Friday, June 4, 2010

Will Georgia becomes the First Southern State to elect a African-American to the U.S. Senate in 140 Years (1870)?

Will Georgia become the first southern state to elect the first African-American Senator since post Civil War Reconstruction?

Its very possible, but I have my observations:

It is often said to me that the south isn't ready to elect its first African-American U.S. Senator in over 140 years.

The last African-American Senator that was elected from the south was Hiram Rhodes Revels (R-Mississippi) who was was elected by a vote of 81 to 15 in the Mississippi State Senate to finish the term of one of the state's two seats in the US Senate left vacant since the Civil War. The seat had once been held by Albert G. Brown, who withdrew from the US Senate in 1861.

The election of Revels was met with opposition from Southern conservative Democrats who cited the Dred Scott Decision which was considered by many to have been a central cause of the American Civil War. They argued that no black man was a citizen before the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868. Because election to the Senate required nine years' prior citizenship, opponents of Revels claimed he could not be seated, having been a citizen by law for only two years. Supporters of Revels countered by stating that the Dred Scott decision applied only to those blacks who were of pure African blood.

Revels was of mixed black and white ancestry, and therefore exempt, they said, and had been a citizen all his life. This argument prevailed, and on February 25, 1870, Revels, by a vote of 48 to 8, became the first black man to be seated in the United States Senate.

Revels seated, man wrapped up is confederate states of America president Jefferson Davis

And it is true that most of today's most prominent African-American politicians would have a hard time winning large numbers of white votes, both because of lingering racial resentments and a sense among whites that black politicians don't necessarily share their values and interests. Yet there are a few black politicians for whom their race isn't a ball-and-chain, but a jet engine.

For all of Obama oratory skills & eloquence, it is hard to imagine that he would have became such a national figure so early in his political career if not for his African father.

For a small group of black politicians, race has been an advantage because whites see in them confirmation that America, finally, is working. Blacks, after all, aren't just any minority. And while all Americans can take some pride in what racial progress African Americans have made in recent years, what whites—and indeed blacks—really want is for the whole awful nightmare behind them. The ultimate proof that we have finally done so would be for a black person to be elected president of the United States, which happened two years ago. But in my opinion, a black moderate/conservative getting elected in the south, either as governor or senator would have much more of a affect given the regions tainted history when it comes to race relations.

By signaling in their speech and demeanor, their personal narratives and career achievements, that they fully share in the culture and values of mainstream America; they are able to transcend race through the simple fact of their class. Just as importantly, they also transcend ideology by declaring with their rhetoric and policy positions a self-conscious independence from the conventional politics of their parties.

To require that politicians transcend both race and ideology is, of course, an almost impossible standard, and one that white politicians needn't meet at all. That may explain why some African-American figures share another quality, one with echoes of the debate over affirmative action—a sense that the ferocious political appetite for their candidacies has pushed them into something that they're not quite ready for.

African-American politicians began to break out of this civil rights era box. On the Republican side were a handful of black conservatives, including former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK) and perennial candidate Alan Keyes.They have argued that traditional big government liberalism has hurt blacks more than it has helped them—a strategy that hasn't earned them many black votes, but won these African-American politicians a following among white conservatives partial to the notion that a low-tax, small government philosophy could solve problems of poverty and race, too. This faith energized conservatives, but was as limiting as the civil-rights agenda, keeping politicians like Watts from drawing votes from any but committed Republicans.

Then there was Douglas Wilder, who became governor of Virginia in 1989 by voicing a very different politics. The symbolic import of Wilder's win seemed profound: A black man was now running the home state of the Confederacy and Robert E. Lee, from a city whose prettiest avenue is dotted by monuments to the Confederate dead. But more important was Wilder's political idiosyncraticity: He favored both balanced budgets and tougher measures on crime. As the national Democratic Party struggled to move itself to the center, Wilder came to seem a perfect symbol of what the party could become.

Then here's Colin Powell who who had been courted by both parties. Powell had a careful manner, and had won a war. But, most importantly, Powell's political independence was practically virginal. When he did finally join the Republicans, it was on an independents terms; he retained positions that cut against conservative orthodoxy, supporting affirmative action, abortion rights, increased federal funding for after-school programs and more.

Harold Ford Jr, former congressman from Tennessee & former chair of the Democratic Leadership Council. Ford went out of his way to distance himself from his father's politics, running in a very liberal district as a conservative, "Blue Dog" Democrat—with an eye, on statewide or national office (he ran for the senate in 2007, almost winning the seat) Ford ran against Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the party's ordained candidate, for House Minority Leader in 2002, losing by a wide margin to the ultra-liberal pelosi.

This year Georgia have two African-American candidates running for the U.S. Senate:

RJ Hadley, who is a Ivy League Graduate (Dartmouth), former Chief of Staff for Rockdale County, Westlaw Trainer at The Thomson Corporation & Business Development, Co-Founder at Meta Signal


Michael Thurmond, who is a graduate of Paine College & attended Political Executives Program at John F Kennedy School of Government.

Two candidates who are tied to the Civil Rights era of Black Politicians who use the "victim" card, the "race" card. These two men exemplify how far black politicos have come in this country. Both men have qualities that appeal to a more mainstream audience. Neither man is a liberal (Thurmond, a centrist, Hadley, a progressive moderate). Thurmond was ran statewide three times defeating both democrats & republicans by cobbibg together a broad coalition of blacks, whites, moderate republicans & conservative democrats, with strong showings in rural areas &Hadley, who is a newcomer to the scene has gone & addressed Tea Party supporters, Democratic and Republican groups & independents.

Will Georgia Do it? Its very possible, especially with candidates that have attractive qualities as Hadley & Thurmond like the likes of Powell, Ford, Watts, etc.

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