Saturday, October 22, 2011

Keeping It Homogeneous

Get with the program, Senator.

The State of Florida, whose population has been growing since any of us was born, is to gain two additional members of the United States House of Representatives in reapportionment as a result of the most recent census. Central Florida, with a large influx of Puerto Ricans, is largely responsible for the state's most recent jump in population. The Senate Reapportionment Committee, dominated by Republicans, is considering redistricting plans and aiming to create a majority Hispanic district there.

Republican State Senator Alan Hays is not on board. Unfortunately, Senator Hays displays, if not bigotry, a measure of ignorance as he argued before the committee

Before we design a district anywhere in the state of Florida for Hispanic voters, we need to ascertain that they are citizens of the United States..... We all know there are many Hispanic-speaking people in Florida that are not legal. And I just don't think it's right that we try to draw a district that encompasses people that really have no business voting anyhow.

Non-citizens are not counted by the U.S. Census Bureau. That, of course, does not apply to Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens by birth. State Representative Jose Diaz, a Republican, told the Senate Reappor “I think that it is unfortunate that anyone would question whether or not Hispanic voters are American citizens. It is basic Government 101 that in our country only U.S. Citizens can exercise the right to vote.” The state senator who is chairman of the Hispanic caucus, calling Hays "ignorant or prejudiced," states that he is thus unqualified to serve on the committee and two Democratic members of the legislature, Janet Cruz and Luis Garcia, demanded the Senator apologize or resign.

Calls for apologies or resignation abound in the land, coming even from members of the media or the political class who profess a belief in democracy or in the wisdom of the electorate. But neither bigotry or stupidity is prohibited by the United States Constitution, the Florida state constitution, or even by statute. Leave it to the voters to decide.

It is, however, understandable that Repub members of the state legislature are aghast at Hays' remarks. Carving out a U.S. House district, often weirdly shaped, to be reserved as one for either Hispanics or blacks is nowadays routine. And why not: designating one district Democratic enables legislators or their lackeys to fashion several other districts which will be reliably Republican. Then there is the ancillary benefit, wherein there is no need for GOP politicians in those areas to concern their pretty little heads with having to appeal not only to conservative whites, but also to ethnic minorities.

Alan Hays is at best woefully misguided. But his comments should draw attention to the current fashion of creating ethnically pure districts, a practice belying the myth of the political class that pluralism is a value it holds dear. The great American mosaic is damaged far less by the comments of one foolish legislator than by the political tactic of separating groups into their own, sometimes insular, enclaves.

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