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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Democrats and Diversity

At National Journal, Josh Kraushaar argues that racial gerrymandering has helped Democrats win House seats. But their occupants tend to be liberals with little crossover appeal.

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.

“It’s not in the best interests of Southern voters, it’s certainly not in the interest of people who want a non-racial politics focused on substance and identity, and the content of a candidate’s character, not the color of their skin,” said outgoing Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., a centrist black congressman who lost his state’s gubernatorial primary this year.

The electorate is changing, too. Republicans this year elected two blacks from the South in white districts, Reps.-elect Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Allen West, R-Fla. Two Indian Americans, Gov. Bobby Jindal and Gov.-elect Nikki Haley, will lead the deep South states of Louisiana and South Carolina, respectively.

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."


“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.”

Contrast that with the GOP’s minority stars. Florida Sen.-elect Marco Rubio, Haley, New Mexico Gov.-elect Susana Martinez, and Nevada Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval are being mentioned as national candidates for 2012. Scott is one of two freshman liaisons to House Republican leaders. GOP leaders are eager to showcase this, partly because of their recent lack of diversity in the ranks.

The GOP success this year in electing minority leaders who can appeal to a wide cross-section of voters should serve as a wake-up call to Democrats, who are accustomed to carrying the mantle of diversity. If Democrats don’t address their own challenges recruiting minority candidates with widespread appeal, the rise of Obama could be more the exception than the rule.