Virginia Republicans back away from ‘three-fifths’ plan for black voters

First the good news: A Senate committee in the Virginia legislature shot down SB 723 — a proposal that would have moved away from one-person, one-vote to a gerrymandered system designed to give suburban and rural voters greater weight in decided state-wide elections.

The bad news, of course, is that Virginia Republicans seriously introduced and considered a proposal to move away from one-person, one-vote in favor of a system that would have discounted votes cast by “urban” voters (wink, wink).

That such a thing was even being considered is, as Josh Marshall says, “A big, big deal“:

Another way of looking at this is that the new system makes the votes of whites count for much more than non-whites — which is a helpful thing if you’re overwhelmingly dependent on white votes in a country that is increasingly non-white.

This all sounds pretty crazy. But it gets even crazier when you see the actual numbers. Here’s a very illustrative example. They’re already pushing a bill to do this in the Virginia legislature. Remember, Barack Obama won Virginia and got 13 electoral votes. But as Benjy Sarlin reported today in a series of posts, if the plan now being worked on would have been in place last November, Mitt Romney would have lost the state but still got 9 electoral votes to Obama’s 4. Think of that, two-thirds of the electoral votes for losing the state. If the Virginia plan had been in place across the country, as Republicans are now planning to do, Mitt Romney would have been elected president even though he lost by more than 5 million votes.

Remember, plans to do this are already underway in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other states in the Midwest.

Ohio and Michigan Republicans have decided maybe it’s better not to be seen as the party actively seeking to disenfranchise black voters. The plan to do this here in Pennsylvania seems like it’s probably not going anywhere either.

For a sense of just how appalling and explicit this effort was in Virginia, you have to do the arithmetic, as Paul Bibeau did:

This plan counts the votes of Obama supporters, or Democrats, or “urban people” — Have I used the right code words here? Do we know who we’re talking about? — less than other Virginians.

But you need to do the actual math. … Last election, Barack Obama won 51.16% of the vote. Under the new bill he would have won four of the states 13 electoral votes.

And do you know how much it counts an Obama voter as? (It’s 4/13 divided by 51.16%. I’ll wait. Do it. Get a calculator. …)

It is almost exactly three-fifths.

This bill counts an Obama voter as 3/5 of a person. I don’t know if that fraction rings a bell with you. It was kind of a big deal, way back when. Women in fancy dresses, guys in gray — a lot of gray was in style. Is the light coming on now?

Charlie Pierce did the math too:

There is no point in mincing words. What the Virginia legislature is entertaining now in regards to its election laws is flatly fcking racist.  That it is in response to changing demographics that make Virginia a tough get for the Republicans in presidential elections now doesn’t matter. That it is what we have come to expect from Republican-majority state legislatures around the country now doesn’t matter. That it’s naked opportunism doesn’t matter.  That it may not pass doesn’t matter. This is a legislature acting to devalue African American voters to the advantage of white voters. This is Jim Crow bullshit, and no politician who deals in it, and no political party that continues to support said politician, is worthy of support by decent people in the year 20-goddamn-13.

Jamelle Bouie also sees the Jim Crow parallel:

In addition to disenfranchising voters in dense areas, this would end the principle of “one person, one vote.” If Ohio operated under this scheme, for example, Obama would have received just 22 percent of the electoral votes, despite winning 52 percent of the popular vote in the state.

… This constitutes a massive disenfranchisement of African American and other nonwhite voters, who tend to cluster near urban areas. When you couple this with the move on Monday to redraw the state’s electoral maps — eliminating one state senate district and packing black voters into another, diluting their strength — it’s as if Virginia Republicans are responding to Obama’s repeat victory in the state by building an electoral facsimile of Jim Crow.

And Ta-Nehisi Coates says this is all too familiar for anyone who knows American history:

Efforts to disenfranchise black people, have always been most successful when they worked indirectly. After the initial post-war Black Codes were repealed, white supremacists turned to less obvious modes of discrimination — poll taxes, grandfather clauses, and literacy tests.

These were cloaked under a colorblind argument — “We don’t discriminate against black people, we discriminate against people who can’t read the Constitution.” By “read the Constitution,” they meant “recite the Bill of Rights by heart.” And they’d ask you to do this after reducing your school funding to a pittance. I say this to point [out] that this is not a “new” racism. This is how [the] scheme went before the civil-rights movement, and this is how the scheme works today.

To see the only other major political party in the country effectively giving up on convincing voters, and instead embarking on a strategy of disenfranchisement is bad sign for American democracy. There is nothing gleeful in this.

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  • Invisible Neutrino

    One has to wonder if this is history repeating itself as farce.

  • Carstonio

    Good historical perspectives. Here is another one:

    conservative white Southerners…think they are the real Americans —
    that is, old-stock British-Americans — and the adherents of the true religion, evangelical Protestantism. In this perspective, the rest of the country was taken over by invading hordes of Germans, Irish and other European tribes in the first half of the 19th century…it is difficult, if not impossible, for many white Southerners to
    disentangle regional culture (Southern) from race (white) and ethnicity (British Protestant). The historical memory of white Southerners is not of ethnic coexistence and melting-pot pluralism but of ethnic homogeneity and racial privilege. Small wonder that going from the status of local Herrenvolk to local minority in only a generation or two is causing much of the white South to freak out.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Nothing to do about it but get angry and raise hell.

  • aunursa

    Several conservative pundits have agreed that this is a terrible idea…

    HotAir: Rigging the election for beginners
    Michael Barone: Virginia Republicans’ dumb idea

  • Kubricks_Rube

    I hope you mean the idea is “terrible” as in immoral and undemocratic, and not, as per your links, “terrible” as in short-sighted (Barone) or “terrible” as in bad optics (HotAir).

  • aunursa

    I think it’s a terrible idea because the Republicans are trying to manipulate the election via a method that they would never support if they expected the result to harm their chances.

     And I think it’s a terrible idea because there should be a single national standard for the presidential election.  If it continues to be based on the electoral college, then each state should have the same standard for determining how it apportions its electoral votes.  Each state should give all its votes to the state’s popular vote winner.  Or each state should apportion its votes by electoral district.  Or each state should have the same type of hybrid combination.  I oppose the way Maine and Nebraska currently apportion their votes, because they differ from the other forty-eight states.

  • Lliira

    Or each state should apportion its votes by electoral district.

    Michigan Republicans wanted to do this in the last election, but couldn’t ram it through. If they had done it, Romney would have won Michigan’s electoral votes, even though he lost the popular vote by 75,000 votes. That’s what gerrymandering has done to Michigan, all in favor of Republicans. Doing this would certainly favor whoever cheated best. And lest Republicans forget: in the early 20th century, that was Democrats. Depending on cheating is working for them quite well these days, but it WILL bite them in the rear soon enough.

  • C. (sandhilldiary)

    It’s hardly Maine and Nebraska’s faults that the rest of the states are doing it wrong.  We’re setting as good an example as we can, you know.

  • aunursa

    I could support either (a) Maine and Nebraska changing their systems to align with the other 48 … or (b) the other 48 changing their systems to align with Maine and Nebraska.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Maine and Alaska, at least, are apportioning by raw popular vote percentages. Going by electoral district favors whichever party most recently jerrymandered those districts and still can (will) lead to the popular loser gaining more electoral votes.

  • SisterCoyote

     I’m glad that you disagree with it for those two reasons. But, and I am honestly not trying to be aggressive here – does it not also bother you that it’s blatantly racist? That the Republicans – at least, these Republicans – seem to have decided that they’d rather keep minorities’ votes from counting than actually try to reach out to them?

  • aunursa

    does it not also bother you that it’s blatantly racist?

    It’s not blatantly racist — it’s blatantly partisan.  Presumably the Republicans would seek the same plan regardless of the racial makeup of the various districts.  Their motive is not minimizing the votes of certain races per se, but minimizing the votes of Democrats.

  • SisterCoyote

     Not sure I agree with you there. It may be splitting hairs, but I think they’re trying to minimize minority and urban votes, because those populations tend to vote Democrat.

  • Carstonio

    The outcome and the context are far more important than the intentions. The old literacy tests for voting were aimed at disenfranchising blacks, but there may have been people who favored these from a belief that voters should be able to understand the ballot. If so, they probably failed to recognize that the real problem was illiteracy, and failed to recognize the context.

  • aunursa

    In 2000 the Gore campaign sought to disenfranchise Florida voters serving in the U.S. military.  Since then Republicans have regularly alleged that Democrats seek policies that make it difficult for ballots from military voters to be counted, or that they oppose measures that would correct such problems with military ballots being disqualified, often through no fault of the soldiers.  Play with me and assume for the sake of argument that the Republicans’ allegation has merit.  Given that 75% of soldiers are white, are the Democrats acting out of racist intentions or partisan intentions?  Would the outcome — disenfranching military votes that should count — be racist or partisan?

  • CharityBrighton

    You raise a valid point about the abuse of process to rig elections, but I think you kind of missed the point of the original law. 75% of US soldiers may be white, but 75% of white people are not in the military. It’s still wrong, but it doesn’t reduce the influence of white voters to the same degree

    On the flip side, approximately 70% of black and Hispanic people live in urban areas. 

    To create an equivalence between the two (in terms of disparate impact) you would have to have a situation where a Democratic campaign passed a law that diluted the political influence of exurban/suburban areas, which contain about 4/5ths of the white population. In a situation like that, it would be clearly racist because targeting an area that contains almost all of a racial group is functionally the same as targeting that racial group. Targeting the military isn’t quite the same thing; it’s partisan and sleazy but it doesn’t shatter the political power of white people as a whole.

  • Carstonio


    Targeting the military isn’t quite the same thing; it’s partisan and
    sleazy but it doesn’t shatter the political power of white people as a


  • LL


  • Carstonio

    Your insistence in treating every argument as evidence of anti-Republican bias is tiresome. My point wasn’t about any particular party or its history, but about the distinction between intentions and outcomes. The specific tactic in Virginia was grouping black voters into fewer districts, so it’s very fair to characterize the outcome as racism. Racism is not about prejudice or intentions. It’s a systemic concept that results in preferential treatment based on skin color. The Virginia tactic was still racist even if the folks behind it honestly believed that it would increase the power of the black vote or Democratic vote.

    Your comparison of military voters isn’t valid, not because of the party involved, because there hasn’t been a history of pervasive societal discrimination against service members. (The stories of returning Vietnam vets being spat upon were isolated cases, and in almost every case the spitting was done by older veterans and not by anti-war protesters.) And to my knowledge, there hasn’t been a history of either party grouping military voters into fewer districts. Context matters.

  • aunursa

    Your response (except for the first sentence) and that of
    CharityBrighton, are well taken. 
    Nevertheless, I disagree with your statement that racism is not about
    prejudice or intentions.  Racism is about
    prejudice and intention.  Broadly
    accepted definitions of racism include racial discrimination based on
    .  A policy that
    disproportionately affects a certain race may be terrible policy, but it is
    racist only if the intent is based on harming a race.  If the folks behind the Virginia bill believe
    it would increase the power of the black vote, it would not be racist, although
    the effect (decreasing the power of the black vote or Democratic vote) would
    harm the black vote and would be bad policy.

    I’ll try one more analogy to a subject with which I’m quite
    familiar: infant male circumcision.  Laws
    banning circumcision in ancient Greece, ancient Rome, Nazi Germany, and Soviet
    Russia were anti-Semitic.  Although the
    laws were applied to everyone, they were anti-Semitic because the purpose of
    the law was to harm Judaism by prohibiting Jews from observing one of their
    most fundamental commandments.  By
    contrast, modern attempts to ban circumcision, for the most part, are not
    anti Semitic.  The purpose of
    circumcision opponents is presumably to protect the interests of the
    child.  Like their historical
    counterparts, current attempts to ban circumcision would apply to everyone (or
    at least to every minor child, not just Jewish children.)  And the effect of such bans would be particularly
    harmful to adherents of Judaism.  But the
    bans themselves are not anti-Semitic, because the motives of
    most circumcision opponents are not based on animosity to Jews or a desire to single
    out the Jewish religion for harm.*  In a
    similar manner, I would maintain that not every policy that disproportionately
    affects a certain race or races – is racist.

    In terms of Virginia elections, the gerrymandered districts
    themselves may be racist if they are based on separating voters by race.

    * It has been my experience that many (not all) circumcision
    opponents are hostile to religion in general, not just Judaism.

  • John Kennel

     I think the problem you’re getting into here is disparate treatment vs. disparate impact. That’s commonly used in employment law but the dichotomy is useful here.

    The proposed law had an effect that would, if the other post’s calculations were correct, disenfranchise almost 3/4ths of the black population.

    That’s what makes it discriminatory. It’s not a subjective standard for the very reason that you describe in your post — it’s almost impossible to know what is really in a human’s mind, and if you had to prove that someone personally hated blacks in order to deem their actions discriminatory then frankly most of the major civil rights cases that Americans are familiar with today would have never been won.

    (After all, by that logic even Jim Crow could not be considered racially discriminatory, as long as you were careful not to say that you wanted it to hurt a specific racial group and were only doing it to protect society as a whole. You want to zero in on intent but intent alone is insufficient — either morally (in my view) or legally.)

  • Carstonio


    it’s almost impossible to know what is really in a human’s mind, and if
    you had to prove that someone personally hated blacks in order to deem
    their actions discriminatory then frankly most of the major civil rights
    cases that Americans are familiar with today would have never been won.

    Exactly. We’re not mind-readers, and often individuals don’t fully understand their own motives for why they do things. The principle in employment law is a good one to use.

  • Carstonio

    The problem with intention is that it diverts focus on the outcome, wrongly making the issue about the person causing the outcome. It’s like someone standing on another’s foot and pleading that zie doesn’t mean to stand there, instead of just moving hir foot. That makes the issue about hir and not about the harm to the other person. No one can truly know another person’s intentions – although educated guesses are possible, we should make assumptions either way.

    What’s racist about the Virginia bill is the disparate impact. The Virginia bill’s sponsors don’t bear the burden of proving that their intention isn’t racist, but they do bear the burden of proving that a measure with this type of disparate impact serves the interests of the citizenry as a whole.

    That principle would apply very easily to a proposed ban on infant circumcision, something I won’t take a position on here. If the vast majority of circumcisions involved Jews and were done for religious reasons and not medical ones, then the burden would be on ban proponents to show why the public interest outweighs the disparate impact. (BTW, most US circumcisions are of non-Jews and are done for medical reasons.) If there were no public interest involved, then such a ban would be anti-Semitic in effect.

  • aunursa

    I think we’re quibbling over terminology.

    We agree that the Virginia bill is bad policy.  We agree that it would result in disparate impact.  While I am not an expert on disparate impact, a “number of websites (dealing with employment law, not election law) indicate that it is unintentional, contrasted with disparate treatment, which is intentional treatment based on race or other protected category.  It appears that intent may be an element in determining a disparate treatment case but not in a disparate impact case.

    The bottom line is that whether or not the intent of the Virginia bill is racist or merely political, the outcome significantly affects the value of each vote based on race and political affiliation.  That makes it unfair and bad policy.

  • Carstonio

    No, the dispute isn’t over terminology. Your posts in this thread suggest that your goal is absolving Republicans of the charge of being racists. While I don’t make that charge myself, I also won’t defend the Virginia group against the charge. They dug their own graves. The only reason to bring up their intent is if one wants to prove that they hate or don’t hate people of other skin colors, and either way that’s unprovable.

  • aunursa

    I do think the dispute is over terminology, specifically the term “racist.”  I understand the term to imply intentional discriminate based on race and because of race.  You seem to define the term to include any policy based on the disparate effect.

    Based on your apparent understanding of the term “racist,” the Virginia bill is racist.  Based on my understanding, it is not.

    I am personally ignorant of Virginia Republicans regarding whether or not they are racist.  Maybe they are racist, maybe not.  Support for this bill does not in-and-of-itself demonstrate racism as it is usually defined or understood.

    That’s all I have to say on this matter.

  • Carstonio


    You seem to define the term to include any policy based on the disparate effect.

    No, the definition I’m using is any system that benefits or penalizes based on skin color. The policy here would create or perpetuate such a system.

    Support for this bill does not in-and-of-itself demonstrate racism as it is usually defined or understood.

    Their support for the bill is despicable no matter what the motives.

  • EllieMurasaki

    If only intentional discrimination by race counts, racism has damn near been eradicated in the US.

    Pro tip: racism has not been anywhere near eradicated in the US. It’s just that most folks who are racist (which is pretty much everybody) are not consciously racist.

  • The_L1985

     Frankly, I consider the disparate impact to throw the intentions behind the bill into question.

  • EllieMurasaki

    To be entirely fair, a bill banning sleeping under bridges may simply have the intent of not having debris under the bridges. If there’s some reason to believe the bill’s writers and backers know such a bill would affect rich and poor differently, then yes, their intentions are called into question. If they don’t know, and they might genuinely not know, they need to be educated on the effects their proposed law would have, and it’s their reaction to finding that out that tells us their intentions.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I think in today’s environment of increasing social micromanagement in ways that inconvenience people with little access to financial resources, I would suggest that any  legislation with the effect of banning the markers of the presence of human beings (random debris) has the secondary effect of banning the very poor from that area.

    It’s like laws that ban people from being in city parks after dark. There is no earthly good reason for that except to deprive the homeless of a place to sleep.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The law in its majestic equality, and such.

  • AnonymousSam

    Result is more important than intent, but I like to know if results come about because the one pursuing them is stupid or a hateful jerkass. If it’s the latter, I know better than to give them the benefit of the doubt in the future.

  • Carstonio

    A good analogy may be the people who claim not to hate gays but still insist on preserving the “traditional” definition of marriage. They don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt because they still endorse discrimination.

  • LL

    I don’t suppose Republicans see it as a sad irony that the only reason they’re in a position to suggest straight-up racist schemes to ensure a “win” for a Republican in the next presidential election is because the very voters they seek to disenfranchise handily disenfranchise themselves in all the other elections by not bothering to vote, so that the votes of the racist white rural and suburban voters essentially carry more weight than they otherwise would. 

    If blacks and Latinos and younger people voted in municipal and off-year elections in the same numbers as they do in the presidential elections, there’d be no Republican “majorities” in many of the currently “Republican” states and a lot of this shit would stop. I’d personally like it to stop sooner rather than later. The old racists aren’t dying off fast enough for my liking. 

  • banancat

     Yeah, that idea is full of goodfeels and empowerment, but the reality is that voting is difficult for everyone, but especially for the people who tend to vote Democratic.  There are so many reasons why voter turnout is low in off-year elections, and especially low for liberals, and all the encouraging rants on the internet won’t fix those underlying issues.  And that’s not even considering the problem that there are often no good candidates to begin with because a (D) behind a name doesn’t guarantee a progressive.

  • LL

    No, voting isn’t difficult for everyone. Some states (like Texas) make it quite easy. We have early voting, meaning you can vote any number of days (including weekend days) before the actual election day. In all elections. 

    In Texas, there really isn’t much of an excuse. I realize not every state has early voting and in some areas it isn’t particularly easy, but that’s not true everywhere. 

  • aunursa

    The Republican governor and two Republican senators on the relevant committee opposed the plan.

  • histrogeek

    I hate the electoral college and wish it would be relegated to the dustbin of history and replaced with a purely popular vote. That said until the entire system is eliminated, this is some transparently hardcore bullshit.  

  • Kaylakaze

    It seems like you’re late to the dance. This was phase 2 of the Redmap plan. Phase 1 was the theft of the House in this past election.

    But this isn’t much different than the electoral college, except on a more local scale.

  • other lori

    Michigan is thinking of implementing a similar plan. I am not pleased. It’s bad enough as it is, that a state that is pretty solidly blue has an ultraconservative legislature because of gerrymandering.

  • AnonymousSam

    I’m not sure Michigan is really blue. I thought it was for a long time too, but I think it’s more that there’s a lot of libertarians there who’d rather the government just go away and are happy to vote Republican if the Republicans promise to make the government do that. The irony is lost upon them, which is why we now have another Right to Work state.

  • Tim Lehnerer

    A professor of mine at EMU called Michigan the reddest blue state he’d ever seen. I would tend to agree.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    British Columbia is kind of like that. The NDP here is somewhat right-wing by Ontario or Quebec standards, in that past NDP governments have favored increasing user fees in about equal proportion to contribution to government revenue as they have increasing income taxes on wealthier people. The 1990s NDP also took a rather law and order stance in response to disruptions in Clayoquot Sound and Gustafsen Lake.

    The main reason for that is while we’re heavily unionized (even by Canadian standards) the jobs for such unions are either concentrated in the public sector and so in larger cities, or in the resource sector, which are not in the cities.

    So you get a person who votes NDP provincially and Conservative federally and doesn’t really care about the supposed dichotomy. :P

  • Charity Brighton

    HotAir makes some strong points, but it does kind of bother me that they kind of wave off the whole “cheating” argument in favor of pointing out that it makes Republicans look bad:

    Is that really how you want to win for one or two cycles? Isn’t it better to make a solid case for conservative values and win on the merits?

    If a few GOP state officials passed a law that made it illegal to register as a Democrat (or vice-versa, to be fair) , it would be better to condemn that as an unwarranted assault on the 1st Amendment rather than merely pointing out that it looks bad from a campaigning standpoint to actually pass laws specifically designed to impair the ability of likely opponents to vote.

    (the other linked article is even worse; they don’t even bother addressing the ethics of the proposal at all, instead focusing on the mere fact that VA is a swing state and the proposal could harm Republicans in the future. Because, you know, it wouldn’t be a big deal if they could set it up so that it only hurt Dems, right?) 

    I did like that line from HotAir about making a solid case on the merits. That’s something that’s kind of missing from our politics; yes, I already know that the other side is scary and dangerous, but I want to hear about your ideas too. Politicians shy away from giving concrete policy details as a matter of principle, because they don’t want to make commitments and find out that it’s going to be politically impossible to keep them (“I’m going to close Guantanamo!” being a famous recent example). 

  • Lliira

    The only way Republicans can win is to cheat. We’ve allowed them to get away with blatant gerrymandering for decades, so of course they think they could get away with this.

  • P J Evans

     I’d like to see the RICO act used on them. They so deserve it.

  • stardreamer42

    Just like the only way Creationists can come up with “scientific evidence” is to flat-out make shit up. Is anyone really surprised by the similarity?

  • walden

    While this move is dead (for now), the shenanigans are far from over. 
    In particular, the stealth redistricting of the Virginia Senate by a 20(R)-19(D) vote on Martin Luther King Day/Inauguration Day, and which would give the Rs a 6-seat advantage, was done while a 79-year old black Virginia State Senator was attending the inauguration in DC, and was introduced, sent to the floor and passed with only 30 minutes for debate. The House of Delegates and Governor (both Rs) have not said what they’ll do with it.  But it’s a gerrymander to be sure, and done by stealth.
    “Whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are honest — think on these things?”

  • AnonymousSam

    Didn’t they close that meeting with an invocation of the memory of Stonewall Jackson, too?

  • walden

     re: “Stonewall Jackson”

    Yes they did — but, being Virginia, that was bipartisan.

  • Carstonio

    I interpreted that as simply a petty exercise at immaturity, like they felt they were getting one over on the blacks.

  • Charity Brighton

    If blacks and Latinos and younger people voted in municipal and off-year elections in the same numbers as they do in the presidential elections, there’d be no Republican “majorities” in many of the currently “Republican” states and a lot of this shit would stop. I’d personally like it to stop sooner rather than later. The old racists aren’t dying off fast enough for my liking. 

    I think, rather what would happen is that, if the voter turnout rate for all elections were high (at least, as high as it is during most Presidential elections), political parties would be pulled to the middle as a general rule. Part of the reason why there is so much extremism is because — apart from the Presidential election — most other races are decided by a tiny fraction of the electorate. Michele Bachmann probably couldn’t be elected President even if only Republicans voted in every state, but she can certainly appeal to 50.1% of the 48% (at the most) of voters who participate in most Congressional elections. That’s a tiny sliver of the population, less than a 1/10th of the population of her district. If more people voted, she still might be elected but she couldn’t go around accused random people she passes in DC of being Islamic terrorists. You might be able to find a few hundred thousand people who are into that sort of thing, but not 500,000 people. 

  • MikeJ

     Please point to these extremist Democrats in congress. There are two parties in the US. A moderate right wing party and an extremist right wing party.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Zell Mill– oh, wait. he ended up becoming a Republican. :P

  • Enopoletus Harding

     Racist? Probably not. Anti-democratic? Yes. Partisan? Definitely.

  • stardreamer42

    Racist, hell yeah. The dog-whistles in the language are deafening, and they all say “black voters”. The fact that as a side effect it also targets n****r-lovers liberal whites, who also tend to congregate in urban areas, is lagniappe.

  • Enopoletus Harding

     Your interpretation of the evidence seems plausible.

  • PatBannon

    I’m going to borrow this phrasing, if you don’t mind, but I’m going to use it as furious invective. Much funnier that way.


  • The_L1985

     You just reminded me of a Sonic Universe comic.

    “You’re just trying to cut me out of the action so you can hog all the glory!!”
    “Wait, what just happened?  Did he win the argument?”

  • Madhabmatics

     Man if you don’t think “urban” is a code-word for something, you should go read freep for about an hour

    or go through the archives of this website where the republican politician wanted to keep urban people from voting, and then literally told people “and by Urban I mean black.”

  • The_L1985

     It still feels weird that anyone was that brazen about it.  It feels like Captain Hammer’s “the hammer is my penis” line.

  • Robyrt

    Assigning votes by district is not inherently bad – Maine and Nebraska do it without real complaint. The real problem is the partisan gerrymandering that creates a bad list of districts.

  • Antigone10

    What, exactly, do Republicans have against cities?  I’m not talking from the political perspective- ie that they are perceived to be full of Democrats and the better than even odds that racism plays a factor, but what is their stated reason for not liking cities?

    Our culture is defined by the cities.  The majority of our population lives in cities, and the majority of our money is made in cities.  How did it become “not real America”?

    While I’m on this random question train- why are rural areas consistently more conservative and cities consistently more liberal?  I’ve heard answers like “because when you’re in cities, you have to deal with people not like you and it makes you realize they aren’t that scary” but that doesn’t seem like it’s the whole picture.  

  • LL

    Your problem is you’re thinking it should make sense. It doesn’t. But the Republican party gets votes when the white people who support it are scared of the “urban” black and Latino and gay hordes taking over, taxing all their hard-earned money away and making everybody get gay married. Or making everybody get abortions. Or something. Like I said, it makes very little sense. 

  • Aeryl

    IMO, when you live in a city, you see every day how government can work for you, because cities are not possible without governance of some sort.   Road repairs, sewage systems, utilities, local law enforcement, parks, public transport. 

    Rural areas are more divorced from that reality, because they have fewer needs to be served, they don’t see as much active governance. 

    Since the entire premise of the modern Republican party is that government can not and will not work for the average citizen, this disconnect plays a lot into that. 

  • Lliira

    Rural areas are more divorced from that reality, because they have fewer needs to be served

    That’s just not true. Rural areas have road, sewage, utilities, local law enforcement, parks, and many even have public transport. Further, if the roads are cut off, most people in rural areas are in far deeper trouble than people in cities are in a similar situation. You cannot walk to the grocery store in rural areas. 

  • P J Evans

    Fewer, not none. In rural areas, you may not have an actual sewage system. Most of the roads may be graded dirt, rather than paved. Law enforcement is – somewhere else, not close by; the firefighters are probably volunteers, and won’t be able to do more than watch the fire burn. Parks? Public transportation? Not hardly.

  • Aeryl

    Most rural areas here in my state are served by state troopers, not local cops. 

    The point I am making is not that they aren’t served by government, it’s just not in your face.  When I lived in a small town for two years, I saw road repair crews ONCE.  Living in the city, I see them every day.  I think this causes a disconnect. 

  • The_L1985

    True, but they don’t see where their taxes go as easily as urban people.  A lot of the time, it takes longer for the potholes in a rural road to be fixed than in an urban road.

    That, and fewer cars on the roads means that they need maintenance less often.  On AL-84 from Enterprise to Elba is a 30-minute drive along a 2-lane road.  During those 30 minutes, you might see 2 other cars.  I know because I used to live there, and still visit family in that neck of the woods at least once a year.  Even compared to Dothan (the biggest town in the area, pop. ~65,000), it’s like night and day.

    On top of that, small towns like that (Elba’s population is 3,000 and falling, Enterprise’s is around 10-15,000) don’t generally have need of a sewer system as badly as cities do.  Instead, each lot has a privately-owned septic tank.  Yes, really.  I remember being taught never to flush anything but toilet paper because the septic tank couldn’t handle it.  When I went through puberty in a Birmingham suburb, my mother saw that I’d been throwing feminine products in the trash, asked me why, then had to inform me that the house we’d moved to was in a more populous area and thus was connected to the city sewer, so it was safe to flush them.

    Parks?  Try “vacant lots” and “privately-owned woods.”  Parks are a city thing, y’all.  In rural areas, there’s plenty of forest and fields to go around, so you already see all the green one needs to stay psychologically healthy.

    Basically, in rural AL, the only 2 of those things you still have that are in need of constant maintenance through taxes are law enforcement and utilities.  I’m sure there are a lot of other rural areas that are very similar (probably most of them are also in the Southeast or the Midwest, surprise, surprise).

  • Charity Brighton

    That’s not really true though. Rural areas actually tend to receive pretty high levels of support.  The federal government has poured billions into the economic development of rural America, ranging from rural electrification in the 30s to broadband access in the past decade. The feds set aside funds to encourage development specifically in rural areas, including housing development and business investment; these programs are often extremely generous, such as USDA-guaranteed home loans with subsidized interest rates. 

    And when it comes to welfare programs, rural areas receive a disproportionate amount of government support; according to the NYT, rural areas contain about 16% of the population but contain 21% of food stamp recipients. 

    Rural areas are just as needy as urban areas, and they receive comparable amounts of assistance in most areas and disproportionate levels of assistance from the government in a few. They might be less willing to acknowledge massive federal spending on their behalf as government spending though, but that doesn’t mean they don’t reap its rewards the same as everyone else. 

  • P J Evans

     I suspect that a lot of that spending is Social Security, disability, Medicare, Medicaid, maybe food stamps.

  • Aeryl

     I know that, what I am saying is that they don’t SEE it.  I live in a city, and I see things like road crews, sewage repair ALL the time.  In less populated areas, those things are there, but they aren’t in your face. 

  • The_L1985

     Yes, but those forms of government maintenance are less obvious and less visible than in urban areas.*  Rural folks also like to imagine that urban folks are just as much of a drain on government money as they are, and that said poor urbanites aren’t nearly as responsible with said money.

    Cities are constantly portrayed as “too worldly” and as “dens of iniquity” in the sorts of churches that you tend to see in, say, the rural South.  This helps to deaden curiosity about cities, and combined with low rural incomes means that few rural folks ever have or take the opportunity to broaden their horizons by travel even to the next county.

    * See also my response to Lliira’s comment.

  • Turcano

    As MaryKaye has pointed out, anti-urban prejudice has been a part of society since time immemorial.  Regarding the creation of Kirkwood, MO, Brad Hicks (as usual) put it bluntly:

    See, here’s what James Kirkwood knew: “decent, proper” people all over the world, and in all times, hate big cities. It shows up in sermons from Hesiod’s Works and Days to the New England “divines,” in folk tales from Scotland to Baghdad, in songs from Homeric odes to World War I era pop music, in dramatic fiction from Aristophanes to film noir. “Everybody knows” that decent, honest, pious, honorable people live on farms. “Everybody knows” that nobody lives in big cities, at least not intentionally, except for corrupt politicians and other thieves, perverted “artists” and other prostitutes, greedy “priests” and other beggars. “Everybody knows” that decent, honest, pious, honorable folk treat the big city as a necessary and dangerous evil, a place to leave for in the morning, do whatever business you have to do, but make absolutely sure that you’re safe at home on the farm in the country before nightfall, before the worst of the corruption can infect you.

  • Carstonio

    The Southern variant on anti-urban prejudice also involves resentment masquerading as populism. It was a theme in country music before the migration of Southern blacks to urban centers, and long before Toby Keith and Gretchen Wilson. An entire culture afraid that other cultures will consider themselves superior.

  • The_L1985

    “I’ve heard answers like “because when you’re in cities, you have to
    deal with people not like you and it makes you realize they aren’t that
    scary” but that doesn’t seem like it’s the whole picture.”

    I can tell y0u from my own personal experience that it probably is.  When you grow up in a rural area, more often than not, the only people you really see around you are just like you.  Same socioeconomic status, same religious views, same everything.  And that small-town, everybody-knows-everybody feel is The Way Things Have Always Been, so clearly changing it would be bad, simply because you’ve never experienced anything wrong with The Way Things Have Always Been.

    And you hear about different kinds of people outside your little cultural bubble, and they sound so strange, that you just know they can’t be as happy and fulfilled as people in your town, so therefore they must be Wrong.  They’re the Them vs. your Us, the ones who are trying to Change Things, and that makes them scary.

    It is possible to go one’s entire life without ever having this view challenged, either, because poverty is common in rural areas, so most people will never be able to afford to leave long enough to be exposed to anything different.

  • Charity Brighton

     Please point to these extremist Democrats in congress. There are two parties in the US. A moderate right wing party and an extremist right wing party.

    Did I mention extremist Democrats? 

  • Veylon

    I think this needs to be said to be said every time the 3/5ths thing comes up. It was the Northerners who wanted blacks to not count. The Southerners wanted every black to count as a whole person.

    Well, for the purposes of distributing electoral votes, anyway. The idea of any of them actually getting to vote was absurd. Northerners argued that slave states shouldn’t get to use them for political weight if they weren’t enfranchised and Southerners wanted political weight. The 3/5ths was a compromise between the two.

  • Charity Brighton

    If you’re getting that technical, the “3/5ths” ratio meant that only 3/5ths of the total black population would be counted, not that the founders literally valued 1 black person as being worth “3/5ths” of 1 white person. Not that there wasn’t enough racism to go around during those debates though…

  • The_L1985

     Yes, but it was also a case of the South wanting slavery to count in their favor as a status symbol.  The South wanted black slaves–who couldn’t vote, because they weren’t free citizens–to count toward their populations for representative purposes, but not as citizens.  The South wanted to use their slave population to game the system, and the North wisely realized that wasn’t fair.

  • MaryKaye

    There have been marked sociological differences between urban and rural people since before there was a US.  The pressure of social conformity is different in a city environment where there are more strangers.  Urban people also tend to be more mobile (no crops to abandon).  Until recently they died of diseases in droves (most large pre-modern cities needed immigration to balance their death rates) which must have affected family size and age distribution.  There are generally more educational opportunities, which has a lot of side effects.  I’m sure a sociologist could fill in a lot more.

    Why this leads to the liberal/conservative split in the modern US, that I couldn’t tell you.  It’s worth considering that conservatives might self-select for rural areas or liberals for urban ones (I know I did) as well as area affecting political views directly.

    One factor is that universities tend to be blue, and tend to be in cities:   you see tiny blue islands where they are in small towns.  (I am at a university in a big blue city, and it’s on beyond blue; the Socialist candidate for state legislature did very well here.)  Another is ethnic distribution:  in most parts of the US minorities are disproportionately in cities.  But I doubt either is the whole story.

  • The_L1985

     If you read my responses to Lliira and Charity in re: urban vs. rural areas, you can see where a lot of it comes from.  I’ve lived in rural areas, and I’ve lived in urban and suburban areas.  The differences in culture alone, even within the same state, are striking.

  • Keulan

    There’s probably some racism involved in attempts by Republicans to disenfranchise urban voters compared to rural voters, but that’s not all of it. I’d say many of these Republicans are aware of the fact that cities tend to be more liberal while rural areas tend to be more conservative. They’re trying to disenfranchies not just urban blacks, but all urban-dwelling liberals.

  • Matthias

    Well Fred they haven’t abandoned their three-fifths plan. It is still in force and prevents the Democrats from gaining seats in the house leading to the current deadlock. All that happened was to not extend it to presidential elections as well.

  • Mr. Heartland

    The race Or partisanship question is I think a false one.   Overt Son-of-Ham style racist mythologies have become taboo across the board, but theatrically dogmatic strains of political conservatism and Christian religion have replaced overt claims to Whiteness as justifications for why people who just so happen to be White are the natural ruling class of the United States.  

    Right-Wing media has  done its job in this realm as well.  Forty years of narrative about how liberal views are alien, illegitimate, and inspired by secret evil motives has certainly done it’s work in allowing the Virginia GOP to feel justified in doing this.  (along with a view that large urban centers are for criminal riff-raff who aren’t good enough to own land, an attitude that goes all the way back across the water to early modern England, where it had more to do with classism than US style racism. Not that there’s a strict either-or dichotomy there either. )

  • Julian Elson

    I feel compelled to point out that if the Virginia plan counts Obama voters at 3/5th the weight of Romney voters (because 51.16% of voters get 30.77% of electoral votes), the current winner-takes-all system of statewide EV allocation counts Romney voters (or whoever gets anything less than a plurality) as 0/5ths the weight of Obama voters (or whoever gets a plurality) by the same standard (because 48.84% of voters get 0% of electoral votes). I’m not going to claim there’s some motive here more noble than trying make the electoral college more Republican friendly, and I think that a winner-takes-all norm applied to all states, imperfect as it is, is better than state legislatures implementing local rules designed to tweak the electoral college to the preferences of local legislatures (I might make an exception for the movement among state legislatures to award their electoral votes to the national popular vote winner, so long as all states following that rule combined make up a majority of the electoral college).

  • EllieMurasaki

    Your math…doesn’t math.

  • Julian Elson

    Woah. You’re right. Consider my previous post retracted.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    lacked postmarks or witness signatures.

    Gosh, you mean doing basic things like vetting voter cards is OMGDISENFRANCHISING THE MILITARY!?!?!?!?1111oneone

    Come the fuck ON.

    …… You’re reaching, aunursa.

  • aunursa

    You’re reaching, aunursa

    One example…

    In early November, Russell was in the midst of a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean aboard the USS Tarawa…
    Knowing that the mail was slow and undependable, he took pains to mail his ballot early enough so that it would reach Florida by Election Day… “I don’t care how quickly you throw it in the mailbox. It can take up to 30 days to get back to the States. So as soon as I got my absentee ballot, I got it witnessed [and] dated, and threw it back in the mailbox.”
    His ballot arrived at the Duval County elections office Nov. 6, the day before the election… Russell, who is proud of the fact that he had voted in every election since he was old enough to cast a ballot, was infuriated to learn from his wife on Nov. 18 that his ballot had been thrown out by Gore’s lawyers on the grounds that because it lacked a postmark he could have sent it after the election – despite the fact that it had arrived the day before the election.

    There’s much more in the book Down and Dirty.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    What I love is how the military is THE go to cudgel the Republican use to bash Democrats over anything and everything even if what the Dems do is actually within the law and within common sense.

    Since when did wrapping oneself in the flag and being willing to send young people off to war without being in any danger oneself become some kind of badge of honor to be waved around like it was a magic amulet?

  • AnonymousSam

    In semi-related news: Ugh, Ted Nugent, I didn’t like you in the first place.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Nugent Says Obama Has A “Racist Agenda” After Week Of Mainstream Press Praise

    The sheer un-selfconscious chutzpah this displays beggars belief.