Thursday, March 15, 2012

Where Are the Black Senators and Governors?

I highly recommend Jamelle Bouie's excellent piece on the absence of  African American Governors and Senators, an absence that doesn't appear to be changing at all even in the age of Barack Obama. See also his follow-up on black Republicans.

Especially good is his examination of the phenomenon as having little to do with current racist practices and more to do with the consequences of lots of demographic and political factors, some of which are legacies of bigotry and some of which are not.

The one thing that I'd put a little more emphasis on that Bouie does is the active choices that have been available to Democratic party actors, especially in states such as New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and others. In these non-Southern states, outside of Illinois, where black candidates have been nominated for the Senate three times in the last couple of decades, Democrats just haven't been nominating anyone (and both Braun and Obama were, at least to some extent, flukish). In other words, it's one thing to say that circumstances explain why there may be fewer good candidates, but that doesn't take the responsibility away from parties to do something about it. Especially parties that rely on African American support to the extent that Democrats do in several states.

The other question I have, however, is to what extent black Democratic leaders in those states -- and again, I'm talking primarily about non-Southern states with large numbers of African Americans -- have pushed hard for these offices. Or have those leaders preferred to work for other goals? I don't have a really good sense of this, other than that the fact I don't have a sense of it may mean that there hasn't been much of a fight over these nominations, at least not in public. I'm very aware, for example, of both efforts to get women nominated and complaints about resistance to those efforts. At the House level, yes, and same with state legislatures, and certainly over city hall in many cities. But not, I don't think, in statewide races. But I'd be interested in reading more about it.

[Typo fixed]


  1. In Wisconsin, one of the Lt. Gov. candidates mentioned in the recalls is Mahlon Mitchell, a black guy who's head of the state firefighters union. Even if he doesn't win the LG's race, he'd be well-positioned to challenge Walker or Johnson down the line.

    Speaking of black Democrats challenging Walker, state Sen. Lena Taylor ran against him for Milwaukee County Executive, and if she'd won, she'd a be a credible candidate for Senate or Governor. She allegedly considered running for U.S. Senate before Tammy cleared the field.

  2. You write, "both Brown and Obama were, at least to some extent, flukish". I think you mean Braun, as in Carol Moseley, but I'm legitimately unsure that isn't a reference to someone else.

  3. Braun. Not sure how I wound up typing Brown for Braun, but it's been that kind of day. Thanks; corrected.

  4. Voting right act.

    Amazing, we live with two Indian governors, and one black one.

  5. I think JB raises some strong points as does the linked article. While Af-Am politicians have struggled to go statewide in primaries and generals, I think many are also content to run for Mayor and avoid the hassle and headaches that come with trying to appeal to mainly white electorates.

    It is interesting that the only current Af-Am governor is from a state with a well below average black population. While Boston has a troubled race relations history, I have to wonder if black candidates fare better in states with a smaller black population. Of course, Massachusetts has a smaller pool of black politicos than states like Illinois, New York and New Jersey.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?