Black Coalition: Lost Opportunity
Black leaders who named West Side U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis as their "consensus" candidate for Chicago mayor last week have lost a golden opportunity.
Within 24 hours of Mayor Richard M. Daley's announcement that he would not run for a seventh term, the city council's black caucus began closed door meetings. Their stated goal was to select a single black candidate for mayor around which the city's African-American community could rally its political and financial support. The Aldermen--under pressure to involve community, business and religious leaders in the process--evolved into the much larger Coalition for Chicago Mayor.
From the moment it announced it would interview only black prospective candidates, the Coalition was doomed.
The election of the city's third African-American mayor would require a multi-racial coalition because the "non-partisan" process adopted in 1995 requires the eventual winner to achieve 50% plus one. The Coalition acted as though it was the 1980's when a democratic black plurality could carry the day in a primary and their candidate would automatically win the general election against a republican.
Alderman Walter Burnett (27th Ward)--who chaired the Coalition--says he fought for a more inclusive process but was shouted down by "Old Schoolers" who wanted to replicate the 1983 selection of Congressman Harold Washington as the black community's "consensus" candidate.
Black business leaders recognized flaws in the process early on. They stopped attending the tumultuous meetings, and in effect, removed their financial resources.
For the moment, it appears that all Congressman Davis gets out the Coalition's endorsement is to be tagged as the "black candidate".
And the taggers are African-American hopefuls the Reverend Illinois Senator James Meeks and former U.S. Senator Carol Mosely-Braun. Meeks and Mosely-Braun--who vied for the Coalition's endorsement-- are now playing "sour grapes" as they tout themselves as candidates who "will serve all the people" of Chicago.
But back to the headline of this post:
Why not invite all the announced or prospective candidates to the Coalition's vetting process, regardless of race or ethnicity?
Imagine Rahm Emanuel appearing before a "high council" of black political and community leaders in Chicago. Emanuel would have been asked not only to outline his vision for attacking the problems facing the city's black community but also to explain what he did or did not accomplish for African-Americans during his 21 months as President Barack Obama's White House Chief of Staff.
That spectacle would have attracted national media attention and interviews with the rest of the non-black candidates would have made each one of them accountable to the needs of the largest racial group (35-40%) in the city.
Not only did the interviews not happen, in the near term, the coalition did not reduce the number of African-American mayoral candidates.
A lost opportunity.