Sunday, July 24, 2011

Black Democrats Down on Redistricting Plan

Steele: Whose Side is He on?
The redistricting maps that Governor Mike Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel put together had been a closely held secret throughout the process. Forums held around the state were a farce, as the public had nothing to look at or comment on except the maps put forward by Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin. Because the other two members of the Aportionment board are Democrats, the Martin maps were widely regarded as irrelevant to the final disposition of the district lines.

When Beebe and McDaniel dropped their maps on us a bare week before the deadline, various folks were outraged. Sure enough, they used the opportunity for vindictive political payback against legislators they did not like, regardless of what it meant for the people of the districts involved.

The virtuous elected official should use the power with which they have been entrusted so as to benefit the citizens who bestowed it to them. To use that power for personal payback is an abuse. That's what we have in the maps put out by Beebe and McDaniel.

I am not a big fan of Sen. Jason Rappert, but what they did to him was blatant. They did not even try to hide the fact that they were going to move the lines so as to put him in a completely different district. We already learned what they did to the rare Democrat who stood up to Beebe from time to time (Linda Collins-Smith). Fort Smith districts were chopped up strangely as well. And of course, Republican districts were "packed", that is, they had slightly more than the average population of a district in them, even in areas where it is reasonable that they will continue to grow even as the Democrat parts of the state continue to whither.

But there was racial "packing" in the Beebe/McDaniel maps too. And the way it was done has upset the Democrat's most loyal voter group- blacks. It seems that the Beebe/McDaniel maps have actually reduced the number of minority-majority seats in the legislature from their current levels, even though the black population of the state has not declined in the last ten years. Currently, there are 4 minority-majority state Senate seats, but the Beebe/McDaniel plan would take one of those four and make it's minority-majority status so razor-thin as to be practically meaningless. To rub salt in the wound, another nearby district has 75% minority vote, far more than they need to assure a fair shot at minority representation. Beebe is "packing" minority votes into one district in a way that could cost them another.

In the House, the Beebe/McDaniel plan would cost their most loyal constituent block representation. They would go from the current 13 minority-majority house districts to only eleven. And this reduction of representation is by no means something that is demanded by the demographic facts on the ground. Secretary of State Mark Martin's plan actually increases the number of minority majority house seats to fifteen- making it almost perfectly in line with their proportion of the state population.

You can read more about the discontent within the black caucus here. Now here's an important side-story in this deal: While the plan does knife them in the back even after their complete loyalty to the Democratic Party, in the end I believe most of them will vote for their own political lynching. That's how stuck on the plantation they are. Even if it means that the "Black Caucus" will lose about 20% of its membership next session, 80% of them or more will vote the way Massa Beebe wants. That's even when they could back the Martin plan instead, which would increase their house membership by about 20%.

To any black citizen offended at me for writing the above paragraph: please direct your anger appropriately, at your "leaders" who will sell you and each other out in order to please the party. If you are a black legislator and are offended: I will be happy to sincerely apologize if you as a caucus prove me wrong. If you act respectably I will be glad to respect you. It's what I want to do. It's my default setting. So far, many of you haven't earned it, and that's the only way respect is truly obtained. What you normally get by pulling the race card as a routine response to policy challenges isn't really respect. If you surprise me on this issue and act in ways that earn true respect you will experience the difference, and not just from me.

It is not exactly a sign of confidence that the "leader" of the black caucus is one of the most personally corrupt members of the Arkansas legislature, Rep. Tracy Steele. He says in the Talk Business article that although the black caucus is not happy about the map, he does not see them suing over it. Of course not. Not when their "leadership" is for sale. He is going to do what the guys with the big check books want him to do. He is going to do what the guy who directs so many public tax dollars (Beebe) wants him to do. That is, let the caucus make a bunch of noise about how unfairly they are being treated, and then steer them away from any action which might actually prevent them from getting run over by Beebe and the Democrats.

It's really sad. It's like watching a neighboring family where the guy beats her. You wanna do something, but until she wants to help herself enough to act, what can you do?


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