The artificial creation of legislative districts with a majority of minorities (majority minority districts) is counterproductive and distorts normal politics, says a former beneficiary of such districts, retired Democratic Rep. Artur Davis.
“Like many generally good ideas in politics, it has been pushed to its limit and now it creates perverse consequences. … It has made race even more important in southern politics, and that’s not a good thing,” he told The Daily Caller during an exclusive interview in Washington, D.C.
Davis was overwhelmingly elected to Congress in 2003 from Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, but only after he beat the incumbent Democrat in his district’s primary election. (SEE MORE: Rep. Artur Davis’s interview series with The Daily Caller)
To overcome the racism that denied blacks a significant political role in the South until the 1960s, federal officials helped design that district’s teapot-shaped borders to combine scattered black communities on the Western side of the state.
Black Americans vote overwhelmingly Democratic. Roughly 62 percent of the district is black, and President Barack Obama won 72 percent of the district’s vote in 2008. The last time a Republican won in the district was in 1965.
That partisan skew ensures the crucial election is the primary election, not the general election, because the winner of the Democratic primary usually wins the general election.
Obama’s appointees in the Department of Justice sue to protect and expand these majority-minority districts, and are now pressuring Texas to create an additional majority Hispanic district. Other activists are pushing to create a Muslim-majority district in Michigan. (RELATED: Rick Perry-backed judge proposes Latino districts, infuriates GOP)
Many right-of-center intellectuals and activists deplore the racially-drawn majority minority districts, saying they encourage color conscious voting, divide whites from blacks and violate constitutional curbs on racial segregation. These critics include Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity, and Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation.
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But many Republican strategists quietly welcome the districts, because they corral Democratic voters into a few areas and give Republicans working majorities in more districts and in the state-wide races.
Republicans now hold six of Alabama’s seven districts. From 1973 to 1995, Democrats had usually held four of the seven.
The policies of the majority-minority district that elected Davis made it very difficult for him to win his eventual 2010 race for governor.
In the months before statewide Democratic primary, he tried to move towards the center — which is occupied by swing-voting whites. He voted against President Barack Obama’s health care takeover, and he distanced himself from some state’s black Democratic groups.
He had to run towards Democratic-leaning white voters in the center, because he was aiming to be the first black Democratic candidate for the state’s top slot.
But that center-focused, general election strategy alienated his black supporters and ensured his primary defeat in the Democratic primary by 25 points to a white Democrat.
The primary vote was so skewed that Davis lost nearly all counties’ ballots.
Several months later, Davis’s focus on the center was validated by the general election. The Democratic candidate received only 41 percent of the statewide vote, and the Republican was elected governor with almost 58 percent.
“One-party politics invariably leads to bad government,” he said.
See more from our series with Rep. Artur Davis: