WaPo`s Krissah Thompson Gets Redistricting Wrong—But Who (Apart From VDARE.com) Gets It Right?
January 02, 2011, 04:00 AM
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Have you noticed how the topic of immigration turns Main Stream Media journalists' brains to mush?

Traditionally, reporters like to think of themselves as sharp-witted wise guys straight out of a Frank Capra movie. Yet, the more that Diversity becomes the big story in America, the more insipid becomes the thinking. Simplistic sentiment crowds out intelligence.

Just you watch as the results from the 2010 Census are unveiled!

Journalists think about population politics with all the subtlety with which my kids thought about professional wrestling when they were eight: Hispanic politicians are the good guys and white conservatives are the bad guys. That's all anybody needs to know.

For example, consider the orgy of gerrymandering that's about to commence now that the Census Bureau has announced which states will gain and which will lose House seats in the decennial reapportionment. (Texas is the big winner, getting four additional Representatives.)

Gerrymandering is so inherently sleazy that if you were going to think about it at all, you would expect to automatically approach the players in the game with a cynical attitude. Right?

And, indeed, the topic of redistricting has sometimes inspired contemporary journalists, those Diet Coke-sipping Establishmentarians, to write like the Menckenesque rye-swilling hellraisers of yore. For instance, the 30-year long House career of Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), the outgoing chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee, will be in serious jeopardy in 2012 in part because the MSM treated his desperate attempts to gerrymander himself out of facing a serious Latino challenger with the cynicism it deserves.

Berman is a smart guy. In 1975, he was my state assemblyman, so when I attended the American Legion's Boys' State in Sacramento, I was taken with some other local high school hotshots to meet him. I sprang upon him a clever question about some obscure political issue of the day, one that I had used all year in high school debate without anyone being able to think of an answer. Berman glared at me for about a second, as if to say, "So, you think you're pretty bright, huh?" Then he delivered a response that logically and empirically flattened my position.

Berman is not, however, Hispanic. So he's had to use all those brains to reshape his 28th Congressional district in the now-highly Mexican eastern San Fernando Valley in order to survive. Even worse for Berman, in contrast to all the minority-majority districts that are gerrymandered together under the 1982 Voting Rights Act to elect minorities to the House, the eastern San Fernando Valley actually has a large population of Mexican-American citizens who can vote. They don't find Berman's favorite issues (protecting Hollywood's copyrights and Israel) of much appeal. As a result, he has had to elect his own district.

During redistricting a decade ago, Rep. Berman put his brother Michael in charge of gerrymandering all of California. As Hillel Aron of the LA Weekly noted last fall

"[Michael] Berman not only stacked his brother's district with Democrats, he also made sure that 100,000 Latino voters were moved next door, in order to reduce the threat of a primary challenge to his brother by any promising Latino Democrat." [Merlin Froyd Is The Poor Guy Taking On Gerrymandering Congressman Howard Berman In The Fixed California 28th District Election,  November 1, 2010]

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) sued, but the Berman brothers' map survived the legal challenge. And Howard won five more elections.

LA Weekly's Aron observed that in the Congressman's custom-designed seat gluing together Pacoima and the Hollywood Hills

"… Howard Berman could basically shoot a hobo on live television and still get re-elected."

(Now, that's the attitude that journalists should have toward gerrymanderers!)

Now, however, at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's request, California voters have passed initiatives turning redistricting over to a citizens' panel. And in any less contrived future district, Berman would be in real danger of losing to a Latino Democrat in the 2012 primary. 

In an attempt to save Berman, Haim Saban, the Mighty Morphin' Power Ranger mogul who is one of the biggest political donors in America and Israel, financed Proposition 27 last year to bring gerrymandering back to California. Prop 27 would have given the 2011 redistricting job back to the Democrat-dominated state legislature.

Why did Saban go to the trouble? Mark Lacter explained in Forbes that Berman was

"chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a staunch supporter of Israel, the only thing that Saban really cares about."

But what little press coverage Proposition 27 received was appropriately cynical. So this Berman-Saban ploy failed at the polls.

On the other hand, if the gerrymanderers are Hispanic activists, well, then, for reporters it's a simple story of Good Guys versus Bad Guys.

For example, here's Krissah Thompson in the Washington Post:

"Earlier this month, a group of civil rights lawyers gathered at a hotel in San Antonio to discuss their primary focus for the next year: the mundane but crucial issue of political redistricting. Anticipating a big uptick in the number of Hispanics in the United States … they set a goal of eking out every bit of political clout they could for the nation's fastest-growing minority group. "[With census growth, Hispanic groups target redistricting to up political clout, December 22, 2010]

This may sound like a classic smoke-filled room to you. But these are, the Post wants you to remember, "civil rights lawyers". So no skepticism allowed!

Staff writer Thompson's Washington Post article was such a product of modern Who? Whom? thinking about diversity that she gets the story 180 degrees backward:

"Many of the states that stand to gain seats in Congress and electoral votes in presidential elections are growing because of Hispanics. …In those same states, Republicans made significant political gains in the 2010 election and will control much of the redistricting process. It's likely that they won't be inclined to carve districts that favor Hispanics, who are a key part of the Democratic base. "

In fact, history suggests that self-interested Republican politicians are all too likely to carve out districts that favor Hispanic and black politicians at the expense of white Democrats. That's exactly what Republicans did after the Censuses of 1990 and 2000. They piled as many minority Democrats into as few districts as possible. For example, after the 1990 Census, future GOP Speaker of the House Denny Hastert helped draw up the absurdly-shaped Earmuff District in Chicago that racial demagogue Rep. Luis Gutierrez has occupied ever since.

House districts gerrymandered to elect minority Congressmen like Gutierrez are the Special Olympics of politics. Despite (or perhaps because of) the number of column inches that the MSM gives Gutierrez to rant about how "I have only one loyalty and that's to the immigrant community", he'll never win statewide office in 65%-white, 76% native-born Illinois.

 Thompson admits:

"Hispanic advocacy groups, which have faced what they see as crushing political losses in recent years, are eager to make inroads. Efforts to lobby Congress to overhaul immigration law, which has been a primary focus of Latino civil rights leaders, have failed repeatedly."

Hmmhmmh—why don't these Hispanic leaders trumpeted in the MSM seem to have as many followers as their business cards suggest? In particular, why isn't Luis Gutierrez, the self-anointed Martin Luther King of Mexican illegal immigrants, terribly effectual at promoting anything beyond his own media image?

It never seems to get emphasized in all those fawning profiles: Gutierrez isn't Mexican—he's Puerto Rican.

The simple reality: the losers from Republican-controlled gerrymandering tend to be white Democrats—just as Democratic-controlled redistricting tends to be used by old white Democratic politicians to protect old white Democratic politicians like Howard Berman.

Now, you might assume that a political reporter for the Washington Post (and her editor) would understand the basics of racial gerrymandering. But it requires so much less mental energy to just think in terms of the standard template: Minority Good, White Evil.

In the Post's Alternative Universe, the Voting Rights Act of 1982 works to thwart Republican plans to drive all minorities out of Congress. Thompson credulously explains:

"In addition to following local redistricting laws, many states that are adding seats will also have to abide by the Voting Rights Act, which requires states with a history of racial discrimination to draw their districts in a way that does not put minority populations at a disadvantage."

Actually, the 1982 Voting Rights Act encourages even further the creation of "minority majority" districts in which Democrats enjoy such a supermajority that blacks and Hispanics are likely to win. That justifies Republicans drawing weird-looking districts overstuffed with minority Democrats, while concocting as many districts as possible where Republicans enjoy modest edges.

(When did Illinois ever discriminate against Hispanics, by the way? But that's another story).

Thompson blunders on:

"In Texas, for example, Republicans will probably be able to create two districts that will lean heavily Republican."

But why would they? Why wouldn't Texas Republicans try to gerrymander all the districts so that most lean moderately Republican, while some lean heavily Democratic enough to elect black and Hispanic Representatives?

That's how Republicans have exploited the Voting Rights Act going back to the 1990 Census. Why would 2010 be any different?

Thompson continues:

"But the state will probably be forced by the Voting Rights Act to create two majority-Hispanic districts, too. Those will probably lean Democratic, evening out whatever advantage Republicans may have been able to create."

This widespread woozy-thinking on the part of Democrats provoked Nate Silver, a rare political pundit who is highly numerate, to point out on his 538 blog on the New York Times:

"The key is in thinking about not just what happens with the four new districts, but also how this affects Texas' 32 existing ones. … This stuff is pretty basic, really, but I'm surprised how often analyses of redistricting suffer from this logical flaw."

Before moving into crunching election numbers, Silver got his start analyzing baseball statistics, a field that burns up far more IQ points than contemporary social and political analysis.

Over all, redistricting is all pretty inside baseball. It matters a lot to the careers of politicians, and it corrupts democracy. But the big story that the Census data will underline once again is the distinction that I've been explaining for a decade:

But don't expect Washington Post reporters to grasp this bafflingly complex idea for at least another ten years.

[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog. His new book, AMERICA'S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA'S "STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE", is available here.]