NYT Double Standards on Race, Religion on Display in Contest to Fill Jesse Jackson Jr. Seat

January 8th, 2013 3:03 PM

Double standards on race and religion in the New York Times. The paper's liberal concerns about racism in voting patterns or separation of church and state, so prevalent when discussing white conservative voters in southern states, were markedly absent in Monday's report by Steven Yaccino from Chicago on candidates lining up for the congressional seat vacated by the resignation of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., amid worries that a white candidate might win it: "In Race to Fill Jackson's House Seat, Candidates Court Chicago's Black Clergy."

Facing a primary election last year, Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. was taking no chances. He gathered dozens of local pastors for a news conference here, where they prayed against “political demonic forces” and fiercely endorsed the 17-year congressman for another term.

“They’ve known my highest moments, and they’ve known my lowest moments,” Mr. Jackson said of the mostly African-American ministers who surrounded him. “And on some Saturdays and on every Sunday each one of these pastors prays for somebody just like me.”

It is not surprising that a crowded field of candidates is courting the same kind of clergy support in a Feb. 26 special primary election to replace Mr. Jackson, who resigned his Second Congressional District seat 15 days after winning re-election in November. Now facing a short campaign sprint, those candidates say the backing of ministers and invitations to stump at multiple church services each weekend remain the sacraments of any good election ground game in the district, which includes parts of Chicago’s South Side and southern suburbs.

Like in many districts across the country where African-Americans are the majority, the Second District has counted black ministers among the most influential voices for decades. Their endorsements, trusted by many churchgoers, are traditionally seen as an indication of how those congregants may vote on Election Day.

Some political analysts say pastors’ sway on election turnout has been overstated, that it has waned in recent years. But with new district boundaries and no candidate anointed by Democratic Party leaders to fill the Congressional seat vacated by Mr. Jackson, others believe churches will be a crucial campaign battleground for winning black votes in a district that could elect a white candidate for the first time in three decades.

That white candidate is Debbie Halvorson, a former state senator and one-term congresswoman. Yaccino offered no criticism from any quarter of the pernicious idea that only a black person should represent a black district.

Add the changing racial makeup of the district, which shifted from being about 68 percent African-American to 54 percent after a 2011 remapping, and fears about splitting the black vote among multiple strong candidates has some pastors working hard for their favorites.

Those candidates say they started getting calls from ministers soon after word surfaced that Mr. Jackson would step down amid continuing health struggles and a federal criminal investigation into the possible misuse of campaign funds. Some were urged to run; others were asked to remain on the sidelines and not congest the race further.

“We want it to stay an African-American seat,” said Carl L. White Jr., the pastor of Victory Christian Assembly in Markham, Ill., and the president of the Southland Ministerial Health Network. “We want a voice for us in this area. There’s access that comes with culture.”

A previous article after Jackson's resignation glided by the same kind of racially charged tactical thinking, without any moralistic tut-tutting from the liberal paper.

Even as the names of many possible candidates, including members of the City Council and state legislators, were being tossed around here, there were some calls for a consensus candidate. In a district that was once 68 percent black but that 10-year remapping left 54 percent black, some leaders wondered whether a large number of credible black candidates might split the vote, allowing a nonblack candidate to win the seat for the first time in more than three decades. Others suggested that the Jackson family might ultimately support one candidate over the others, raising that person’s chances.

This blind spot is nothing new for the paper. A November 3, 2010 article by Campbell Robertson was devoted to blacks in New Orleans agonizing over a prominent black candidate for mayor dropping out of the mayor's race. Robertson blandly restated the dismay among some blacks about "the possibility of a white man in the city's most powerful office." How awful!