Category: black politicians

Republican Scare Tactics, Then and Now

Fear is one of more common themes in political advertisements. Consider this political ad from 1949, which was seen in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area:

I think this speaks for itself. It almost makes the Willie Horton ads from the 1988 presidential campaign seem tame.

Note the little girl’s doll:

So… who’s the Republican bogeyman for 2010? This poster was recently (October 2010) seen in Shreveport, Louisiana:

Obama as the bogeyman, 2010.

Boo.

(Hat tip to Dailykingfish.com for the image.)
***

NOTE: This picture at the top is from the excellent book, One Shot Harris: The Photographs of Charles “Teenie” Harris. Harris was a photographer who worked for the Pittsburgh Courier, which was one of the nation’s top black newspapers.

The book contains photographs taken by Harris from the 1940s through the 1960s. Black Issues Book Review said this about Harris and the book:

One Shot Harris is pure soul. Though Harris photographed people living in poverty, most of his photos break away from the all-too-familiar images that oftentimes represent blacks during hard times. Instead, Harris focused on local folk–proud at work and at home–along with numerous celebrities to convey cultural pride. He took particular pleasure in highlighting The Hill District, the Pittsburgh neighborhood where many African Americans flocked seeking employment and entertainment.

“What I’d like for readers to take away from this book,” says writer Stanley Crouch, “is that Harris shows that these black communities, regardless of all stereotypes, were as civilized as any community in the entire western world.”

The book contains an essay by noted writer Stanley Crouch, and a biography of Harris by African American photography scholar Deborah Willis. Highly recommended.

Artur Davis Loses Big in Primary Election for Alabama Governor

Artur Davis, who was running to become Alabama’s first black governor, lost big in the Alabama Democratic primary yesterday.


Artur Davis

Artur Davis, who is currently serving out his term as a member of Congress for Alabama’s Seventh District, lost big to Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks. Sparks got 62% of the Democratic primary vote for governor, versus 38%, of the vote for Davis.

Davis’ support from black voters was lower than expected, although some observers were not surprised. For one, Davis failed to court the support of Alabama’s main black political organizations, and got endorsements from none of them. Those groups gave their support to Sparks.

Davis also drew the ire of some progressives for his centrist/conservative stands on many issues. For example, Davis voted against the Health Care Reform bill, a move that was seen as a way to make him more attractive to the state’s white and conservative voters in a general election. Rev. Jesse Jackson was quoted as saying, “You can’t vote against health care and call yourself a black man.” Davis was the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus to vote against the bill.

The political website FiveThirtyEight.com has a good discussion of the election results, starting with this:

The dream of a biracial progressive coalition supporting a southern African-American politician took another hit last night as Rep. Artur Davis was crushed by underdog primary opponent Ron Sparks in the Alabama Democratic gubernatorial primary. And so, for some who don’t look too closely at the numbers, Davis joins the list along with Georgia’s Andrew Young, North Carolina’s Harvey Gantt and Tennessee’s Harold Ford, of southern black candidates who couldn’t get enough white votes to win.

Without exit polling, it’s impossible to accurately break down racial patterns in yesterday’s vote. But even a cursory look at the numbers shows that while Sparks did indeed wax Davis among white Democrats, he did exceptionally well among black Democrats as well. Moreover, Davis wasn’t hurt by some dropoff in black turnout attributable to his refusal to pursue African-American endorsements or focus on that community and its issue priorities; indeed, in most parts of the state, black turnout seems to have held up relatively well as compared to the last statewide gubernatorial primary in 2006 (overall, Democratic turnout was down 31% from 2006).

The article goes on to say that Sparks may have won almost one-half of the black vote in the primary.

It still remains to be seen who will win Congressional seat that Davis is vacating. The two top vote getters in the Democratic primary, Terri Sewell (who got 37% of the primary vote), and Shelia Smoot (29%), will face-off in a runoff election that is scheduled for July 13. Although Republicans will be running for the seat in the November election, it is a foregone conclusion that the Democratic candidate will be the winner after the votes are counted.

Political Miscellany 11/6/09: Run-off Elections in Atlanta and Houston

Atlanta Mayoral Race Results in Runoff Election

The much watched Atlanta mayoral race is not over yet. Mayoral candidates Mary Norwood and Kasim Reed will go head to head in a run-off election on December 1, after neither gained the 50% of the vote needed to win the election outright on November 3rd.

Norwood, an at-large member of the Atlanta city council, got 45% of the vote. Reed, who is a Georgia state senator, came in second place with 38% of the vote. Atlanta City Council President Lisa Borders was third with 14% of the vote in an eight person race.

Mary-Norwood
Atlanta City Councilwoman and Mayoral Candidate Mary Norwood

This election has become notable because of the racial dynamics involved. Norwood is white, and if she wins, she will be the first white mayor of Atlanta in 36 years. The city is roughly 56% African American, 36% white, and 5% Hispanic. Although race is the 800 pound gorilla in the room, Norwood is popular throughout many parts of the city, and is seen as having a good chance of winning the run-off.

Kasim-Reed
Georgia State Senator and Atlanta Mayoral Candidate Kasim Reed

In the November 3rd election, Norwood did very well in the white areas of Atlanta, and had some pockets of black support throughout the city as well. Reed did well in southwest Atlanta and in predominantly black areas of northwest and west Atlanta.

The big questions going into the runoff are, who will the supporters of 3rd place finisher Lisa Borders vote for? And, how many people will come out to vote in December? As reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution,

In 2001, when Shirley Franklin first ran for mayor, 41 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Tuesday, only about 24 percent of registered voters showed up. In many black areas away from Reed’s stronghold in southwest Atlanta, voter turnout was extremely low. At the polling station of the Central United Methodist Church on Mitchell Street on the West Side, only 4.63 percent of registered voters cast a ballot. In many southwest Atlanta precincts, more than 30 percent of registered voters turned out.

Low turnout would probably be least favorable to Reed.

Houston Mayoral Race Run-off

The mayoral race in Houston, Texas, has also resulted in a run-off election, to be held on December 12.

The Houston mayoral race has been notable for the diversity of the candidate pool. The leading candidates going into election day on November 3rd were City Councilman Peter Brown, a white Democrat; Harris county Education Trustee Roy Morales, a Hispanic Republican; City Controller Annise Parker, a Democrat, who is openly gay; and former City Attorney Gene Locke, an African American Democrat.

Houston-mayor-Locks,-Parker-Morales-Brown
Several of the candidates in Houston’s November mayoral election: Gene Locke, Roy Morales, Annise Parker, and Peter Brown. Locke and Parker will be in the December run-off election.

Parker and Locke received 31% and 26% of the vote, respectively, and are headed to the runoff.

If Locke wins, he will be Houston’s second African American mayor. If Parker wins, she will be the city’s first openly gay mayor, and the first such mayor of as large a city as Houston.

Political Miscellany @ 11/4/2009: Is the Obama Coalition “Portable” to Other Democratic Races?

Right after Obama’s presidential election win last November, I made this comment:

Here are my own election winners and losers, plus some “too early to tell” entries…

Too Early to Tell:

Black Voters: They were huge this election. Blacks were 13% of the total vote, up from 10% in 2000 and 11% in 2004. That helped make the difference in close elections for several states.

The question is, can they be depended on in future elections? Or will their turnout drop without Obama at the top of election ballots?

I think a lot more work needs to be done to make black voters a dependable election force, in close elections or elections in the South. Because if they’re not a dependable political force, that lessens their power and influence in the long run.

It will be interesting to see how much of the black vote turns out for the Georgia Senate runoff election between Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss and his opponent, Democrat Jim Martin. Martin has no hope of winning if black voters stay home; we’ll see if they sit this one out.

In the aforementioned Georgia Senate race, Jim Martin did wind up losing, and low black turnout was a factor.

Yesterday, Republicans won the governor’s election in New Jersey and Virginia. In both cases, the young and black voters who were key to Obama’s election success were not decisive in their support for the Democratic candidate.

Liz Sidoti of the Associated Press made these comments:

In another troubling omen for Democrats, the surveys also showed that more of the Virginians who turned out on Tuesday said they supported Republican John McCain in 2008 than said they backed Obama. That suggests the Democrats had difficulty turning out their base, including the swarms of first-time minority and youth voters whom Obama attracted as part of his diverse coalition.

A loss in Virginia could suggest that the diverse coalition that Obama cobbled together last year in Virginia and elsewhere — blacks, Hispanics, young people, independents and Republican crossovers — was a one-election phenomenon that didn’t transfer to the Democratic Party when Obama wasn’t on the ballot.

I share Sidoti’s concern, although I disagree with her comment that the Obama election win was a one hit wonder in terms of pulling together what I call the “Obama coalition” of young, black, Hispanic and independent voters.

Witness, for example, 38-year old Democrat Anthony Foxx in the Charlotte, North Carolina mayoral election. Voters in the city ended more than two decades of Republican leadership in Charlotte Tuesday by electing Foxx, who is the city’s second African-American mayor and the youngest in memory. Foxx won a close race, getting roughly 51 percent of the vote over Republican John Lassiter in unofficial tallies.

Foxx benefitted from a strong black turnout. African Americans are 35% of Charlotte’s population. The Democrats need to find and promote more candidates like him, who appeal to diverse constituents.

The bottom line is, if the Democrats are going to win “the Obama way,” they need to embrace the kinds of voters that put Obama into office. Failure to do so is perilous. Consider these comments from the Washington Post, concerning the election campaign in Virginia governor’s race:

Senior (Obama) administration officials have expressed frustration with how Democrat R. Creigh Deeds has handled his campaign for governor, refusing early offers of strategic advice and failing to reach out to several key constituencies that helped Obama win Virginia in 2008, they say.

A senior administration official said (Democratic gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh) Deeds badly erred on several fronts, including not doing a better job of coordinating with the White House. “I understood in the beginning why there was some reluctance to run all around the state with Barack Obama,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly about the race. “You don’t do that in Virginia. But when you consider the African American turnout that they need, and then when you consider as well they’ve got a huge problem with surge voters, younger voters, we were just a natural for them.”

A second administration official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Obama, (outgoing Democratic governor Tim) Kaine and others had drawn a road map to victory in Virginia. Deeds chose another path.”

And it goes without saying that black voters can’t afford to be apathetic or unengaged simply because certain kinds of candidates aren’t running. Not everyone who runs for political office is exciting or charismatic. And sometimes it is about voting for the lesser of two evils. Black folks need to be willing to come out to the polls even in those kinds of situations.

Factoid: Black State Legislators in 2009

There are now a record 628 African Americans in the legislatures of the 50 states, according to the National Black Caucus of State Legislatures and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Last year there were 622 Africans Americans state legislators.

A list with the count of African Americans in each state legislature is at the web site for the Conference of State Legislatures. I have prepared this edited version of the list:

Count and Percentage of Black State Legislators, 2009 (Sorted by Percentage of Blacks in the Legislature {% of Total Seats})
black-legislators-all21

Some comments:

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Racial Politics Absurdity in Mississippi, Part 1

Mississippi, like several states in the deep South, is polarized politically on the basis of race. The majority of whites are Republican, and the overwhelming majority of blacks are Democratic.

The Democratic Party in Mississippi winds up being an integrated group, but it’s hardly a place of racial harmony. Bob Moser, in his book Blue Dixie, explains some of the history behind this:

Beginning in the 1970s, Mississippi Democrats had been split by race into two different parties-a fissure far deeper than in most of the South. For years, there were black and white cochairs statewide, and many counties had exclusively black or white executive committees. The divisions stemmed from the 1960s, when most whites who’d historically dominated the party refused to accept black Democrats into the fold-a refusal symbolized by the standoffs over delegations at the national conventions in ’64 and ’68.

The book goes on to note that over time, black and white Democrats have reconciled and unified throughout the state. But it seems there’s still a ways to go before tensions between the two groups are eliminated.

Case in point: the recent reality show drama of the Mississippi Democratic Party’s Executive Committee. Consider these events:

• In February, the Mississippi Democratic Party’s Executive Committee selected Sam Hall as its new Executive Director. Hall, a political consultant, formerly served the party as a communications director, and was also director of the Mississippi House Democrats’ Political Action Committee. As Executive Director, Hall would oversees the daily operations of the party and its staff at the Jackson, MS headquarters.

The vote for Hall was split along racial lines: whites on the Executive Committee voted for Hall, while the black vote was split between the current interim director Rosalind Rawls and Chris Smith. Both Rawls and Smith are black.

Willie Griffin, a black member of the Executive Committee, was publicly critical of Hall’s selection. Griffin said that Hall has a history of endorsing Republicans, including Gov. Haley Barbour, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, Congressman Chip Pickering and others. Griffin added:

In the last eight to 10 years, our party has been pushing party loyalty… We don’t need a Republican speaking for us. We have competent people who can run our party.

• On Saturday, March 21, the Mississippi Democratic Party’s Executive Committee held a meeting. Jamie Franks, the Democratic Party Chair, was out of town As such, the vice chair-Barbara Blackmon-conducted the meeting. Note that, Franks is white, Blackmon is white.

At the meeting, Hall was ousted from the Executive Director position by a vote of the Executive Committee – or at least, by the members who were present at the meeting.

• Also at the March 21 meeting, Ike Brown, who is black, is voted onto the Executive Committee. Brown is an extremely controversial figure in Mississippi politics. As noted here:

Brown, the former chair of the Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee, was removed from that position by a federal judge as a settlement of a federal voting rights lawsuit. Brown was accused of discriminating against white candidates and disenfranchising voters in Noxubee County with his actions. Noxubee County is majority Black. Brown was not re-elected to the state executive committee last year due to his legal troubles.

In a statement, Brown says that in his “zeal to support the Democratic Party and its candidates, I ran afoul of the Voting Rights Act… I look forward to the opportunity to redeem myself as a member of the committee. My future conduct will reflect that I respect the rights of all voters of every race to participate in the election process.”

The Mississippi Republican Party immediately made political hay out of Brown’s election. Brad White, chairman of the state GOP, said in a news release:

“I think it is outrageous that the leaders of the Mississippi Democratic Party would vote to put Ike Brown, who has been sanctioned by the Department of Justice for violating the voting rights of members of his own party, on their state executive committee which is charged with representing all Mississippi Democrats.”

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Political Miscellany @ 12/2/2008

Greetings. All Other Persons has been out for a while on vacation, but we are back to it. I hope all of you enjoyed your holiday.

OK, we’re just about at the end of the 2008 election season. Here are some political news and notes as we reach the close of what has been an exciting year.

Epic Fail by Black Republican Challenger in Georgia Congressional Election

This is perhaps the ultimate example of throwing good money after bad. The web site OpenSecrets.org discusses a congressional race between two African American candidates in the Atlanta, Georgia area:

Despite raising over four times more than her incumbent opponent, Republican Deborah Honeycutt lost this week by a landslide in the race to represent Georgia’s 13th District. 

Honeycutt, who raised $4.7 million compared to Rep. David Scott’s $1 million, has received a fair share of negative media attention for being a client of BMW Direct, a DC-based fundraising firm.

BMW Direct has come under scrutiny for its strategy of raising handsome sums from conservative donors for Republican candidates who stand little-to-no chance of being elected.

The money raised by Honeycutt is astounding. OpenSecrets.org, which is a product of the Center for Responsive Politics, estimates that “the average cost of winning a House race in 2008 was nearly $1.1 million, based on pre-election finance reports.” Honeycutt quadrupled that level of fund raising for her campaign, and still lost. In no other House race this season did the losing candidate so outspend the eventual winner.

Honeycutt’s opponent, Democrat David Scott, got 69% of the vote, versus 31% for Honeycutt.

The “Vote Shortage” in the Georgia Senate Election on November 5.

In a recent post, I talked about the runoff election for Georgia’s senate seat, which is being waged between Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss, and Democratic challenger Jim Martin. The runoff election is being held today.

Some post-election analysis of the election voting in Georgia on November 5 shows some very curious numbers:
o President: 1,844,137 votes for Obama
o Senate: 1,757,419 votes for Martin
o All House Races: 1,858,123 votes for Democrats

Martin, a white moderate Democrat from Georgia, got 86,000 less votes than Barack Obama, a black northerner with a liberal background. And that doesn’t make sense. (Note that, even if Martin had gotten that extra 86,000 votes, he still would not have beaten Chambliss.)

In total, there were almost 170,000 more votes for the presidential candidates than there were for the Senate candidates. People are asking, why were there so fewer votes for senator than there were president?

Jay Bookman, writing in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, notes that

More than 168,000 Georgia voters went to the polls on Nov. 4 and cast ballots for president, then walked out without bothering to cast a vote in the highly advertised U.S. Senate race between Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin.

That seems like a lot — an undervote of 4.3 percent.

In North Carolina, the Senate undervote was 1.1 percent of the presidential total. In Oregon it was 3.3 percent, and 2.3 percent in New Hampshire. The only state where the total approached Georgia’s was Louisiana, at 4.0 percent.

So who were these people? Were they Obama voters who just cast their ballots for their favorite and walked out? The evidence for that is weak. In Fulton County, which went for Obama by more than 2-1, the undervote was 2.85 percent, lower than the undervote rate in McCain counties such as Cobb (3.4 percent) and Cherokee (3.1 percent). In DeKalb County the rate was 4.4 percent, about the state average.

What’s significant about Fulton and DeKalb is that they are Atlanta area counties with a large number of black voters.

This might be a result, at least in part, of the failure of DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones, who is African American, to endorse Martin’s senate bid. Jones, who lost to Martin in a primary runoff in August, has criticized Martin for not supporting Barack Obama’s presidential run. Martin voted for Democrat John Edwards in Georgia’s February presidential primary even though Edwards already had dropped out of the race.

Early voting in the Geogia runoff election is not promising for Martin, as far as black participation goes. Among those who cast their votes prior to today, in the so-called “early vote,” blacks were 22% of total voters. By comparison, blacks cast almost 35% of the early votes prior to the November 5 election. These numbers could mean that black interest in the runoff election is low… and by extension, that Martin’s odds of winning are not good at all.

African Americans Get Leadership Positions in State Legislatures Out West

It seems like the West is best for black state legislators who seek leadership positions. These are the African American legislators who are presiding or leading officers in American state houses:

o Democrat Emil Jones, Jr., President of the Illinois Senate
o Democrat Karen Bass, Speaker of the California Assembly
o Democrat Peter Groff, President of the Colorado Senate President
o Democrat Terrance Carroll, Speaker of the Colorado (starting in 2009)
o Democrat Steven Horsford, President of the Nevada Senate

(Democrat Malcolm Smith is in-line to become leader of the NY state senate, however, his bid for that position is facing difficulties.)

It is notable that African Americans are less than 7% of the population in California, Colorado, and Nevada, and yet, blacks have risen to high leadership postions in their statehouses.

Meanwhile, the black population in the Deep South states of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina is between 25-36% of the state total, but none has ever had an African American leader in their state legislatures.

The Wilder Era Comes to a Close in Virginia

Doug Wilder, the trailblazing African American politician from Virginia, is about to end his career as an elected official. In 1990, he became the first African American ever to be elected to governor of an American state.

Wilder, has been serving as mayor of Richmond, Virginia since 2005. He decided not to run for re-election this year.

His successor as Richmond mayor will be Dwight Jones. Jones, who won out over a field of several mayoral candidates with 39% of the vote, is a pastor and leader of the Virginia legislative Black Caucus. He narrowly defeated Richmond City Council president William Pantele after running a campaign centered on education and social justice issues.

Prominent Black Democrat Won’t Endorse Jim Martin in Georgia Senate Race

This is from the AugustaChronicle.com, concerning the Georgia Senate race between incumbent Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Democratic challenger Jim Martin.

AP, November 19, 2008: U.S. Senate candidate Jim Martin won’t be getting an endorsement from his former Democratic rival anytime soon.

DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones, who lost to Mr. Martin in a primary runoff in August, said he has no plans to back him, citing the former state lawmaker’s lack of support for Democratic President-elect Barack Obama during the primary season.

Mr. Martin voted for Democrat John Edwards in Georgia’s Feb. 5 presidential primary even though the North Carolina senator already had dropped out of the race.

Mr. Jones, who is black, hammered Mr. Martin repeatedly for that vote during their bitter campaign.

“Jim Martin did not want Barack Obama to be president,” Mr. Jones said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “He did not want to vote for an African-American or a woman.”

Mr. Jones said it’s hypocritical for Mr. Martin to now be “begging Barack Obama to come down here and help him” in his Dec. 2 runoff.

Mr. Martin is locked in a runoff with Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss after neither garnered 50 percent of the vote in the general election. He has asked Mr. Obama to campaign for him but has received no word on whether he will.

That kind of news can’t be helpful to Martin, who needs the black vote to turnout if he’s going to win the runoff. While Chambliss got just under 50% of the general election vote, Martin got around 47% (the same percentage that Barack Obama got in Georgia).

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Political Miscellany @ 11/17/2008

Black Leaders in the Colorado Legislature Make History

The Colorado legislature has only two black members. But now they are the two most powerful members of the 100-person body.

colorado-legislators
Colorado Rep. Terrance Carroll; Colorado Sen. Peter Groff

Colorado Democrats made legislative history by electing Rep. Terrance Carroll as speaker of the House and re-electing Peter Groff as Senate president.

It will be the first time in American history that the presiding officers of both chambers of a legislature will be African-Americans.

Two Omaha-area Black Women Elected to the Nebraska Legislature

For most of the past 30 years, Nebraska has had only one African-American serving in its single-house legislature. After the November election, it will have two, both female.

cook-and-council
Incoming Nebraska State Senators Tanya Cook and Brenda Council
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Jefferson Survives Again in Louisiana

William Jefferson, who represents New Orleans in the House of Representatives, has more political lives than a cat.

Jefferson has been under a cloud of scandal since 2005. That summer, as part of an FBI sting operation, he was caught on wiretap making a deal to accept $100,000 in cash from a woman so he could bribe officials in Nigeria and help her with a business venture there. The transfer of the cash to Jefferson was caught on an FBI video camera. Several days later, the FBI raided his home, and found $90,000 in cash in the kitchen freezer. (I once called Jefferson “the Iceman.”)


Representative William Jefferson, LA-02

Jefferson, who serves in Congress from Louisiana’s 2nd House district, had a seat on the powerful Ways and Means committee at the time. But Democrats in the House removed him from the committee when the scandal broke, to the objection of some members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Jefferson then shocked everybody by running for re-election in 2006… and winning. He faced 12 opponents that year in the primary, who split the vote; he and another candidate who got the most votes wound up in a run-off election, which Jefferson won. Many feel that Jefferson got a post-Katrina sympathy vote, with many New Orleans voters feeling the government had set him up.

Jefferson was indicted in 2007 on 16 counts related to the alleged bribery. His trial is expected to begin in December.

But that didn’t stop Jefferson from running again this year. This time, he faced six Democrats on primary election day, which was on October 4. None of the candidates got 50%, but Jefferson led everyone with 25 percent of the vote. He will now go into a runoff with former broadcaster Helena Moreno, who got 20 percent of the vote. Moreno is Hispanic; all the other candidates were African American, and they apparently split the black vote.

The runoff will be held on national election day, November 4.

Note: A more pointed review of Jefferson’s election run is at the Skeptical Brotha blog in the post Jefferson Faces Latina in Run-off.

Memo to Ronald Walters: This is NOT the Time to Whine About Patronage.

Dr. Ronald Walters is an icon. He is a distinguished academic on racial politics, and has “street cred” from working with Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988. When he speaks, people listen, and they should.

As such, I am somewhat apologetic for using his name and the word “whine” in the title for this posting. It’s harsh, I know. But I was so disappointed by Walters’ recent article “Obama Not Funding Black Community Turnout”, I couldn’t find any nice words to say. His article just plain gets it wrong. And it points to what may be out-dated ideas concerning what black folks need to further achieve political power in the 21st century.

Wrong from the Start

Things fall apart from the very beginning of the article. Its title-“Obama not funding Black community turnout”-is certainly eye-catching enough. The problem is, it’s not a true statement. In fact, it’s contradicted by Walters’ own comments. In the body of the article, he states that “the Obama campaign is… financing thousands of young kids coming into Black communities to register Black voters.”

So first… let’s talk about voter turnout. Here’s my main problem with this article. Based on its title, you’d think this was all about black voter turnout. But amazingly, Walters neglects to note a very important detail: the outstanding success that the Obama campaign and the DNC have had in registering new black voters, and in bringing all black voters to the polls.

This year’s primaries have seen the largest black Democratic turnout in US history. And efforts to sign new voters and further swell the rolls of black voters continue at a fever pitch. The fact is, the Obama campaign and the Democrats have drawn universal acclaim for their GOTV (get out the vote) efforts in this election year… at least until the article from Dr. Walters.

Clearly, whatever Obama and the Democrats are doing, it’s working. You’d think an astute observer like Dr. Walters would find these achievements laudable and admirable. But he never even mentions them.

Money, Power, Control

Why does Walters start out saying Obama isn’t funding black turnout, and then turn around and say just the opposite? And why does Walters make the glaring error of omission of not even mentioning the success of Obama’s GOTV efforts?

It’s because Walters’ article isn’t about turnout at all. He’s really talking about patronage and control, or the lack thereof. He’s talking about people getting paid.

And in doing so, he’s lost sight of what this election is really about: winning.

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Links of Interest, 9/15/2008

[1] No Obama = Black Community Drama?

Recent articles from The Wall Street Journal (Black Voters Fret Over Obama) and the Washington Post (The Big ‘What If’) discuss the possible fall-out in the black community from a Barack Obama loss in the November election.

From the WSJ article:

An anxious murmur is rising among black voters as the presidential race tightens: What if Barack Obama loses?

Black talk-show hosts and black-themed Web sites are being flooded with callers and bloggers reflecting a nervousness — and anger — over the campaign. Bev Smith, a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host, devoted her entire three-hour show Monday night to the question: “If Obama doesn’t win, what will you think?”

“My audience is upset,” she said in an interview. “Some people said they would be so angry it would be reminiscent of the [1960s] riots — that is how despondent they would be.”

Myself, I think this talk of a devastating blow to the collective black psyche from an Obama loss is itself overblown. People will no doubt be unhappy, but they’ll get over it. The black community has been through much worse.

My own concern is this: will the organizational structures and practices that are being used in this campaign be repurposed as part of an ongoing effort to boost black political participation? If they are, then that will be a lasting legacy of this campaign. If they are not, then this will wind up being a bright and shining moment with no long term impact. Now that would be something to get upset about.

[2] 11 Black Americas

Algernon Austin of the Thora Institute has an excellent summary of Radio One’s Black America study. This is an excerpt of his comments:

…based on demographics, values and consumption patterns, black Americans were segmented into 11 distinct groups. The following are abbreviated descriptions of the groups, from youngest to oldest group:

1. Connected Black Teens: “They are tech savvy, highly social, brand driven and fans of Black music (Hip Hop
and R&B).”

2. Digital Networkers: “Over half of this web savvy, high tech, mobile segment are college or high school students who ‘network’ heavily using Facebook, MySpace, instant messaging and their cell phones.”

3. Black Onliners: “Heavy web users, this mostly male segment is stressed by their work/life balance and the need to straddle Black and White worlds; they are focused on money as the most meaningful measure of success and are the most stressed of any segment about ‘having to fit in’.”

The rest of the list can be found at the Thora Institute site. Refer to the post dated 8/17/08.

[3] Condoleezza Rice: Not Enough Blacks at the State Department

CNN reports that “Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there are too few black Americans in the State Department. She was delivering the keynote speech at the annual Conference of the White House Initiative on National Historically Black Colleges and Universities.”

The article also notes that “Rice praised partnerships between federal government departments and agencies and black colleges. Last year, such colleges received $5 million in scholarships and grants from the State Department for language training, study abroad and exchange programs.”

[4] Obama Stumps the Experts

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting article titled Wanted: More-Sophisticated Theories of Racial Politics. The article discusses an address by Dianne M. Pinderhughes, who is the first African American female president of the American Political Science Association, to the association’s annual conference in June:

…as recently as a year ago, Pinderhughes and many of her colleagues failed to predict that Mr. Obama’s campaign would succeed — an error that she likened to the discipline’s failure to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The failure to foresee the possibility of Mr. Obama’s success, Ms. Pinderhughes said, was just one small symptom of the discipline’s general failure to develop serious models of the politics of race. “We must begin to consider race in a complex way,” she said, “in the same way that we consider the Founding, international relations, and constitutional law. We’re facing a profound change in American public life without the theoretical tools that we need to explain it.”

It’s an interesting thought. But the fact is, the Obama candidacy surprised a lot of people inside and out of academia. Sometimes it’s about vision, not theory.

[5] Black Minority in Iraq Faces Discrimination; Is Inspired by Obama

I want to give a hat tip to Tariq Nelson.com for pointing to an article from the LA Times, IRAQ: Black Iraqis hoping for a Barack Obama win. The article speaks of the struggles of the African minority in the majority Arab country of Iraq, and how Barack Obama, who is seen as a son of Africa, inspires them.

The post on Nelson’s blog has some interesting comments concerning race as a factor in Islamic culture and relations.

[6] Former Nation of Islam Leader W.D. Mohammed Dies

Wallace Mohammed, AKA Warith Deen Mohammed, son and successor to Elijah Muhammad as a leader of the Nation of Islam, passed away on September 9th. W. D. Mohammed was notable for abandoning the Nation’s previous views on white supremacy and moving its followers into mainstream Islam.

However, W. D. Mohammed was never able to gain the media prominence of Minister Louis Farrakhan, who broke with Mohammed over the changes to the Nation’s philosophy and direction. Farrakhan went on to lead his own group, also called the Nation of Islam.

I was surprised at how little news coverage there was of this. At one time, the Nation of Islam captured the imagination, if not large numbers of members from, large segments of the African American community, especially in the North and Midwest. The scant attention given to Mohammed’s passing shows how weak a force the Nation has become in black America’s consciousness.

Kwame Kilpatrick Goes to Jail

It’s over for Kwame Kilpatrick. The embattled mayor of Detroit has now become the ex-mayor of Detroit and a future convict.

Kilpatrick has pleaded gulty to two felonies, and will serve time. As reported by the Detroit Free Press:

Kilpatrick’s guilty plea this morning ended a nearly eight-month drama that has transfixed the region, paralyzed much of city business and halted a political career that once held such promise.

In a courtroom this morning, Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to two felony counts of obstructing justice by committing perjury. He will spend four months in jail, pay up to $1 million in restitution, and serve five years’ probation. He also agreed not to run for office during that five-year span.

In addition, the mayor agreed to a no-contest plea to one count of felonious assault for shoving a sheriff’s deputy in July who had tried to serve a subpoena on Kilpatrick’s friend. He agreed to serve four months on that charge, too, but it will be served at the same time as his other sentence.

The deals also call for Kilpatrick to turn over his state pension to the City of Detroit, which paid $8.4 million to settle two whistle-blower lawsuits three former cops filed against the city. The mayor was charged with eight felony counts ranging from conspiracy to perjury to misconduct in office to obstruction of justice after the Free Press revealed in January that the mayor lied on the witness stand during a police whistle-blower trial and gave misleading testimony about whether he intended to fire a deputy police chief investigating allegations of wrongdoing by members of his inner circle.

In a rushed monotone, before a standing-room only audience, Kilpatrick told Wayne Circuit Judge David Groner: “I lied under oath in the case of Gary Brown and Harold Nelthrope versus the city of Detroit … I did so with the intent to mislead the court and jury, to impede and obstruct the disposition of justice.”

Such a shame, such a waste. But consider this:

Race/Ethnicity of Prisoners, 2005

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, as cited in The State of Black America 2007,
by the National Urban League

Although African Americans are 12% of the US population, they were 40% of all prison inmates in 2005.

At a time when so many black men are wallowing away in prison, the last thing we needed to see was a high profile figure in a position of trust cheat, lie, and cover-up, with the idea that he could somehow “game” the system.

Look, son: maybe Bill Clinton could get away with it… but “we” can’t.

I regret what this has done to Kilpatrick’s family. But even more, I regret the negative impact in terms of despair and cynicism on a once great city.

See also: Factoid: Black Male Incarceration Rate is 6 Times Greater Than Rate for White Males