Now come the Democrats, cartographers of their own power for 130 years, to question the GOP’s intentions as it takes its first crack at drawing Georgia’s political maps.
A special session of the Legislature convenes Monday to redraw the districts of federal and state lawmakers. Conducted once a decade, it’s the most nakedly political exercise our state legislators undertake.
But the GOP is baring too much political ambition for Democrats to bear, claims House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. She accuses Republicans of following the 1965 Voting Rights Act too eagerly, to “purge” the state of white Democrats and hand the GOP a super-majority of two-thirds of the seats in each chamber.
The landmark civil rights law is not as negotiable as Abrams lets on. Were Republicans not to err on the side of compliance, by creating as many “majority-minority” districts as possible, a thornier fight would await them.
So, two questions: Why are white Democrats so vulnerable? And what would the GOP do with a super-majority capable of putting constitutional amendments on the ballot without Democratic support?
The two are related, but first things first. The purge of most white Democrats has already happened outside the cities.
It started with the ever-leftward shift of the national Democratic Party and snowballed with the opportunism of party-switchers right after the GOP finally won power in the ’00s. The rest came from political preservation: Most remaining white rural Democrats converted to the GOP after the 2010 elections to improve their chances of survival after this redistricting process.
That, and Georgia Democrats’ emphasis on policies (e.g., expanding mass transit) that don’t resonate beyond urban areas. Some Democrats tried to re-engage rural Georgia during the HOPE scholarship debate, and immigration policy might give them an opening among South Georgia farmers. But they have a long way to go.
Too, surprisingly low census numbers for Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb mean there will be fewer seats in heavily Democratic areas. If Abrams has a way to make these reductions while adhering to the Voting Rights Act and protecting white Democrats, let her present it.
Now for the second question: whether a Georgia GOP that has absorbed so many ex-Democrats could push through a conservative menu of constitutional amendments.
The short answer is “no.” For instance, school choice bills requiring only a simple majority have stalled in the Senate each of the past two years. What makes anyone think the GOP holdouts will suddenly support more far-reaching measures?
For those afraid of an extreme right-wing agenda, the other item on the special session’s docket is instructive.
Republicans want to grease the skids for a regional transportation sales tax by moving the date of a referendum on it to November 2012 from July 2012. These are, for the most part, the same Republicans who kicked and screamed about approving such a referendum in the first place — and who miss no opportunity to declare their disdain for taxes.
They don’t even know yet which projects the tax would fund. How radical — or even right of center — could they be?
Like I said, this redistricting is mostly just a political drama. Republicans have their politics to play, and so does Abrams. But most Georgians can expect their greatest political hopes, or fears, to remain unrealized.
– By Kyle Wingfield