Texas Liberal

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A Lack Of Democratic Legitmacy At Houston City Council

I was glad enough to see the runoff election victory this past Saturday of Jolanda Jones as a new at-large City Councilperson in Houston. I voted for Ms. Jones.  

And yet—Look at these final results for one of our five at-large Council spots in a city of over two million people.

At-large Pos. 5

Jolanda Jones

16,184 67.0%

Joe Trevino

7,989 33.0%

I find it difficult to view Ms. Jones as legitimately elected. Hardly anybody voted.

In the first round of voting on General Election Day last month, turnout was something near 10% in Houston.   

Are any on our City Council legitimately elected?

Beyond that, our local Democratic Party seems to have no interest in using the Democratic majority on Council to address pressing urban issues such as the deep and long-term poverty that should stand as the signature identity of Houston. 

Do Council Democrats press any meaningful agenda as a cohesive party unit on Council? Or are they free agents when all is said and done?

This type of circumstance exists in cities all over the country.

I look forward to leadership from Ms. Jones on questions of increasing political involvement and moving the Democratic Party towards relevance in the lives of its loyal poor and minority voters.        

December 11, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Houston Council Election '07, Politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

If Senator Obama Campaigns As An Agressive Partisan, He’ll Be Tagged As An Angry Black Man

Columnist Ellen Goodman recently wrote about Senator Barack Obama’s stress on a of kind post-partisan and less confrontational brand of politics.

From Ms. Goodman’s column– (The full piece is here.) 

  “…I am drawn to the brand known as Generation Obama. This presidential candidate has repeatedly offered himself as the post-boomer, the one person in the race who can take us past the great divides of the last 40 years.

 This post-boomer theme is spun out in Andrew Sullivan’s recent piece in The Atlantic, where he writes that “if you are an American who yearns to finally get beyond the symbolic battles of the boomer generation and face today’s actual problems, Obama may be your man.” It can be found as well in the label that Ross Baker, a Rutgers political scientist, put on Obama: “the post-polarization candidate.”

Now we come to the 2008 primary season. Barack Obama is an appealing icon of change. In reading “Dreams From My Father,” I was engaged by a description of his half sister’s dilemma — torn between the Western values of individual success and the African values of community. He has the capacity to turn a problem around, roaming across its many surfaces. He gets it.

His philosophical frame of mind appeals to the educated elite of the Democratic Party. His largest group of supporters are college-educated. But I am forced to ask, against my own grain, whether Democrats need a philosopher or a combatant.

Sometimes, I approach politics like a parent watching her children: “I don’t care who’s right and who’s wrong; just stop fighting.” But of course I do care who’s right, who’s wrong, who’ll win. What if red America is pitted against blue America?

Maybe I am suffering from too little “audacity of hope.” Or an excess of experience. The Democratic nominee won’t have the luxury of a do-good campaign. Even a post-polarization candidate would face a polarized politics.

There’s still a difference between being an icon of change and an agent of change. And there is a difference as well between being a fine philosopher king and a strong presidential challenger.”

My take on this is that if Senator Obama were to run as a forceful partisan, he would never get past questions of race. He would be tagged as an angry black man and an Al Sharpton and he would start to be seen only for the color of his skin.

I say this as someone who believes in partisanship as something basic to democracy.

It would not matter if Senator Obama was speaking about the moon or about the tides of the ocean—If he is seen as aggressive he’ll get the label of angry black man. 

Given that this is America, Mr. Obama may come to be seen primarily through the prism of race soon enough in any case. It may be unavoidable.   

There are debates going on about whether Senator Obama is “black enough.” I’ll leave that to others except to express my regret that he appears to have no Italian blood.    

All I know is that in this country, if you have some color you are not white. And a person with one black parent is seen as black in almost all cases. 

Senator Obama is a black man whatever people want to say about his demeanor or his views or whatever.      

If a black man is to have a chance to be elected President, I’d rather that man be able to define himself before folks hostile to the interests of black people and liberals get the chance to do the defining.

December 11, 2007 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Politics | , , , , | 17 Comments