When Did the Melting Stop?
By Patrick F. Cannon
The final 2020 Census numbers are out. Nationally – and it’s no surprise – Hispanics had a significant increase to 18.7 percent of the total population. But so did Asians, at 5.6. Blacks held steady at 14.1, while Whites decreased to below 60 percent of the population (57.8). Interestingly, 10 percent of Americans describe themselves as multi-racial. You’ll be interested to know that you have 331,449,280 fellow Americans. That was a 7.4 percent increase in the total population since the 2010 Census, one of the smallest increases in recent history.
The real reason for the Census – and where it gets interesting – is to enable politicians at every level to carve up the electorate into districts that favor them. For example, Illinois lost 18,124 souls (one of only three states to lose population, the others being poor West Virginia and perhaps even poorer Mississippi). Not so much, you say? Well, in fact, it will mean that the state will lose one seat in the Federal House of Representatives.
Since the reapportionment process in Illinois is controlled by the Democratic Party, you can be certain that the lost seat will be Republican, making the split 15 Democrats to 4 Republicans. In contrast, Chicago’s population actually increased by about 50,000, to 2,746,388. It appears that someone was actually moving into all those new apartment buildings in the central city. But the good news is certain to cause a battle royal in reapportioning the city’s 50 wards.
The current makeup of the Council is 20 African-American, 18 White and 12 Hispanic. There are currently no Asian-Americans. Based on the new Census, true parity would suggest a breakdown in the future of 16 Whites, 15 Latinos, 14 African-Americans and 4 Asians. Perhaps the last seat could go to someone of mixed race? Do you see a battle developing between blacks and Hispanics in these numbers? You can count on it. And it won’t be done in a spirit of good will.
There is, of course, no law that says African-Americans should be able to vote only for those of that race. But that, in fact, is what happens when reapportionment takes place. By now, all of us should know what Gerrymandering means. In my case, it means that I end up in the 7th Congressional District, represented by Danny Davis. Davis is African-American. I’ve met him, and he’s an amiable former history teacher, who is getting a bit long in the tooth. To insure his election, his district extends from the lakefront through the West Side to Oak Park and Maywood; then from China Town in a very narrow corridor to Englewood. This shape results in a majority black district.
The concept that members of a race or ethnic group must be represented only by a person of that group is now firmly embedded in most states. The Constitution is mute on this point, leaving apportionment to the states. While it has had to rule on many local battles, the Supreme Court has mostly avoided taking any position, even in the most egregious cases.
This has resulted in the Balkanization of the American electorate. Instead of one American people – the famous “melting pot” – we have at least three competing groups: Whites, Blacks and Hispanics. There is also a growing Asian population, which no doubt will increasingly demand to be heard. Oh, and don’t forget that all of this can be further divided by sex, whatever that now means.
We hear a great deal about “disenfranchisement.” This seems to mean that if you’re a black man, you really don’t have a vote if you can only vote for a white man (or woman). Before the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, that was often the case. No longer. For example, Chicago has a black mayor; and New York will have one later in the year. Neither would have been elected with only black votes, so it appears that white and Hispanic voters are willing to vote for a black candidate if they feel he or she is the best qualified. As you may recall, Barack Obama was elected president twice, despite blacks only comprising 14 percent of the electorate.
The number of representatives in Congress is based purely on the population of each state relative to the country’s total population. States and localities should have districts and wards based simply on population, and be contiguous. Race and ethnicity should not be a factor. Only citizenship. The party in power would hate such a system, which is precisely why it’s so badly needed. The real disenfranchisement takes place when a political party can carve up the map to insure it retains power. Even if I wanted to vote for a Republican, I couldn’t in many cases.
As a result, ,the general quality of our politicians is only fair to poor. Under the current system, don’t look for any improvement. And there seems to be no way out.
Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon