Voting Rights Act: I was wrong about racial gerrymandering

WASHINGTON — I won’t procrastinate. I’ll get the most difficult part of this column over right now: I was wrong. I was shortsighted, naïve and narrow-minded to endorse the concept of drawing Congressional districts to take racial demographics into account.

In 1982, the Voting Rights Act,  with its emphasis on Southern states, was amended to encourage the creation of awkwardly named “majority-minority” districts in order to give black voters the strength of a bloc. I believed that drawing such districts was a progressive political tactic, a benign form of affirmative action that would usher more black members into a Congress that had admitted only a handful.

The tactic worked. In 1980, there were only 18 blacks in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now, there are 44, many of them elected from districts drawn to meet the mandates of the Voting Rights Act.

Unfortunately — like so many measures designed to provide redress for historic wrongs — those racially gerrymandered districts also come with a significant downside: They discourage moderation. Politicians seeking office in majority-black or –brown districts found that they could indulge in crude racial gamesmanship and left-wing histrionics.

While black-packed districts yielded some quite respectable pols — including U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and U.S. Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the third-highest ranking Democrat in the House — they also launched the Congressional careers of clownish legislators such as former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, last heard cozying up to the savage dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Hemming most black voters into a few districts also had a deleterious effect on surrounding areas, now “bleached” of voters whose interests tend toward equality of opportunity. Their absence encourages pols in districts left overwhelmingly white to use the “Southern strategy” of playing to the resentments of white voters still uncomfortable with decades of social change.

As Richard Harpootlian (cq), chairman of the South Carolina Democratic party, told me: “When the only issue is race, idiots win, black and white.”

An attorney, Harpootlian has noticed the skillful, if cynical, way that Southern Republicans have turned black-packed districts to their advantage. Since the 1990s, GOP strategists have encouraged the creation of districts with huge black majorities — even though they can be counted on to elect a Democrat (usually a black one).

What do Republicans get out of the deal? With most black voters pushed into one or two districts, they have rid surrounding districts of voters who might shun a politician who claims allegiance to the Rebel flag or who insists that President Barack Obama is a foreigner. In other words, they make neighboring districts safe for ultra-conservative Republicans.

With huge gains in last fall’s elections, Republicans now control most state legislatures, providing them a distinct advantage in the re-districting battles that have followed last year’s census. And they’re using that advantage to continue packing black voters into a handful of districts.

Take Georgia, where jockeying has begun in advance of a state General Assembly session to re-draw boundaries for seats in Congress and the state legislature. Some observers expect that U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) — a black Congressman serving a constituency that’s half white — will end up with a heavily black base after black voters are redrawn out of the district won last year by U.S. Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.). That way, Scott can concentrate on solidifying his support among overwhelmingly white tea partiers.

“In political terms, it’s re-segregating the South,” Harpootlian said. “Without those majority-minority districts in the South, Republicans would not have come to the dominance they have come to.”

If black voters think they have made substantial gains simply by having more black representatives in Congress, they’re wrong. They’d have more influence if they were spread through several legislative districts, forcing more candidates to court them.

The political landscape has been transformed since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 and amended 17 years later. The election of a black president shows that American voters are willing to look beyond a candidate’s skin color. It’s time to give up racial gerrymandering, which turned out not to be quite so benign.

186 comments Add your comment

Peabody T. Justice

June 1st, 2011
11:04 am

Ms. Tucker wants to create districts that are more equitable in their racial distribution? Hmmm, let’s go ask Rep. David Scott’s white constituents if he pays attention to their needs as substantial minorities in his district the way he does his black constituents, who make up a slight majority. What about the voters in south Cobb who got rid of Don Wix, an established and effective Democrat legislator, just because he was white?

Kamchak

June 1st, 2011
11:13 am

…cause we are all quiet frankly sick and tired of hearing it every single time you post.

All?

Who, exactly, granted you the authority to speak for “all”?

I certainly didn’t grant you the authority to speak for me.

Tommy Maddox

June 1st, 2011
11:47 am

“When the only issue is race, idiots win, black and white.”

Yep.

Not at the Trough

June 1st, 2011
11:49 am

I don’t understand how blacks were “pushed” into their districts, but if you say so. You have been wrong about a lot of things. I am glad you are able to say so about at least one. You are sure right about DeKalb county. The northern half of the county has never been represented.

Get It Right

June 1st, 2011
11:53 am

Well, CT, looks as though most of the posters have seen through your very questionable logic and are calling you on it. Vote the person, not the skin color.

DawgDad

June 1st, 2011
12:06 pm

Cynthia, you’re showing signs here of recognizing a fundamental truth and displaying uncommon wisdom; please don’t let this opportunity pass. First, don’t feel bad about being wrong. It’s not about that. It is all about understanding that when politicians attempt to force outcomes instead of focusing on creating opportunity inevitably it limits freedom (creates tyrrany), corrupts the system, creates harmful unintended consequences, and costs a heck of a lot more than anyone ever expected.

You cannot have it both ways without being hypocritical. Surely you can see that if all you are about is “getting your way” that is NOT a fair-minded public policy. The vast, vast majority of Republicans and Conservatives are all about creating a level playing field and optimizing opportunity for everyone; this is certainly true of the Tea Party and not so much for liberals (otherwise, why ObamaCare and all the waivers [corruption run amok], huh? huh?).

I am very much willing to look beyond the color of a politician’s skin. I support Herman Cain because creating opportunity for all Americans is the core of his political platform and the framework for his political thought. I’ve listened to him speak for many years and cannot recall ever disagreeing with anything he said.

Emmanuel Hall

June 1st, 2011
12:11 pm

Ms. Tucker, I truly respect people like you who have the courage of their convictions and who are willing to re-think a point of view. I have not, until now, given the predominately Black districts much thought. However, it has crossed my mind that once a Black person is elected, it appears to be a life time job. I am troubled with that too. Black people don’t seems to pay as much attention to their Black elected officials to see if they are worthy of their continued support. And I can tell you that Ms. McKinney does not stand alone.

Ivan

June 1st, 2011
12:25 pm

“When the only issue is race, idiots win, black and white.”

This explains a lot from the left. Have a nice day!

c tuck daffy duck

June 1st, 2011
12:43 pm

I was just thinking about buying you a thesaurus, CT so that you could concoct more pejoratives for conservatives. Try
Ultramega right wing
Ultraconservatives
Hyperconservative white people
Metawhite people
Hyperstupid prejudice
Hyperpartisan nonblack enemies
prefixes handy for your biz: meta.hyper. uber. Ultra. Super duper. Golly gee willikers

DebbieDoRight

June 1st, 2011
12:46 pm

Metawhite people
Hyperstupid prejudice
Hyperpartisan nonblack enemies

Oh yeah, that’s right……..the kiddies are out of school for the summer…….. :roll:

resno2

June 1st, 2011
12:48 pm

“The election of a black president shows that American voters are willing to look beyond a candidate’s skin color.” Seriously? I’d be willing to bet that half of his votes were BECAUSE he was black.

“When the only issue is race, idiots win, black and white.” And they did.

guy

June 1st, 2011
1:14 pm

All CT discusses is skin color and race crap. She is paid a lot for meaningless subjects. Get real!!!!

Grasshopper

June 1st, 2011
1:24 pm

‘I’ll get the most difficult part of this column over right now: I was wrong.”

This shows what a hack you are Tucker. Admitting an error isn’t difficult at all — unless you are an arrogant egotist.

And to come to the conclusion that racial gerrymandering was a mistake only after your preferred race stops reaping the benefits…lot’s of nerve Tucker.

Harry Callahan

June 1st, 2011
1:31 pm

HDB

June 1st, 2011
10:44 am

“…but also note that it is on BOTH sides of the political spectrum…but the GOP wants to LEGISLATE its racism with laws similar to SB1070……”

SB1070 applies equally to illegal aliens of ALL races, HDB, but don’t let mere facts get in the way of your ignorant rant.

Sam

June 1st, 2011
1:34 pm

if race is not an issue, why is Obama hated so much, never mind that he has continued every policy that all past presidents has pushed, the one achievement he got thru was healthcare. I might disagree with the deals that was made to push it thru. We needed this done. I must remind all whites that the slave master didnt beat his slaves. He got another black slave to do it for him.Then turned around and said i never laid a hand on u, and the boast how good to them. Just because a black conservative is socalled liked by whites ,dont mean ur not a racist. Vote ur ecomomical interest, Why so many whites dont is mind boggling

Harry Callahan

June 1st, 2011
1:38 pm

“Vote ur ecomomical interest, Why so many whites dont is mind boggling”

I am voting my economic interests, so thanks. I agree with you on one thing though…why so many other whites vote against their economic interests by voting Democrat is a mystery to me.

By the way…spelling, grammar, and syntax my not be your highest calling in life.

HDB

June 1st, 2011
1:52 pm

Harry Callahan
June 1st, 2011
1:31 pm

Harry, if such were the case, why is the primary focus placed on Hispanics? If the law focused on white, blond, Nordic types, would the law have been enacted???

HDB

June 1st, 2011
1:56 pm

Harry Callahan
June 1st, 2011
1:38 pm
“I am voting my economic interests, so thanks. I agree with you on one thing though…why so many other whites vote against their economic interests by voting Democrat is a mystery to me.”

Harry….many white people vote Democratic for the same reason that mnay minorities do: it IS in their economic interest!! For many, economic opportunities IMPROVE under Democratic Administrations…and DECLINE under Republican! Speaking only for myself, I GAINED economically only during the Clinton years….and am presently recovering from the malady that the Bush years (both 41 and 43) sent me through! It’s not all about race, you know…………

Dick Hertz

June 1st, 2011
1:58 pm

Kind of funny you ripping on Cynthia McKinney for budding up with Gaddafi, considering John McCain was doing it last year. This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard from Ms. Tucker.
This country has 99 problems, one might say, but McKinney isn’t one of them. The Koch brothers, corruption, Obama’s default to being black Bush, the death of the fourth amendment by both parties’ hand, endless wars for oil, the death of progressive taxation, justice for those without money and license for those with cash.

Wiie

June 1st, 2011
3:05 pm

Tucker barely mentions the impact od the Voting Rights Act. Sensible people tried to end it a few years ago but the civil-rights industry would have none of it. As a result the democratic party in Georgia is on it’s way to being the black party…it’s what you get when you count by race. Using race based decisions to overcome race based decisions is a bad idea.

Tucker does not believe in the notions of right and wrong. She only believes un useful and not useful. Gerrymandering (NEVER more outrageous than under Roy Barnes) is no longer useful to Tucker and her “side”.

Could she be more of a hypocrite?

Harry Callahan

June 1st, 2011
3:08 pm

“Harry….many white people vote Democratic for the same reason that mnay minorities do: it IS in their economic interest!! For many, economic opportunities IMPROVE under Democratic Administrations…and DECLINE under Republican! Speaking only for myself, I GAINED economically only during the Clinton years….and am presently recovering from the malady that the Bush years (both 41 and 43) sent me through! It’s not all about race, you know…………”

Really???

The data represents the prices of key goods and employment figures when Obama took office compared to more recent data. Helps to explain why we are feeling so much pain for our every day items.

Avg Retail price/gallon gas in U.S……$1.83………$3.44………..84%
Crude Oil, Barrel……..………$43.48…….$99.02……..127%
Crude Oil, West Tx Barrel…….…….$38.74…….$91.38……..139%
Gold………………$835………$1369………60.5%
Corn No 2 Yellow………………$3.56……..$6.33………78.1%
Soybeans…………………….$9.66………$13.75…….42.3%
Sugar, raw…………………..$13.37…….$35.39……164%
Unemployment (non-farm) ………..7.6%…….9.4%……..23.7%
Unemployment Rate (b!acks)… …….12.2%…….15.8%…….25.4%
Number Unemployed………11,616,000……14,485.000……24.7%
Number of Fed Employees……2,779,000………2,840,000……..2.2%
Median Household Income………$50,112……$49,777…..-.7%
Food Stamp recipients………31,983,716……43,200,878……35.1%
No. Unemployment Benefits….7,526,598……..9,193,838……..22.2%
No. Long Term Unemployed……..2,600,000……..6,400,000…….146%
Poverty Rate………13.2%…….14.3%…….8.3%
US Rank in Economic Freedom Index……5………9………..80%
Failed Banks……………….140……………164……….17.1%
Dollar versus Japanese Yen……89.76………82.03……..-8.6%

HDB

June 1st, 2011
3:32 pm

Harry Callahan
June 1st, 2011
3:08 pm

Speaking solely for myself….I’m feeling LESS pain now than I did under Republicans!! Under GOP Administrations, I LOST EMPLOYMENT! Try coping with economic hardship when your earning power decreases to ZERO!!! Two years unemployed under Nixon, Reagan, Bush41 AND 43, the aftereffects of 9/11 (which generated the period of unemployment)…..

Under Clinton: earning power increased 2.5 times in 5 years
Under Obama: earning power nearly QUADRUPLED in 2 years (zero to $23.46/hr).

What the nation is feeling is the aftermath of what transpired during the BUSH Years: two wars, cuts in domestic spending, tax breaks for those of means, unemployment…….

To ask the question: Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?? MY answer: HELL YES!!!

Paddy O

June 1st, 2011
3:44 pm

debbie – if you voted for a guy based on the color of his skin, that is racist. so please, answer the freakin question.

Paddy O

June 1st, 2011
3:50 pm

Conservative: Believes in freedom and consequences from decisions, good & bad. Sees a poor person, and feels that person needs to change their behavior to improve their outcomes.

Liberal: See a poor person and says “the government must help”; ie, save that person from themself. That is the root of tyranny. However, liberals dress it up as elitests acting with charity and generosity (with someone elses $$), thus reinforcing their impression of superiority.

ODDOWL

June 1st, 2011
4:09 pm

@ BILL 8:35 post…. You’re naive and ignorant… A higher percentage of Black voters voted for Al Gore in 2000 than the percentage of Black voters who voted for President Obama in 2008. In the midterm elections last year, only 25% of pessimistic Black voters voted. So these facts and figures blow holes all through your flawed logic argument. As long as corrupt politicians and political parties who have been bribed by the rich and elite are allowed to draw and re-draw congressional district voting lines, gerrymandering will continue. The voters must demand that a non partisan, unbias independent group of experts be appointed to draw and re-draw congressional district lines without any regards to the desires of politicians or political parties. The color of money is green and thats the only color politicians give a hoot about. Everythings thats wrong with America can be traced directly to the doorsteps of We the People. (voters)

Joe

June 1st, 2011
4:10 pm

HDB:

Racism goes both ways but blacks along with the far left don’t seem to understand that. It’s not a white’s only issue. Blacks vote for every single black candidate because that’s what they are told to do. It will be a great day in America when people will base their vote solely on the candidate’s record instead of their skin color. Take the Presidential election for example. 95%+ voted for the lesser qualified candidate. To back up my argument if you put Barrack Obama’s record up against John McCain’s it would be a no brainer.

casual observer

June 1st, 2011
4:14 pm

Fiddling while Rome burns. This administration is bringing America to its knees. And we’re talking about an idiot like Jim “gerrymander” Clyburn. Who said we should spend our way out of debt.. Hey dumba$$ how’s that working for us?

Tucker is the master of “slight of hand”. Talking about Romney etc. While Americas economy goes down the tubes, and her Messiah is driving the boat.

ODDOWL

June 1st, 2011
4:40 pm

@ Harry Callahan 3:08 post…. The non rich people who vote Republican are naive and use flawed logic and imploy selective amnesia in their attempts to justify the miserable failures of the Bush/Cheney economic and political policies. The naive, non rich Republicans seem to think oops, er i mean feel that the Bush/Cheney economic meltdown stopped dead in its tracks when Bush/Cheney left office. Well, thats not true. We Americans will be haunted with the repercussions of the Bush/Cheney deregulated economic failures for decades to come. Beginning with Reagan, the Republicans have been screwing up our Country for 30 years now. The Republicans are the problem. If We the People get rid of the Republicans, we can get rid of the problem.

Paddy O

June 1st, 2011
4:56 pm

Dont be a fool: Whites voted democratic because Lincoln was republican, and most dixiecrats were more conservative then repubs from CA, NJ, NY & IL. Barnes pulled the wool off, and now white reject the Dems plantation government. At the federal level, the moron Obama appears hell bent on destroying the value of the US $$ by simply printing more & more money, thus reducing the value of a single dollar. Obama has an obligation to balance the budget. It was he who was going to close gitmo, get the US out of Iraq. He has done nothing (50,000 troops still in Iraq – for what?) How do you explain his unconstitutional was against Libya? Healthcare, if you support, you support tyranny. If the feds can legally mandate that you buy health insurance, even if you don’t want/need it, what prevents them from mandating that you buy anything?

Why do those trust this administration? Because they went to Ivy League schools? Those are the same schools that provided the economic housing depression CEO’s. Maybe the elite are only really good at one thing: manipulating public opinion. Vote liberal if you have no confidence in yourself, or you like having the government hand things out to you.

Paddy O

June 1st, 2011
4:57 pm

HDB – you need to tell us what government job is paying you $23.98, and where in the stimlus this job was created.

Tom Middleton

June 1st, 2011
5:04 pm

But what about the old adage: “There’s strength in numbers”? Can we conclude that majority-minority gerrymandering was a necessary step in the ongoing battle for equality – to get some good people into the spotlight, like John Lewis, to help break down racial stereotypes?

And let’s face it: As long as race is an issue in the region at large, it will continue showing up in our politics, always being used against those trying to be free and equal, no matter what they do or how often.

There is a solution to all of this, of course, but it’s not political; it’s religious. If Christian love became the driving force in our day-to-day living instead of hatred and fear, all these annoying problems would disappear in no time, as would the necessary government involvement that seeks to address them in the name of constitutional integrity. Golly, Sargent Carter: Everybody would win!

Rockerbabe

June 1st, 2011
5:27 pm

geez, when are the girls going to get some consideration? all the old boys in the legislature with their ancient ideas about women and the crazy women who support them are not doing one thing to advance the cause of equality for women? any ideas?

Paddy O

June 1st, 2011
5:35 pm

rockerbabe- ancient as Adam & Eve? What gender legalized the murder of the unborn? What is your impression of the Billy Jean King/Bobby Riggs contest? Why do females love segregated sports, too much equality otherwise? Or, are you seeking equality of outcome? (Tyranny of the relatively incapable?)

Paddy O

June 1st, 2011
5:40 pm

Also, Rocker – since your gender does not register for the draft, should that NOT be the first order of business? You have equality of opportunity, and your gender utilizes to attend school and then what? Obtain more post graduate degrees? Without the ability to maximize your earning potential? How much spoon feeding of success does your gender demand?

casual observer

June 1st, 2011
6:08 pm

When we all Obama “water carriers” admit he’s a failure? OR Better yet …are they willing to go down the tubes with him? Just because he’s black? Because he’s a liberal or Democrat? Where does a liberals alleigance really lie? With Obama or with America? It’s a fact his economic policies are a overwhelming failure. America hasn’t been this weak or divided in decades. How long?

Gingrich asked a good question. And it goes further than what’s on the surface. What do the people want? A “Food Stamp” president or one that creates anatmosphere in our Republic that stimulates private job growth? 79% of our economy.

Tom Middleton

June 1st, 2011
6:27 pm

And one more thing, Cyn: Do you think we would be witnessing the phenomenal “Arab Spring” now were it not for the United States’ open-book history of fighting for the oppressed within our own borders? Not a chance!

Our foreign policy may have been imperfect, but we taught the rest of the world what democracy is all about when we fought to raise our own, apparently a well-intentioned-enough effort for others to want it for themselves.

Cynthia, please forgive me for disagreeing with your column today; but for different reasons, I don’t think you were wrong at all!

Tom Middleton

June 1st, 2011
6:34 pm

Cynthia, you’re so good that even your mistakes are right!

BBG

June 1st, 2011
6:34 pm

Gerrymandering blows, man.

Rollie

June 1st, 2011
6:36 pm

Cynthia Tucker I actually enjoyed reading this piece. It’s nice to occasionally have some thoughtful, semi-calm words instead of rants. I am a little skeptical, however, that you would’ve advocated doing away with racial gerrymandering if Democrat gerrymanderers were still running the State.

Paddy O

June 1st, 2011
6:39 pm

Mr. Middleton – I would urge you to be careful what you wish for. The domino theory obviously has some merit, but the change evidently must be from an oppressive society to more freedom, not vice versa. However, I suspect the relationship the US will have with these newly minted democracies may not be a smooth, or amicable, as the one we had with the dictators. We shall see how well arab/muslims deal with compromise and disappointment, and the rule of law. Also, I concur with you – one of the consequence may be more strident representatives, but without these majority minority districts, it is possible that you would have no (or far, far fewer) people of color representing anyone, so I see them as avenues of experience and role modeling. I would not remove them.

0311/0317 -1811/1801

June 1st, 2011
6:42 pm

CYNTHIA:

PLEASE GO BACK ON VACATION.

Tom Middleton

June 1st, 2011
7:33 pm

Well, it’s like in our country, Paddy: We had people FOR civil rights and those of you against, but the ones for them won the street battles, got the legislation, and come hell or high water, they’re not going backwards.

You cannot understand democracy without knowing something of the complete human spirit. Would you willingly give up your rights and go backwards for any reason? No? Then neither will anyone else give up theirs or the chance to have them.

Our Founders were genius, for they knew something many of us even today have yet to fathom: that freedom is innate to being human. All we have to do as a nation is demonstrate it in every domestic arena as the issues arise and others everywhere will want it for themselves and start standing up.

What a perfect solution to our immigration problems and the need to spread democracy for the whole world’s benefit, not just ours, yes? And, I might add, it’s one a damn sight cheaper than anything done thus far!

Tom Middleton

June 1st, 2011
7:40 pm

Don’t listen to Scout, Cynthia: You’ve got it going on!!

Lil' Barry Bailout

June 1st, 2011
8:00 pm

If Obozo is a capitalist, why is the Dow below 12,300?

[...] Cynthia McKinney: “While black-packed districts yielded some quite respectable pols — including U.S. Rep. [...]

Jack

June 1st, 2011
8:21 pm

I call it a breath of fresh air. Tucker’s too smart to keep on & on beating a dead horse.

0311/0317 -1811/1801

June 1st, 2011
8:38 pm

Lil’ Barry Bailout :

Don’t do that ……… you’ll confuse them.

Moderate Line

June 1st, 2011
9:36 pm

If black voters think they have made substantial gains simply by having more black representatives in Congress, they’re wrong. They’d have more influence if they were spread through several legislative districts, forcing more candidates to court them.

The political landscape has been transformed since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 and amended 17 years later. The election of a black president shows that American voters are willing to look beyond a candidate’s skin color. It’s time to give up racial gerrymandering, which turned out not to be quite so benign.
++++++++++++++++
It is an interesting perspective. I have always believed gerrymandering is anti-democratic. I never understood why the left always seems to support anything anti-democratic since the left benefits more than the right from democracy.

Now this law is holding back redistricting reform all accross the country. Somthing most industrial democracy have done along time ago.

This issue shows the problem of being focus on outcome instead of principle.

oldguy

June 1st, 2011
9:54 pm

A quick note:
So, Cynthia, now that the “Law” is a double-edged blade it was a bad idea?? Oh Boo Hoo!!
Turn-about is fair play comes to mind. Like the bully who sneaks up and blindsides you and then cries “truse”.
I lived in Warner-Robins, Ga Houston Co for 23 years. The dems, when the controlled the legislature, Gerrymandered us into 3 different congressional districts for the distinct purpose of diluting the voting power of the largely affuent conservative military vote. 3 different districts within the city limits of a city of 75,000. They recently lost all 3 districts!!! Talk about justice.
i.e. Cynthia, it was not racial based, it was political. The military is probably the most racially neutral organization in the country!!!

OldGuy

June 2nd, 2011
12:20 am

I remember when there was more white racism than black racism. Now there is more black racism than white racism. I considered giving Obama my vote just because he is black, and I thought a black person should serve as our commander and chief at least once in my lifetime. I changed my mind when Obama talked with Joe the Plumber about “spreading the wealth around”. In 2012 I will vote for anyone over Obama, and I expect many of those fooled the first time will not be fooled again.