Carol Swain

Recent Articles

1995: Blacks and the Republican Party

In “The Future of Black Representation” in Fall 1995, Carol Swain warned that racial redistricting was helping Republicans. She's still warning Democrats. Can the Republican Party successfully attract a growing percentage of the black vote? Barring new embarrassing blunders, such as the Trent Lott fiasco of a few years ago, the answer is an unequivocal “yes.” Republicans could easily garner as much as 15 percent to 20 percent of the black vote in national elections, and, in the not-too-distant future, could even return to the much higher pre-Goldwater levels of the 1950s and '60s. Republican candidates are already doing well among blacks in some states. And the Republican Party, of course, has much to gain and little to lose from vigorously pursuing a greater share of the black vote. Democrats sense this, and some, at least, are scared. The black vote may even be more attractive to the Republican Party than the Hispanic vote because Hispanics are less likely to be citizens and less...

Race and Representation

In our new multiracial society, minorities need strategically effective coalitions.

Are the interests of African American and Latino voters necessarily advanced by maximizing the number of blacks and Hispanics who serve in legislative bodies? Recent experience with districting, and the dynamics of coalition politics, suggest that the answer is "not necessarily." The form of democratic representation can dramatically influence who participates, how votes count, and who exercises power. In much of the South, paradoxically, the "packing" of African American voters into "majority-minority" districts has increased the number of black elected officials but reduced the number of their political allies, leaving African American substantive interests less effectively represented overall. Meanwhile, the rapid growth of Latino and other minority populations has only complicated the question of how districting, representation, and coalition politics translates into effective political influence. From Atlanta to Boston and many cities nationwide, a debate over race and...

The Future of Black Representation

Good riddance to racial gerrymandering. The Supreme Court's ruling against race as the predominant factor in districting is good news for blacks and Democrats.

T he Supreme Court has "eviscerated" the Voting Rights Act, a New York Times editorial declared on June 30, the day after the Court ruled five to four that it is unconstitutional to use the race of voters as the "predominant" factor in drawing the lines of congressional districts. A dejected Cynthia McKinney, whose Georgia district was the focus of the Court's scrutiny, warned that the decision in Miller v. Johnson might lead to the "ultimate bleaching of the U.S. Congress." Some melodramatic critics even likened the Miller decision to Dred Scott , the 1857 Court ruling that blacks were not citizens of the U.S. and "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." If the critics of Miller are right, the future of black political representation in Congress is grim, and blacks ought to mobilize to salvage what they can of racial districting. But another interpretation suggests a different response. The Court's decision may not diminish black influence in congressional elections...