Link: Herenton: A Winner Again -- But Still in Need of Unity
Willie Herenton, Memphis' African-American mayor, easily won reelection to an unprecedented fifth term Thursday in a city election whose outcome was strangely anti-climactic given advance hoopla from recent polls that seemed to promise a tight three-way race.
Sorely tested for the first time for the first time since his first mayoral race in 1991, the ex-Golden Glover, who was undefeated in the ring as a youth, maintained his unblemished record as a political campaigner, as well.
With all precincts in, Herenton had 70,177 votes, or 42 percent of the total. He was followed by city councilwoman Carol Chumney, with 57,180 votes, or 35 percent, and former Memphis Light Gas & Water head Herman Morris, who garnered 35, 158 votes, or 21 percent.
In the end, Herenton - whose vote came almost exclusively from the city's black voters - seemed to have made the case that the race was between himself and Chumney, a white who had played scourge and gadfly to his administration for the last four years.
I was in Memphis a few months ago. At that time crime, unemployment among Black youth, failing schools and the threat of a curfew were the talk of the day. The city had just gotten through a Federal investigation in which several city council people were found to be corrupt.
Despite all of this the Black Community has expressed the level of "Voter Nullification" that is present within. I know nothing about Ms. Chumney except that she is White, a female and a Democrat. I am not promoting her candidacy. I don't know anything about the third place guy either.
My central question is - why is it that in urban centers with a heavy Black and thus heavy Democratic voting population is there seemingly a high level of abstraction between what is going on in the streets and what people ultimately do in the voting booth. A few weeks ago the mayor of Baltimore which has a similar profile and problem set also was able to secure her reelection - also defeating a fellow Democrat.
Why is it that in the Black community when the common sentiment is that the country is headed in the wrong direction under its current leadership the common refrain is "Bush and the Republicans must go! We need to put the Democrats in power because they are in tune with what the Black community needs". As with Baltimore, however, despite the fact that the majority of the citizens believed that the city was headed in the wrong direction - the incumbent Democrat retained their seat. Is there a pattern here? I am NOT arguing that the Republicans would do any better in these places but I am wondering about the "Promises not kept" as I do my research on the words and strategy as set forth by Civil Rights leader Bayard Ruskin.
When Martin Luther King Jr. was killed the Civil Rights Movement fell into a leadership vacuum. At the close of the decade various civil rights leaders gathered together and decided that the best strategy for the Black community was to have Black people elected as Democrats so that we can take control of the policies within our community and thus benefit in the long run. It is clear that the PLAN has been executed successfully. What is not clear however is the resulting BENEFITS that were to be received from this loyalty ever having been recognized.