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Why Congress has so few white Democrats from the South

Martin Frost
Martin Frost

Is there a “Blue Wall” of Democratic states that stands between Republicans and the presidency? How much has gerrymandering contributed to the disappearance of white Protestant southern Democrats from Congress? And is there anything practical that can be done to wean Washington away from its gridlock addiction?

Martin Frost, a former moderate Democratic congressman from Texas and co-author (with former moderate Republican congressman Tom Davis) of a book about the breakdown of bipartisanship in Congress, spoke at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey school Tuesday and touched on the three matters above. The first two were hardly his main points, but I found them intriguing. The gridlock/reform stuff is a major interest of mine and I’ll summarize his prescriptions at the bottom.

In passing, Frost mentioned that there are hardly any white Democrats representing the South in the U.S. House anymore. Basically, he said, “the only kind of seats you have in the South are seats that are safe for black Democrats and seats that are safe for Republicans.”

Although I’m aware of the issue, his statement seemed a little strong to me, so I did some counting on a map, and his slight overstatement is more true than false.

Frost also said that the Republican plan to use their power over the district maps to create safe seats for black Democrats was assisted — in some, not all, southern states — by the black politicians themselves.

First the numbers: If you look at the 12 states that made up the Confederacy, from Virginia down to Florida and west to Texas, they are currently represented by 138 members of the U.S. House (that’s 32 percent of the total House, by the way). Among those states (all of which were, for about a century after the Civil War, almost entirely dominated by Democrats), there are now 101 Republicans versus 37 Democrats.

Of the 101 Republican members of Congress from those states, 96 are white, four are Latino (all of those from Texas and Florida) and one is black (also Texans). Texas and Florida are the biggest states in the South, but also the least typical of the region demographically, with more whites and Latinos and fewer blacks. So, if for the sake of Frost’s main point, you remove them from the analysis, all of the Republican House members from the more typical southern states are white.

Of the 37 Democratic congressmen and women from the South, 18 are black, 15 are white and four are Latino (all Texans). There is at least one black Democrat in the House delegation of 10 of the 12 states (and one of those states, Arkansas, has no Democrats at all).

Frost mentioned that even among those few southern white Democrats, five are Jewish (four from Florida), which further differentiates the current makeup of southern House members from the old days when almost all were white, male, Protestant Democrats.

This giant partisan and demographic change from the old days reflects first the transfer of the whole region from Democratic to Republican domination, and the great increase in political possibilities for African-Americans and Latinos — and women and Jews, too — from the first two centuries of U.S. history when few members of any of those groups served in Congress.

But it also reflects, Frost said, a conscious plan by southern Republicans as they took over control of the legislatures in those states and thereby took over the control of the decennial drawing of the district maps.

Without question, Republicans were anxious to use that control to increase their share of overall seats in Congress. But I was struck by Frost’s statement that black politicians collaborated in the process, and I followed up with him to inquire about how that happened.

Big change

Frost said that the big change happened before Republican control of the southern legislatures was complete. As they came closer to majorities, Republicans approached their black Democratic colleagues and suggested that if they worked together and drew a few supermajority black districts, the new map would produce far more Republicans on net but also far more black members of Congress.

Although black representation in the legislatures was growing, white legislators who had previously controlled the maps had gone out of their way to avoid drawing majority-black congressional districts precisely to keep blacks from being elected from states that had long been dominated by white Democrats. Some black legislators resented that mightily and were open to cooperating with the idea of gerrymandering some districts to increase the number of black members of Congress.

Frost, who explained all this to me during our follow-up phone interview, said that this collaboration was controversial within the black community. John Lewis, the great civil rights leader who had worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, urged southern blacks not to make this bargain. But it nonetheless was made, and it ended up leading to Lewis himself being elected to Congress from an overwhelmingly black Georgia district in 1986, a district from which he has been reelected 14 times, surpassing 70 percent of the total vote in all but one of those campaigns. Now 76, Lewis is still in Congress and ranks 13th from the top of the House in seniority.

By the way, to tie all that into Frost’s theme of gridlock and its causes, the successful gerrymandering has contributed to a House map that is so favorable to Republicans that, in 2014, Republicans got 52 percent of all the votes cast in House races, but ended up with a strong 57 percent of House seats.

In 2012, Democrats actually got more total votes in House races than Republicans did but Republicans nonetheless won a substantial 54 percent majority of seats. If this seems like an outrage against a properly functioning democracy, and it probably is, bear in mind that the difference in total votes cast to House seats won is not all about gerrymandering. But it is surely a factor.

The ‘Blue Wall’

On an almost completely unrelated matter, Frost brought up the “Blue Wall” as a factor in presidential elections. I’ve heard of it before, but haven’t made up my mind how much I subscribe to it.

Over the last six presidential races from 1992 to 2012, Frost said, there are 18 states — including such giants as California and New York — that have gone blue all six times. Those states have a current combined total of 242 electoral votes. The Republican Party, by contrast, has won just 13 states in each of the last six election cycles, totaling 102 electoral votes.

It takes 270 votes to win the presidency, so if you assume that the Dem ticket starts out with 242, the Repubs practically have to run the table of remaining states to win.

The math is correct, but before you take it too seriously, consider at least these two things:

Thing One: Notwithstanding the Blue Wall, Republicans won two of those six elections (2000 and 2004), and they won in 2000 despite losing the popular vote. (Yes, I recall, the U.S. Supreme Court cast the final votes.) But it nonetheless suggests that the power of the Blue Wall is something less than a guaranteed lease on the Oval Office.

Thing Two: The blue side carried those 18 states six straight times, and sometimes by margins so wide that you would have to assume the Dems start out with a big advantage going forward. But some of those state races were squeakers. When Party A barely wins a state, Party B spends the next four years targeting it with a very real chance that they might take it the next time. The bad news on Thing Two for the Repubs is that the biggest two components of the Blue Wall — California and New York — have not been squeakers for a long time.

And the biggest reason to be skeptical of the Blue Wall, for political junkies like me and maybe you, too, is that Nate Silver — the guru of gurus on political math over recent cycles — doesn’t believe in it and wrote a piece headlined “There Is No ‘Blue Wall.’”

Silver notes that in the six elections ending in 1988 (in other words, just before the election that started the run of the Blue Wall), there were 21 states — including California — that had gone Republican six times in a row, and the Repubs had won five of those six elections. Then, starting in 1992, oops.

Congress in crisis

Third and final topic, which former Rep. Frost would probably have put first because it is the theme of his book and the cause for which crusades: Congress is broken. His book is titled “The Partisan Divide: Congress in Crisis.”

According to this analysis, with which I agree, our system is breaking down because the two parties have lost the ability to compromise. How did that happen? Frost and Davis start their analysis with the lack of competitive seats in the U.S. House. From the book:

Fully 80 percent of House districts are safe. We know which party is going to win in November. That means members worry about their primary election. That’s their concern. November is just a constitutional formality. They devote all of their attention, their votes, their rhetoric, to their primary voters who are narrow, thin ideological slice of the electorate and they act accordingly when they get to Congress.

To close, if all the big theories in this piece are correct, we have a system that is all but rigged to create a Republican-dominated House of Representatives that will be unsympathetic to the policies of a Blue-Wall-elected Democratic president. Some of those House members might be inclined to seek common ground in the middle, or to seek trades of things they favor for things the Democratic president favors. But if they want to keep their red-district seats, they don’t really have to worry about running against a Democrat who will accuse them of accomplishing nothing and shutting down the government. They have to worry about a Tea Party challenger in the primary who will accuse them of caving in to the socialist in the White House.

After listening to Frost’s lecture and interviewing him over the phone, our last exchange was by email. I asked him for the most concrete suggestions of things that can be done, shy of a constitutional amendment, to improve this situation. His reply:

“Legislation passed by Congress requiring all states to use non-partisan commissions when drawing Congressional districts and legislation by Congress requiring all organizations like 501(c)(4)s to report all donors by name and amount to the FEC when these organizations purchase any ads mentioning a federal candidate by name, a rule adopted by the FEC better defining what constitutes coordination between a candidate and a candidate specific SuperPAC.”

By the way, Frost’s own career in Congress ended in 2004 as the result of an aggressive redrawing of his district by Texas Republicans.

Comments (27)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/08/2016 - 09:50 am.

    Gerrymandering

    Without Gerrymandering there would be no Congressional Black Caucus. These southern districts were drawn so black people could elect black congressmen and feel they have representation in our government, it’s as simple as that.

    I always thought it was instructive that it was white democrats who complained about this arrangement.

  2. Submitted by John Appelen on 04/08/2016 - 11:51 am.

    Consistent

    At least Eric is consistent in blaming the House / GOP for gridlock.
    “we have a system that is all but rigged to create a Republican-dominated House of Representatives that will be unsympathetic to the policies of a Blue-Wall-elected Democratic president.”

    Maybe a less biased and more correct rephrasing would be:
    “we have a system that is all but rigged to create a Republican-dominated House of Representatives and a Blue-Wall-elected Democratic president who are unsympathetic to each others policies”

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/08/2016 - 12:49 pm.

      Always noting

      that the current President was elected by a majority of voters, while the current House was chose in an election where the majority of voters voted for Democratic candidates. The latter outcome was possible because of gerrymandering.

  3. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/08/2016 - 12:38 pm.

    Two Parties Won’t Compromise???

    “According to this analysis, with which I agree, our system is breaking down because the two parties have lost the ability to compromise.”

    Two Parties won’t compromise? I can think of one, but which is the second?

    It’s only Tea Partyers that challenge GOP House members in primaries. There is no Tea Party equivalent on the left side. On the ACA, Obama compromised with himself right out of the box, choosing a private insurance preserving hybrid rather than the single payer system he admitted he preferred.

    No, its only one side that has shut down the government, not just in DC but here in Minnesota as well. When have Democrats ever threatened to shut down the government?

    Come on, Eric!

    • Submitted by Tim Smith on 04/08/2016 - 01:41 pm.

      regarding the ACA

      is it a compromise when there is really no other choice? give me a break. Obama knew it was the only way and made the single payer comment to appease the base, what he is best at.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/09/2016 - 02:51 pm.

        Yes, Of Course

        It is a compromise when a Democratic president takes a plan from the right wing Heritage Foundation in the hope of attracting GOP votes. It may have be extremely naive, but still a compromise.

        Why was there no other choice? Single payer, a medicare option, or even (horrors!) look at what other countries do to provide healthcare.

        There is “no other choice” when we listen to the chattering class and the pundits. Desmond Tutu said, “It’s always seems impossible until it’s done.”

        • Submitted by Tim Smith on 04/10/2016 - 08:59 am.

          Naive yes

          Also just pure fallacy that any thinking person would compare the aca to the free market ideas of the heritage foundation 30 years ago, the ideas are not in the same universe.

          There was no choice because he didnt have the votes in his own party even, or the trillions in tax dollars single payer would require. Even if he did our industrial health care complex would have rained down on him and dems to stop the whole scheme. They are your biggest obstacle to single payer, bigger and more powerful than health insurance companies.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/08/2016 - 02:13 pm.

      You Cannot Be Serious!

      Mr. Phelan, you surely must be aware that “Both sides do it” is the sacred dictum of any political discourse in this country today. Failure to recite this shibboleth at every opportunity will lead you to be labeled shrill, or uncivil, or divisive.

      Whether we have reached this state through nihilism or a lack of courage doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that we ALL know that–say it with me–“Both sides do it!”

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/08/2016 - 03:42 pm.

      $20 trillion in debt

      says we’ve had lots of compromising going on. When democrats want to spend a trillion we don’t have and the republicans get them to settle for half that, that’s the problem.

      Now you know why the republicans in congress are in trouble with their conservative base because of their willingness to “compromise.”

      • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 04/08/2016 - 09:04 pm.

        Dick Cheney

        “You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter. We won the mid-term elections, this is our due.” RE: your guy on 1/2 trillion dollar deficit. January 9, 2004.

      • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 04/09/2016 - 07:13 am.

        I get it

        Your are talking about the 2 trillion Bush and Cheney spent on a war of choice and just put it on a credit card. Conservatism at its best.

  4. Submitted by Sam Wakefield on 04/08/2016 - 02:10 pm.

    Interesting article on redistricting

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/01/13/this-is-actually-what-america-would-look-like-without-gerrymandering/

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/08/2016 - 03:40 pm.

    Yet again

    …Mr. Tester makes a comment with which I’m forced to agree. I have no doubt that the Congressional Black Caucus is at least largely the result of gerrymandering. It might be one of the literal handful of positives to come from gerrymandering as a practice.

    What Mr. Frost’s and Eric’s comments suggest to me, and I know this sounds laughably naive (so be it) is that self-interest has overwhelmed the public interest. I take as a given that people who run for Congress all have egos larger than mine, but, given our founding documents and how much rhetoric is devoted to the Constitution and Founding Principles and the largely gray eminences who created them, it doesn’t strike me as unreasonable to think that some significant portion of someone’s time in Congress might be devoted to serving the public that elected them.

    Alas, except for “constituent services,” of which few citizens make use, or even know about (MinnPost had a good piece about this a week or three back), it would seem that “public service” is something that Congressional Representatives, especially “safe” Republicans and “safe” Democrats, snicker about in the House cloak room rather than attempt to practice.

    Frank Phelan is right on target in identifying which political party has proven itself immune to compromise, but beyond that, I’m inclined, for what very little it’s worth, to agree with the former Congressman’s suggestions about how to go about correcting the current gridlock. I won’t be holding my breath, waiting for his suggestions to be put into practice, but taking the formation of Congressional districts out of the hands of the political parties, and requiring that coordination between candidates and their funding sources be make plain to the public both seem to me worthy reforms of the current oligarchy.

  6. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/08/2016 - 08:25 pm.

    Compromise – what a wonderful thing! Was Obamacare a compromise? Sure, between Obama and Democrats since not a single Republican voted for that. On the other hand, Ryan’s budget is definitely a Republican’s compromise. What else? Here are a few suggestions for a compromise and let’s see how many Democrats will subscribe to that:

    1. Immigration reform: allow illegal immigrants to legally stay but ban them forever from getting citizenship and ban parents of babies born here to ever be allowed to stay.
    2. Guns: ban assault rifles but allow concealed handguns everywhere.
    3. Support both renewable energy and oil exploration.
    4. Have an affirmative action based on income not race.
    5. Help students go to college but only based on merit while also encouraging kids to go to vocational schools.

    Compromise anyone?

    • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 04/09/2016 - 08:17 am.

      The moral core of the Republican Party has been decimated

      Politicians on both sides of the aisle have illegal immigration on their hands. It is the Republican drum beat of the illegal immigrants that is phony. Mexico isn’t sending their murderers and rapists here. Sure some of them commit a crime but so does every other demographic in this country. For years politicians have turned a blind eye to America’s immigration problem because it benefitted their district. The Bush administration response to illegal immigration was always “THEY CAN COME BECAUSE THEY WILL DO THE JOBS NO ONE ELSE WILL DO”. This migration served to benefit the mega agricultural companies in places like California and Arizona, among others. Families came here, did the work, and had children, now American citizens. Pressure is being put on the politicians, who have looked the other way for decades, to do something about all the illegal immigrants here. If we actually had a real border policy and enforced it we wouldn’t have this problem. Here we are with families made up of Mexican, Central American, South American, and American citizens. You can’t morally send the Hispanic family members home and leave the American citizens here, which would break up the families, Remember is caused by the inaction of politicians. Now the politicians finger point like they didn’t have any part in this, when THEY CREATED IT, now fix it. It is time to hold the politicians accountable. It is time for the political claptrap to end and make meaningful changes to our immigration system. Guess what other presidents, beside President Obama, have legally used the executive powers of the presidency to shield immigrants from deportation, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. Dang they are Republicans. The hypocrisy of the GOP is showing. It doesn’t make any sense to continually penalize those who were allowed to come here and work for us. The Republican drum beat is totally phony. It is just an attempt to limit anyone who might not vote Republican. Trump has pretty well taken care of Republicans getting any Hispanic votes. The moral core of the Republican Party has been decimated.

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 04/12/2016 - 06:57 am.

        and North Dakota, even.

        Yes, even in the fields of the frozen North, for many decades.

        I do believe you might re-consider conflating the Trump bleat with the “Republican drum beat”, however, as many to the right of center (particularly the RNC) seem to be ganging up against Trump these days, perhaps too late. Most observers now also seem to agree that Trump has pretty much destroyed the Republican Party, not necessarily its philosophical “moral core” members, who appear to be backing Cruz these days.

        The RNC has foolishly allowed a guy who really should have “(I)” after his name to run as “R”. A closer look at Trump supporters appears to reveal many angry guys who have voted Dem for decades, as well as many others who have just not voted for decades.

        DTs [disillusion tremens] seem to be clearing out the attics, garages, and storage sheds of social antagonism in Trump’s media campaign of generic targeting rather than brand name marketing.

        We probably should also consider that Trump has been running for convention nomination so far, not for the Presidency, itself. Who knows what his rhetoric might be should he be free of Cruz and Kasich come summer. I’m betting he would go into November on a platform of “Unity,” turning more “D” men into “DT” men. Who can really know?

        I’m thinking a Trump vote now is a “sucker’s bet.” If that’s the case, very many people may never-ever vote again.

        • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 04/12/2016 - 12:54 pm.

          The Republican Drum Beat

          The anti Hispanic Republican drum beat has been going on longer than Trump. Trump has just amplified the GOP’s war on Hispanics. Back when the Republican Party was a balanced party some of the nonsense would get tamped down by the moderates in the party. Moderates don’t exist in the party any more, at least not a large enough population to be effective. Back when Bush was president he coined the statement I highlighted above because he was being pressured to do something about illegal immigration. Based on his statement he knew the Hispanics are beneficial for the country’s agra, meat packing, hotel, etc, businesses. Just as you and I all they want is a better life, they saw the opportunity the politicians were giving them and took it. They came and did and are doing what is asked of them. Now that number has grown to about 11 million people. The majority of them are law abiding. We can’t, morally, just discard them. These are very real human lives the politicians are messing with.

          I agree Trump is more an Independent, but at the same time the Republican Party is leaderless, thus Trump is running as a Republican and destroying the party in the process.

          Trump will pivot to try to be the unifier at some point, but when we’ve have seen what I think is his real personality, the loose cannon, it will be hard to ever believe him. People won’t soon forget the out of bounds statements he makes believing that is all make believe. For me what we are seeing is Trump having “his fun” at anybody’s expense that gets in his way. He doesn’t have any presidential qualities that I would want the country to put up with for at least 4 years. We still don’t have any idea how he’ll back up his bluster.

    • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 04/09/2016 - 11:26 pm.

      Guns, Oil, and Education

      I like your ban on assault rifles which don’t any place in a civilized society. Go to Chicago and see the results where nearly everyone has a gun in some neighborhoods. The results are stunning. Nothing but huge amounts of people being shot, wounded, or killed there everyday. Along with gun ownership comes responsibility and not everyone is capable of responsibility. The NRA’s cool aid won’t do anyone any good. The NRA/GOP fear mongering is totally misguided and lacks common sense.

      I happen to believe scientists know a whole lot more about what is causing climate change than I do. There isn’t any need for more oil exploration. Oil combustion is thought to be part of the source of climate change. We have to make some changes and see what happens. If things improve great, if there isn’t any change the oil will still be where it is today if we need it. We can stick out head in the sand, claim not all scientist agree, and do nothing. If that approach fails the results will not be good for the only place we have to live, earth.

      I have always thought the idea that everyone needs a college degree was a stupid idea. Not everyone learns that way. Now after twenty or more years of trying that theory we are running out of the trade skills. It doesn’t matter how or where students learn, but we must help students get the education they need to succeed. Classrooms today are not as homogeneous as they were back in the 50s and before. This makes teaching much more difficult thus more time is needed to get the students to the level they need to be at to succeed, Just maybe if we would get the politicians out of our school classroom curriculum, fund the schools properly, and let the people who are trained to teach do their job students will do better. We can’t expect to do the same thing year after year and hope to get different results.

  7. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 04/08/2016 - 09:23 pm.

    Frost’s suggestions

    I completely agree that these should be immediately be enacted into law. I also agree with the preceding comments that there’s really only one side refusing to “compromise.”

    I get the idea about compromise and politics. Its being practical. From another perspective, maybe the refusal or inability to compromise means something else. If the US has become a plutocracy, as I believe it has, compromise has resulted in agreement among two factions of the plutocratic parties on the ways and means to gather and consolidate all of the wealth in this country into fewer hands. Many of the compromises that have been worked out over the last few decades have undermined the financial security of the majority while entrenching and consolidating the power of concentrated financial wealth. e.g.extension of Bush tax cuts, repeal of Glass-Steagall, NAFTA, GATT and TPP to name a few.

  8. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/09/2016 - 07:32 am.

    Sure, between Obama and

    Sure, between Obama and Democrats since not a single Republican voted for that.

    The compromises that resulted in Obamacare were made with Republican interest groups, not Republicans in Congress. That’s why Obamacare looks very much like a Republican program. We should not fool ourselves into thinking either the Democratic or Republican Congressional parties represent a very large or very significant element of either the Democratic or Republican Party. We see this most clearly in the presidential nomination process. The leading Republican presidential candidate, actually the two leading candidates, have very little support from members of their party in Congress. On the Democratic side, while the leading candidate has more support from members of her party in Congress, that support is almost a liability with Democratic voters.

    Congressional Republicans, at the beginning of the of Obama administration made a deal with themselves, at which I firmly believe the devil was present. That is, that the goal of the party in Congress would be to deny Obama any legislative victory. With a few exceptions in the early years, they have been successful in that. But one of the things lost in that kind of deal is the argument that Obama initiatives are being defeated on their merits, when in fact they are being defeated, not because they are good or bad but simply because President Obama is proposing them. The most vivid demonstration of this is being saved for last, where Republicans are not just opposed to Judge Garland’s nomination but are actively engaged in denying him a hearing, the only congressional forum in which his merits, whatever they might be, are considered.

  9. Submitted by Jim Million on 04/09/2016 - 02:02 pm.

    Polar Fleecing?

    I know it’s a very long trip for many; still, many should occasionally visit Equatorial America .

  10. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 04/12/2016 - 07:04 am.

    Race

    Frost would have a stronger argument if he discussed how racial gerrymandering is mandated by the Voting Rights Act. In most of the Deep South, districts are required by law to include minority-majority districts. With a large amount of the African-American population gerrymandered into a safe district, the prospects for a white Democrat are slim indeed.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/12/2016 - 09:37 am.

      The Supreme Court

      gutted the Voting Rights Act three years ago.
      See
      https://www.aclu.org/issues/voting-rights/voting-rights-act

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/12/2016 - 10:04 am.

      Not Exactly

      “Frost would have a stronger argument if he discussed how racial gerrymandering is mandated by the Voting Rights Act.” Nope. Minority-majority districts may be ordered as a part of a remedy when past redistricting has been racially discriminatory. Such districts are permissible only in certain circumstances, but that is not the same as being “required by law.”

      • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 04/12/2016 - 06:33 pm.

        Permitted/Required

        RB, are they required in the south? Have they been for some time now?

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/13/2016 - 10:00 am.

          Maybe, Maybe Not

          Just to clarify: The Voting Rights Act actually applies to any US jurisdiction that discriminates against voters based on race. All or part of eight states not part of the former confederacy (which I presume is what you mean by “the south”) were subject to the preclearance requirements that were gutted by the (indefensible and overreaching) Shelby County decision,. based on a pattern of past discrimination. Only about 1/3 of the majority-minority congressional districts are in the former confederacy, and geographic analysis of all majority-minority districts show that they are that way because of geographic distribution, not gerrymandering.

          So back to your original questions: “[A]re they required in the south?” The Voting Rights Act does not require them, but does not prohibit them as a remedy for past discrimination. Yes, they have been ordered as a remedy in parts of the south. Whether that constitutes “mandated,” as used in the sentence “Frost would have a stronger argument if he discussed how racial gerrymandering is mandated by the Voting Rights Act,” is a matter of semantics. There is nothing in the text of the Act that “mandates” majority-minority districts, but the courts have held that they are permitted in some circumstances. Whether those circumstances are present in “most of the Deep South” is something not addressed by the Act.

          “Have they been for some time now?” The Supreme Court held that majority-minority districts may be permissible in 1986, in the case of Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 US 30. That case also set out the conditions that would permit creation of a majority-minority district.

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