April 05, 2002
Dissing Kirk

The New Republic has an article about how blacks have had a hard time getting elected to high offices as Democrats lately. It focuses mostly on North Carolina state legislator Dan Blue, who is running an unfunded, unloved underdog campaign for the Senate nomination against Erskine Bowles. Along the way, author Jason Zengerle talks about the fortunes of black politicians at the national level since 1990, when political analyst William Schneider predicted we'll have a black on the national ticket sometime that decade.

Not only has that not happened, but by some measures black political power has actually regressed since Schneider's words. While black Democrats continue to win city, county, and down-ticket statewide offices, there are currently no African Americans in governor's mansions or in the U.S. Senate. And it doesn't look like that's going to change anytime soon. Just this week, Roland Burris--who in 1991 became Illinois's first black attorney general--lost that state's Democratic gubernatorial primary to a white challenger. And in New York, Carl McCall--a black Democrat who's served two terms as state comptroller--is in a fierce gubernatorial primary fight against Andrew Cuomo, who's never held elected office. In Louisiana, outgoing New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial unsuccessfully tried to amend his city's charter so he could serve a third term--reportedly because he knew that, despite two successful terms, his race meant he had little chance of winning higher office.

Um, Jason? Ever hear of Ron Kirk? I'm not saying he's going to win - he still has to defeat Victor Morales in the runoff, then he has the uphill battle against Attorney General John Cornyn to fight - but he's a viable candidate who's got the backing of the state party establishment as well as some national groups.

Look, I don't want to be like those people who point to one person's success as proof that a given group has overcome all of its obstacles. I'm just saying that overlooking Ron Kirk is sloppy. We'll see if November provides a refutation to Zengerle's thesis as well.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 05, 2002 to Election 2002