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Liberal blacks are toast Obama era

Apr 29, 2013 by

Over five years after Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses and demolished the notion that white voters wouldn’t support a black presidential candidate, progress for other African-American politicians remains elusive. Even as the country elected and re-elected Obama, making it seem increasingly unremarkable to have a black family in the White House, African-Americans are scarce and bordering on extinct in the U.S. Senate and governorships.

The president is indeed exceptional – but in the wrong sense of the phrase as it applies to other black politicians.

Consider what has taken place, or not taken place, since Obama broke the political color barrier in 2008: There has not been one African-American elected to the Senate – the only blacks in the chamber were appointed to fill vacant seats; the country’s sole African-American governor, who was originally elected before Obama captured the presidency, won re-election but may leave the ranks of black governors bare when he leaves after 2013; and a cadre of promising, next-generation black politicians have either lost races (Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, Florida Rep. Kendrick Meek and Alabama Rep. Artur Davis) or seen their careers extinguished because of scandal (Jesse Jackson Jr.)

It’s a particularly embarrassing situation for Democrats, to whom black voters give the vast majority of their support. Until Sen. Mo Cowan (D-Mass.) was appointed in February, the only African-American in the Senate was a Republican – Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). And it’s not lost on high-profile Democrats that the GOP now enjoys more ethnic diversity among its statewide leaders than the party whose president is both an illustration and beneficiary of America’s changing face.

“We’re not there yet,” conceded Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). “That’s why when people ask me whether the election of President Obama is the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream, I say, ‘No, it’s just a down payment. There’s still a lot of work to do.’”

Looking at the horizon, there’s reason for some optimism that a class of 30-something and 40-something African Americans will ascend to statewide office. Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx (whom Obama will nominate to be Transportation secretary on Monday), California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Maryland Lt. Gov Anthony Brown, Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) and Oklahoma state House Speaker T.W. Shannon could become governor or senator in the next decade.

But in the short-term there’s a glaring dearth of African-Americans ready to step up. Booker could be the only black elected to the Senate in 2014 and Brown the sole African-American to become governor next year – and that assumes both survive the nomination and general election.

Conversations with about two-dozen elected officials, operatives and commentators yield an array of explanations for how the country could twice elect a black president yet not see similar racial progress in other high-ranking political positions.

A central point of contention – and one of the rawest debates ongoing in black politics – is whether Obama shares some blame for not doing more to advance a generation of African-American politicians.

“The reality is that for all of the euphoria about the election of Barack Obama in black America, his election had not had coattails,” said Tavis Smiley, the popular talk show host and outspoken Obama critic.

Smiley contended that Jesse Jackson Sr.’s unsuccessful presidential elections in the 1980sdid more to empower black politicians and voters than Obama. “That’s just a hard fact that we’ve got to come to terms with,” he said.

via Black pols stymied in Obama era – Jonathan Martin – POLITICO.com.

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