Friday, May 18, 2007

California's 37th C.D. - A "Black Seat?"

The special election for California's 37th Congressional District is already intense and ugly. On Saturday, May 19, 2007 at 10:00 am at the Lucy Florence Coffeehouse at 3351 W. 43rd Street near Leimert Park, longtime journalist Earl Ofari Hutchinson will host a public Urban Policy Roundtable Discussion on the topic:

The Fight For Congresswoman Juanita Millender- McDonald's Seat
Should it Be a Black Seat? A Latino Seat? Or the Best Candidate's Seat?

Nineteen candidates have filed nomination papers to be on the ballot in a special election in the 37th Congressional District in Southern California. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote in the special election in June, a runoff between the top candidates in each party will be held Aug. 21. (See Los Angeles Times "19 file for Millender-McDonald seat", May 15).

It is highly unlikely any candidate will get more than 50% which means that the Green Party candidate, Daniel Abraham Brezenoff, will be in the August runoff.

The seat was left vacant last month by the tragic and untimely death of Democratic Representative Juanita Millender-McDonald. Ms. Millender-McDonald was a distinguished senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus and had just begun serving as chair of the Committee on House Administration. Among other things this committee oversees federal elections. In her role as Ranking Member of the Committee during the GOP-controlled Congress, Millender-McDonald investigated widespread voting irregularities and voter disenfranchisement and called for a hearing in Ohio, the first election reform field hearing in Congressional history.

Millender-McDonald was active on women's issues. As Democratic Chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues she met with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to talk about the plight of women globally, and another with the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange to develop strategies for increasing women's investments and net worth.

She convened the first meeting between women members of Congress and Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg. In 1997 she brought CIA Director John Deutch to Watts to address allegations of covert involvement in drugs trafficking.

Here is where things get dicey. Ms. Oropeza is Latina. Ms. Richardson is African-American. A recent poll indicated that in a two-candidate race, Richardson would win, but in a three-candidate race among Democrats, Orpeza would win. Already, members of the Los Angeles African-American intelligentsia are hysterical about losing "a Black seat." See below an excerpt from an article posted on The Black Comentator Web Site and also printed in the Los Angeles Sentinel, the most prominent African-American weekly in Los Angeles

Face-Off For The Millender-McDonald Seat:
More At Stake Than Just Politics As Usual
By Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, PhD
The Black Commentator, May 17, 2008.

"... It is about what the Black community is prepared to do to keep an all important Congressional seat...

What significance? It's the 800-pound gorilla in the room called the ever-expanding Latino politic. Tied to a population growth that will make them a statistical majority in the state by 2010, the fear of encroachment on historically Black seats is becoming a reality. This is the biggest power flex since former L.A. City Councilman, Nick Pacheco, a few years ago, tried to clip downtown out of Councilwoman Jan Perry's district in a redistricting power play. Some think the Black and Latino communities are on a head-on collision course for political and economic control of shared geographies. It doesn't have to be that way, but the over-zealous and over-ambitious have a way of dictating this relationship. So now we wait to see just how Orpeza's stepping into this race plays out in the long term. Is this an isolated incidence, or the crack in the political dam that will cause a flood of non-Black candidates to come rushing through the Black community at a later date? All of this has to be considered... "

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, to his credit in my opinion, posted an article on The Hutchinson Report rejecting this nonsense.

The Wrong Way To Get
Congresswoman Millender-McDonald's
(or any) Political Seat
by Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The tragic and untimely death of Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald ignited a raw outburst of political jockeying by local politicians to fill her seat that hasn't been seen in years. It was a near textbook case of unchecked ambitions, egos, opportunism, and pure naked publicity seeking run rampant. The spectacle was appalling, disgraceful and totally disrespectful to the beloved congresswoman's family members and legions friends who barely had time to mourn her passing before being stampeded by the pack of hungry wanna be office seekers and climbers. Their frantic stampede brought another ugly truth about politics, especially black politics to the surface. And that's the infuriating tendency by some black elected officials to assign to themselves the arrogant and imperious right to self-select who will, no who can run, for an office...

The cover for this orchestrated brand of political bossism is to insure that another black fills the seat held by a black elected official. The rationale is that blacks are so under-represented politically that a seat held by a black bestows a proprietary right in perpetuity for them to hold that seat, and also that a black officeholder best understands the needs and problems of black constituents. The real, but unstated, reason is the great fear that a Latino will get the seat and will tilt toward Latino interests. That's blatantly evident in the anointing of the hoped for black heir apparent to Millender-McDonald. But these are faulty assumptions. Millender-McDonalds's district is a multi-ethnic district, and non-back elected officials have represented Los Angeles, state and congressional districts with a significant number of black constituents for decades; and in many cases quite effectively. If black elected officials are in any peril of losing offices, the blame for that lay with them. Many black politicians make little or no effort to inform and involve their constituents on vital legislation and political actions that directly impact on black communities. Their all-consuming obsession is to elect more black Democrats to office and in making sure that those in office stay there. The fill-the-Millender-McDonald-seat committee assigned candidate is the maddening example of that.

. . .

Black politicians in California hold their fate in their hands. They must find a way to reconnect with the black poor, and craft an agenda that can motivate, inspire and renew their belief that black politicians can deliver the goods. That agenda must emphasize jobs, increased income, drug and crime prevention programs, better neighborhood schools and services, and the battle against police abuse. Black elected officials must also broaden their agenda to build coalitions and alliances with Latinos and Asians. The cruel truth is that black elected officials are at a crossroads in California politics. Those that can adapt to the rapidly changing class and ethnic realities in the state will survive and be effective players in politics. Those that can't will continue to vanish from the political map.
. . .

I was personally delighted to read Hutchinson's article because he is a commentator with considerable stature in the community and so his commentary provides a clue to the "boundaries" of what can and cannot be said in criticism of the feckless African-American Democratic Party leadership in L.A.

In my opinion Mr. Hutchinson, of course, does not go far enough. Hutchinson challenges the conventional wisdom on these matters but doesn't dare take it on directly. In the past Earl Ofari Hutchinson has even said nice things about Black Republicans, but in the minds of a lot of folks Black Greens are beyond the pale. It's instructive that in 857 words, Mr. Samad never gets around to mentioning a single issue. The main thing and the only thing he cares about is that his congress person is the same color as he is. Hutchinson, to his credit, rejects this ideology. Hutchinson writes that we should "build coalitions and alliances with Latinos and Asians" (in opposition to the presumed incurable and irredeemable racism of Whites).

I go much further. This nonsense has nothing whatsoever to do with civil rights or even black power. It is all about good old-fashioned 19th Century Tammany Hall machine politics. This is precisely the sort of political gangsterism that has ruled and misruled the great City of Chicago almost continuously for seventy years.

I do not want to be part of a political party whose central organizing principle is that people like me should get together with members of my "tribe" to be instructed on how to vote and what to think by "my leaders" in a "coalition" of my tribe with other tribes organized the same way to negotiate a second-caste deal for "minorities" with The Empire's corporate interests and militarists. Mr. Hutchinson is quite right when he writes: "If black elected officials are in any peril of losing offices, the blame for that lay with them." I concur 100%. These guys occupied the high ground in Los Angeles for decades when Latinos were being treated like, well, being treated like Blacks in Chicago in the 1950s. I find it shocking and even offensive that these hacks are reacting to our Chicano sisters and brothers exactly the way old Richard J. Daley of Chicago and Sam Yorty of Los Angeles reacted to us.

Of course, I don't say all that stuff at public meetings. I know I'm out of the mainstream, but I really just don't care to necessarily be "popular" with this crowd anymore. Whatever sentimental emotional attachments I may have had to the Black wing of the Democratic Party when I was young and naiive have long since been blown away. When I go to public meetings, I do identify myself as a Green and make it clear I want to be part of a political party of informed, open-minded citizens with shared values and principles.

I intend to show up on Saturday wearing my bright green Green Party t-shirt. It would be nice if I were not the only Green person-of-color in the room.

Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable Presents:
Saturday May 19 10:00AM

Community Discussion:

The Fight For Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald's Seat
Should it Be a Black Seat? A Latino Seat? Or the Best Candidate's Seat?

Lucy Florence Coffeehouse
Saturday, May 19, 2007, 10:00 AM
3351 W. 43rd St
Los Angeles
Leimert Park