“All politics is local”, is a quote I often heard from my grandfather. He also said, “Local politics make for local enemies” when he would decline endorsing one candidate over another that he knew personally. Those words seem so wise when I read about “local politics” from around the country making national news daily. Local races in other places should also make one examine voting trends in their neck of the woods more closely.
In South Carolina, elections are becoming material for The Daily Show with John Stewart and talk show comedians nightly. Democrats were handed another loss when an unknown Democrat won the South Carolina's Democratic Party nomination for the U.S. Senate two weeks ago. Alvin M. Greene, an unknown veteran, is being demonized by for his win against a well known city councilman, four time state legislator and former judge, Vic Rawl. Greene is being charged with everything from being a plant by the Republicans to a soul singer impersonator. His finances and qualifications are being challenged now that he has won.
That is the background for comedy writers. If you read the above paragraph without comedy humor or political correctness it would read; Al Greene, an unemployed black man who seems slow to media correspondents, beat Vic Rawls, a seasoned white politician that everyone thought should have won. Greene did not campaign, had no website, or campaign fliers, we are told. That is the story in a nut shell. Instead of expressing the story in simple terms, we are being given every scenario under the sun that could be the reason for Greene’s win. The voting machines, that were allegedly bought used from Louisiana, are being examined as one of the possible culprits for the unprecedented number of votes recieved for an unknown candidate. Even the White House who backed Arlen Specter, a Republican who switched parties to run as a Democrat because he thought he had a better chance of winning, weighed in on a race that the DNC did not contribute funding too or send any operatives to stump for Vic Rawl who most pundits thought would win the Democratic nomination. The Republicans are not without egg on their face either. They have been handed a number of defeats that were considered shoo-ins on this road to mid-term elections for November.
Is this simply a sign of the times? Voters are unpredictable and a win is not a win until the ballots are counted twice. Candidates that the pundits predict as winners are losing and there are many who are questioning candidates on ballots that represent political views from the Tea Party to the Progressives. There is not one group dominating any issue in our political climate. The White House has backed handpicked losers as well as meddled into campaigns by asking individuals to get out of races. The White House chose not to campaign for individuals several times in the last year but threw a hissy fit when Massachusetts elected Scott Brown who was backed by the Tea Party. This race was anointed from the grave to be held by a Democrat. As for the Republicans, they have splintered into many factions and showing up on ballots as Libertarians, members of various Tea Party affiliations, Conservatives and in some cases like in Florida, as Democrats.
Times are different. Campaigns are different. Voters are not voting according to Gallup poll survey's. Candidates are different as well; political correctness is a thing of the past. Take Nevada Governor’s race. Republican Governor Jim Gibbons did not give up his girlfriend while running for his second term. It cost him his seat but he did not stop campaigning because of a lil' ole thing like an affair. Former New York Governor, Elliot Spitzer, maybe the last governor who resigns because of an extra martial affair. If Governor Jim Gibbons can run for office after a bitter divorce and dogged by numerous allegations of infidelities, why does the lack of a bank account (and flashing a little porn)keep Alvin M. Greene from seeking South Carolina’s senate seat some are asking.
It is easy to laugh at political craziness elsewhere but my beloved city, Nashville, has issues here as well. Black folks make up roughly 30% of the population in the city but are coming up short even in the few instances where Blacks have majority leadership. Our school board with a 5-4 majority has many around the country scratching their heads trying to understand how a 5-4 majority can hand the Black community re-segregated schools and a school board janitorial contract that will leave the majority of black sanitation workers scramming for other jobs in an economy that has even the wealthy cutting back expenses.
Blacks and education are not be trending in politics locally either when it came down to the Juvenile Court Clerk race last month. Formal education was not a factor for consideration to the few voters that showed up at the polls. With the most of the Black candidates with formal education, not one got even a third of the votes. With 350,000 registered voters on the ballots, only 20,000 cast votes. With that kind of voter turnout, are we really surprised at the outcome of the election? National races garner attention nationally but local races determine what roads get laid with rubber or rocks. As older Blacks experienced decades ago and as we have seen in the last year in Nashville, local school boards decide locally where kids go to school and what school jobs are kept in the community. If the community of color is on the receiving end of poor decisions by local leaders often, isn’t it vital that folks of color vote in local elections in droves. Nothing should be taken for granted. This may seem cruel to ask but how many folks facing unemployment lines or wage cuts that work for our local government voted in the May elections? I know that was painful, but we cannot dodged these questions publicaly when we are asking them behind closed doors. The folks who work the hardest have the least value in the political process. If school janitors can be whisked off government payrolls in an instant, why should anyone else think their job is safe? This should make everyone examine candidates closer and participate in elections. Participation in elections is not waving signs, wearing buttons, and putting a bumper sticker on your car. Voting is participating.
There are several state and local races that are going to be decided in the next few months. No race should be considered unimportant. All of them will affect the livelihood of millions or the services received by state and local agencies in some way. Deciding not to vote should be considered a crime. Who is in office (or not in office) determines if your children’s children will have schools with text books and rock quarries for playgrounds. Early voting starts in a few weeks.