Diffusion of Political Power and the Voting Rights Act

By Pildes, Richard H. | Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

Diffusion of Political Power and the Voting Rights Act


Pildes, Richard H., Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy


I. THE TENSION

As we enter the first redistricting of the new century, the explosive mix of race and politics continues to fuel two fundamentally opposed positions. Redistricters and reviewing courts will have to contend not only with the manner in which the federal statutory and constitutional frameworks express both these polar positions, but also with a constitutionally required via media between these poles that the current Court has sought to map out.(1)

The first pole might be labeled equal opportunity for "full and fair representation." Put briefly, this position holds that majoritarian institutions suffer the potential defect of enabling a dominant and unified majority to use its power over the design of democratic institutions in such a way as to effectively exclude political minorities from meaningful political participation, even when the formal right to vote is respected. When that kind of majoritarian domination occurs in a sustained and systematic way over multiple election cycles--and when institutions designed in such a way then produce outcomes that result in differential provision of public goods and services to political minorities (for example, in the rural South fewer roads being paved in the black side of town)--it seems difficult to resist the conclusion that Madison's nightmare of "majority factionalism" has become a reality.(2) Healthy democratic systems, and morally justified ones, afford structural devices that destabilize systematic majoritarian domination in order to enhance the opportunity for representation of potentially exploitable and excludable groups.

The Voting Rights Act(3) is the central device for this purpose in the United States. Starting from the Act, advocates of "full and fair representation" often assert (given the history and, where it exists, continuing presence of racially-polarized voting,(4) as well as the reality of majoritarian-dominated city councils, county commissions, legislatures, and other elective bodies) that most means of drawing election districts that enhance minority representation ought to be permitted. This includes intentionally drawing black-majority election districts; for many advocates, it also includes districts of whatever shape or design, including highly "bizarre"(5) ones, if such districts are necessary to ensure full and fair representation.(6) From this viewpoint, the problem with the Supreme Court's racial gerrymandering decisions is that they stand as obstacles to the "full and fair representation" ideal.

The other pole in this conflict could be labeled the ideal of "democratic citizenship." Put briefly, proponents of this view assert that, whatever the merits of affirmative-action type policies in other remedial contexts, there is something distinctly and profoundly troubling about using race to design the fundamental democratic institutions of the State. On this view, a practice of self-consciously creating black, Hispanic, or Asian-majority districts, or white-majority districts, expresses a view of political identity inconsistent with democratic ideals. In addition to what such a practice represents about the nature of citizenship, it might have the consequentialist effect of encouraging citizens and representatives increasingly to come to experience and define their political identities and interests in partial terms.(7)

The more extreme democratic institutional structures in use in other countries, but not yet widely proposed here, might readily be thought to have such expressive and consequential effects. Belgium's consociational democracy, for example, constitutionally requires concurrent majorities of legislators from both the Dutch-speaking majority and the French-speaking minority to approve any legislation affecting the "cultural and educational interests" of each group.(8) If the United States moved toward similar consociational forms, in which concurrent majorities of both black and white legislators were required on certain issues, is it implausible to imagine that the racialization of politics would be enhanced, while the sense of common democratic citizenship would be diminished? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Diffusion of Political Power and the Voting Rights Act
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.