Since the announcement by state Sen. Jerry Fielding of Sylacauga, the U.S. Department of Justice has given pre-clearance to the legislative districts drawn this year by the Republican-dominated Legislature. The safe money is betting there will be even more Republicans on Goat Hill after the 2014 elections.
GOP leaders say this would have happened anyway because Alabama is becoming increasingly Republican, but Democrats assess things differently.
“I’ve never seen such a racially gerrymandered plan as this one,” Senate Minority Leader Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, told the Birmingham News. “They are trying to make white Democrats extinct … [by] packing the black districts.”
This page will not comment on that accusation since the Alabama Black Caucus has filed suit in federal court to block the redistricting.
However, it should be noted that racial gerrymandering has not been uncommon in the past. A look at the lines of the congressional 7th District reveals wandering boundaries drawn to guarantee that there would be a black majority in the district and Alabama would have at least one black congressman. A consequence of packing that district with blacks was that the remaining districts had fewer minorities. This meant whites would represent whites and blacks would represent blacks. It also meant the majority had little reason to work closely with the minority, so consensus politics all but disappeared in those districts.
Now the same thing is happening with the state Legislature.
Whether this is simply a natural result of population shifts or a product of political partisanship is for the courts to decide.
What it does do is leave the state increasingly divided along racial lines and gives the majority party, in this case the Republican Party, less reason to work with minority members. If the redistricting stands up under legal scrutiny, the Alabama GOP will be stronger than ever. How it will govern with this majority remains to be seen.