Uh oh: La Raza is rising! California's voting districts are getting browner/bluer by the second. Before we know it, this'll be the goddamn Nation of Aztlán, are we right?
The state's historic vote to let a group of 14 guys and gals with no political ties draw up new districts for the State Assembly, State Senate and U.S. Congress made the puzzle of rhyme-less, gerrymandered districts that politicians had drawn to get themselves re-elected almost unrecognizable. (Evidenced by the silent scream of agony coming from Sacramento in the days following the release of the Citizen Redistricting Commission's first draft.)
But of course, as with any change in status quo that could give marginalized groups a stronger voice, paranoid white men...
... are calling the draft a conspiracy to get more Latinos into office. CityWatch published a piece by estranged LA Weekly freelancer Joseph Mailander, in which the blogger questions why there are no white Democrats or black Democrats on the commission:
Anglo Democrats: NONE.Asian Democrats: Dai.Black Democrats: NONE.Latino Democrats: Aguirre, Ancheta, Blanco, Reyes.
Anglo Republicans: Barraba, Webber, Ward.
Asian Republicans: Ontai, Yao.
Black Republicans: NONE.
Latino Republicans: NONE.
Anglo DTS: DiGiulio, Forbes.
Asian DTS: NONE.
Black DTS: Malloy, Parvenu.
Latino DTS: NONE.
Let's see. Maybe because Latinos are three times more likely to be Democrat than Republican? And since 82 percent of Republicans in California are white, that narrows the chances of finding a Republican Latino interested in being on the commission to very slim -- even slimmer because there are fewer Republicans overall.
Plus, we're talking about a very small selection of people here, chosen for reasons other than their race and party. For the commission's makeup to be perfectly aligned with California's would be a rig in itself.
"There's no basis to think that it's anything other than coincidence," says Bruce Mirken of the Greenlining Institute. "You can slice and dice it a thousand ways and find some group that was left out. It was a reasonably diverse body."
Mirken's org is dedicated to making sure
the growing pool of Latinos all communities of color in California are provided with proportionate opportunity -- politically, economically and otherwise.
Quite oppositely from Mailander, Mirken says he's suspicious as to why Latinos are underrepresented in the new districts. Though he emphasizes that the maps released this week were just first drafts, Mirken says he's concerned "that with such a large increase in Latino population, there was no increase in [Latino-heavy] congressional districts." Many more Latino advocates feel the same.
Mirken also has evidence to contradict Mailander's theory: Assemblymember Roger Hernández (D-West Covina), who currently represents the 57th Assembly District, would lose a huge slice of Latino voters and gain whiter, more affluent ones under the revisions.
In the end, we think they're both kind of missing the point. New districts will push self-protecting incumbents into the unfamiliar territory of having to win individual voters' approval, not just that of their party. Elections have become a total snore in this state. As Bloomberg News notes today, it's a wonderful sign that both sides are mad:
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Most analysts say Republicans would lose at least two congressional seats if the new map withstands political and legal challenges. Meanwhile, veteran Democratic lawmakers would be pitted against one another in a handful of newly drawn districts that take no account of their seniority. ...
Yet stripping the Legislature of redistricting powers should have some positive effects on the margins. At least some of the newly drawn districts should be more amenable to moderates of both parties. In addition, citizen-driven redistricting should be a healthy complement to the state's new system of open primaries, in which candidates of all parties compete in a single primary, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the general election regardless of party affiliation.
One thing rightbloggers will have to come to terms with: "The makeup of the state now is 60 percent nonwhite," Mirken says. "That's just a reality. And everybody out there is going to have to get used to it."