But look deeper at the composition of Congress and the governorships, and it’s apparent the Democrats’ strong racial record is somewhat misleading, with its advantage in electing minorities mostly a result of House districts specifically drawn to elect minorities.
Of the 75 black, Hispanic, and Asian-American Democrats in Congress and governorships, only nine represent majority-white constituencies—and that declines to six in 2011. Two of the party’s rising black stars who sought statewide office this year were rejected by their party’s own base. And when you only look at members of Congress or governors elected by majority-white constituencies (in other words, most of the governorships and Senate seats, and 337 out of 435 House seats), Democrats trail Republicans in minority representation.
In fact, Republicans experienced a diversity boomlet this year. Cognizant of their stuffy national image, party leaders made a concerted effort to recruit a more diverse crop of candidates. That resulted in more than doubling the number of minority elected officials from six to 13—and a ten-fold increase (from one to 10) in the number of minorities representing majority-white constituencies.
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.
Some reporter in Illinois decided that every state but Illinois is racist. Um, bad call, and the WSJ called you on it:
This prompted Edward McClelland of Chicago's WMAQ-TV to pen a post for the station's website titled "How Mark Kirk Re-Segregates the Senate." McClelland disclaims, "This is no slur against Kirk," apparently meaning the headline to be provocative but realizing that it is obnoxious:
It's not a slur against Illinois, either. It shouldn't be our responsibility to provide a black senator. It's a slur against the other 49 states, who refuse to elect a black politician to the U.S. Senate.
McClelland notes that of the four blacks who've served in the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction, three of them held what is now Kirk's seat: Carol Moseley Braun, Obama and Burris.
More interesting is what he leaves out: that the difficulty blacks have in getting elected to statewide office is an unintended consequence of the Voting Rights Act. In the interest of increasing minority representation in the House and state legislatures, the act mandates the drawing of "majority minority" districts.
On its own terms, this has worked very well. The size of the Congressional Black Caucus relative to the House is within a few percentage points of the black proportion of the population. Seats in state legislatures and the House frequently are stepping stones to statewide office. But because black politicians need not cultivate a transracial appeal to win office in the first place, they are at a disadvantage when they consider a statewide run.
Moseley Braun and Obama are exceptions. (The unelected Burris is irrelevant to this analysis.) Before being elected to the U.S. Senate, both served in the Illinois Legislature from Chicago's Hyde Park, which, although a decidedly left-wing constituency, is one of the most racially integrated in the nation.
Basically, the Democrats have balkanized minorities through gerrymandering minority districts. They have created a subclass of minority politician who can't get beyond the House of Representative level, because they are only elected from districts that are so gerrymandered and typically so leftist that they can't appeal to anyone outside their own demographics. Gee, makes you wonder if this wasn't a plan all along....