At the New Republic, Jason Zengerle explains that the tea party wave has wiped out the gains that African Americans had made in effective representation — that is, having black legislators in a position to form coalitions and accomplish positive acts of governance.

Because of increasingly racially polarized voting patterns in the South, party has become a stand-in for race. As University of California at Irvine law professor Rick Hasen recently wrote in the Harvard Law Review, “The realignment of the parties in the South following the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s has created a reality in which today most African American voters are Democrats and most white conservative voters are Republicans.” That means that, as Democrats have lost ground in statehouses in Alabama and elsewhere across the South, so have African Americans. According to research by David Bositis, in 1994, 99.5 percent of black state legislators in the South served in the majority. By 2010, the percentage had fallen to 50.5. Today, it’s a mere 4.8 percent.

Much of this disempowerment — which Zengerle compares to the post-Reconstruction period after the Civil War — is the result of Republican gerrymandering. But it is also evidence that, upon the election of an African American president, the Democratic Party became defined in the South as the party of blacks. It’s very difficult for conservative apologists to dress this up as anything other than what it is: naked racial politics aimed at restoring white supremacy.

  • cynthia curran

    This is true, the south which about 20 years ago lost blacks are gaining them now in states like Georgia and Texas. The Texas Republicans talk about whites moving from California but US census shows only a 50,000 gain of whites which means Texas lost some whites to other states because they should have gain about 100,000 to 130,000. Texas gain at least 213,0000 Hispanics mainly births but international immigration. Texas gain 70,000 blacks in a state where they make up only 12 percent of the population about 20,000 more than whites. So, naturally the southerners that don’t like blacks and the Texas whites that don’t like Mexicans will not relocate to Utah or Nebraska but insisted on socking it to the minorities.

    • That’s actually a nice, tight lesson in American political geography. Well done!