“The Supreme Court handed down a brief order Tuesday evening that effectively reinstates racially gerrymandered congressional maps in the state of Louisiana, at least for the 2022 election.
Under these maps, Black voters will control just one of Louisiana’s six congressional seats, despite the fact that African Americans make up nearly a third of the state’s population. Thus, the Court’s decision in Ardoin v. Robinson means that Black people will have half as much congressional representation as they would enjoy under maps where Black voters have as much opportunity to elect their own preferred candidate as white people in Louisiana.
A federal trial court, applying longstanding Supreme Court precedents holding that the Voting Rights Act does not permit such racial gerrymanders, issued a preliminary injunction temporarily striking down the Louisiana maps and ordering the state legislature to draw new ones that include two Black-majority districts. Notably, a very conservative panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied the state’s request to stay the trial court’s decision — a sign that Louisiana’s maps were such a clear violation of the Voting Rights Act that even one of the most conservative appeals courts in the country could not find a good reason to disturb the trial court’s decision.
As the Fifth Circuit explained, current law typically forbids maps that dilute a particular racial group’s voting power, at least when that group is “sufficiently large and compact to form a majority” in additional congressional districts, when it “votes cohesively” and when “whites tend to vote as a bloc” to defeat the minority group’s preferred candidates.
Nevertheless, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 along party lines to stay the trial court’s injunction, effectively reinstating the gerrymandered maps. The Court’s order is only one page, and it provides no substantive explanation of why the Court’s Republican appointees voted to effectively strip Black Louisianans of half of their representation in the US House of Representatives.”
“Taken together, the Court’s orders in Merrill, Ardoin, and the Wisconsin case suggest that the justices are skeptical of current rules, which provide fairly robust protections against racial gerrymandering, and plan to replace those rules with a new regime that is likely less friendly to Black voters — and most likely to minority voters generally. None of these three orders was particularly well explained, but the pattern is that, in each case, the Court ruled against efforts to draw maps that expand Black political power.”
“The 2022 midterms are approaching and Black voters must choose between the Republican Party, which has actively worked against their interests for decades, and the Democratic Party, which has long struggled to meaningfully address race and racism, as well as issues important to Black voters — such as police reform and federal voting rights legislation.
The sad thing, at least for most Black voters, is it’s an easy choice. In the last 60 years or so, the Democratic Party, despite its many failures, has done far more for Black voters than the GOP. That’s why the vast majority of Black voters cast ballots for Democrats even if they aren’t necessarily liberal themselves. And therein lies the problem: Because Democratic leaders know that most Republican candidates aren’t a truly viable option for Black voters, the Democratic Party doesn’t have much incentive to court members of its most loyal constituency.
As former FiveThirtyEight senior reporter Farai Chideya wrote back in 2016, Black voters are so loyal that they’re considered “captured” — a theory put forth by Paul Frymer, a professor of politics at Princeton University, in a 1999 book titled “Uneasy Alliances: Race and Party Competition in America.” In other words, they’re ignored by one major party and taken for granted by the other.
“In recent elections, there’s normally some sort of conversation around what direction Latino or Asian Americans are going to swing,” said Jennifer Chudy, a professor of political science at Wellesley University. That “reveals the predicament Black voters are in because there’s not even a curiosity surrounding what they’ll do. … And I think they’re unique in that way.””
“Black voters are “captured” not simply because most favor Democrats, but because overt appeals to them are seen as disruptive to the rest of both party’s coalitions. But other voting blocs don’t necessarily experience the same thing. So, for example, Republicans can court white evangelicals because direct overtures to this group — for example, promoting anti-abortion policies, Christian values or legislation against transgender students and athletes — won’t turn off a majority of Republican voters. Certain civil rights issues that would have the greatest impact on Black voters, in contrast, are seen as too taboo to promote because being pro-Black is often conflated with being anti-white. As a result, politicians on both sides of the aisle often ignore Black voters’ concerns because they don’t want to take steps that would either turn off white voters or make it seem like they’re disrupting the existing racial hierarchies of power where white people are at the top.”