Politico's Jonathan Martin: 'Progress for Other African-American Politicians (Not Named Obama) Remains Elusive'

April 29th, 2013 8:42 PM

They must be paying by the word over at Politico. It's difficult to come up with another explanation as to why reporter Jonathan Martin would slog through about 3,100 words on an item entitled "Black pols stymied in Obama era." He could have easily summarized why this is the case in eight words: "Because Barack Obama is all about Barack Obama." Oh, he could have added a few more, namely "and everybody knows Barack Obama is all about Barack Obama."

Since he didn't limit himself, yours truly will note a few things Martin still left out, identify a few interesting points that were made, and then quote certain naive and/or inflammatory statements contained in Martin's mess.

Left out in Martin's identification and tagging of black politicians:

  • Left out completely -- Allen West, defeated Republican congressman from Florida
  • Left out completely -- Mia Love, current Republican Mayor of Saratoga Spring, Utah, defeated in run for Congress in 2012 by Democrat Bob Matheson; seriously considering another run against him in 2014.
  • Party ID left out -- in a paragraph where it can be said that news-junkie readers can reasonably identify the party affiliation of those who aren't tagged (i.e., it would be pretty obvious to most that Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and Maryland Lt. Gov Anthony Brown would all be Democrats), it's not at all obvious that Oklahoma state House Speaker T.W. Shannon, who was not tagged, is a Republican.

Now, to some interesting observations made by Martin which didn't require a 3,100-word treatise:

  • "[A] segment of the Congressional Black Caucus ... has sharply criticized Obama for not appointing more African-Americans in his administration. ... deriding him as a selfish politician who has done little for his most loyal constituency." But with rare exceptions, they've been mighty quiet about it, haven't they?
  • "A well-connected African-American official who is personally close to Obama" said that “There are gatekeepers in place in black politics whose very presence tamps down upward mobility for newcomers ... “There are established members in the CBC and state legislatures who’ve been there forever and until those folks move on to different things it’s going to be hard to break through.” The next point explains why.
  • "[T]he very legislation that has ensured African-Americans have a voice in Congress, the Voting Rights Act, now can act as an impediment to blacks attempting to climb the electoral ladder. While black-majority districts all but guarantee African-American representation, they also have the effect of stamping the members, fairly or not, as simply representing black interests." That's because they usually do, because their districts are overwhelingly black. In a sense, they represent "set-aside" districts from which there is little opportunity to move up.
  • "An enduring if rarely-voiced stereotype in the political community is that African-American politicians don’t fundraise as well as their white counterparts." That's because of the previous point. First, they tend to represent less well-off districts. Second, their incumbency is so entrenched that there's little benefit to giving such a politician campaign money, because they usually don't need it.

But here's the clincher (bolds are mine throughout the rest of this post):

There was a time in the black community when one’s career options were limited. The most talented individuals often became pastors, educators, doctors, lawyers and from that pool rose the politicians. But ambitious young African-Americans now don’t face the sort of exclusion from the lucrative corporate world that limited their parents and grandparents. So why make a solid but not spectacular salary in politics when one can go to Silicon Valley or Wall Street, become rich and still give something back to the community through philanthropy of volunteerism?

“That’s what I come up against talking to young folks,” lamented Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), a 48-year-old daughter of Selma who made her way to Princeton, Oxford and Harvard.

“Many folks in my generation are running businesses or on Wall Street because we have more economic possibilities than our predecessors,” said Sewell. “Where we can effect change is much broader.”

What? Do you guys mean to say that opportunity for ambitious black children is virtually unlimited, and that we've virtually arrived, contrary to Georgia Congressman John Lewis's contention elsewhere in Martin's report, at Martin Luther King's promised land where only content of character counts? This was no slip-up on the part of those who said what they said, because they were talking about real people making real strides. Letting this get printed is the slip-up.

Now to the inflammatory and ignorant items (italicized comments are mine):

  • Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) -- “If he concentrated on trying to set up some kind of brigade of black aspiring politicians where he would mentor them and so forth, somebody would introduce impeachment legislation.” (First, it's not presidential; even Obama knows that. Second, it would require work which would distract Obama from his real work or his golf game [readers get to choose]. Third, the "impeachment" reference is just inane.)
  • Ben Jealous of the NAACP -- “There is no black equivalent of EMILY’s List. That’s ultimately what is needed.” (Well, Emily's List is monolithically dedicated to electing female Democrats who support unrestricted abortion up to and including partial birth abortion. Contrary to what Jealous might believe, there is no monolitic political outlook in the African-American community.)
  • Martin -- "The failures of black statewide candidates certainly shouldn’t be chalked up entirely to crude racism, but it would be foolhardy to not consider the unease that some whites still feel about voting for a black candidate. Look no further than Obama’s 2008 landslide win, in which he still tailed off in some regions of the country from John Kerry’s 2004 loss." (That's because "some regions of the country" figured out that Obama was and still is far more radical that even the clearly radical John Kerry has ever been. It has nothing to do with racism.)

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.