Is the GOP a Better Party for Minority Candidates?

And if so, is gerrymandering to blame?

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As the Wire noted on Wednesday, Josh Kraushaar has a provocative column in National Journal this week, where he argues that minority candidates in the Republican Party have a better chance of achieving statewide and even national power than their counterparts in the Democratic Party. The main reason for this, Kraushaar says, is that Democratic minority candidates often can't compete in the broader races: they're usually further to the left than average, and can only carry a majority-minority electorate. This keeps them in the House, representing districts. GOP minority candidates, meanwhile, have broader appeal and can advance to the higher-ballot contests. "These are far from trivial facts," writes Kraushaar. "This means Democrats lack a bench of minority candidates who can run for statewide office, no less national office."

Is it true that Democrats have, as Kraushaar suggests, a diversity crisis to worry about? Kraushaar quotes Representative Artur Davis, an outgoing black congressman from Alabama, who says of black voters, "If they care about their children being able to aspire to being senator or governor, then they're going to have to recognize that candidates that run only as leaders of the black community... those candidates can't win -- and they will be completely non-competitive out of predominantly black districts."

  • Gerrymandering Is the Problem  For Kraushaar, the roots of the issue lie with "the process of gerrymandering majority-minority seats ... The consequence of these contortions comes at great expense to Democrats and civil rights leaders alike. The increase in minority representation comes at the cost of electing more moderate minorities best-positioned to win statewide. And by concentrating so many Democrats in one single district, it also protects neighboring Republicans."

  • But Racism Is Also the Problem, counters Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect. "Minorities are concentrated in states which tend to be conservative, as well as the fact that whites -- as a whole -- aren't too hot about the Democratic Party (in part because of its association with minorities). Put another way, it's not that the Democratic Party has a problem with diversity, it's that colorblindness is a myth, and the United States still has a problem with racial prejudice." Bouie also notes the difficulty of managing expectations: "Republicans can field minority statewide candidates in moderate to conservative areas -- and win -- because whites won't doubt the candidate's loyalties; i.e. a black Republican will vote like a white Republican 99 percent of the time. By contrast, and in the South especially, black Democrats -- and indeed, white Democrats -- have to fight the perception that they will work for the sole benefit of minorities."

  • Racism Is Definitely Not the Problem, writes James Taranto at The Wall Street Journal. In Taranto's estimation, "the Democrats will be able to prosper only if they can maintain the polarization of the minority vote while arresting that of the white vote ... As we've argued before, perpetuating the polarization of minority voters requires keeping alive the idea that America is a racist country and the GOP is a racist party. Barack Obama's election belies the first claim, and the rise of minority Republican officeholders belies the latter--even though the former was accomplished with few Republican votes and the latter with comparatively few minority ones. It's possible that Democrats won't be able to take the black vote for granted forever."

Note: this post originally stated that Representative Artur Davis is a congressman from Georgia. He is from Alabama. Thanks to reader JackBurden for pointing out the error.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.