The Magazine

Race to the Bottom

Jul 21, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 43 • By DAVID TELL, FOR THE EDITORS
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Thereby asked to decide which political party is better for black people, as a matter of federal law, the Supreme Court, rather than issue an indignant and richly deserved how-dare-you to all concerned, has punted, smiling on the lurid worst of each side's world. The Court's pro-Republican ruling from back in 1995 is reaffirmed. "In order to maximize the electoral success of a minority group," sayeth Justice O'Connor, on behalf of the same old 5-4 "conservative" majority, a state like Georgia may still choose to create "a certain number of 'safe' districts, in which it is highly likely that minority voters will be able to elect the candidate of their choice," even though "such a plan risks isolating minority voters from the rest of the state"--and, presumably, making Tom DeLay a happy man. Alternatively, however, the Voting Rights Act permits a state to "risk having fewer minority representatives in order to achieve greater overall representation of a minority group by increasing the number of representatives sympathetic to the interests of minority voters." Those would be Democratic representatives, Justice O'Connor points out: All the senate districts into which Georgia proposes to shuffle its African-American playing pieces enjoy Democratic registration numbers over 50 percent.

Incidentally, the High Court's four dissenting "liberal" justices, led by David Souter, side with the Bush administration. But not because they think black people can only "effectively" be represented by black congressmen, you understand. Any old Democrat will do. It's just that Souter & Co. are concerned that Georgia hasn't done enough to guarantee that emigrant African-American voters will receive such Democratic representation in their new, swing districts. A Republican--gasp!--might always win. And the Voting Rights Act, says Souter, demands that "minority voters will have effective influence translatable into probable election results comparable to what they enjoyed under the existing district scheme."

Whatever. Georgia v. Ashcroft is vacated and remanded to the district court, where the judges must now conduct further proceedings consistent with yet another dismal, racialist retrogression in the law and politics of the United States.

--David Tell, for the Editors