Category: Democratic Party

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.)
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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.

The Kings, Queens, and Martyrs of the Civil Rights Movement

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is my hero. His leadership, intellect, courage, and ambassadorship to white America and the world at large make him deserving of all the recognitions and honors that he’s received.

Yet, I am filled with ambivalence every time we come to another MLK Jr Day. Yes, Dr. King was a great man. But he was not an army of one.

The Civil Rights Movement had numerous heroes and martyrs. All of them deserve recognition. Rather than a day to celebrate the memory of King, I would have preferred a Nation Civil Rights Movement Day to celebrate all of those who were a part of the Movement.

For example, my other “favorite” super-hero from the Movement is Mississippi’s Fannie Lou Hamer. She started

working in the fields when she was six, and was only educated through the sixth grade. She married in 1942, and adopted two children. She went to work on the plantation where her husband drove a tractor, first as a field worker and then as the plantation’s timekeeper. She also attended meetings of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, where speakers addressed self-help, civil rights, and voting rights.

In 1962, Fannie Lou Hamer volunteered to work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) registering black voters in the South. She and the rest of her family lost their jobs for her involvement, and SNCC hired her as a field secretary. She was able to register to vote for the first time in her life in 1963, and then taught others what they’d need to know to pass the then-required literacy test. In her organizing work, she often led the activists in singing Christian hymns about freedom: “This Little Light of Mine” and others.

She helped organize the 1964 “Freedom Summer” in Mississippi, a campaign sponsored by SNCC, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the NAACP.

In 1963, after being charged with disorderly conduct for refusing to go along with a restaurant’s “whites only” policy, Hamer was beaten so badly in jail, and refused medical treatment, that she was permanently disabled.

Hamer is most famous for her work as Vice-Chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, sometimes called the “Freedom Democrats,” in 1964. The Freedom Democrats challenged the seating of Mississippi’s all-white and anti-civil rights delegation to the Democratic National Convention of that year as not representative of all Mississippians. The Freedom Democrats brought national attention to the plight of black people in the state, and led to reforms in the way persons are seated at the Democratic Convention.

In 1972 the Mississippi House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring her national and state activism, by a vote of 116 to 0. This was an extraordinary recognition, given the state’s resistance to integration. Hamer died in Mississippi in 1977.


Fannie Lou Hamer, Freedom Democrat (Library of Congress photo)

To me, no understanding of the Movement can be complete without knowing her story. But as I talk to people about Civil Rights history, especially young people, I am saddened that they have little or no idea of who she was or what she accomplished.

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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.

Political Musings: Arlen Specter’s Switch to the Democratic Party

Any politician in Washington (in America?) has one of several competing goals when making a political decision:
• do what’s good for the country
• do what’s good for local constituencies
• do what’s good for his political party
• do what’s necessary to get elected

This often presents a politican with a problem. Because what’s good for the country is not necessarily what’s good for his constituents, which is not necessarily good for his political party, which is not necessarily good for getting elected.

Which brings us to the case of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter. Specter shook up Washington by announcing he was switching from the Republican Party to the Democratic party.

Specter is a moderate/conservative politician who, he believes, is not conservative enough to win the Republican Senatorial primary next year. But he does believe that he’ll win in the general election, when voters of all (or no) parties get to cast a ballot.

What got Specter into such trouble with Republicans in his state? Specter voted for the multi-billion dollar 2009 stimulus package. He felt the stimulus was good for the country. But Republicans in Congress voted overwhelmingly against the stimulus, and Specter was seen as a traitor for not joining with them.

So we see the conundrum of modern politics. People say they want independent lawmakers who will put partisanship aside, and just do the right thing. But the fact is, when principle is voted over party, there is often a political price to pay. Specter’s price was becoming a political outcast among the membrs of the Pennsylvania Republican Party.

So now Specter is a member of the Democratic Party. And already questioned are being asked about his loyalty to that Party.

So it seems like Specter is damned if he do, and damned if he don’t. And that pretty much describes the current state of American politics: just plain damned.

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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