Black Leaders See Senate Seat Being Hijacked

Laura Washington, Chicago Sun-Times, December 15, 2008

Bye bye, black Senate seat! The political blackbirds are singing a swan song for the hopes of keeping a U.S. Senate seat in African-American hands. The Rod Blagojevich implosion may have dealt that cause a fatal blow.

Last week’s stunning pay-to-play charges led to calls around the nation for a special election to choose President-elect Barack Obama’s successor.

That possibility has provoked outrage among black community leaders and politicians. Not so fast, they are saying.

Last month, the Concerned Clergy of Illinois demanded that the governor appoint a “qualified” African American “who can fill this vacancy and who has the capacity to be re-elected when [Obama’s] term ends in 2010.” The problem, as I wrote then, is that black leaders were at odds on who should get the nod.

After the Blago bomb hit, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush of Chicago’s 1st Congressional District gave some big love to the beleaguered Senate wannabe, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. The minister’s group is solidly behind him.

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In an interview on MSNBC, Rush added, “I think that we should have at least one African American in the United States Senate, and I think that African American should be Jesse Jackson Jr.”

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Meanwhile, the concerned clergy, a cadre of several dozen prominent black ministers, are “appalled” by the fallout of the sensational federal investigation. They see it as a thinly veiled attempt by white pols to hijack the seat, says Stephanie Gadlin, the coalition’s spokeswoman.

While they aren’t ready to coalesce around Jackson, they are gearing up for a fight. There’s a massive conspiracy afoot, Gadlin says. “We see it for what it is. What we are really looking at is ‘The Luck of the Irish’—two Madigans, Fitzgerald, Durbin, Cullerton, Claypool, Daley, and all the rest. They’re making a power play to regain the control of the politics, money and jobs in this state.”

An invigorated push for Triple J may be a tad premature. Still, I am heartened that black leaders may finally be learning the lesson that politics is about addition, not subtraction. Until the Blagojevich debacle, they were flopping around divided and ineffectual, bickering and floating an avalanche of names: Davis, Burris, Jarrett, Jackson, Jones, Raoul, Turner, blah, blah, blah.

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White voters don’t and won’t accept the idea that America and Illinois need—and deserve—a black senator. (When the Senate was all white, they never complained).

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washington

Laura Washington.

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