But Democrats have not been entirely to blame for this nonsense. The GOP, especially at the national level, has been quite content to see such districts drawn up, so long as these safe minority seats also meant that surrounding districts were whiter -- and therefore, presumably, more Republican. However, what Republicans may not have counted on in supporting racial gerrymandering is that as members of minority groups move up the economic ladder, they are more likely to vote Republican.
The 47th District shouldn't be a Hispanic or a Vietnamese seat. This election should not be fought on the basis of which ethnic group is entitled to representation in the halls of Congress -- and to his credit, Tran is not running as an ethnic candidate but as a conservative. Ironically, Sanchez has managed to hold onto her seat for 14 years because she eschewed easy categorization as knee-jerk liberal and ethnic politician.
There's probably a good reason why she chose to make her racial pandering remarks on Spanish-language television. No doubt, she was hoping only certain voters would hear them. But in the age of YouTube and ubiquitous blogs, her remarks have quickly reached a wider audience than she intended. And they could cost her the election in this year's tight race, even if the mainstream media give her comments a pass.
The only way to stop racial and ethnic appeals of this sort, however, is to remove the incentive by eliminating racial gerrymandering. Maybe the next time the Voting Rights Act comes up for extension, Republican members of Congress will be more amenable to eliminating guarantees of safe seats on the basis of skin color.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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