Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Nashville Hot Potato

With Tennessee Republicans splitting his Nashville-area congressional district into three, long-time Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper is retiring from the House after more than three decades of serving the people.
Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee announced Tuesday that he will not run for reelection, becoming the latest House Democrat to head for the exits as the party faces an uphill battle to retain control of the chamber in the 2022 midterms. 
"Today I am announcing that I will not run for re-election to Congress. After 32 years in office, I will be leaving Congress next year," Cooper tweeted.  
"I cannot thank the people of Nashville enough. You backed me more than almost anyone in Tennessee history," he said. 
The Tennessee Democrat is a member of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition and serves on the House Committee on Armed Services as well as the committees on Oversight and Reform and Budget. 
Cooper represents the state's Fifth Congressional District, which covers the city of Nashville as well as other counties and outlying areas. 
CNN reported in July that Republicans were considering breaking up Cooper's district, which could help them gain another crucial seat in the House. 
In an interview at the time, Cooper acknowledged that Republicans could effectively decide his political fate and warned that they may weaken Nashville's influence in Washington. 
"They couldn't beat me fairly," Cooper told CNN. "So, now they're trying to beat me by gerrymandering." 
In a longer statement released on Tuesday, Cooper said, "Despite my strength at the polls, I could not stop the General Assembly from dismembering Nashville. No one tried harder to keep our city whole. I explored every possible way, including lawsuits, to stop the gerrymandering and to win one of the three new congressional districts that now divide Nashville." 
But, he continued on to say, "there's no way, at least for me in this election cycle, but there may be a path for other worthy candidates."
Cooper is just the latest career Democratic elected to be driven out by gerrymandering, and while Democrats are actually coming out slightly ahead in 2020 overall, a lot of long-time Dems like Cooper, especially in Southern urban districts, are being eliminated. 

We'll see who wins those seats.

The GOP's Race To The Bottom, Con't

A panel of three federal judges has tossed Alabama's GOP congressional map for eliminating one of the state's two majority Black congressional districts in favor of creating another Republican district, declaring it a direct violation of the Voting Rights Act.

A three-judge federal panel late Monday blocked Alabama's new congressional district map from going into effect, ruling that challengers were "substantially likely" to prevail in their arguments that the plan violated the Voting Rights Act (VRA).

In a 225-page decision, the judges found that Black Alabamians had "less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect the candidates of their choice to Congress." The congressional map as approved preserves a nearly 30-year plan of having a single majority-minority congressional district, the 7th in west Alabama.

"Both sets of plaintiffs ... suggest, and we agree, that as a practical reality, the evidence of racially polarized voting adduced during the preliminary injunction proceedings suggests that any remedial plan will need to include two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it," the three-judge panel wrote in its opinion.

In a statement Monday evening, the Alabama Attorney General's Office said it "strongly disagreed" with the court's decision and would file an appeal in the coming days.

Evan Milligan, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement Monday that the map approved by the Legislature "fails Alabama's voters of color."

"We deserve to be heard in our electoral process, rather than have our votes diluted using a map that purposefully cracks and packs Black communities," the statement said. "Today, the court recognized this harm and has ordered our elected officials to do better."

The case consolidated three separate lawsuits. All three argued that the single district constituted a racial gerrymander that prevented Black voters living outside the 7th congressional district from forming alliances with like-minded white voters and electing candidates of their choice.

"Alabama’s steadfast refusal to provide Black voters with adequate representation in Congress is a product of intentional discrimination and directly linked to the state’s history and present conditions of discrimination against Black people," said the brief in Milligan v. Merrill, one of the three cases. "The state’s intentional policy of disempowerment and discrimination has resulted in the denial of equal opportunity for Black people to participate in the political process in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the VRA."
So the state GOP will go back to the drawing board in order to create a new map with a second Black majority district, which will almost certainly elect a Democratic candidate and a Black one at that. Even as broken and as gutted as the VRA is in the Roberts Court era, even it was enough to convince three judges to say that Alabama Republicans were harming Black voters and diluting Black voting power in the state, which tells you just how blatantly racist the map is.
Democrats are starting to win the overall 2022 redistricting battle, and it's a good thing. They are playing enough hardball in states like Ohio, NC, and California that Republicans aren't actually going to come out ahead as a lot of us feared they would in the House.

That's a good thing.
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