Joshua Sellers’ new article “Race, Reckoning, Reform, and the Limits of the Law of Democracy” is a timely reminder to all of us that the consequences of redistricting are not just about the health of our democracy. Partisan gerrymanders impact the lives of ordinary people by defining the policies that will (or more often won’t) be adopted. And those consequences are likely to be worse for Black communities–at least, that has been true these last two cycles.
On the flip side, the Article reminds us that Black political participation and electoral success should not be “the sine qua non of Black political progress.” They are not ends in themselves. The real measure of the VRA’s successes are the returns of Black political participation–wealth, health, and welfare. And lately, those returns are low even when the Democratic Party is in office. Sellers rightly criticizes the democracy reform community for overemphasizing legal rights “with little to no consideration of how those rights translate into substantive gains.”
For the curious, Sellers uses Wisconsin to illustrate the disparate impact of the state’s partisan gerrymander on the state’s Black residents. Republican control for the past decade meant the rejection of the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid and a defunding of public education, for a start.