Even if black voters in Louisiana accept a false premise, this mistaken policy agenda need not relegate them to near-absolute political irrelevancy if sufficiently motivated or open-minded.
As the latest round of state elections confirmed, if we equate power of black interests with the proportion of black legislators and whether their partisan allegiances lie with the majority party, black lawmaker influence in the American South would be low, as pointed out recently by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a research center to study public policy as it relates to black Americans. It turns out that most of the 318 black legislators in the south, the highest number in history, belong to parties in the minority in their statehouses.
Yet this does not necessarily condemn interests of black people to the whims of “conservative whites [who] control all the power in the region” who enact “legislation both neglectful of the needs of African Americans and other communities of color (in health care, in education, in criminal justice policy) as well as outright hostile to them,” as the report ignorantly hyperventilates. Such a view entirely misunderstands that all people’s interests, regardless of skin color, at the most basic level are universal and that conservatism addresses them better far than any alternative.
Because conservatism focuses on empowering individuals through giving them the maximal opportunity to succeed as far as their abilities will take them in terms of their contributions to society, only those who choose to act irresponsibly or who selfishly wish to appropriate from society what they have not earned (excepting those not competent enough to contribute adequately to society) would oppose conservative principles in policy. In essence, the report’s view creates a false division by mandating that “black interests” must remain separate from conservatism.
Thus, the report’s conclusion about the effects of the numerical presence and placement of black legislators in the policy-making process errs in its assessment that conservative policy is harmful to responsible black (or any) individuals. But even if accepting that mistaken view, it also neglects to consider that black interests need not be separate from conservatism and that if more black conservatives ran for and won elections, “black interests” increasingly would be reflected in public policy.
However, setting aside the theoretical shortcomings of the report’s analysis and instead focusing on the concept of a “black interest” as separate from a larger “human interest,” and further assuming that this imagined separate interest is one that black politicians and the electorate in the main wishes to pursue that is part of a minority view in legislatures such as Louisiana’s, even in this environment, a way exists to leverage to some degree propagation of this group’s interest in public policy. That comes through participation in the electoral process in an assertive way.
An interesting piece recently published notes that had black voter participation in Republican-only statewide contests matched those where a Democrat ran, perhaps the results of those two contests could have been different. Translate that into black voting for legislators in majority-majority legislative districts, and it points out situations where black voters can impose more of their will on the final choices sent to the Legislature.
According to the latest statistics, in the Louisiana House there are five districts, and in the Louisiana Senate four, where blacks comprise at least a third of the electorate. In two, a Republican ran unopposed, while in another was an all-Republican matchup. One had a Democrat running unopposed, while another featured two Democrats. All the others all had inter-party competition, and of these Democrats won two without a runoff, a Republican won another, and another went to an all-Republican runoff. These represented four all-GOP situations where black voters could have disproportionate influence in the outcome. In fact, all should have been competitive seats for Democrats, where they picked up four of the nine seats.
As noted by others, the increasing creation of essentially monoracial districts bears some blame for relatively few opportunities for substantial minorities to influence within a district. But this is nothing new: the previous decade’s districting ended up with nine swing majority-majority districts also. And swing (defined similarly) minority-majority districts aren’t that numerous either, with 14, an increase of two from last decade. In short, of the 144 districts, 121 effectively are monoracial, thereby eliminating any chance the minority has of its candidate winning the seat through bloc voting.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 10:55