Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Fudge-Turner: Leadership & Opportunity
Fudge-Turner: Leadership & Opportunity
We were disappointed but not surprised when State Senator Nina Turner announced last week that she was dropping her bid to take on Rep. Marcia Fudge for the Democratic nomination for the 11th District Congressional seat.
The handwriting was on the wall when Turner had no response to the back-to-back images of pretty much the entire Democratic Party establishment, first in Cuyahoga County and then in Akron, standing shoulder to shoulder with the incumbent. It was clear at that point that Turner is not yet quite ready for prime time. She hadn’t raised the money or put together the organization to wage a competitive race. And as she correctly noted, the redistricting agreement reached last month by the Ohio General Assembly aided most political incumbents, including Fudge, even though it was unhealthy for Ohio voters.
My disappointment at Turner’s decision is because it postpones what has already been delayed for far too long: community dialogue about what kind of leadership is needed to move us forward. Many black people decry the one leader at a time syndrome — the Messiah model in its worst incarnation — but we seem to default to it time and again. Marcia Fudge has been in Congress barely three years but many people seemed to think it a crime that someone would step forward to challenge her.
As a community we need to get to a place where we hold our elected officials accountable, where they understand that their job is not merely to hold place, but to advocate and advance our interests, which includes developing talent and opportunities across the board.
Has there ever been a time when status quo was good enough? Marcia Fudge demonstrated in response to the whiff of a challenge that she could assemble a throng to defend her seat. Perhaps that will be impetus for her to claim the seat independently as opposed to having merely been its inheritor.
Lou Stokes held that seat long enough to establish and perpetuate a godfather model of black politics. He served as arbiter of political turf battles within the district and on occasion as spokesman for the black community. He hasn’t been in office for over a decade, he no longer even lives here, and it’s not clear that his perceptions and judgments are in tune with the community [consider for example his outmoded views on county reorganization, his top-down leadership model, and his aversion to transparency].
The departure of Stokes, the unexpected and unhappy demise of Stephanie Tubbs Jones, and the destruction of the inefficient and corrupt county Democratic Party regime [inefficient and corrupt = the worst of all possible combinations] have led to a vacuum in local black politics. The old guard leadership of Stokes and George Forbes is clearly inadequate. Their insistence on retaining power as personal privilege thwarted the development of next-generation political and community leaders.
Our most accomplished and competent civic leaders these days probably reside in the judiciary. They are elected through the political process but are barred by their offices from overt political activity. Carl Stokes was running an electrifying and organic mayoral campaign in his mid-thirties. Today, potential leaders of similar vintage like county councilmen Julian Rogers and Pernel Jones Jr. are still getting their feet wet as public officials. We now have a bevy of suburban city mayors and council people but not a one who steps up on any issue beyond his or her municipality.
Turner’s inability to mount a credible campaign need not mean that critical community questions of leadership, education, economics, equity, housing, development, etc., continue to go unaddressed. The unopposed Fudge now has a golden opportunity to claim her office by setting forth a new model of local community empowerment. She seemed momentarily on that path when she tinkered a few years ago with revitalizing the moribund Congressional District Caucus apparatus, switching it from an effete political arm to a nonprofit organization. But after a promising start, she either lost interest or got too busy.
The recent redistricting that incorporates parts of Akron and Summit County offer her a new chance at reorganizing the caucus as an effective tool for community building, community education, and leadership development. An intelligent recasting of a once-valuable brand would be part of a Fudge political legacy that would demonstrate her worthy of continued active support and not reification by default of opposition.
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For the record, we noted in a previous post that three candidates filed have filed to run in the primary. None have the potential to engage the community as a Fudge-Turner race might have.
And for those of you who read Turner’s statement declining to re-file against Fudge as holding open the possibility that she might run as an independent, don’t hold your breath.
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We commend to you this post by George Packer in The New Yorker dealing with the hopefully-soon-to-be-forgotten Rick Santorum, political reporting, and the routine right-wing demonization of President Obama.
… gutter rhetoric is so routine in the Republican campaign that it’s not worth a political journalist’s time to point it out. In 2008, when Michele Bachmann suggested that Barack Obama and an unknown number of her colleagues in Congress were anti-American, there was a flurry of criticism; three years later, when a surging Presidential candidate states it flatly about a sitting President, there’s no response at all. Certain forms of deterioration … become acceptable by attrition, because critics lose the energy to call them out. Eventually, people even stop remembering that they’re wrong. …
The great puzzle of the Republican campaign is that, in an era of unprecedented ideological fervor, the party will almost certainly nominate the candidate who is the blandest, least ideological, and least trusted by conservatives … Romney, forever stuck at twenty-five per cent, understands his situation acutely, … like an actor who normally does investment commercials and is improbably cast in an ad for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He’s doing a credible job playing an intellectual thug, because that’s the only way to win the nomination.
It would be a mistake, though, to believe that, long after Iowa, once the horse race is over, and if he’s elected, Romney could suddenly flip a switch, clear the air of the toxicity left behind by the Republican field, and return to being a cautious centrist whose most reassuring quality is his lack of principles. His party wouldn’t let him; and, after all, how a candidate runs shapes how a President governs. In politics, once a sellout, always a sellout; once a thug, always a thug.
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