“GOP lawmakers swear new Texas redistricting maps are ‘race blind,’ as they did a decade ago,” was a recent Hearst newspapers headline. The story quotes the head of the Texas Senate’s redistricting effort, Senator Joan Huffman, as saying: “We drew these maps race blind. We have not looked at any racial data as we drew these maps.”
The Hearst story then takes the predictable next step in claiming: “Still, there are clear racial implications in the proposed maps, which have so far been released for the 38 Texas congressional districts, the Texas House and Senate, and the state Board of Education.”
The reporting goes on to build a case that Republicans are drawing districts to discriminate against various minority groups, as the left sees them, which is the same claim made everywhere and every time Republicans control redistricting.
Let me pose a question to you: If you are a driving enthusiast and your car of choice is what is often called a hot hatch, meaning a factory high-performance version of a hatchback, does that mean that in buying a hot hatch, you actively dislike American cars and discriminate mostly in favor of European autos?
For some such could be the case but for most it would simply be that they like driving a hot hatch and that preference is unconnected with the fact that most of the popular hot hatches over the past few decades have come from European makers. It is only natural that if only two in ten hot hatch cars are from U.S. makers that a majority of sales will be from non-American makers.
When it comes to Republicans drawing Texas voting districts, Democrats including those who dominate the reportage of the press, cannot allow for the straightforward fact that if more whites tend to vote Republican than do those of other so-called races or ethnicities, that drawing a district that favors Republicans is not necessarily doing so to discriminate against minorities but simply an effort to enhance Republican chances of winning an election.
I’ve worked with redistricting and it is quite easy to use the census and demographic data, without including racial or ethnic information, or race blind, to draw districts that favor one party over another.
It is not illegal, wrong, or outside of expected behavior for the political party in control of a state legislature to draw district maps to its benefit in voting numbers. Democrats do so in states they control and did so in Texas for a century – always, every decade.
Sometimes the press lets the cat out of the bag on this issue such as did Reuters when its reporter wrote: “Meanwhile, Democrats are poised to push through their own maps in states such as New York and Illinois, where urban growth and rural decline offer a chance to eliminate Republican districts. Gains there could help countermand Republican advantages elsewhere.”
The story ended with an entire section on how Democrats in New York planned to “eliminate up to five Republican seats …” and how “Democrats also appear poised to erase at least one, and possibly two, Republican seats in Illinois. In Oregon, the Democratic majority pushed through a map this week that gives the party the advantage in five of six districts.”
The problem for Republicans is that the Democrats, including those who dominate the press, impose upon the GOP a “Catch-22” that would make Joseph Heller proud.
Today we find that while many minorities, defined in various ways, vote for Republican candidates and many Republican office holders are themselves racial or ethnic minorities, statistically many minority groups, as a whole, tend to vote in much larger numbers for Democrats.
Thus no matter how districts are drawn to benefit Texas’ majority party, it will be claimed by the left that such were drawn with race or ethnicity in mind even if such data was not used in setting those political boundaries. No matter how race blind the drawing, statistical voting behaviors make it look as if a pro-GOP district is not favoring Republicans but racially white voters.
How should Republicans handle this in the press and public eye?
First, Republicans should always note that is federal demands that require the use of race in drawing districts. If not for having to create so-called minority-majority, or minority opportunity, districts we could do all redistricting without ever looking a racial data – something Democrats will not allow.
Second, Republicans should make sure that voting behavior is indeed the basis of drawing districts to the greatest extent possible and that race, short of that required by the feds, is not used. This includes making sure staffers, and others around the process, understand that there is a prohibition on the use of race and ethnicity in discussion and consideration of districts to the greatest amount possible. Poorly, and often stupidly, worded emails from low level and often youthful staff have in the past been used in court to try and bolster claims of racial discrimination when in reality districts were drawn in a race blind manner.
Third, Republicans should master explaining the statistical Catch-22 problem with redistricting to benefit their party. Explaining to people that when Democrats have been in charge they have gerrymandered the heck out of Texas to protect their interests, using as an example the 1990 Congressional maps, will go a long way to help people understand that we have same right as Democrats to draw maps to our benefit. Republicans must explain and make clear to people that they are acting on voting behavior not race.
Fourth, after doing the first three things Republicans should recognize that they do not stand a chance of a fair shake in the press and not let press coverage influence their decisions. Also, actors in the redistricting process should consider releasing only well considered statements to the press and refusing interviews with outlets known to unfairly characterize GOP motives and actions in the map drawing process.
Will these steps end the criticism, lawsuits, and make everyone believe Republicans are fair actors in drawing new districts? No, but you will never change the minds of those dedicated to Republican destruction or who see racism as significant part of every political and social happening.
My experience shows me that many voters buy the specious ideas put forth in the press because they have not, even after a lifetime in some cases, ever stopped to examine the logic of the arguments presented. Once many understand that no matter how one draws a district that favors Republicans it can be claimed, due to statistical summaries of voter behavior, that such a district favors white voters over others, we can move on to substantive questions of whether lines are drawn in the best interest of voters as a whole.
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