, for the military service of all Americans who served, but I have always been particularly grateful for the service of African Americans and others, who received so very little appreciation for it, and who had less reason than most to seek to serve and protect our nation, so many thanks and heart-felt blessings to your grandfather for his service.)

That is why I am always explaining to conservatives (and especially libertarians) in these debates exactly why the various Civil Rights Acts were necessary and appropriate, even if in other circumstances or to fight lesser evils one might find them to be too restrictive on individual freedoms.

But I've been on the receiving end of being accused of racist for no other reason than that I'm white and tend toward the conservative in my political views. That certainly is in no way comparable to the indignities heaped upon your grandfather (and the physical and legal harms done to others like him), but it stems ultimately from the same root: making assumptions about someone based on their skin color.

What "society" are you talking about not absolving? The sins of the slaveowners will never be absolved in any human sense, and "absolution" of those who are long dead means nothing, anyway. In some cases, for more recent sins, we could conceivably punish the Bull Connors of America. Of course, many of those individuals ultimately saw the light. Even George Wallace renounced his racism, as did former Klansman Robert Byrd.

So when you say that I did nothing personally to a black person, but this does not absolve "a society," from the system of institutionalized racism, what are the consequences of that statement, in your mind? Do you wish to punish "society," and how do you do that without punishing individual members of that society who have done nothing wrong?

These are such very difficult questions. On the one hand, our ideals are to treat each individual by their own merits, the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. On the other hand, if we focus solely on the individual, we may miss the larger picture of just how bad, how pervasive, racial discrimination actually was, and the lingering effects it continues to have even on today's generations. But on the other hand, the more we focus on group populations, the more we start focusing on skin color and other characteristics rather than individual character and individual responsibility for individual actions.

Abraham Lincoln said:

Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.


I think our entire society, black and white alike, is still paying the debt of which Lincoln speaks. I've never looked at the numbers, to see if in fact every drop of blood drawn with the lash was paid by another drawn with the sword, but I think we're still paying the debt, in a less violent manner.
8.18.2009 4:55pm
MarkField (mail):

The question you are probably trying to ask is whether the behavior patterns have abated, or whether the practices will come back.


Fair enough.


Unfortunately, that is a problem that has no epistemologically sound answer.


I'll settle for a pragmatic answer. Which brings me to your next point:


Ok, but in both cases, the laws have changed to change many of those patterns. At what point do such intrusive laws outlive their usefulness? How do you know when you come to that point?


As I suggested above, there have been hundreds of elections over the past decade just in the South alone. It can't be very hard to review those elections for evidence that whites will vote for a black candidate (and that blacks can vote freely and easily).

My view on this is simple, and I've given it above, but I'll say it again. At the time Congress renewed the pre-clearance requirements, the burden was on those wanting to renew it. They should have come forward with evidence showing a need for it. Now, however, with pre-clearance already renewed, the burden shifts to those who want to eliminate it. That burden applies even to those making guest posts on blogs. (And to be even more clear, I recognize that this is a blog -- she doesn't need to give a treatise, just some evidence.)


My own thinking is that there is no need in Germany for laws against holocaust denial


I have a strong bias in favor of free speech, so I'd probably agree. I don't, however, know much about conditions in Germany so I have to hedge a little bit. In any case, the harm which comes from speech --even the most offensive -- is likely to be much less than the harm which comes from exclusion from the political process, so I'd apply a lower standard.


Mark, you still refuse to give me the criteria for what it is I'm supposed to establish with statistics, what test the south has to meet to be removed from the burden of pre-clearance, what level of numerical representation distinguishes it from the north.


As I said, I'm not asking you personally to do anything. My original criticism was of the poster who offered nothing but words in support of a very controversial issue. I think some facts would be nice.

As for what to establish, I can't give you a formula. All I can say is that the voting patterns should show a willingness by a solid majority of whites to vote for a black candidate, other things being equal. I don't know enough about the various electoral systems to say much more than that.


We've given you several examples of whites (and large majorities of them) voting for blacks. Those, of course, disprove your earlier categorical statement that you have "no reason to believe" that "white voters will actually vote for black candidates" in the South.


You did and my original statement was overbroad. I retract it. Obviously there is some reason to believe they will. I don't expect you to do much more. I do expect the poster to; indeed, you have been doing her work for her.


You continue to insist that careful studies could distinguish between whites voting against black people because of race and voting against black people because of the politics of most black people in the voting area. Are you really so sure of that?


No, I'm not. I just believe that elections happen often enough, in enough different locales, with enough participants, that it should be possible to do a regression analysis which tests the particular variables.


By the way, if Pennsylvania is not "very north," then only New England itself could possibly qualify as northern.


All Yankees look alike? :)

Geographically you're right, of course. Socially, PA has some western districts which showed considerable resistance to voting for a black man. You may not have followed the Dem primary, but this got lots of attention in the Obama/Hillary race. Turns out those Western PA voters were not only unwilling to vote for Obama (despite no real policy distinctions between the two), but were willing to state publicly that they were reluctant to vote for a black man at all.

Finally, let me add that there are certainly things Southern legislators could do to reduce suspicion. First, they could repeal the laws which prevent felons from voting. Those look and feel like an effort to exclude blacks. Second, they could actively encourage black participation in state and local elections. There are probably others I'll think of later.
8.18.2009 4:57pm
M. Gross (mail):
I'm a little late replying to Pat's earlier post, but I would think the negative effects of enforced gerrymandering of voting districts would be prima facie obvious.

The proponents of the VRA didn't do themselves any favors by altering the Section 5 formula in 1975 to cover states that were never part of Section 5 by changing the definition of "test."
8.18.2009 4:58pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
MAM:

Thank you for sharing your story. I will now share my story with you to show a different perspective from a different part of the country.

While I don't really identify with racial labels, I suppose it is fair to call me "white." I won't go into my thoughts on the racial labels here but I think our treatment of these labels is often racist and unjust.

Anyway, when I was one year old, my father went back to school-- at the age of 36, he successfully enrolled in medical school at a time when medical students of his age were routinely disqualified on that basis alone. For a few years we lived in Lansing, Michigan because Michigan State was one of the few schools which considered older students.

When this was complete, we moved to Saginaw where he did his internship. There, in 1980, and surprisingly close to the Canadian border, we lived in the only racially integrated neighborhood in the entire city. The racism of that place left a long impression on me. We didn't have much money, and the apartment complex was mostly poorer families.

One other thing that struck me was that we had three distinct groups of neighbors: White, Jewish, and Black. The White neighbors who were not Jews, were exceptionally racist, were bullies, and were rarely up to any good. I learned the hard way not to trust them and to stay away from them (I caught one once stealing my toys). Our Jewish and Black neighbors were generally less discriminatory, more kind, and more friendly. I quickly learned that both these groups were ones I could develop real friendships with.

When I was in Saginaw, there was a case of teenagers deciding to take their father's hunting rifle and go shoot black folks at 2am. And it wasn't uncommon for our white neighbors to make death threats against our black neighbors. Such was the culture there.

After that my father did his residency in Battle Creek, Michigan. There I found we had few Blacks in our neighborhood-- it was a middle class neighborhood but technically integrated because there was one black family living down the road on our block. I was friends with their kids, of course, and with many white kids too. Looking back at my childhood years there, I can identify many elements of pervasive racism that are now gone.

One thing I am not saying is that racism is gone. It isn't. But the pernicious racism that lead to lynchings and to folks going out at 2am to shoot black folk (in 1980!) is no longer a part of this country to the same extent.

You leave us with the following thought:

The institutionalization of white racism cannot be overstated as it relates to the effect it had on black people. That an individual did nothing personally to a black person, does not absolve a society from a system that dehumanized an entire people for no greater reason than race.


I don't entirely disagree with this remark I would be careful about suggesting personal responsibility over a system that most of us didn't create and many of us did not participate in willingly and in fact have fought against in other cases. (My college history teachers hated my paper on racial labels in the US because I looked at questions of identity rather than just skin color, and further looked at questions of what "white" Americans consider to be "white" as a broad issue. But they respected my work and effort enough not to hold that against me in evaluations or grades.) Society DOES have a responsibility to make continued progress on these issues. And we have a responsibility to face our demons.

However, at the same time, if we are to break the chains of the past, we must do so. I personally believe that the issue of racially conscious districting should be put on hold, and that we should give folks a chance to show that things have changed reserving the right to interfere again if necessary. Sometimes the sword belongs in its sheath.
8.18.2009 5:01pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Mark Field:

As I suggested above, there have been hundreds of elections over the past decade just in the South alone. It can't be very hard to review those elections for evidence that whites will vote for a black candidate (and that blacks can vote freely and easily).


Ok, let's look back at the last Presidential election. Despite the fact that the South has a stronger cultural stance on military service than the North and despite the fact that Obama was running against a seasoned war veteran, he only did 10% worse than Kerry (also a Vietnam vet). While 10% is a large margin in most elections, other factors suggest that the actual racial impact was far smaller than that. In short you would have to count against this anyone who voted based on the idea that in a wartime one should vote in large part based on military record.

I guess the question is what the threashold is? Whether most Whites will vote for Black candidates? or whether all will?

If the latter, we ought to put the entire country down under the same restrictions on redistricting...
8.18.2009 5:12pm
MAM:
I do not wish to punish anyone. I, however, am always wanting society to stay vigilant in making America live up to its potential. When skin pigmentation is no longer a direct or indirect reason a person is stopped by the police, denied a loan, not made a partner, the country will truly have made strides that were unimaginable.

The issue I have with many conservatives is the quickness at which "color blind" became its rallying cry. It was bascially a direct descendant of the Southern Strategy -- a way by which whites, particularly white males, rationalize the world as a place where they are the victims black progress and mild forms of state remediation. The yoke of "color blind," for many, is merely a recent clone. The ease at which some explain away history, even recent history, cannot be merely ignorance.

That's not entirely fair for those libertarians and conservatives who have no animus, but it is a reality that conservatives (old dixiecrats)have not been allies to justice or black progress. Conservatives need to rid themselves of the racist element that's been an integral part of its base.

FYI -- that was my father I was referring to. If my deceased grandfather had enlisted, he likely would have been relegated to being a cook or some menial job. Before Truman desgregation order, blacks were largely dissuaded from joining the armed forces, except in the case of war when bodies were needed. Fortunately, my father had more opportunities.
8.18.2009 5:16pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
MAM:

In case you are wondering about the thesis of the paper I was referencing. The basic thesis was that racial labels are about politics of success and identity. Racism against black folk is often inseparable from strong ideological biases against poor folk, and that "white" is a term which is flexibly expanded to include folks we like to see as successful.

For example, I compared the skin tone of OJ Simpson in Time Magazine from his sportscasting days to his trial and noted that one can see a marked relative darkening in the later pictures (or more probably lightening in the earlier pictures). This was designed to make OJ Simpson look more "white" when he was well regarded, but more "black" when he was on trial for murder.

I then compared to Nativist and Racist movements in the last two centuries, and concluded that for most groups "white" is a label which means "assimilated and economically successful." This sentiment is most noticeable when one looks at Asian-Americans, actually.
8.18.2009 5:18pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
(it means that modern racism is just traditional xenophobia wrapped in new clothing and that the actual dynamics are closer to traditional xenophobia than most folk want to admit.)
8.18.2009 5:22pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Mark, a fair response, though I continue to disagree with you. In particular, I still think you are making a great many assumptions about the South without evidence to support those assumptions. For example, my own state of Louisiana does not impose a life-time bar on voting by convicted felons. Once you've done your time and are no longer on parole or probation, you are as free to vote as you ever were.

As for who has the burden of proof, I always place the burden of proof on the side calling the other one a bad name or accusing them of improper behavior. I think it's a terrible thing to be called a racist. It should be. Being a racist is a terrible thing. I tend to react to being called a racist about the same as I would to being called a child molester. When other people are called racists, I want to see the proof, for the same reason. We don't (or shouldn't) presume people are guilty in this country, of racism or anything else. The pre-clearance requirements carry the accusation of racism; that's the only reason for their existence. Thus, the burden is on those making the accusation, regardless of when the act was renewed.

Hillary and Obama practically the same? That's not the election I watched last year. Even if you think that some dispassionate analysis might show that there's really not that much difference between the two candidates, that sure doesn't mean that, as the campaigns actually worked and as the candidates were actually portrayed during the campaign, they were identical. I mean, was there really much substantive policy difference between Hillary Clinton and John Edwards? Was the fact that she beat him evidence that folks wouldn't vote for a man for President? Of course not. Ridiculous to even think so. If some folks said that they wouldn't vote for a black man for President, then shame on them. I'll join in the condemnation of them for their intolerance and bigotry. But simply voting for one candidate over the other? No evidence of racism at all.

Also, I suspect that in real life the things going on in people's minds may be a lot murkier; it's not a binary state, racist voter or not. I suspect that there's white Republicans out there who would be willing to vote for a black Republican, but not a black Democrat, because of concerns that the black Democrat might really be an Al Sharpton type of politician, while any black man with the stones to be a Republican in today's political climate is most likely going to be a tough, independent man not given to playing the race card. Likewise, I'm fairly certain that there have been at least a few black voters who voted for a black Republican when they would not have voted for a white Republican.

I just don't think it's at all possible, given the reality of our electoral system and the wide range of candidates who run, to provide the "proof" that you claim to want. You want us to prove we're not racist, but don't tell us how we can do that, what hurdle we have to clear, or how to measure it. To us, then, it sure sounds like you're demanding that we vote for the black guy, even if he's liberal as all get out, if we want to no longer be viewed as racist.

You severely underestimate the monoculture nature of black politics. Look at the demonization of Clarence Thomas. Young, up and coming black politicians see that and learn a lesson... if they want to be successful in their political career, and avoid being tarred as an "Uncle Tom," they better keep their politics firmly on the left. There's very few black Republicans, and I can assure you from personal experience it's NOT because they're not desired in the party. I have several good friends who have worked hard at minority outreach for the party, only to themselves be accused of racism and treated like bigots. If the vast majority of black people decide to say: "screw you, Republican party, we don't like your principles," you can hardly blame racism for Republicans voting against most black politicians who take that viewpoint. The number of elections where some version of that dynamic was not going on would be exceedingly small, and I really doubt that there's enough races to allow the statistical measurements you're talking about, no matter how much regression analysis you do.
8.18.2009 5:29pm
MAM:
einhverfr,

Your thesis is very interesting as it seems to describe power relationships, which sounds like an offshoot of the 1960's argument that racism requires power. Are you channelling Stokely Carmichael?

I am cynical about America's progress in some ways. The progress has been meteoric for many, if not most, Black Americans. Unfortunately, my emphasis, at times, is on all the talented people that were lost in that struggle.
8.18.2009 5:34pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
MAM, sorry about that. I somehow got "grandfather" in my mind, even though looking back I see you did clearly say "father." Many thanks, then, to your father for his service.

I agree with you that Republicans, and conservatives in general, must do more to ostracize the remaining racist elements in our society. While I was pleased that the GOP elected a black man as chair (the wrong man, in my mind; I was a Ken Blackwell supporter and think Michael Steele is a light-weight) this year, I was disappointed that a man who had chosen in his lifetime to belong to a racially segregated country club came as close to being elected as he did to that position.

But we can't do that alone. It would be very helpful for more black leaders to stop treating every invocation of federalism or state's rights (for example) as code for racism. It's not. Legitimate arguments and political theories and politicians should not be opposed simply because some of the proponents of such theories are racists or David Duke sympathizers.... not any more than black politicians should be distrusted because of Mayor Kilpatrick's horrendous malfeasance and misgovernance of Detroit.
8.18.2009 5:38pm
MAM:
Pat,

The problem many blacks have with Clarence Thomas are many. First, he was, to many, including myself, the epitome of an affirmative action candidate. Thomas was chosen b/c he was practically the only black conservative around at the time. He was not, as Pres Bush stated "the most qualified candidate around". Were it not for his Yale law degree, from which is benefitted from affirmative action, he would not be a supreme court justice. The black community, at large, does not approve of racial hypocrites...pulling up the ladder after you've benefitted.

Second, Thomas is also viewed side ways b/c he has been and still is associated with largely white right-wing groups that have not been viewed as allies of black progress.

Finally, personally, I think Thomas is a tortured soul that has never been comfortable with being black. He is not unique in the black community in that respect as I am sure there are Jews, Hispanics and others that exhibit traits of self-loathing. But that's merely my opinion.

Black America has a long history of conservatism -- indigenous conservatism -- from Booker T. Washington to Zora Neal Hurston to Geoger Schulyer (sp?). The difference with Thomas is that he has been at the beck and call of white sponsors, sponsors with little credit in the black community, for his entire professional career yet replaced Marshall, largely due to race.
8.18.2009 5:49pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
MAM:

Well not quite. Certainly institutional racism requires at least power over the institutions in question, but that is a limited scope for an answer. My thesis was that racism and classism were inseparable, and that the label of "white" was what was given to the elites. One thing I was not so much aware of at the time was how many second- and third-generation Asian immigrants identified with the label of "white."

I think one thing that this suggests though is that black Americans (exception possibly of descendants of recent immigrants) have an experience of looking at mainstream American society as an outsider and that this is continually reinforced the way the label "white" is used.

However this leads to a number of really difficult issues I struggle to find positions on:

1) Labelling. White vs black seems to reinforce this sort of liminal experience of black folk on the edges of our society. But so does African-American. As one who is methodologically conservative, I will side with older labels unless obviously problematic.

2) AAVE and schools. On one hand, the best way to get over xenophobia is to speak and act like the mainstream "white" society. On the other hand I think it is dangerous to tell kids that their dialect is "wrong" or "bad" English when in fact it is quite linguistically interesting. Unfortunately getting teachers to be intellectually honest about what they want to teach in English class is an unrealistic goal as some institutions have their own inertia.

I also think one thing that would be immensely helpful would be for African-American families to reach out to recent immigrant families as a way both of retaining a greater consciousness of roots but also breaking down some of the group psychological damage from so many years of discrimination.
8.18.2009 6:02pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
(I typically use African-American to emphasize ties to Africa still, I guess, after re-reading my last post. Funny how that works...)
8.18.2009 6:05pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
MAM... that is undoubtedly the view many have of Thomas. But, as the saying goes, you really can't know what is in the heart of another man, and there's a lot of people who firmly believe the opposite: that Justice Thomas' only sin was straying too far from the black "party line," and he was chosen to be crushed for not acquiescing to the "proper" political positions for black politicians and jurists to have. There's no room in your analysis, for example, of the possibility that, while he was benefiting from affirmative action at Yale, he came to understand the downside of such policies, because he saw how they caused other people to assume he wasn't "really" qualified to be there.
8.18.2009 6:10pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
MAM:

One interesting thing about Clarence Thomas that I have had to eventually consider is this: While I don't often like the man's jurisprudence, hearing him talk about his views about what is wrong with the direction of America lead me to have a great deal of respect for the man. I think his discomfort with affirmative action comes from a different place than you describe-- very likely he is opposed to it primarily because of being the affirmative action candidate and being uncomfortable with that role.

However, he has also articulated a displeasure with the idea that because folks articulate a sense of being a victim that they deserve special treatment. Like him, I do worry that going too far down such a road leads to many bad things.

In case you are wondering my view on affirmative action is that the current programs are outdated a distraction from what now needs to be done. The programs were, like racially conscious districting practices, probably necessary at first. However our economy is not the same as it was then, and we can no longer expect that the goal of affirmative action is to get a critical mass of blacks into white collar jobs (no pun intended).

Current affirmative action programs need to go. They need to be replaced with a social commitment, backed by social institutions, that anyone who honestly wants and is prepared to work for a quality college education should get one at nominal cost, but without going deeply into debt. Such a program needs a lot of discussion to make work, but it is what we need for further economic growth. We need to further replace diversity mandates with a simple acknowledgement that private schools may consider diversity in background (whether racial, socio-economic, or past profession) in admissions. However our public university system needs to have reasonable paths available for anyone seeking to attend (without going deeply into debt).

The fact of the matter is that if an American of any race who wants to, say, be a computer programmer, and has the intelligence and drive to succeed cannot go to school to get a Comp Sci degree, we as a country are robbed of his potential.

Business-wise, diversity is a legitimate goal which will be pursued regardless. I don't know any business that would expect to market to Hispanics without having Hispanics helping with the advertising and (if feasible) product development. Same with blacks. Affirmative action was NECESSARY to break some barriers, but I don't think it is as necessary today on the business level.
8.18.2009 6:21pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
But I agree that the call for affirmative action by some is motivated by racial animosity. The question of the way forward is a more interesting one, however.
8.18.2009 6:43pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
sheesh, I can't type today:

But I agree that the call for affirmative action by some is motivated by racial animosity. The question of the way forward is a more interesting one, however.

should read

But I agree that the call for the elimination of affirmative action by some is motivated by racial animosity. The question of the way forward is a more interesting one, however.


Getting ahead of oneself is dangerous stuff.

Also applies to the end of all racially conscious policies.
8.18.2009 7:02pm
MarkField (mail):

Ok, let's look back at the last Presidential election. Despite the fact that the South has a stronger cultural stance on military service than the North and despite the fact that Obama was running against a seasoned war veteran, he only did 10% worse than Kerry (also a Vietnam vet).


This is why I think we need multiple regression analysis on a large scale study. There are so many variables, it's hard to sort out.


We don't (or shouldn't) presume people are guilty in this country, of racism or anything else. The pre-clearance requirements carry the accusation of racism; that's the only reason for their existence. Thus, the burden is on those making the accusation, regardless of when the act was renewed.


I already agreed that the proponents bore the burden of proof to renew the pre-clearance. I can't agree that they still bear it, though. Laws have to function over time. They can't be continuously revisted. We need a form of stare decisis (just to bring in another thread) which allows decisions to stand until there's cause shown to change them. This is particularly true when a statute has a sunset provision.


Hillary and Obama practically the same? That's not the election I watched last year. Even if you think that some dispassionate analysis might show that there's really not that much difference between the two candidates, that sure doesn't mean that, as the campaigns actually worked and as the candidates were actually portrayed during the campaign, they were identical.


It was pretty common on left blogs (Kos, digby, many others) to comment repeatedly on how similar the two were when it came to policy. There were personal differences, of course (e.g., Obama's much more eloquent). But those of us on the left had a hard time choosing just because it was so hard to separate them.

What was interesting is that usually it works the other way. We on the left tend to see all you righties the same way we do sheep -- indistinguishable (I suspect the same is true on your side, but I won't presume to speak for that). In contrast, we're able to parse the finest distinctions among our own as critically important (at least in the primary). That wasn't happening last year.


Also, I suspect that in real life the things going on in people's minds may be a lot murkier; it's not a binary state, racist voter or not.


See my response above to einhverfr. I suspect this is true. That's why I think only a large scale study would be likely to help us sort out the variables.


I just don't think it's at all possible, given the reality of our electoral system and the wide range of candidates who run, to provide the "proof" that you claim to want.


That may very well be the case. If the poster had cited studies and explained why they were indeterminate, then I'd probably accept that even if I disagreed on what my gut told me. But this brings us back full circle to my complaint that she offered us nothing at all. And that's really what's led to this debate. Not that I haven't learned something (I'm glad to learn that LA doesn't disenfranchise felons), but that the original post could have informed us all much more.


You severely underestimate the monoculture nature of black politics.


I'm not sure that I do. Yes, blacks vote Dem in huge numbers. But blacks have demonstrated repeatedly over the years that they can distinguish between the two parties. They were solidly Republican for 100 years after the Civil War. Now they are Democrats. That shows that they have a pretty clear understanding of where they believe their interests lie.

Blacks have also demonstrated over the years that they will vote for white candidates. They do it all the time. The contrary is, sadly, much less in evidence, North or South.

And even if the two previous facts were not true, it wouldn't matter to me as much because (a) 350 years of mistreatment is bound to have an effect; and (b) blacks form such a small percentage of the electorate in most places that it doesn't matter.


If the vast majority of black people decide to say: "screw you, Republican party, we don't like your principles," you can hardly blame racism for Republicans voting against most black politicians who take that viewpoint.


Are you sure the causal arrow points in the direction you assume?
8.18.2009 7:49pm
Seamus (mail):


Actual studies would help, particularly ones showing that white voters will actually vote for black candidates. Right now, I see no reason to believe that is true in the South, though I'm cautiously optimistic in other areas.




You there! What year is it?!

Didn't Obama just win Virginia, NC, and Florida?


Those honkies just voted for him 'cause he was half white.
8.18.2009 8:25pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
But did any of ya'll look at the white Southern statistics for the past election. For example, in Georgia Obama only got 23% of the white vote. Across the South, Obama did 10% worse than Kerry although he did much better than Kerry everywhere else. I've lived my whole life in the South, and the majority of us are in fact still racist. Stop patronizing us and telling us we've overcome racism, when any honest white Southerner knows this is a flat out lie.
Alternatively, across the North, Kerry did 10% worse than Obama although he did much better than Obama everywhere else. Guess northerners hate whites. Great "logic."
8.18.2009 9:45pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Even in the last election -- which several people were kind enough to point out to me; darn my ignorance of public affairs! -- Obama underperformed John Kerry by a very significant margin.
Hmm. Coulda sworn that Obama overperformed John Kerry, which is why George Bush was a two term president and McCain wasn't even a one-term president. Not sure why Kerry -- or the 2004 election -- is the control, though.
8.18.2009 9:49pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Two, consider the purpose of representative democracy. The purpose is to create a legislature which mirrors the people represented. If there's some extraneous factor which prevents that from happening, we need to take that into account in designing the electoral system.
Actually, Mark, the purpose of representative democracy is to create a legislature which represents the people, not that "mirrors" them. Your construction is pernicious. I don't need a male or a Jew to represent me. I want a libertarian -- someone who represents me -- not someone who looks like me.
8.18.2009 9:53pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Mark Field:

I already agreed that the proponents bore the burden of proof to renew the pre-clearance. I can't agree that they still bear it, though. Laws have to function over time. They can't be continuously revisted.


Well, I agree with you. However, my feeling is that these should be limited to specific legislative acts. In short, when the provision sunsets, it should be retired with the power reserved by Congress to resurrect the requirement if the need arises. As I said before sometimes the sword belongs in its sheath.

Look-- in the end one thing needs immediate discussion here. Most of us on both sides of the issue REALLY WANT equal protection under the law. The problem though is that there is a tendency to assert that such problems were, say, confined more to the South than the North, when in reality it was far more complex than that.

I described my experience growing up in Saginaw Michigan, far from the Deep South, in 1980. When I went to college, I learned from one of my history professors that Kennewick, Washington had race-specific curfews in place through the 1970's. I didn't live through the civil rights era, but I have repeatedly learned more things which have driven home the idea that a mere few decades ago, this was practically a different country.

I have also lived in places where racism was rampant outside the US. Indonesia is a particularly good example.

But the fundamental question is when and under what circumstances we begin to retire these measures. I believe that we are to a point where the measures should be retired. Congress renewed the measures for twenty five years. Let's try to see a real conversation arise as to when these states have served their sentence and deserve another shot.
8.18.2009 11:34pm
MarkField (mail):

Coulda sworn that Obama overperformed John Kerry, which is why George Bush was a two term president and McCain wasn't even a one-term president.


In context, it was clear we were talking about the South.


Actually, Mark, the purpose of representative democracy is to create a legislature which represents the people, not that "mirrors" them. Your construction is pernicious. I don't need a male or a Jew to represent me. I want a libertarian -- someone who represents me -- not someone who looks like me.


Yes and no. You might feel satisfied with your current atheist female Congresswoman. But you'd surely feel excluded if males or Jews or Jewish males were arbitrarily excluded at the next election.

Here's James Wilson with the basic concept:

"To the legitimate energy and weight of true representation, two things are essentially necessary. 1. That the representatives should express the same sentiments which the represented, if possessed of equal information, would express. 2. That the sentiments of the representatives … should have the same weight and influence as the sentiments of the constituents would have, if expressed personally.

To accomplish the second object, all elections ought to be equal. Elections are equal when a given number of citizens in one part of the state choose as many representatives as are chosen by the same number of citizens in any other part of the state. In this manner, the proportion of the representatives and of the constituents will remain invariably the same."

If certain groups are arbitrarily excluded from the legislature -- be they Jews, blacks, women, or whatever -- it seems pretty clear that those groups won't believe they're represented in Wilson's sense. And, of course, if there's discrimination in voting I believe we're all agreed that Wilson's second paragraph would be violated.
8.18.2009 11:36pm
MarkField (mail):

Let's try to see a real conversation arise as to when these states have served their sentence and deserve another shot.


I think we should go further than conversation. I'd like to see some experiments on a small scale. Let's release some random cities or counties or water districts (or whatever) and see how they do over time.
8.18.2009 11:39pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
In context, it was clear we were talking about the South.
Yes, and Obama recorded electoral votes in the South that Kerry did not.
8.18.2009 11:54pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Yes and no. You might feel satisfied with your current atheist female Congresswoman. But you'd surely feel excluded if males or Jews or Jewish males were arbitrarily excluded at the next election.
First, not getting votes is not being "excluded."

Second, Wilson clearly says "1. That the representatives should express the same sentiments which the represented, if possessed of equal information, would express." (Emphasis added.) Not that they need to look similar. If blacks feel that their interests can only be represented by black representatives, then why shouldn't whites feel that their interests can only be represented by white representatives? (Don't give me the "not symmetric" response; that misses the point. Either blacks and whites share common interests or they don't; if they don't, then we have far more serious problems than can be resolved by a VRA. If they do, then the issue is whether the voters can participate, not what the representatives look like.)
8.19.2009 12:01am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Mark Field:


I think we should go further than conversation. I'd like to see some experiments on a small scale. Let's release some random cities or counties or water districts (or whatever) and see how they do over time.


Would the EPC prevent this sort of experimentation on some districts but not others?
8.19.2009 12:18am
J. Aldridge:
Would the EPC prevent this sort of experimentation on some districts but not others?

The EPC says of the laws, not state laws. Big difference many cannot understand.
8.19.2009 5:10am
MarkField (mail):

First, not getting votes is not being "excluded."


Of course it is, particularly when the votes are racially motivated. As you yourself have pointed out in your responses to J. Aldridge, the exclusion doesn't have to be formally expressed in a law. It just has to exclude.


Not that they need to look similar. If blacks feel that their interests can only be represented by black representatives, then why shouldn't whites feel that their interests can only be represented by white representatives? (Don't give me the "not symmetric" response; that misses the point. Either blacks and whites share common interests or they don't; if they don't, then we have far more serious problems than can be resolved by a VRA. If they do, then the issue is whether the voters can participate, not what the representatives look like.)


Virtual representation wasn't very persuasive when the British advanced it in the debate before the Revolutionary War and it isn't very presuasive now. Nobody, including you, is willing to admit that people like themselves should be excluded from office. We could bar Jews from holding public office tomorrow, but under your argument it wouldn't matter. No need for women to vote either -- we'll take care of your interests little lady.

You're offering this libertarian fantasy in which people don't exist as actual human beings, but only as a collection of interests. That's not what people are. And yes, they want people who "look like them" to at least have the opportunity to participate in governing the country. That's part of what having the same "sentiments" includes.


Would the EPC prevent this sort of experimentation on some districts but not others?


Putting aside Bush v. Gore, I think so. I'd say it's within Congressional discretion under the enforcement clause of the 15th A. But I don't know of any case authority on this point so I can't say with certainty.
8.19.2009 10:46am
David M. Nieporent (www):
What, 20 years as a historian with the library of congress doesn't qualify as a "historian"?
It qualifies as fiction.

The EPC says of the laws, not state laws. Big difference many cannot understand.
Because it's something in your imagination. Like many on the, er, fringe, you treat words as mystic incantations rather than words.
8.19.2009 10:48am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Of course it is, particularly when the votes are racially motivated. As you yourself have pointed out in your responses to J. Aldridge, the exclusion doesn't have to be formally expressed in a law. It just has to exclude.
So libertarians are "excluded" from the legislature? I guess we should sue on equal protection and first amendment grounds, or something.

There's no entitlement to be elected; you have to get a majority (pr plurality, especially in the south because the VRA often treats majority requirements as discriminatory) of votes. There's a vast gulf between "Not eligible to run because of race" and "Not getting enough votes to win," even if the failure to garner votes is because of race.
8.19.2009 10:52am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Virtual representation wasn't very persuasive when the British advanced it in the debate before the Revolutionary War and it isn't very presuasive now.
I'm not talking about "virtual representation." I'm talking about actual representation. Virtual representation was the notion that because someone with the same interests as me got to vote, it didn't matter whether I got to vote. But here we're not talking about whites voting as a proxy for blacks; we're talking about whites and blacks all voting.
Nobody, including you, is willing to admit that people like themselves should be excluded from office. We could bar Jews from holding public office tomorrow, but under your argument it wouldn't matter. No need for women to vote either -- we'll take care of your interests little lady.
People like myself are excluded from office, by your definition of exclude (i.e., "don't win elections.")
You're offering this libertarian fantasy in which people don't exist as actual human beings, but only as a collection of interests. That's not what people are. And yes, they want people who "look like them" to at least have the opportunity to participate in governing the country. That's part of what having the same "sentiments" includes.
Only to the identity-politics left. And as we can see, by "opportunity" you effectively mean "guarantee."
8.19.2009 11:15am
David M. Nieporent (www):
And just to add to that, Mark: we agreed earlier that the racial redistricting of recent decades was in part a ploy by black officeholders and Republicans to benefit the GOP, and black officeholders, at the expense of the Democratic Party as a whole. By focusing on people who "look like them," black interests were harmed.
8.19.2009 11:28am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
David Nieropont:

I think there are big issues with Mark Field's Argument. However, I think here you step too far:


People like myself are excluded from office, by your definition of exclude (i.e., "don't win elections.")


The fundamental issue with the initial push to race-conscious districting was that many established political powers were threatened with the idea that blacks would have substantial political power through the ballot box and reacted in a way to reduce this power. It was hence necessary at first.

The basic issue is that if you have a group (blacks) who had been systematically excluded from politics and then when inclusion is mandated, their influence is systematically weakened, this is an issue that did have to be dealt with.

The problem though is that as things have improved (nobody really suggests they haven't), the bar to such intervention has grown steadily lower and the political costs for opposing it have gone up. This is a very different issue.
8.19.2009 11:34am
MarkField (mail):

I'm not talking about "virtual representation." I'm talking about actual representation. Virtual representation was the notion that because someone with the same interests as me got to vote, it didn't matter whether I got to vote. But here we're not talking about whites voting as a proxy for blacks; we're talking about whites and blacks all voting.


No, you're talking about virtual representation. The flaw in your argument is your assumption that there actually is someone else "with the same interests as me" in a structure which systematically excludes people on account of race, gender, religion, etc.

Sorry, but libertarians don't count. They just offer ideas, ones which the vast majority of the country has rejected.


There's a vast gulf between "Not eligible to run because of race" and "Not getting enough votes to win," even if the failure to garner votes is because of race.


No, there is no practical distinction between these two situations.


And just to add to that, Mark: we agreed earlier that the racial redistricting of recent decades was in part a ploy by black officeholders and Republicans to benefit the GOP, and black officeholders, at the expense of the Democratic Party as a whole. By focusing on people who "look like them," black interests were harmed.


They might very well be, but I'm willing to let black voters decide that.


The problem though is that as things have improved (nobody really suggests they haven't), the bar to such intervention has grown steadily lower and the political costs for opposing it have gone up. This is a very different issue.


Yes, and the real point of dispute underlying all this is "exactly where are we on this continuum?". That's why empirical studies are critical.
8.19.2009 11:55am
David M. Nieporent (www):
They might very well be, but I'm willing to let black voters decide that.
But black voters didn't/don't get to decide that, because of the very districting we're talking about.

They don't get to say that they'd rather maximize Democratic representatives than black ones; they can't even 'vote with their feet' to accomplish it, because they can always be racially gerrymandered into the black district.


No, you're talking about virtual representation.
No, I'm talking about actual representation. Nobody is talking about preventing black people from voting, something we all agree is forbidden.
The flaw in your argument is your assumption that there actually is someone else "with the same interests as me" in a structure which systematically excludes people on account of race, gender, religion, etc.

Sorry, but libertarians don't count. They just offer ideas, ones which the vast majority of the country has rejected.
I'll let these two sentences stand uncommented upon; the ideology speaks for itself.
8.19.2009 12:44pm
MarkField (mail):
A couple more thoughts.

First, David's suggestion that failing to vote for someone on racial grounds isn't a constitutional issue. That's not true. After the VRA was enacted, one response of segregationists was to switch some voting units from district to at-large. Why? Because blacks had a majority in some districts and might elect an officeholder. At-large districts assured that the majority whites could prevent this. Not surprisingly, the Court struck this down.

Second, I should respond to this: "Only to the identity-politics left. And as we can see, by "opportunity" you effectively mean "guarantee."

Raising the issue of "identity politics" in this context is perhaps the ultimate in irony. This whole problem exists solely and exclusively because white voters have spent 350 years or more engaging in identity politics. To now criticize blacks on this basis is, well, words fail.

The truth is that identity politics is as traditionally American as apple pie. WASPs have been the most successful practitioners of it for obvious reasons, but German, Irish, Italian, Jewish, and many other groups have engaged in it. That's not surprising, particularly with groups which are new to the political process. Until they feel accepted within the community, such that they are confident that "others" will represent their interests, they want one of their "own".
8.19.2009 12:45pm
MarkField (mail):

I'll let these two sentences stand uncommented upon; the ideology speaks for itself.


Yes, there is a distinction between excluding people because of their ideas and excluding people because of their ethnicity, gender, etc. It's the ideology of the EPC.
8.19.2009 12:48pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Yes, there is a distinction between excluding people because of their ideas and excluding people because of their ethnicity, gender, etc.
Sure; one goes to the heart of government and one doesn't. It would be a hollow victory indeed for me to be told that I'm free to have people who look like me in office as long as they don't vote for things I want.

Raising the issue of "identity politics" in this context is perhaps the ultimate in irony. This whole problem exists solely and exclusively because white voters have spent 350 years or more engaging in identity politics.
Sure. And then blacks were able to convince the vast majority of whites that this was wrong.

Until they feel accepted within the community, such that they are confident that "others" will represent their interests, they want one of their "own".
We're long past that point, which is why blacks will vote for white Democrats over black Republicans.
8.19.2009 4:48pm
MarkField (mail):

Sure; one goes to the heart of government and one doesn't. It would be a hollow victory indeed for me to be told that I'm free to have people who look like me in office as long as they don't vote for things I want.


I think you're confused about democracy. It involves the competition of ideas and policies. If you lose that competition, your recourse is to continue the struggle until you win it. It does NOT involve the exclusion of blacks by white voters on the ground of skin color.


We're long past that point, which is why blacks will vote for white Democrats over black Republicans.


I think the whole point of this debate is that too many white voters are NOT past it.
8.19.2009 7:50pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I think you're confused about democracy.
I'm not the one arguing that there's an entitlement not merely to vote, but to elect someone; you are.


I think the whole point of this debate is that too many white voters are NOT past it.
The context of the quote I was responding to was about black voters.
8.20.2009 6:58am
Ursus Maritimus:

Raising the issue of "identity politics" in this context is perhaps the ultimate in irony. This whole problem exists solely and exclusively because white voters have spent 350 years or more engaging in identity politics.

Sure. And then blacks were able to convince the vast majority of whites that this was wrong.



You seem to be under the mistaken impression that all opposition to white identity politics was motivated by opposition to identity politics per se.


I think MarkField has made it pretty clear that identity politics is A-OK with him(1), as long as as it isn't "white".

(1) I admit that I don't know what he thinks about say Irish identity politics, Scottish identity politics, English identity politics, Italian identity politics, Serbian identity politics, Indonesian identity politics, Nigerian identity politics, Israeli identity politics, Indian identity politics, or Pakistani identity politics. Maybe if he informed us about his views about the above we could get some clues to what heuristics he uses to determine whether a given identity politics is evil or praiseworthy?
8.20.2009 1:03pm

Post as: [Register] [Log In]

Account:
Password:
Remember info?

If you have a comment about spelling, typos, or format errors, please e-mail the poster directly rather than posting a comment.

Comment Policy: We reserve the right to edit or delete comments, and in extreme cases to ban commenters, at our discretion. Comments must be relevant and civil (and, especially, free of name-calling). We think of comment threads like dinner parties at our homes. If you make the party unpleasant for us or for others, we'd rather you went elsewhere. We're happy to see a wide range of viewpoints, but we want all of them to be expressed as politely as possible.

We realize that such a comment policy can never be evenly enforced, because we can't possibly monitor every comment equally well. Hundreds of comments are posted every day here, and we don't read them all. Those we read, we read with different degrees of attention, and in different moods. We try to be fair, but we make no promises.

And remember, it's a big Internet. If you think we were mistaken in removing your post (or, in extreme cases, in removing you) -- or if you prefer a more free-for-all approach -- there are surely plenty of ways you can still get your views out.