Where does representation come from?


Concerning Charles Blow's column: Last week, we struggled with various aspects of this column by Charles Blow.

(Headline: Ron DeSantis's Race Problem.)

Initially, we'd been struck by several aspects of the column. We'd been struck by the way Blow was calling DeSantis a racist while insisting that he was doing so much thing. 

We'd been struck by the fuzzy official language quoted in this passage:

BLOW (9/28/22): In 2010, Florida voters, by a strong majority, approved a constitutional amendment rejecting gerrymandering. The amendment made clear that “districts shall not be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process or to diminish their ability to elect representatives of their choice.”

No part of that highlighted language is especially clear. The amendment's heart may have been in the right place. But as for the amendment's head, we'd say that it was quite inarticulate in its choice of language.

Florida's voters approved that fuzzy language in 2010. We were struck by Blow's account of what happened next:

BLOW (continuing directly): Yet Florida’s Republican-led Legislature produced a gerrymandered map anyway. In 2015, the state Supreme Court struck down much of the Legislature’s proposed map, and demanded that eight House districts be redrawn. Among them was the Fifth District, which at the time snaked up the state from Orlando to Jacksonville. The redrawn map allowed Black voters to elect four Black representatives.

According to Blow, the Florida legislature produced a gerrymandered map in spite of the fuzzy amendment. The state Supreme Court struck down much of that map, demanding that eight of its proposed congressional districts be redrawn.

We were struck by Blow's description of the existing Fifth District. It sounded like that was a gerrymandered district—but it also sounded like it might be a district which had been drawn to enhance black representation in Congress.

(That is, it sounded like it was a district which had been drawn to "allow Black voters to elect a Black representative." In the euphemistic language of the amendment, it sounded like the district had been drawn to give black voters "the ability to elect representatives of their choice.”)

Correctly, Blow said that Florida's Supreme Court ruled that the proposed Fifth District had to be redrawn. We thought you might be interested in knowing who, within that Florida Court, had issued that order, and what his stated reasons were.

From the blue perspective, Blow's column was tribally pleasing. He came out in favor of congressional districting in which "racial or language minorities" are given the opportunity "to elect representatives of their choice." But he also came out against gerrymandering, something those Republicans do. 

He favored black representation, and he opposed gerrymandering! In a simple-minded way, those sound like our tribal beliefs, but we may not always understand the following fact:

Often, black congressional representation has resulted from types of congressional districting which would be called "gerrymandering" in any other context.

According to the leading authority on the topic, that very same Fifth District "was considered one of the most-gerrymandered congressional districts in the country" at the time of that judicial ruling. 

According to that leading authority, this "gerrymandering" had been done 1) to increase the likelihood that the district would send a black representative to Congress, but also 2) to help the Florida GOP maintain a numerical advantage in the state's overall congressional delegation.

Blow's treatment of that history struck us as perhaps too slick by half. For better or worse, this general topic is substantially more complex than his crowd-pleasing column may have suggested.

Should state legislatures create "majority minority" congressional districts, even if a fairly obvious type of "gerrymandering" in required?

There isn't an obvious answer to that very important question. Sadly, people can have alternate views on this question without anyone being an obvious racist.

The real world isn't a fairy tale. More on this topic to come.

Tomorrow: A look at some basic numbers


  1. "For better or worse, this general topic is substantially more complex than his crowd-pleasing column may have suggested."

    Meh. There's nothing complex about it, dear Bob.

    Your liberal cult's chiefs need power, to sell their services to global finance. They're trying to obtain power by hate-mongering and race-baiting.

    And that's all there is to it, dear Bob. End of story. There is no other logic in any of it.

    1. Sergei Shoigu is a great minister of defense.

    2. I guess when the Circus's were phased out there was no room for Fat Mao The Turd Eating Shit Boy anymore....

  2. Does Bob think Blow is being unfair to DeSantis?
    I think maybe he needs to do six or seven more posts about
    it, NO... he doesn't seem like a thin skinned white man
    AT All!!!!
    Blow, Blow, Blow, Blow, Blow, Blow Blow......

  3. Charles Blow's latest book argues that a second migration back to the South could prove a way forward for Black America. If Blacks outside the South moved to the six Southern states that have now have the largest Black population they could become the majority or near majority in those states. The would then be able to elect a block of 12 Black US senators six governor on a more or less permanent basis.

    I think Blow was brave to propose such and idea though the chances that such a large scale migration will become a reality is quite low. Blow probably knows this and the proposal itself , the creation of a Black dominated region, is a sign of his enormous frustration, desperation, and hopelessness. The reaction to his book and it's main idea has been silence. Why? Because public intellectuals aren't supposed to propose ideas that aren't sanctioned by the dominant capitalist power-structure.

    Which brings us to what is the role of Blow and other Black public intellectuals serving within the dominant capitalist power-structure at establishment institutions like the NYT?

    1. Blow is neglecting the Jim Crow activities that drove black people out of the South in the first place. Lynchings are not inconveniences -- they are threats against life. Black people left to protect their families in a part of the country where there was no law protecting them from reprisals against attempts to vote, read, change jobs, own property, participate in occupations beyond those assigned them, and no opportunity to complain or protest their treatment. Most white people have no idea how bad it was. I assume he perhaps discusses this in his book, but black people left for valid reasons.

      When we are arguing over gerrymandering, the VRA has been rolled back by the Supreme Court, and the Republican Party is not hiding its racism, is this really an auspicious time to suggest making things more volatile? And what are the prospects for success when the so-called "red tribe" controls the solid South? I don't think the fault lies with public intellectuals.


    2. "The reaction to his book and it's main idea has been silence. Why? Because public intellectuals aren't supposed to propose ideas that aren't sanctioned by the dominant capitalist power-structure."

      Hmm. Perhaps. But maybe (and hopefully) also because public intellectuals are not supposed to promote ethnocentric "ideas" and advocacy? A bit too hitlerian, you see...

      ...incidentally, the "idea" itself is not new. And if reviving it is the goal, why not keep migrating to Liberia? Seems like a better plan. Why be content with lousy 12% of racially desirable politicians in the country, when you can easily have all 100%?

  4. Somerby is misusing the term gerrymandering.

    Gerrymandering definition: "manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favor one party or class."

    Somerby seems to think that when a district allows black people to participate fairly, that is also gerrymandering because boundaries are manipulated. That is an incorrect usage. It is when the boundaries are manipulated to disadvantage black or minority people by creating boundaries that favor white people, that gerrymandering has occurred. The act of manipulating boundaries is called redistricting when it is done to achieve fairness in the opportunity for minorities to be represented by minority elected officials.

    Somerby is making a backhanded allusion to reverse discrimination when he considers disadvantaging whites (who have created a map in their own favor) by making them redo their illegal map. Somerby refers to that correaction as a form of gerrymandering too, just as the original creation of a map that prevented minority representation was called gerrymandering. Fair creation of redistricting maps is NOT called gerrymandering unless it favors a [social] class or party. That is illegal in FL.

    Somerby seems to be missing the part where this new map is being created in order to UNDO the wrong done by the first map. And no, the creation of a fair map is not considered to be gerrymandering. It presumably creates a map that is fair to all concerned, including the minorities who were disadvantaged by the original map.

  5. "Among them was the Fifth District, which at the time snaked up the state from Orlando to Jacksonville. The redrawn map allowed Black voters to elect four Black representatives."

    Somerby seems to think that it is a good thing when one district contains most black voters. This is not the goal of fairness -- putting all the minority voters into a single district to elect one single minority representative (should there be such candidates nominated).

    Somerby understands the concept of wasted votes. He has argued it often enough about Hillary's popular vote win, with voters clustered in blue states that were already won by Clinton. If some of those blue voters were distributed to states with closer decisions, Clinton might have won more electoral votes. In the same way, putting all of the minority voters into one district prevents minority voters from influencing the decisions in other districts where the election is close enough that they might swing the totals for other minority candidates. When they are all put in one district, their impact is diluted and white candidates have a shot at winning more districts because they need not worry about minority voters in a state with a large minority vote.

    Gerrymandering techniques depend on the context in which they are employed. Sometimes putting all the minority voters in a single district (producing an oddly shaped district) will prevent them from having any impact on other districts. Sometimes, when minority voters are fewer, spreading them into multiple other districts will prevent them from ever electing a single minority representative. Florida has a lot of minority voters, so concentrating them makes them less of a threat to white candidates in multiple districts. The intent of the legislature was not to help minorities elect more candidates but to disadvantage them from competing in more than one district. In a different situation, with fewer minorities, splitting their vote into multiple districts would prevent them from ever electing a single representative. So an opposite approach is needed depending on the circumstances.

    Officials who are intent on disadvantaging minorities use whatever strategic produces the worst outcome for the minorities and the most favorable outcome for themselves. That's how you recognize their intent -- by the result. This game came be played to advantage a political party or a white racial group. Minorities are not generally powerful enough in a state to use gerrymandering to disadvantage white voters -- so Somerby hint that this attempt to correct wrongdoing might be reverse discrimination is ridiculous.

  6. Here is some remedial reading for Somerby and anyone else who is confused about what gerrymandering is and is not:


  7. New poll shows Hisanics and immigrants supporting Beto inTX.

  8. Charles Blow is the most hateful of the NYT hateful leftists.