Even as the Senate Judiciary Committee last week voted 13-5 to send the Gang of 8 immigration bill to the floor and hopes were high for Senate passage of the bill with up to 70 votes supporting it, danger looms in the House of Representative for the immigration bill. Susan Davis and Alan Gomez published an excellent story today in USA Today about one potential pitfall in the House for the immigration bill. Their article focuses on the effects of partisan gerrymandering, or the redrawing of electoral districts that happens every ten years following a census. Both parties jockey to redraw districts in strange shapes to maximize their ability to elect one of their own to the House or Senate.
Davis and Gomez find that "Hispanics cluster in few congressional districts" and that Republican districts have been drawn and redrawn to be more white, more conservative and less ideologically diverse. They write:
According to the non-partisan Cook Political Report, House Republicans today represent 6.6 million fewer minorities than in 2002 — the last time the lines were redrawn. The average GOP district is now 75% white, up 2 percentage points after the 2012 reconfiguration, while the average Democratic district is 51% white, down one percentage point since 2002.
"What's amazing is Republicans were able to actually make their districts ... whiter in the 2012 round of redistricting even though minorities were responsible for most of the growth of the U.S. population in the past 10 years," said David Wasserman, an election analyst for the Cook Report.
The redrawing of the districts is not only producing racial and ideological segregation, but it has the fully intended practical effect of making many districts less competitive than before because they are so homogeneous. It also has the unintended effect of increasing the likelihood of primary challenges in more conservative districts by Tea Partyers to any sitting House member who might even think about voting for legislation the President or Democrats support.
The implications of these hardwired aspects of the politic system are not promising-- not just for immigration reform, but for any major legislation from badly needed fixes to the health care act and even routine budget deals that are needed to keep the government running. More homogeneous and "safe" districts for the GOP means that these officials need not concern themselves with trends in national politics; they need only to appease the folks at home. In other words, even as the national GOP is mounting a full court push to woo Hispanics after Romney's loss, the House Members really don't think that effort matters to them.