Competitive Districts Produce Better Politicians

Demographic change in Harlem has turned a historically black congressional district into one where black politicians have to actually compete for votes. As The New York Times reports, some members of the city’s black political establishment are unhappy about this:

[W]hoever wins this year, some black civic leaders worry that a black candidate would not be a lock to win the seat whenever Mr. Rangel leaves office.

"It certainly jeopardizes the future of this great tradition,” Mr. Paterson said, “not only for the greater Harlem community, but for all of the many around the country who look to that venue for leadership on key issues.”

As someone who would prefer to see more African Americans in elected seats outside of the House of Representatives, I can’t say that I see this as a bad thing. Yes, when it comes to running for statewide office, there are still the disadvantages associated with representing a small, liberal district. But black politicians who have to compete for votes in diverse areas are black politicians with the political skills to compete outside of predominantly African American areas. And while competition isn’t great for the political establishment, it could—in the end—do more to further black interests and black representation than the super safe alternative.