THERE WERE two interesting conventions in Baltimore over the weekend: The False Memory Syndrome Foundation and the Republican freshman class of the first Republican U.S. House of Representatives in 40 years.
There were mostly old Democrats at the former. Dr. Paul McHugh and his colleagues kept trying to convince them that the horrible things they remembered in the House in 1953-1954 never really happened.
But they did. I saw some of it with my own eyes. (Well, I read about it in the newspapers with my own eyes.)
I think the new Republican majority in Congress wants to turn the clock back a lot further that the 1950s. Would you believe the 1850s?
* * * * I have read some criticisms of the new House leadership to the effect that the speaker, majority leader and majority whip are all from Southern, suburban districts -- and, what is worse, solidly white districts.
Newt Gingrich is from a district outside Atlanta, Dick Armey from a district outside Dallas and Tom DeLay of a suburban Houston district. Their black constituencies are, respectively, 6 percent, 4 percent and 8 percent black.
No wonder the Republicans are so aloof from blacks, right?
I think the Democrats could make hay with this, except for one thing. The House Democratic leaders, Dick Gephardt, David Bonior and Vic Fazio, are from suburban St. Louis, suburban Detroit and suburban Sacramento, and their black constituencies are, respectively, 2 percent, 2 percent and 3 percent.
An interesting footnote to Gingrich's district is that before redistricting after the 1990 census, it was 20 percent black. He won re-election in '90 by only 774 votes. The state's districting map was redrawn to create more majority-minority (black) districts. Newt won in landslides in '92 and '94.
Another district in Georgia went from Democratic to Republican when it was redrawn by moving most of Savannah's black voters to a majority-minority district. Similar outcomes occurred in almost every Southern state. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund says maybe six districts shifted to the Republicans because of this process. Other analyses suggest maybe 15 did. If in fact 15 did, then the drive to create black districts made the difference between Republican and Democratic control of the House.
I think that's bad for blacks, but Jesse Jackson has a different view. He says it's more important for there to be 40 black members of a Republican House of Representatives than, say, only 20 in a Democratic one. The idea is that the more blacks in high places the better in the long run for all blacks.
He could be right, but my own view is that 20 black committee and subcommittee chairmen in a Democratic House could do more for blacks in general than 40 representatives who are just powerless minority party members of committees and subcommittees.