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August 19, 2014 4:36 PM Bitter Laugh of the Day

By Ed Kilgore

Get a load of this (via Politico’s Jonthan Topaz):

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles on Tuesday stood by his comments about racial tensions in his city, saying that none of the city’s residents believe there is a racial divide in the community.
During a contentious interview with MSNBC’s Tamron Hall, Knowles — who has previously downplayed racial tensions in Ferguson’s history — was asked whether he had changed his opinions after seeing outcries following the fatal shooting of unarmed African-American 18-year-old Michael Brown.
“I don’t believe that’s the case, still. There’s not a racial divide in the city of Ferguson,” the mayor said.
“According to whom?” Hall responded. “Is that your perspective, or do you believe that is the perspective of African-Americans in your community?”
“That is the perspective of all residents in our city, absolutely,” Knowles said.

Yeah, all those uppity and disgruntled folk are outside agitators, no doubt.

There are, of course, “outsiders” taking advantage of the trouble in Ferguson, some simply to protest, others to loot or toss Molotov cocktails. But the idea that all those people on the streets from the very beginning, including hundreds of identifiable local residents, have been “outsiders,” is ludicrous.

You may have been wondering how Knowles, a white Republican employing a nearly-all-white police force, got elected in a place like Ferguson to begin with. As Daily Kos Elections’ Steve Singiser (among others) has explained, Ferguson hold municipal elections in off-years (most recently 2013) in April, a time guaranteed to produce low and racially-skewed turnout. Accordingly, turnout came in at a booming 11%—6% among African-Americans and 17% among whites. By comparison, in 2012, black and white turnout rates in Ferguson were roughly equal.

Now these sorts of low-turnout (by design, it would seem) local elections are not unusual. As Singiser notes, turnout in the 2013 Los Angeles municipal elections was also 11%. Methinks if Knowles runs for re-election, that will change, and he’ll learn first-hand that African-Americans are not pleased with his governance. But it’s a shame we have to have situations like that in Ferguson before people notice American democracy is often everything but.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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