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Tilting at Windmills

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January 6, 2006
By: Debra Dickerson

We have met the enemy....The race for Newark's mayoralty has begun. Oh goody. Sharpe James is running for his sixth term. Where, oh where do we begin with this man? America's last sitting mayor who is a Movement veteran, he makes $213,000 a year, more than any American governor. What a great mayor he must be! Since Newark is humming along so well, James can afford the time to also be a State Senator. Four Rolls Royces. Imprisoned cronies and subordinates, bribery and theft. Kleptocracy on the Passaic. (not the Hudson. My bad.)

In 2002's race, James met his first serious challenger, City Council member Corey Booker, a young black man raised in Newark's white suburbs by Movement veteran parents. Stanford, All-American football hero, Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law Grad. For all that he realizes that racism still exists, Booker, representing Newark's poorest ward, believed that the crime, drugs and nihilism that bedevil the inner city could be tamed without waiting for the rapture and the end of racism. More, he believes that Newark's black mayor James and its moribund black leadership are more responsible for urban blight and the long term failure of Newark's ghetto than any white person or institution, however racist. Booker did things like camp out and fast in front of open air drug dens to both protest lack of police protection and live out his commitment to his constituents. He lived in a RV so he could respond immediately to any problems in his ward. Imagine that. Focusing on the black input into, and black solutions to, black problems. There's lots of ways for blacks to stay busy cleaning house while we wait for the white folks to buy a vowel.

James ran on a platform of squashing any dissent from within the black ranks and of letting his beleaguered constituents eat the cake of impoverished black identity. He called Booker white boy, faggot, and claimed he was a Republican supported by the Jews and the Klan. The off duty policemen in James' security detail roughed up Booker supporters and the documentary film crew following the campaign (I supplied commentary for the film); they ejected Booker supporters and journalists from public spaces where James campaigns. Booker supporters lost their jobs, their licenses, their parking permits. James affected fury that Booker, what Bull Connor would have called an outside agitator, maligned Newarks inner city as blighted, that people suffered there. He was shocked, shocked that anyone would claim that there was a lost tribe of poor blacks somewhere in Newark who weren't quite living the dream. Watching the footage was like watching Eyes on the Prize but with blacks as the truncheon-wielding thugs.

Its not that Booker is necessarily right; hes young and somewhat callow and certainly has a lot to learn. (Apparently, he's covering his ass more since the last election, remaining silent on the business-development-at-the-expense-of-the-hood type issues that were his stock in trade last campaign). Its just that James refuses to give him his due as a fellow black man (shaking Booker's hand might be a good start), as a valued son with a valid right to speak. James wont debate Booker on the merits, instead lowering the discourse to name calling and subject changing.

Heres the other thing: what are we to make of a community which can be made to believe that a Stanford and Yale Law grad, a football hero, Rhodes Scholar and teetotaling vegetarian who voluntarily lives in the projects is someone to despise, a stranger? "[He] acts like us, talks like us, but is not us, was one mild James broadside. "You have to learn to be an African American, and we don't have time to train you." Ugh. Al Sharpton stumped for James, "saying that reform leadership is only valid if it grows from within an established, on-site political community. He illustrated with an analogy about how when Moses died, Joshua was picked to lead the Hebrews, as opposed to someone from Pharoah's army," one observer noted. The allusion, with its enemy army image, meshed with Sharpton's declaration that Booker was "sent" to Newark and bankrolled by mysterious "outside" money. Jesse Jackson called Booker a wolf in sheeps clothing. Check out the ever venomous, never at a loss for bile black racists here and fasten your seat belts: Newark Part Deux is going to be a very bumpy ride.

Debra Dickerson 8:53 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (61)

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Posted by: Chris on January 6, 2006 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

That documentary linked is very compelling.

Sharpe is living breathing proof that "the democrats are just as bad". At least at the local level in one city. It would be good to get him out of the party, out of office, and hopefully in a jail cell.

Posted by: jefff on January 6, 2006 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

Only vaguely know of Sharpe. I'll be curious to see what Gilliard and Willis have to say about this.

Posted by: Tony Shifflett on January 6, 2006 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

Not that he actually does prove that the democrats are "just as bad", but he is a perfect poster child for the argument.

Posted by: jefff on January 6, 2006 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

That documentary made me want to move to Newark and work for his campaign. Definitely a watchable race.

Posted by: Sara on January 6, 2006 at 9:40 PM | PERMALINK

Heres the other thing: what are we to make of a community which can be made to believe that a Stanford and Yale Law grad, a football hero, Rhodes Scholar and teetotaling vegetarian who voluntarily lives in the projects is someone to despise, a stranger?

Well, the Republicans managed to convince a majority of the country last year that a decorated war veteran and career prosecutor would be mushy on national security and crime, so it ain't a race problem per se.

I think the problems in Newark are going to be repeated all over the country in all kinds of different forums as the Baby Boomers desperately stretch to hold onto their power for as long as possible while the rest of us try to wrest it away so someone else can have a chance.

Have I mentioned lately that I hate Baby Boomers? I really really do.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on January 6, 2006 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

Kleptocracy, yes. Hudson, no. Newark, which is even more horribly governed than described here [and as a city employee, I've seen it up close], is on the Passaic River.

Posted by: njprogressive on January 6, 2006 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

What do you mean when you say "Movement" veteran or "Movement" parents?

To me that means "Movement Conservative" but I know that's not right. Please explain.

Posted by: MNPundit on January 6, 2006 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

Civil rights movement, presumably.

Posted by: David Weman on January 6, 2006 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

Has the Political Animal become the Kevin and Debra show? Their styles could not be more dissimilar.

Where did this Debra person come from, anyway? Is she here to stay? Most of the time I have no idea what she's is talking about. I mean, I'm sorry, but her posts are mostly incomprehensible to me.

Posted by: Ron J. on January 6, 2006 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

newark will remain a degenerate shithole where it's not safe to walk and certainly not safe to park until sharpe james is carried off in chains. his attitude towards booker is this: we don't need any educated oreo cookies who've been somewhere west of irvington and come back with their fancy pants ideas trying to make our lives better. which means his attitude towards his constituency is: i know what's best for you, and that's keeping it real as a bunch of poor, ignorant "african-americans" (when james uses the phrase, he really means niggers). james' profound racism, his absolute disregard for that city and its citizens, is just phenomenal. and the rest of new jersey literally pays for it in ever increasing taxes.

Posted by: angry young man on January 6, 2006 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

Ron:

Try reading more slowly. Move your lips if that helps.

Posted by: adam on January 6, 2006 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

Well, as depressing as Newark is today, it was absolutely desolate when James became mayor (by defeating another black Democrat, by the way).

His (narrow) victory over Booker last time owed more to the fact that as corrupt as he is, he actually stabilized and even improved Newark during his time in office. Not much of an improvement, mind you, but it's noticeable. Being a state Senator may give him another salary, but it also helps him bring home money from Trenton. Debra may not understand this, but the voters actually pay attention to these things.

That's why he keeps getting re-elected. I would give the good people of Newark a little credit. They generally don't care about the anti-intellectual identity politics that James dishes and Debra is so worked up about. It's a meaningless show. They vote their pocketbooks, and they will gladly vote James out of office if they think it's in their best interests.

Posted by: snowball on January 6, 2006 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

I live just outside of New Brunswick, and I've lived in and around that city since '81.

"Democrats" has nothing to do with entrenched machine politics. Local NJ Dems are often as corrupt as they come -- and I worked my ass off for Corzine last year.

You'd never catch me in a million years voting for a Middlesex County Democrat, though -- despite the fact that I love my congressman Frank Pallone.

The issues here aren't nearly as bad as in Newark (or -- god gods, Camden, which is in state receivership), but the essence of the problems are the same. A pay-to-play culture which is trying to yuppify a city which is overwhelmingly poor, despite J&J corporate headquarters and the main campus of Rutgers University. I busted my butt in '00 working with a local campaign to get some City Council representation for the students and the Hispanic community.

The Peoples Republic of Middlesex County is as bad run by Dems as Club Monmouth is run by Repubs.

On any level of government, one-party rule just sucks boogers.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 6, 2006 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

Ron J,

Well, some people read and understand her. She has had four books published as well as having articles printed in The New Republic, Washington Post, Talk, Slate, Salon, Essence, Vibe as well as being featured the Best American Essays.

Collunsbutt comes in here and tells us what a wonderful and intelligent translator he is, but is upset because she used the term "spoze" and he didn't like the way she had been trained as a translator in the military.
Our local liberal narcisstic Bob is upset because he can not understand her. Bob, of course, has been published so many times for his fine literary works.
Why don't you go to her website - just put your lips together, blow and Google.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on January 6, 2006 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

snowball:

That's the same argument people use for NB mayor Jim Cahill. He's corrupt as sin, but at least he delivers the goods.

I just do not buy it.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 6, 2006 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

3rd Paul:

Are you talking about me or another Bob?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 6, 2006 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

3rd Paul:

I sincerely hope you weren't talking about me, because if you were, we're going to have some words ...

I am not "upest" about Debra's posts; sometimes I just don't understand what she's trying to say. And I'm not alone; many posters have expressed similar things. This doesn't mean I'm trying to run her out of here on a rail. Nor is this a blanket criticism. I made it in two threads, because I could literally not follow her argument.

It's not a style thing; I'm a Thomas Pynchon fan and my own writing is pretty colloquial. This post, however, is perfectly fine.

Where you get off criticizing *anyone* for being a "liberal narcissist" considering your own quirks of style and content I truly have no idea ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 6, 2006 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK

Well, the looney lefty and the confused bleeding hearty paulie boy wants to engage in ill-placed smears.

Collunsbutt comes in here and tells us what a wonderful and intelligent translator he is, but is upset because she used the term "spoze" and he didn't like the way she had been trained as a translator in the military.

Your reading comprehension skills are lacking, my dear little sub-literate lefty cretin. I am not a translator, I work in finance you illiterate git. You no doubt are referrring to the fact that Americans trained in the US military language schools have generally failed to impress me in grosso modo. Not their defect, defect in the schools. I have zero idea if her writing issues have fuck all to do with the US mil. or not.

As for Debra, she appears to have good, even excellent writing skills when she is not pandering to drooling gullible idiots like yourself that appear to be ready to lap up any sort of nonsense so long as the author fits some ethno-political profile. However, most of her posts here have been in some pseudo-hip little posturing game and have been largely unreadable.

But leaving the drooling cretin aside, the only thing one might say on this post as to content is that a bit of context would have been nice. As I don't give a fuck about such politics, so a bit boring for me, but that's not a criticism - just taste.

If she could throw in a bit of context on these type of posts, they surely would be welcomed as an interesting perspective.

There, productive cricism rather than mindless idiotic ideological pandering by idiot semi-literate lefty fools with reading comprehension problems.

Posted by: collounsbury on January 6, 2006 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

Mnemosyne, though you may hate baby boomers, we love you back. So there.

Any of my fellow Democrats want to stand up for the old rotten Southern branch of our party, which long ago rotted and broke off? Ours is the oldest party, and we ought to police it ourselves; occasional corruption should come as no surprise.

I know next to nothing about Newark, but I'm more than inclined to give Dickerson the benefit of the doubt. The Washington Monthly has always been boringly on the side of good government, competence and calling it as you see it, and damn the party labels. This souebmalike more of the same, and most likely A Good Thing.

Posted by: bad Jim on January 7, 2006 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

Aiiii! "souebmalike" should have been "sounds like", rather than some particularly tasty Turkish treat.

Posted by: bad Jim on January 7, 2006 at 12:06 AM | PERMALINK

adam: "Try reading more slowly. Move your lips if that helps."

You know, I would if I thought it would help. Indeed, if I were alone, the only one who can't figure out what the hell Debra is talking about most of the time, I'd really consider that there's something wrong with my own powers of comprehension. But other people, regular commenters who seem quite intelligent, have made exactly the same point in other threads. She has a very convoluted, self-referential way of expressing herself. It's not just that she doesn't do a good job of supporting her arguments, it's that most of the time it's not even clear what she's trying to argue for.

As to how many books she's written, who cares? There are way too many bad books and horrible authors in the world to consider mere publication as a sign of intelligence.

Posted by: Ron J. on January 7, 2006 at 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

Rereading this more closely, I thought a substantive comment.

The description of what seems to be "Corrupt Old Clique" politics run on an ethnic exclusive basis shouldn't be surprising. I see it enough in emerging markets - Newark as I recall from my New York periple has development standards worthy of Cairo.

It rather strikes me that for self-profit, the "ethnic rent-seeker and power parasite" -whether black American or Kurdish or Sunni Arab- will always find it profitable to use James' tactics. Party politics aside, the corruption of Newark does no one any good.

Posted by: collounsbury on January 7, 2006 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

The Ironbound District of Newark isn't so bad, and Newark has gotten a lot better since the early 80s. It's all relative, however. Newark is still a place that few people would voluntarily move to and most people with the means move out of. Entrenched machines are awful, regardless of what party is running them. It's as true for Sharpes James as it was for House Speaker Tom Finneran here in Massachusetts.

At one point in his or her life, everyone should volunteer for a candidate like Booker against an entrenched, corrupt machine candidate like James. You should do this so that you have your hopes dashed when you realize how entrenched the machine is and how hard it is to beat a candidate that can call out the entire civil service, their families, and local unions to the polls with just a few phone calls.

Posted by: Constantine on January 7, 2006 at 12:12 AM | PERMALINK

Ron J:

I absolutely agree, however if you spend time with this post (and normally I don't give a flying fuck about domestic US politics nor Pol Anim. posts on the same), you'll be better rewarded.

She may be taking the complaints to heart. A trifle less self referentialism and the like would be nice, of course.

Posted by: collounsbury on January 7, 2006 at 12:12 AM | PERMALINK

rmck1:

I didn't say that James is a good mayor, or that he isn't corrupt, or that his campaign was anything but morally and intellectually repugnant. But he'll be voted out of office if and only if he stops delivering the goods. He knows that. And Booker knows that too. Contrary to Debra's assumptions, Booker can't base a campaign solely on Ivy League credentials or the approval of the Georgetown cocktail party set.

Posted by: snowball on January 7, 2006 at 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

I was very irked at Ms. Dickerson's initial posts, but now I gotta retract my earlier complaints. This was a very interesting and insightful essay. Better, actually, than most I've seen on this site. Write more of this stuff, please!

Posted by: sglover on January 7, 2006 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK
Well, some people read and understand her. She has had four books published as well as having articles printed in The New Republic, Washington Post, Talk, Slate, Salon, Essence, Vibe as well as being featured the Best American Essays.

I'm sure that many of these are wonderful pieces. Still, she missed a comma in the following sentence, and it makes it harder to scan:

In 2002's race, James met his first serious challenger, City Council member Corey Booker a young black man raised in Newark's white suburbs by Movement veteran parents.

We should all take this as a lesson in how valuable an editor can be. And not just for catching punctuation mistakes, but also for challenging writers, forcing them to be ever clearer in their writing and in their thinking.

Apparently, this writer thinks blogging is just journalism done to lower standards and with greater self-indulgence. It betrays a contempt for other bloggers and for her audience.

Posted by: anonymous on January 7, 2006 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

Apparently, this writer thinks blogging is just journalism done to lower standards and with greater self-indulgence. It betrays a contempt for other bloggers and for her audience.

Oh rubbish, the woman was just feeling her way along. She got it wrong at first. So bloody what, it's not contempt, it's getting her bloody sea legs.

Posted by: collounsbury on January 7, 2006 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

snowball:

> I didn't say that James is a good mayor, or that he isn't corrupt,
> or that his campaign was anything but morally and intellectually
> repugnant. But he'll be voted out of office if and only if he stops
> delivering the goods. He knows that. And Booker knows that too.

Well, this is a prima-facie contradiction. Either James is "morally
and intellectually repugnant," or he's "delivering the goods." If
he were truly repugnant to everybody he wouldn't hold onto power.

Ahhh, the question is, who is he "delivering the goods" to?
And how does he deliver them? And who gets left out, and
how do they convince themselves to continue to vote for him?

I live in a machine city. I know exactly how the game is played and
why it's so hard for the machine to lose. My mayor isn't a racial
demagogue -- he's a white guy -- but he has racial demagogue proxies.

Sharpe James "delivers the goods" to people on the city payroll. And
he discourages change by promoting a self-serving image of "the black
community" whose main purpose is to define itself against outsiders.
Nobody but Sharpe James can "stand up" for a mostly disenfranchised
inner city community because they, unlike Sharpe, "don't know what
it's like." This is the triumph of image over substance, and it uses
precisely the kind of all-out character assassination as Karl Rove.

"Delivering the goods" to the people who actually live in the city --
not the downtown corporations wbo make up the so-called Reniassance
-- has absolutely nothing to do with it. Should James attract these
businesses to Newark? Of course. But if he chooses to prioritize
their concerns over concerns of the residents, he shouldn't be allowed
to get away with demonizing candidates who have other ideas for them.

> Contrary to Debra's assumptions, Booker can't base
> a campaign solely on Ivy League credentials or the
> approval of the Georgetown cocktail party set.

Well this is meaningless rhetoric and it illustrates precisely what
I'm talking about. You're attacking Booker for being an "outsider."
You said not Word One about his proposals for the city. By doing
this, you're serving as Sharpe James' unpaid minion, nothing more.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 7, 2006 at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

Reniassance = Renaissance

Posted by: rmck1 on January 7, 2006 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not going to defend Mayor James's actions (I don't know enough about them; as described they are deplorable). But I think you miss one important truth. When James called him a Republican in disguise he was making a supportable claim. A lot of this comes out of the issue of vouchers for education. Booker is on the board of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a pro voucher group that seems to pretty much have the purpose of receiving Bush Department of Ed grants and grants from the Bradley foundation for the purposes of promoting school vouchers. He is also, along with GOP gubenatorial candidate Brett Schundler, a founder of a NJ version of BAEO. In addition he has associations, with the Manhattan Institute, Heritage and Alan Keyes' political action committee.

I don't think any of these associations or view are illegal, or particularly inappropriate for an African American, a conservative or anyone else. And I still find some parts of conservatism to be defensible and viable things.

But I don't know the extent to which these associations led to shadowy outside money coming into Newark. I do know there is an organized set of voucher interests that were making large efforts to reach African American politicians on the voucher issue in the period you describe. Although Jack Kemp might have believed his own rhetoric, alot of it was an effort to cause a cleavage in the Democratic party. If Cory Booker decided that he was using these interests instead of vice versa, or that it was a dance, I can understand that. If the dance didn't lead to "shadowy outside money" I can understand that too.

But in the fight we're in over what America is and what it will become you are doing a disservice to readers of this blog to just present the information about who Cory Booker is the way you have. I don't know who Cory Booker is. And I've tried to find out.


Posted by: benton on January 7, 2006 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK

Good night, boys.

And I must now decide why I am supposed to be excited that Herman Edwards is going to become the new head coach for the KC Chiefs.

benton,

You are correct that the right is trying to use vouchers and faith based programs to drive a wedge between the Black pastors and the Democratic Party. Earlier, in the Lusk of Philadelphia thread, there was mention of that million dollar program being awarded to Lusk.

It is so lonely being a cretin. Collinbutt, go back to your Arab porn. Good night.

Posted by: stupid git on January 7, 2006 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

Oh rubbish, the woman was just feeling her way along. She got it wrong at first. So bloody what, it's not contempt, it's getting her bloody sea legs

Bloggers build their audiences by maintaining a high level of clarity and insight over a long period of time. So by the time they're in front of a large audience, they've pretty much "felt their way along" already.

I don't know how this writer got her impression of what standard of clarity and insight she would be held to. But it obviously wasn't from reading firedoglake or billmon, or any other of the many political blogs I normally read, including political animal.

It seemed at the outset that she felt her posts would be on par with those people if she threw her first drafts at us. That shows nothing but contempt for bloggers.

And throwing a first draft at your readers shows nothing but contempt for them. Why should I have to do your copy editing for you in my head as I go along?

Her posts have improved a great deal, so now maybe we're getting her third or fourth drafts. Which may mean she now realizes what standard is being maintained elsewhere in the left blogosphere, and what expectations that standard has created in readers.

But we're still not getting her final draft, the one without the imprecisions and glaring, distracting punctuation errors.

I'm looking forward to that, because it's becoming clear that she's able to produce really good, distinctive stuff.

Posted by: anonymous on January 7, 2006 at 1:31 AM | PERMALINK

The description of what seems to be "Corrupt Old Clique" politics run on an ethnic exclusive basis shouldn't be surprising.

It's not even ahistorical, unless you've never heard of Tammany Hall or Richard J. Daley.

Over the long run, cities like Newark are very familiar: they're like Chicago when Capone ran the place. Gangbangers didn't invent the drive-by shooting -- watch the original 1930s version of "Scarface" and it will all look very familiar.

Over the short run, of course, it sucks MAJOR ass to live there. Chicago was only cleaned up by a major effort of the federal government. I doubt a new Eliot Ness will be coming to Newark's assistance any time soon.

(And I agree that this is Debra's best and most coherent post so far. I think she's getting her sea legs in this blogging business.)

Posted by: Mnemosyne on January 7, 2006 at 3:09 AM | PERMALINK

Aw, geez, and here I thought Kwame Kilpatrick of Detroit was the only Dem mayor to be a corrupt, looting, absolute embarassment to his party, his city, hos state, his country and his race (as in "human").

Posted by: tam1MI on January 7, 2006 at 3:10 AM | PERMALINK

Heres the other thing: what are we to make of a community which can be made to believe that a Stanford and Yale Law grad, a football hero, Rhodes Scholar and teetotaling vegetarian who voluntarily lives in the projects is someone to despise, a stranger?

No, Debra: it's that you believe we are supposed to fall for someone solely because he went to Stanford and Yale Law. I lived in New Jersey for nearly a decade, and I'm no fan of Sharpe James. However, I have no automatic devotion for a challenger just because he went to the "right" schools.

There are a lot of very talented people of all races who don't get the time of day from the political elite, simply because they don't have those connections. It's sad to say, but probably no one in the Democratic power structure would have given a damn about Barack Obama if he hadn't attended Harvard Law School. And attending elite colleges shouldn't be a prerequisite for office for those of any ethnicity, as our culture increasingly devolves into a meritocracy.

This is not to say a person with such a background can't succeed -- look at Anthony Williams in Washington -- but I don't see Corey Booker as having his qualities. All things being equal, I'll take the person whose background is most similar to mine, and for most people, that includes a resume of colleges where "-educated" isn't regularly used as a glib suffix. (Especially in a society where class consciousness is increasing; I would hope that the Democrats are smart enough in 2008 to nominate a candidate who the Republicans can't paint with an elitist brush -- especially when there are as many Ivies in the GOP as with the Dems.)

Sorry, Debra, but on this one you just don't get it.

Posted by: Vincent on January 7, 2006 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think Sharpe is running. That's what the city hall people say. And in that case Corey's got it.

Posted by: Marshall on January 7, 2006 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Well, hell, you should come to Memphis sometime. We have a incompetent-but-entrenched mayor (Herenton) *and* half the other city politicians seem to have the same last name (Ford). In an interesting twist, our dumbass mayor is not just a machine Dem, but a crypto-Repub who has campaigned on behalf of statewide conservative Repub candidates. Of course, I do think he would probably get the boot if the local Repub party would run a smart, young black candidate against him, but instead they seem to prefer to nominate vacuous white suburban businessmen.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 7, 2006 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

"There are a lot of very talented people of all races who don't get the time of day from the political elite, simply because they don't have those connections"

Connections come from many places, not just elite schools. Just ask Delay.

"It's sad to say, but probably no one in the Democratic power structure would have given a damn about Barack Obama if he hadn't attended Harvard Law School"

Maybe so, but does that matter? He not only went to Harvard Law, but excelled there. Excelled, as in achieved. Why is that a problem for you?

"And attending elite colleges shouldn't be a prerequisite for office for those of any ethnicity"

It is possible that attending elite colleges, and more importantly, doing well there, is a reflection of intelligence, hard work and commitment. Elite colleges are not the only way to measure this, but it shouldnt be discounted.

"All things being equal, I'll take the person whose background is most similar to mine"

You sound insecure here, like you have an inferiority complex. Its understandable, but really, political leadership is a rare thing. Its not common. I dont want a common person to lead me. I want an extraordinary person. And like I said, extraordinary people come from all backgrounds, including elite schools.

"I would hope that the Democrats are smart enough in 2008 to nominate a candidate who the Republicans can't paint with an elitist brush -- especially when there are as many Ivies in the GOP as with the Dems."

When do we stop listening to republicans about what kind of person we should nominate? What makes you think they wouldnt paint the candidate as an elitist anyway? And if we give them what they want, a republican-lite candidate, whats to say they wont accuse us of not sticking to our guns, of nominating a candidate that doesnt represent the party?

Maybe youre a troll. Who knows.

Posted by: donnie on January 7, 2006 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Come on down to Bayville, the Berkeley Shores section on the Barnegat Bay here in Ocean County, and see the lovely second house, plus fine boat, 213K will buy.

Posted by: On the Bay on January 7, 2006 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Debra presents a very slanted perspective. When in graduate school, I did some political analysis of Newark politics. Traditionally, Newark had been run by a corrupt white power structure that excluded black politicians from significant roles in decision making.

In the 60s, blacks became the majority population, followed by a reform black movement (led by James) that took power. Government is still corrupt, but the level of corruption since has dropped significantly.

Debra is completely wrong about economic development in Newark, which has taken off the past 15-20 years. Newark is still in bad shape but has appreciably improved. The main problem, which is true for all major cities, is that they do not have the tax base to support the level of services required for a poor population, ie. adequately functioning schools, treatment of drug addicts, cleanup & safety programs etc.

I know little about Corey Booker (which puts me on a par with Debra). My understanding is that he is basically a privatize the public services conservative, which while helping a small percent of the population doesn't address overall problems.

Posted by: Carter on January 7, 2006 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Two final notes:

1) The quoted $200,000+ salary for James seems to be a combining what he receives as state senator & mayor.

2) James is a decent administrator, & while tolerant of a good amount of corruption has, historically, been good for the city of Newark, particularly its black inhabitants.

ps. I'd take more seriously Debra's concern about political corruption if she wrote a few posts about the endemic political corruption through out the South, which is run by right wing Republicans (I know you can point to several places like Memphis, Louisiana etc. where Democrats are in control). The levels throughout the South are tenfold that of a place like Newark.

Posted by: Carter on January 7, 2006 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Donnie, I am not a troll. I am a proud liberal, but I'm also an anti-elitist (not anti-intellectual). As much as I hate to say it, the Democratic party has been taken over by the elites (i.e., the Kennedy wing), which probably is a prime, albeit not the only, reason for its decline in presidential politics post-1968. We need to get back to the benevolent kind of populism -- the economic kind -- that Democrats once were known for. Screw the cultural crap like abortion that's largely irrelevant.

So forgive me if I don't bow down towards Harvard and genuflect. My definition of liberalism is not joining the elite, but beating it.

Posted by: Vincent on January 7, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

anonymous: "... she missed a comma in the following sentence, and it makes it harder to scan..."

Get that pole out of your ass. It's a blog, not the morning paper on your doorstep. You've got a problem if an absent comma interferes with your comprehension of that sentence. If firedoglake & Billmon are what you like, then go read them. You're simply being priggish, but - at some level - you must realize this, since you're posting anonymously.

Posted by: Sir Dennis Eton-Hogg on January 7, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

I like Debra's posts. I like them because she brings up issues about which I knbow nothing and about which I have never thought. It is a good experrience to find out how limited my view of the world is. I hope she keeps posting for awhile, and when she stops posting herre I hope I can continue to read herr stuff on her website.

Posted by: lily on January 7, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

On the Bay: Second home? Don't make me laugh. Sharpe has more than five, possibly in the double digits. He's quite into real estate throughout the city and the state.

Carter: You're right that Debra's writing is grossly slanted, but yours suffers also. Corey is not a privatize-everything conservative; he's a mainstream Democrat who supports pilot voucher programs. I don't agree with that, but there are plenty of good urban Democrats who do.

Sharpe did not lead the Black reformers of the 1960s, and he isn't the last movement veteran who's still in office as mayor (contrary to Debra's claim, though she seems to have lapped up Sharpe's kool aid on at least one subject.) He is corrupt but hardly unique in that.

And the revelations about idiot assemblywoman Evelyn Williams are harming him badly. It was he who put her in Donald Tucker's seat.

Posted by: Marshall on January 7, 2006 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

It's like having a little Republican Party inside the Democratic Party.

But I thought it was illegal for someone to hold two governmental offices simultaneously --?

Posted by: cld on January 7, 2006 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

It is often said that revolutionaries don't make the best governors and visa versa.

Booker is taking the same path as ex-Baltimore Kurt Schmoke did. I understand the urge of these talented policians to fix what most needs fixing, yet at the same time these war-torn cities have nearly intractable problems. Booker shouldn't waste his political capital there, he should seek a national office instead.

Posted by: chris on January 7, 2006 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

cld:

Not in New Jersey! Senator James is joined by Senators Doria and Sacco as Mayor/Senators. Senator Sweeney is a Freeholder board president. A number of assemblymen are also Mayors or Freeholders/councilpeople. Mayor Alter of Fort Lee is a state cabinet official, which is to my mind more heinous.

Welcome to New Jersey, the land of plural officeholding.

Posted by: Marshall on January 8, 2006 at 12:16 AM | PERMALINK

CLD wrote, "But I thought it was illegal for someone to hold two governmental offices simultaneously --?"

That is up to the state and city. I am not familiar with either Newark or NJ, but a lot of state legislatures are basically part-time positions. Mayor is also in a lot of places. Newark is a bit large for mayor to be a part-time job, but that depends in part on how the city government is organized.

Having one person be both mayor and state rep is less of a conflict of interest than if they held either of those jobs (with the corresponding opportunity to affect zoning, environmental rules, etc) while working as a real-estate developer on the side. Of course, a couple posters have suggested that Sharpe is doing that also...

Posted by: tanj on January 8, 2006 at 3:00 AM | PERMALINK

One of the things that makes Debra's posts challenging to me is that they do contain and refer to a cultural context that isn't MY cultural context.

Once I figured that out, things became easier. "Movement" refers to civil rights movement, for example. Since the audience here is more like me than it is like Debra, I suspect many of you have had the same culture shock.

I don't think she's wrong to blog that way. Blogging is supposed to be subjective. Of course, I still think commas are good, but what the heck, mistakes happen.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on January 8, 2006 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

I think the defenders of Sharpe James above are a perfect illustration of the moral bankruptcy of much of the left. If James is not despicable nothing is despicable. If a right wing Repub said that for all his faults David Duke is the authentic voice of upstate Louisiana rednecks I think the ethical error would be a little bit more obvious to you. If those defenders threw in a few obsfucations about how at least the economy has improved since he came on the scene that would be treated with the derision it deserves.

Posted by: minion of rove on January 8, 2006 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

A few people have pointed out that there is a lot of new development going on in Newark. This is completely correct, but I think it's wrong to credit James with everything good that's happening. Newark benefits from being so near New York City and from the (intensifying) shortage of buildable land in northern New Jersey.


The Star-Ledger had an article a few weeks ago about how the James administration is giving awawy vacant lots to developers at $1 a sq foot. Newark had to do that fifteen years ago, but now that land is worth much, much more than that. You won't be surprised to hear that the people getting these deals are friends of James.

Another prob with Newark's new development is that the commercial stuff is all strip malls. I'm trying not to be an aesthetic snob here, but Newark can't look like Parsippany if it's ever going to be a great place again.

PLEASE CHECK OUT MY NEWARK WEBSITE

Newarkology

Posted by: J. Bennett on January 8, 2006 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

minion of rove,

You left out a few commas. Wouldn't want "anonymous" to become upset.

Posted by: stupid git on January 8, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Kevin, Thanks for letting Debra blog. She has a different voice and a different perspective, and it's very much to your credit that you open up the Political Animal community.

Newark isn't as bad a place to live as some of you folks say. The Ironbound is vibrant and hip. But Sharpe James's administration is corrupt and uninspried, and Debra is absolutely right about the way he defeated Booker in the last election.

Posted by: Jan on January 8, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

It's a blog, not the morning paper on your doorstep...You're simply being priggish...

My point is that she's not writing to the standard of clarity that's typically upheld at this blog and others like it.

Now, it's very hard to write clearly. But the easiest part of writing clearly is punctuating properly. If she hasn't put in the effort to get the easy stuff right....

...but - at some level - you must realize this, since you're posting anonymously.

I'm not writing anonymously, I'm writing pseudonymously. Which, unless your real name is Sir Dennis Eton-Hogg, is exactly what you're doing.

But at some level you must realize this, since you're posting pseudonymously.

If firedoglake & Billmon are what you like, then go read them.

Hey, I was here before she was.

Posted by: anonymous on January 8, 2006 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

You left out a few commas. Wouldn't want "anonymous" to become upset.

Hey, looking back over my own posts, I notice places where I left out words because of sloppy editing. And I'm sure I missed some commas somewhere.

But I'm not posting on the front page.

Posted by: anonymous on January 8, 2006 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

Very, very late to the program, but who is this idiot?

I was with her through the paragraph describing how James is illegally abusing mayoral power to harm Booker and his associates, right up until she concludes the problem with this behavior is that James refuses to acknowledge Booker as a 'brother'.

It's not that James is an incompetent thug and a criminal. Apparently that's okay, as long as he's being a good 'brother' to other 'brothers'?

The last two female guests here were phenomenal...I had no complaints. But this is freakin ridiculous.

Posted by: theperegrine on January 9, 2006 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

I am a godless overeducated pallid yuppie who actually lives in Newark. My perspectives:

James is as corrupt as his detractors say. But his supporters are right--he has done a hell of a lot of good for the city. The two are not necessarily inconsistent. I think that Newark is better-run than Manhattan (where I work.) There are several kinds of corruption and Newark's, although pervasive, is relatively benign.

The real political story, IMHO, is an ethnic changing of the guard. Newark is becoming less black and increasingly--hmmm, how to put it--Latino-Portuguese-Brazilian-African-whatever. Black voters are still a plurality, and maybe a bare majority. James is the candidate of the old-line blacks. Booker is the candidate of the new forces, and the more affluent blacks of the North Ward. You will probably keep seeing black mayors for the next few decades. But black, in Newark, will be the new Irish: representative of a large ethnic group, but more trusted by the other groups than a third-group ethnic.

The other story is machine politics (James) v. modern money politics (Booker). James is one of the few machine pols who has survived a modern air war. We'll see if he can do it again.

As far as James' claim that Booker is a gay Republican--possibly true. James should know. His "Republicanism" is a matter of public record: he has ruthlessly pushed poor non-voters out of Newark, and favored developers at every turn.

Posted by: Oscar Pituitary on January 9, 2006 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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