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12/01/2009

Praise The Lord And Get Out The Vote!

  U.S. Senate candidate Cheryle Robinson Jackson rolled out the big guns this week.  The on-leave Chicago Urban League president was endorsed by 22 African-American ministers who represent the city's largest black churches and denominations. 

  In the racial politics of Chicago and Illinois, democratic candidates are eager to proclaim that they have the support of "black ministers".  After all, African-American voters have accounted for as much as 35-40% of the turnout in past statewide democratic primaries and the conventional wisdom is that "church-going" black folks are the majority of those who go to the polls on election day.

  The problem is that politicans will produce their own cluster of "black ministers" to stand behind them at news conferences to endorse a particular candidacy or cause.  What some people don't realize is that many of these "influential" black clergy actually lead tiny, storefront congregations.  These are the preachers cynically called "rent-a-revs" by the political operatives who recruit or hire them when their candidate needs to make an appeal to African-American voters. 

  The black church leaders who attended the Jackson endorsement breakfast included the host Reverend Dr. Byron Brazier of the Apostolic Church of God, the Reverend James Meeks of the Salem Baptist Church, The Reverend Stephen Thurston of the New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church and other leaders of larger congregations that in aggregate, they estimate, total well over 100,000 members.

  Jackson's strategy to win the U.S. Senate seat is beginning to sound familiar:  As the only African-American and female candidate in the democratic primary, she will attempt to "corner" the black vote and sound enough feminist themes to win a substantial number of women voters.  Meanwhile, her strategists hope Alexi Giannoulias, David Hoffman and Jacob Meister will divide what's left of the turnout to allow Jackson to "come up the middle" and win. 

  It's the same Illinois primary strategy that worked for a similarly obscure and underfunded Carole Mosely Braun in 1992, who would become the first African-American woman to serve in the United State's Senate.

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