"Once You Go Black …"

Relax — NY Governor David Paterson made that once-taboo remark legit last week:

New York Gov. David Paterson is getting rave reviews as one of the Gridiron Dinner speakers over the weekend … Even though he became governor of New York in quite a surprising fashion, it’s not the governor title that he wants, apparently. Paterson’s real goal, he said, is to follow in Barack Obama’s footsteps and be president of the United States, because: “Once you go black, you don’t go back.”

In fact, that old remark seemingly has become a new anthem for the contemporary civil rights movement — once an African-American is elected to the US House of Representatives or Senate, that Congressional seat is now and forevermore “black” .

After Barack Obama won the Presidency, it was widely assumed within Chicago political circles that Gov. Rod Blagojevitch would be under a great deal of pressure to nominate another African-American to fill Obama’s vacated Senate seat. The “Concerned Clergy of Illinois” boldly voiced their opinion in an open letter to the governor:

“We want to remind you there are a number of qualified African Americans who can fill this vacancy and who have the capacity to be re-elected when [Obama’s Senate] term ends in 2010. … We cannot build a successful nation in the 21st century that moves by subtraction rather than addition.”

The letter also instructed the governor that the Senate seat should be filled “first of all by an African-American. Secondly by an African-American who is qualified and [electable] for the continuing term for the next election for that seat. A replacement of one who is committed to the principles that are affecting Illinois citizens across the state is another requirement that we are requesting that individual to have.”

But Chicago’s civil rights leadership and black clergy are now in a tizzy, because Blago’s “pay to play” scandal has seriously tarnished their golden boy, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who is widely believed to be Blago’s “Candidate Number 5” — to whose emmisaries Blago infamously quoted a $1 million price tag for the Senate nomination.

It will be very interesting to see how the state of Illinois chooses to fill Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat. Right now, Gov. Blagojevitch is extremely toxic, which means that no one in their right mind would accept an appointment from him. (Apparently he’s figured that out too.) And state Democrats want to avoid a statewide special Senate election at all costs. The stench of corruption has so thoroughly contaminated their party that a Republican victory in such an election is a real possibility. But right now, it seems that the people of Illinois are going to be held hostage by the state’s civil rights leaders, who demand that Obama’s replacement must be a “qualified” African-American, and who seem unwilling to give the people of Illinois the freedom to make that choice for themselves.

At least Laura Washington is willing to be honest: “White voters don’t and won’t accept the idea that America and Illinois need — and deserve — a black senator.” Really? That’s painting the people of your state with a pretty broad brush, isn’t it? I think what Ms. Washington and others fear the most is that Illinois will end up with a senator who simply isn’t liberal enough, regardless of skin color. An African-American like Michael Steele or J. C. Watts would be an abomination to them. And they know that their ideal candidate, an extremely liberal Chicagoan from the Jesse Jackson-Bill Ayres-Bobby Rush enclave, likely would not survive in a statewide election.

In many ways, it’s understandable why African-Americans want to hold on to Congressional seats. Many old-timers strongly tie those election victories to the Civil Rights struggle 45 years ago, and they are very emotional about losing something that so many fought so hard to attain. There are still pockets of strong racism in this country (not all of it directed toward African-Americans, by the way) but the election of Barack Obama tells me that we are past the point where a candidate in a general election automatically stands no chance of winning if he is not white. It is wrong for the civil rights establishment in Chicago to want to disenfranchise Illinois voters in the name of “progress.”

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