Initially, I thought the midterm elections would be the biggest obstacle for President Obama during his relection bid. But after the new Census numbers were released last week, it seems the Obama camp (and Democrats for the next several years) has far more to worry about.
With faltering economies throughout the Midwest; coupled with the explosion of immigrant communities in the Southern and Western regions, the 2010 Census has provided states with Republican leanings additional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and consequently, more votes in the Electoral College. Predominately red state Texas, for example, wound up being a big winner securing an additional four seats. This is pretty unnerving news for Democrats because power and electoral momentum is gradually shifting more and more in the direction of red states. Meanwhile places like New York and Michigan – generally considered liberal enclaves – will find themselves having less electoral force by the time 2012 comes rolling around.
Those of you who read my blog will know that the cross section of race and politics is of particular interest to me. So it should come as no surprise that I examine this shift from a racial perspective. This process is particularly important for African Americans because the House of Representatives has always served as a important advocate for issues directly impacting the black community (I hate using the term “black community” as if we are some kind of monolith, but the term is generally well understood). The loss of Congressional representation in the House (in addition to the dismal election outcomes for Democrats in November) could potential act as a precursor to a complete dismissal of a “black agenda”; especially since the Senate – the most powerful of the two houses – is without a single black face; be it Democrat, Republican, or otherwise. Black representation in politics is almost non-existent at this point.
Just in case you’re not too hip to how this all works, the Constitution requires us to perform a Census count every ten years. As a result of the count, seats are redistributed in a way that ensures that individual congressional districts in each state have as close of a number of representatives as possible. At the end, this also affects the way in which votes in the Electoral College are allocated. States with higher populatations in relationship to others earn more Electoral College votes; the apparatus by which Presidents are elected. Perhaps one of the most significant, but under-discussed phenomenons is how congressional reapportionment is controlled by state legislatures, which themselves typically act in a partisan fashion. The results? In many cases, the party in control broadens and cements their power through gerrymandering; essentially the practice of redrawing the boundaries for districts in a manner suiting the interests of that party. So now, you can expect issues that were of great concern by many to get held up (or outright ignored) by…let’s say…representatives from rural communities with little interest in progressive agendas from more urban areas. And this – I should point out – does not simply represent a temporal change until the next election cycle. No. This change will be in effective – most likely – until the next Census count ten years from now.
Now, I concede to the possibility that rising Latino and Black populations will thwart some of the rising power of the GOP. When you consider the overwhelming level of support folks gave Obama (somewhere around 96% of black voters and 67% of latino voters), things don’t look completely dismal for Democrats. But whether or not this comes in to play will be largely predicated on whether Republicans are willing to be a little more generous in drawing district lines. But being a student of history, I’m not holding my breath. Right now, they are in the driver’s seat…and it’s not likely they’ll relinquish that control anytime soon. And why should they?
Obama, 2012 is looking more and more like a fantasy.