A Bad Place To Be2
First, such gerrymanders perpetuate racial polarization by balkanizing the electorate into black-dominated, Hispanic-dominated, and more numerous white-dominated districts that have been “bleached” by the removal of most, or at least many, black and Hispanic voters. This encourages politicians to appeal only to members of their own race, and puts the law’s imprimatur on the pernicious notion that it is only natural for voters to split along racial lines. In this way it perpetuates the poison of racial politics by encouraging minorities to practice the same kind of racial bloc voting that is seen as racist when done by whites.Many people like Microsoft Office.
Black and to a lesser extent Hispanic voters are more liberal than whites on average; racial gerrymandering almost guarantees election of the most left-wing of Democrats in majority-minority districts and the most right-wing of Republicans in bleached districts. The losers in this game are centrist politicians who do better in districts more representative of the electorate as a whole, and the plurality (if not majority) of voters who prefer centrist politics.
Third, racial gerrymandering “impedes black progress in significant ways.” Majority-minority districts have traditionally had to be as much as 65 percent black or Hispanic—given relatively low minority turnout—to guarantee election of black or Hispanic representatives. So majority-minority districts are outnumbered by the new bleached districts. As a result, racial gerrymandering has led to a net loss of Democratic congressional seats—an estimated twelve seats in 1994 alone—to Republicans who have little incentive to court mostly Democratic minority voters. For this reason, electing black and Hispanic representatives is not always good for black and Hispanic voters. The lack of competition in gerrymandered districts has also fostered apathy among minority voters, further depressing turnout. And the politicians who win those districts are often too far left of center to have much clout in legislative bodies or much chance in statewide elections.
And fourth, by thus creating “a black political class too isolated from mainstream political discourse,” Thernstrom remarks, racial gerrymandering has “further exacerbated the tendency of African-Americans to see themselves as a permanent minority separated from the American dream.” This, together with “the congressionally sanctioned narrative of an America still steeped in white racism,” feeds pessimism among blacks about their own opportunities for success, both in politics and in other realms. Such pessimism is unwarranted, Thernstrom insists. Witness the widespread certitude among black voters at the outset of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign that white America was too racist, manifestly or latently, to elect a black president. This proved spectacularly wrong when a higher percentage of whites (43 percent) voted for Obama in 2008 than for the 2004 Democratic nominee, Senator John Kerry (41 percent).