Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Take on the Tuesday Elections

Democrats and some of their friends in the media tried to spin the Scott Brown victory over Martha Coakley as a local race with minimal effect on the November elections. That tactic may have been persuasive in Virginia and even sounded reasonable when consistently Democratic New Jersey elected a Republican governor. In Massachusetts, however, Brown campaigned on platform dominated by national issues boasting that he would be the forty first senator who could derail the Obama juggernaut. Now that the Democrats have shown that they cannot hold power in the East, what is going to happen when seats are contested in the Midwest, South and beyond? It may not be pretty.

The fact is that the Democrats now have no safe seats in the November elections. Their efforts to raise money will be impaired, and they will have many more places to spend it. The health care bill has become an albatross and will only pass by use of brute force and awkwardness.

The White House is bound to be in disarray too. Obama chose to invest virtually all of his political capital on a health care plan which now enjoys support of less than a majority of Americans who view the economy as their number one priority. Health care is Nero’s fiddle while the economy is the fire burning in Rome. Moreover, Obama has not seemed to be any more effective in dealing with the mess in the Middle East than Bush.

There was another election. William Bell has finally become Birmingham’s mayor, a position that he thought would come to him many years ago. There are many needs for the city of Birmingham. At the top of my list would be the curbing of wholesale corruption, bringing sanity and some measure of competence to the education system, and attracting new businesses. Is Bell the man for the job? The answer is patently obvious.

Bell’s victory is no surprise. The election result last night was politics as usual in Birmingham. The most stunning event in my mind was a political ad Bell ran close to election day. Many years ago Art Hanes Sr., a hard nosed segregationist, was running for president of the old City Commission against Tom King, Sr., who was more moderate. (Both men had sons who ended up as distinguished judges in the Jefferson County Circuit Court. I always wondered what they discussed during coffee breaks.) The Hanes campaign hired a black man to approach King and shake his hand and a photographer to snap King’s picture. The picture was reproduced in Hanes ads to show that King was an “integrationist.” The ploy worked and Hanes was elected. That tactic has been widely regarded as one of the low points in the politics of the segregation era.

Now after many decades, the same tactic was used again in reverse. Bell ran an ad showing him and his wife accompanied by pictures of Patrick Cooper and Julia Boaz Cooper, Patrick’s ex-wife. Nothing was said in the ad, but the message was clear, Julia is white and Patrick is black. Bell was conveying the message that Patrick Cooper was not black enough to be mayor. Who said that racism is dead?

Oh well, Birmingham once called itself the “Pittsburgh of the South.” Today it would be more appropriate to be described as the “Newark of the South.”

No comments: