The great and illustrious Carbon Fibber writes in to ask what the Czar thinks about Atlanta’s mayoral situation.
Quickly, Atlanta has had a black mayor since 1974, with a little over 57% of the population being African-American.
There are five leading candidates for the job: Lisa Borders, Kasim Reed, Jesse Spikes, Glenn Thomas (all of whom are black), and Mary Norwood (who is white). Fine so far. But the black community is divided between the five, which actually puts Mary Norwood in the lead.
Over the weekend, two professors from Clark Atlanta University wrote a memo that advocated Reed, Spikes, and Thomas all drop out of the race, and unify support behind Borders…theoretically guaranteeing that Borders would win. The full text of the memo indicates that Borders has legitimately earned a lot of white support, and that folks should not assume that whites will vote for Norwood solely on race.
This memo was leaked to the press. Reed immediately objected to the memo, claiming that the motivation behind it is pure racism. On closer inspection, Reed has some points. From the memo: “There is a chance for the first time in 25 years that African Americans could lose the Mayoral seat in Atlanta….Time is of the essence because in order to defeat a Norwood (white) mayoral candidacy, we have to get out now and work in a manner to defeat her.” Was it necessary to mention that Norwood is white? Would it be helpful to add why a Norwood mayoral victory is bad for Atlanta? Or is Reed right that this is about race?
The professors responded by saying that the demographics are clear: Atlanta is a majority black city, and that a majority black city deserves a candidate who best represents it. And that would be Borders, since the other black candidates are so far behind in the polls that they are effectively out of the running anyway.
Okay, the Czar thinks, some points. “There is a chance for the first time in 25 years…” is wrong, because Sam Massell was the last white mayor of Atlanta, 35 years ago. Evidently there is less science in political science than there used to be at Clark Atlanta University.
Next, the Czar agrees that Atlanta deserves a mayor who represents it. Why isn’t that Norwood? Is she not Atlantan enough? Is there a history of corruption? Or is this a case that she is white, therefore she is from a different identity group than two liberal professors need her to be. If so, then this is purely a case of identity politics at work. The good news is that doesn’t necessarily equate to racism. The bad news is that it’s just as stupid.
Third, if Reed, Spikes, and Thomas are polling inconsequential numbers, then why do they need to drop out? Adding their small percentages to Borders is not likely to turn the tide against Norwood, whom Atlanta votes of all colors genuinely seem to like.
Fourth, what the hell is the point of the memo? To whom was it intended? What was the expected consequence? It seems that the two professors who wrote this—and the Czar does not know if they are white, black, one of each, or other—had some motivation to draw voters to Borders, rather than Norwood. So what was it, if not to expose itself and create a stir such as this?
In full disclosure, the Czar has been to Atlanta several times over the last few years and generally dislikes the city. He found it dirty, inefficient, and a little full of itself. But the people were very nice, and the food generally pretty great. Because of that, the Czar would endorse whichever candidate best represented what the city could be, rather than maintain the status quo or cater to a particular group of people who are not an overwhelming majority.