Race, Redistricting, and Representation; The Unintended Consequences of Black Majority Districts / Edition 2

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Since the creation of minority-dominated congressional districts eight years ago, the Supreme Court has condemned the move as akin to "political apartheid," while many African-American leaders argue that such districts are required for authentic representation.

In the most comprehensive treatment of the subject to date, David Canon shows that the unintended consequences of black majority districts actually contradict the common wisdom that whites will not be adequately represented in these areas. Not only do black candidates need white votes to win, but this crucial "swing" vote often decides the race. And, once elected, even the black members who appeal primarily to black voters usually do a better job than white members of walking the racial tightrope, balancing the needs of their diverse constituents.

Ultimately, Canon contends, minority districting is good for the country as a whole. These districts not only give African Americans a greater voice in the political process, they promote a politics of commonality—a biracial politics—rather than a politics of difference.

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What People Are Saying

Louis DeSipio
Race, Redistricting, and Representation is a significant empirical and theoretical contribution to the extensive literature on representation and the Voting Rights Act.
—(Louis DeSipio, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
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Product Details

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures
Introduction: Race, Redistricting, and Representation in the U.S. House of Representatives
Chapter One: Black Interests, Difference, Commonality, and Representation
Chapter Two: A Legal Primer on Race and Redistricting
Chapter Three: The Supply-Side Theory of Racial Redistricting, with Matthew M. Schousen and Patrick J. Sellers
Chapter Four: Race and Representation in the U.S. House of Representatives
Chapter Five: Links to the Constituency
Chapter Six: Black Majority Districts: Failed Experiment or Catalyst for a Politics of Commonality?
Appendix A. Data Sources
Appendix B. Procedures for Coding the Newspaper Stories

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2001

    David Canon Scores a Hit

    David T. Cannon examines the controversial issue of racial redistricting in his book, Race, Redistricting, and Representation. Even during the antebellum period, race and racial concerns affected legislative districts and representation issues. Currently, the issue is not how slave population will effect representation (as it was in the slave era) or practices prohibiting blacks from voting, but multiple issues concerning the assurance of equal representation for all, including the previously disenfranchised racial and ethnic minorities. One method used to accomplish this goal of equal representation is the redrawing of district lines to create black majority districts. Cannon¿s book neither indicts nor supports redistricting, but analyzes the commonly held theory that the districts can create and support a ¿policy of difference¿. Cannon praises racial gerrymandered districts for providing much needed minority representation while also providing representation for the white constituents. Cannon¿s book evaluates and thoroughly dissects the issues surrounding the creation of majority districts, pointing out the benefits for blacks (and other minorities) as well as the drawbacks. A major goal of the book is to also discuss what Cannon views as the flaws or ¿unintended consequences¿ of the redistricting. Cannon points out that racial redistricting is a controversial and complex issue with many interpretations. Cannon states, in the book¿s introduction, that an important goal for representative democracy is to provide minority interests with equal representation: ¿The legitimacy and stability of any democracy depend, in part, on its ability to accomplish that difficult goal [minority representation]¿ (1). Because of their minority status, blacks have been (and still are) severely under and unequally represented in Congress and politics in general. Cannon asserts that, without a voice for minority interests, democratic government would be illegitimate and suffer from core instabilities. His assertion provides the reasoning behind the need for racial redistricting. However, not everyone agrees that the minority-majority districts are required or beneficial. Illustrated through his use of legal background, Cannon acknowledges and describes the dissenting opinions concerning the necessity of creating new districts. Race, Redistricting, and Representation begins with a discussion and examination of, what he considers to be, the two major views of minority representation. The prevailing theories on race and representation are a ¿policy of difference¿ (where only blacks can represent blacks and whites can represent whites) and the ¿color-blind policy¿ (where race does not matter because political concerns are the same regardless of race or ethnicity). Cannon views the best representation as one that is a ¿balancing act¿ between the two prevailing theories. He labels his balancing act the ¿policy of commonality¿. The practice of commonality politics that Cannon supports rejects both the separatist elements of the difference policy and the ¿color-blind¿ deracialization perspective: ¿I emphatically reject the argument that race does not matter¿However, I do not argue that race matters on all policies that Congress considers¿ (47). To this end, Cannon argues that a black representative of a black majority district considers the needs of his black constituents (more so than a white representative), but also spends a good deal of his\her time on legislation beneficial to white interests. Statistical data and countless interviews from Congressional representatives and their aids support his arguments well. Cannon draws a majority of the data used in his statistical analysis from Congressional roll call vote analyses and census data. The inclusion of statistics in the body of the book does validate Cannon¿s assertions, however the considerable amount of statistics is also slightly cumbersome. Another

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