Sunday, November 05, 2006

Professor Sherrilyn Ifill in the Baltimore Sun: The Test of Black Power in Maryland

Cross-posted at Crablaw Maryland Weekly.

From the Baltimore Sun, November 5, 2006, Professor Sherrilyn Ifill of the University of Maryland School of Law:
We lament the failure of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend to select a black running mate in 2002, but we haven't yet answered why the many highly qualified African-American candidates who could have challenged her chose not to. (Several of them, from Prince George's County, last week endorsed Mr. Steele.) A strong primary challenge from a black candidate would have compelled Ms. Townsend to directly confront the question of race. And why should we have settled for lieutenant governor, anyway, when there were and are so many experienced, well-prepared African-American leaders who could serve as governor?

Maybe that's what made Mr. Mfume's run for the Senate so exciting. He was willing to do it without the support of the Democratic machine, he ran as a real and unashamed liberal, and he still garnered 41 percent of the primary vote. Might Mr. Mfume have won if he'd been armed with a war chest raised by black voters and organizations over the past four years for the express purpose of supporting a potential black Senate candidate who was willing to advance a progressive political, economic and social agenda?

Rather than confront these tough questions, however, black voters diminish our power by heeding calls to offer our votes to Republican candidates in the hope that they'll treat us better than the Democrats, or at least to show the Democratic Party we can't be taken for granted. It's a gamble unlikely to pay off. Without grass-roots organization, a real platform of policies designed to awaken the sleeping giant of working-class and poor black voters as a political force, and a consistent fundraising apparatus, both parties will continue to take us for granted. Worse, we offer the gift of our vote to Republicans at precisely the moment in history when the national Republican Party is at the nadir of its moral and legal legitimacy.

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