The GOP Gerrymanders To Uphold Minority Rule

The GOP thought about reaching out to people of color to win future elections. Their base rejected it in favor of undemocratic tactics.
Then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, laughs with Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., center right, just after Ryan signed an attempt to repeal Obamacare – Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, laughs with Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., center right, just after Ryan signed an attempt to repeal Obamacare – Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

In a recent, lengthy article, The Atlantic editor Yoni Applebaum danced around the same topic as every other political pundit today. He spoke of rabid partisanship in America in the past and today, and dropped the oft-discussed axiom that given current demographic trends, the future of the country will no longer be majority white and Christian, and the health of our democracy will depend on moderate Republicans coming to terms with it and trying to make the best of the new way of things. And while none of this is false, he never seemed to get to the heart of the matter at hand.

Perhaps the most instructive hint was an anecdote about the post mortem of the 2008 and 2012 elections by the Republican National Committee, which noted that the party should moderate its stances on immigration and reach out to Hispanic, Asian, and African-American voters in order to assure future victories given how the nation was diversifying. Instead of taking this advice to heart, the base quickly took it as proof of the Great Replacement conspiracy theory animating it today, and used it to justify redistricting and voter suppression efforts.

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Given a method to adapt and expand itself, the party chose to more or less chant “white power!” because the simple fact of the matter is too much of the base believes in their own superiority over immigrants and minorities. Yes, it’s true that minority populations are rising and that as part of their social and demographic ascent, they’re asserting their rights. But the rights they’re asserting come down to demands not to be treated like second class citizens. To the GOP, however, just asking to acknowledge that humans who don’t look like them should be treated as their legal and societal equals is a bridge too far.

Again, note the finer points of the RNC recommendation in question. It didn’t ask Republicans to become more liberal or politically correct. It said to make inroads with minorities who have some conservative leanings and show that the party is on the same page with them. Quite a few South Asians and Latin-Americans lean hard right on social issues, very much in line with the most conservative of Evangelicals. Plenty of African-Americans are interested in starting and growing businesses and would be happy to see loosened regulations and tax cuts. Eastern European Jews, still traumatized by communism, would be afraid to expand the welfare state.

All the GOP had to do is see the minority populations in question as assets and allies around those commonalities, focused on getting them to the polls, and they would’ve performed even better than they did in subsequent elections. Instead, they decided to redraw electoral maps and make it harder for diverse populations to vote. Rather than accept diversity in their own ranks, they decided to put not just a thumb but both hands on the scale for white rural and suburban voters, all the while vomiting apocalyptic conspiracy theories of evil minorities committing #WhiteGenocide at the direction of the “globalists,” aka Jews.

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No matter how much more power it would have given them, no matter how successful it would have made them, no matter how much it would legitimize their rule, the Republican Party didn’t just refuse to reach out to the minorities they so fear today, they refused to accept them both as Americans and as people. In short, when a Republican tells you they don’t see color, what they’re really saying is that they don’t want to see too many people of color in their ranks for their liking, and even then, only the ones they’re personally comfortable with seeing.

So when a GOP panel made almost entirely of white, middle-aged men named Jim, Mark, John, or Bill proclaims to the country that their movement doesn’t have a single racist or bigoted bone in their body, it’s really hard to square their claims with the anti-Semitic and racist social media screeching of their voters and the hosts of their favorite shows on Fox News, and the fact that they very publicly swatted away a blueprint to bringing conservative minorities into their fold.

They’d rather risk the future of their movement than associate with immigrants or those with darker skin, and if that doesn’t scream racist, I really don’t know what does. We can hope they will accept the changing face of America with all our hearts, but just like my dreams of a time machine to bring back a T. Rex from the Cretaceous period for study in my future lab on Proxima Centauri b, that’s extremely unlikely. Until the party’s official platform isn’t codified white supremacism, rage, fear, and conspiracies, this country’s politics won’t return to normal. And that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

The only real recourse we have is battling gerrymandering to make state legislatures more responsive to all voters, not just the base of the party and power, forcing them to change the rules that allow voter suppression and undemocratic redistricting. On that front, former Attorney General Eric Holder and former President Barack Obama are working on an effort to fight gerrymandering state by state, as is former Republican Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is raising money and backing for state by state ballot measures to make the process of drawing district maps a lot less partisan, placing it in the hands of carefully selected independent commissions.

The GOP decided to declare political war on those it deems less human than their base by picking their voters and making where people vote more important than how they vote. On top of that, the try to strip away the powers of incoming politicians if they lose despite their efforts to rig the votes in a feat of unabashed and utter contempt for their constituents’ voices. The only way to change their egregious behavior will be to take away their ability to do so and force them to play fair. And this is why local political participation matters. No edict from D.C. can force the GOP to start seeing immigrants and minorities as people, so the only thing we can do is show them that they still need all of the people’s consent to govern, not just the ones who look and think like them.

Opinion // Gerrymandering / Republican Party