Thursday, December 02, 2010

National Journal: Democrats’ Diversity Problem

Well you know there is a reason why Black typically haven't been able to move at the very least from their own seats in the state legislature, city council, or even US House districts. This article (via Instapundit) seems to suggest that Black political leadership outright will not support those who seek even higher offices.

Not long ago I said something similar in a much more direct way.
The numbers reflect an inconvenient reality—even with their more diverse caucus, Democrats face the same challenges as Republicans in recruiting, nominating, and electing minority candidates to statewide office and in majority-white suburban and rural districts. The vast majority of black and Hispanic members hail from urban districts that don’t require crossover votes to win, or represent seats designed to elect minorities. They are more liberal than the average Democrat, no less the average voter, making it more difficult to run statewide campaigns.

These are far from trivial facts. This means Democrats lack a bench of minority candidates who can run for statewide office, no less national office. Most Democratic minorities make a career in the House, accruing seniority and influence but lacking broad-based political support.

The prime culprit in preventing minorities from having broader appeal is the process of gerrymandering majority-minority seats. It has guaranteed blacks and Hispanics representation, but at the cost of creating seats where candidates would have to appeal to a broader constituency, white and non-white alike. For decades, such districts were judicially mandated; in the South, officials still need clearance from the Justice Department to decrease the proportion of blacks voters in a district.

The logic behind gerrymandering stems from the Civil Rights era, when white voters were highly unlikely to vote for African-American candidates, so districts needed to be drawn so black voters could elect their own to Congress. It was effective—and necessary—to bring diversity to a homogeneous body. But now, the consequence of these contortions comes at great expense to Democrats and civil rights leaders alike.

The increase in minority representation comes at the cost of electing more moderate minorities best-positioned to win statewide. And by concentrating so many Democrats in one single district, it also protects neighboring Republicans -- a major reason why Republicans often are behind some of the most contorted gerrymandering plans.
The obstacle for many black Democrats, Davis argued, is liberalism, not race.

“There’s no question in my mind white Southern voters will vote for a black candidate if they believe they are sympathetic to their viewpoint,” Davis said. "Tim Scott's election in South Carolina is powerful, overwhelming evidence that even conservative southern white voters will vote for a black candidate, but they will not vote for someone who disagrees with them on every issue under the sun."

Meanwhile, talented black House Democrats looking to broaden their horizons have hit roadblocks—not from voters, but from party leaders and activists. Davis ran as a moderate in his bid for governor of Alabama, avoiding racial appeals and distancing himself from the Obama administration's policies. He didn't even get out of the gubernatorial primary, rejected by both black leaders for not toeing the party line and party activists, many of whom backed his more-liberal, white primary opponent.

Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., a rising star in Congress, finished a distant third in the Florida Senate race, capturing just 20 percent of the vote. He barely won the Democratic vote over Gov. Charlie Crist, according to exit polls, and won just 12 percent of the white vote. Much of his support was concentrated in black precincts.

In an interview, Davis put the reality for his party bluntly: If black leaders don’t broaden their appeal, there will be a permanent ceiling for them.

"If they care about their children being able to aspire to being senator or governor, then they're going to have to recognize that candidates that run only as leaders of the black community... those candidates can't win -- and they will be completely non-competitive out of predominantly black districts," Davis said.

“The only kind of black candidate who can win outside of a state like Massachusetts or New York is one who can win significant support from white, independent voters.”
So how did Barack Obama win election to the US Senate in 2004? It seems by the accounts that I have read he wasn't welcomed by Black political leadership in Chicago. Yet now he's accepted in Chicago, when he wasn't at the start of his political career and from the US Senate he became the first Black President.

Davis' bid for Alabama's Governorship and Kendrick Meek's bid for US Senate in Florida I could look at as examples of Black political leadership blowing it. Are they content with maintaining their gerrymandered districts that aren't hard to maintain?

What say you out there?

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