AJC on political and racial polarization of new U.S. house districts in Georgia

About a week ago, I wrote: Will 2011 redistricting finally kill off the endangered White Georgia Democrat?

Today the AJC looks at a number of the changes likely in the wake of the new maps:

In a congressional map set to be approved this week, five Republican districts would be made more Republican, and two Democratic districts would become more Democratic. The state’s most competitive district — held by John Barrow of Savannah, Georgia’s lone white Democrat in Congress — now could give a Republican challenger a 20-point advantage in 2012 based on votes cast in recent elections.

Barrow aside, the new congressional map offers more security to incumbents of both parties, and also could turn November elections into mere formalities. With one party dominant, summer primaries would determine all. And razor-wired campaign rhetoric, with no need to appeal to middle-of-the-road voters, is likely to get even sharper.

The piece is well worth a read, as it details some of the history of the “unholy alliance” between black Georgia Democrats hoping to elect more blacks to Congress and the white Republicans who were more than happy to more and more blacks pushed into the same district:

But ultimately, African-Americans will have to own up to their role in the near-extinction of Southern white Democrats, [former state rep and state labor commissioner Michael] Thurmond said.

The year was 1991, and the Legislature was drawing new maps. Georgia had only one majority black congressional district, covering the city of Atlanta and much of Fulton County. Lewis, a soft-spoken veteran of Selma, had recently beaten Julian Bond for the seat.

African-Americans in a Legislature dominated by white rural Democrats wanted to send two more black Georgians to Congress. And Republicans were out to protect an up-and-comer in their ranks: Newt Gingrich, the state’s sole Republican in Congress.

Thurmond was chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, but argued against the “max black” strategy. “I knew the max black strategy would lead to less influence,” Thurmond said. “I prayed that I was wrong, but it turned out I wasn’t.”

So in 2012, Georgia will likely elect 10 Republicans and 4 Democrats to the U.S. Congress. Almost certainly, all 4 of those Democrats will be black. The number of white Democrats in the Georgia House could dip into single digits.

There is much more in the piece.