Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Top Black News Stories of 2006

Each year I put together this list of stories which I believe had an impact in Black America. Some may agree some may disagree. Well have it.


1. Obama Factor – The release of Audacity of Hope by Senator Barrack Obama of Illinois has clearly put him on the short list of Presidential hopefuls. Some view his candidacy as the alternative for Senator Hilary Clinton. The good news is he holds the spotlight; bad news is he’ll be a target. The comparison to Kennedy comes from an unlikely place, white voters.

2. The Mid-term elections. – The Republican revolution is over. Democrats were able to exploit the War in Iraq to their advantage and point out the problems. Having been out of power for almost a decade can they govern?

3. Black Folks doing what they do and having deadly implication – This year being Black had tragic implications. In New York there was a deadly shooting of a young man after celebrating a bachelor party. A Black woman who performed as an exotic dancer in North Carolina claimed she was raped by white lacrosse players from Duke (her case was recently dropped for lack of evidence).

4. Dafur – this is Rwanda revisited. The world’s superpowers have called it genocide but no one can move to stop it. The conflict looks to spill over into neighboring Chad. The broader implication is that there are some who are wondering if the Horn of Africa is about implode. The recent fighting in Somali should be a concerned. Now Ethiopian forces are fighting Somali. Watch this story in 2007.

5. The War in Iraq – We’re pushing three thousand dead American soldiers and I’m not certain if we’re closer to a resolution than we were a year ago. It’s obvious the President doesn’t want to be seen as a loser so he’s planning to send in more troops. Wait a minute isn’t that what LBJ did in Viet Nam?

6. Pimp-in –I’m not a fan of this word and find it hard to explain but it became a part of the lexicon this year. Most of us know it as the exploitation of prostitutes but its meaning has changed. Using the word these days have both good and bad connotation. First the good, I’ve heard it used in connection with things like, Pimp My Ride (dressing up a car with over the top accessories), Yo Pimp (a reference to someone who has taken advantage of the system to make money), Pimpin (dressing up in the latest fashion). On the negative side I’ve heard it in connection with the exploitation of people and their situation i.e. with Wall Street, President Bush and the situation in Dafur

7. The Death of Icons – This was a year when various icons died. Their legacy and contribution to humanity should cause all of us to wonder, “What is our purpose on Earth.” Here’s a list of a few who changed they way we live, think, and do what we do. Gordon Parks, Corretta Scott King, Lou Rawls, Gerald Boyd, Ed Bradley, August Wilson, and James Brown.

8. Africa Finds Democracy – This year two elections boded well for the continent. In Liberia and Congo there were democrat elections (despite calls of voter fraud and fabrication). After years of constant warring these two countries want to emerge from their dark past.

9. White Folks Saying Stupid Things – The evolution of the net and its portals such as youtube.com and TMZ.com Has proven that age old adage “turn on a camera and people will say stupid things. Case in point Actor Michael Richards using the N-word, Senator George Allen referring to a man of Indian descent as a “macaca.”

10. Hip Hop Grows Up – Nas in his most recent release suggested, Hip Hop is Dead. While I would beg to differ it’s going through some major growing pains. The early stars of the genre are in their thirties (Jay-zee, P Diddy, 50 Cent and Nas) and the pioneers are in their forties and pushing 50 (Chuck D, Doug E. Fresh, and Rappers Delight). Hip Hop still is the center of the universe for the under 25 crowd (Jibbs, Chris Brown, Neo, and Akon). Its center has moved to the Dirty South with ATL as its capital.

Person of the Year – Mayor Cory Booker, Newark, New Jersey

I picked Mayor Booker because he gets it. Having power is not about you but, about the people. He may have his critics but he rises above the fray. What Mayor do you know would live in public housing to get a sense of what he needs to be done to help his city. Yes he’s articulate, charismatic, intelligent, and a problem solver. He will define the generation that use to be know as Generation X. For more on his honor check out this web-site


Friday, December 15, 2006

Why Cardin Won? (full chapter)

Conventional wisdom would say Ben Cardin was preordained to take over the senate seat vacated by Senator Paul Sarbanes. While Maryland Democratic political strongmen like Rep. Steny Hoyer and State Senator Mike Miller may have suggested the election was “in the bag,” Cardin knew otherwise.

After winning a significant primary challenge against Kweisi Mfume, the three-term congressman turned his attention to the Republican challenger Michael Steele. The showdown was the equivalent of heavyweight bout - and played out like one - all the way to the end.

His first task was to blunt the Steel enthusiasm sparked by TV ads which foreshadowed negative ads with spooky music and absurd claims. The cute ads were effective. But the ads quickly went into attack mode. An initial attack ad claimed Cardin accepted money from prescription drug companies. A second attack tried to link the Cardin campaign to the theft of Steele’s credit report. In fact, it was a member of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) — not Cardin’s campaign — who illegally obtained his credit report.

Cardin struck back, however, with claims of “What does Steele stand for?” The initial rebuttal ads refuted the claims of the attack ads. There was also an ad that spoofed the puppy ad and linked the Lieutenant Governor to President George Bush. I believe the initial salvo had limited effect, but the constant drumbeat did wear on voters. It was a similar strategy employed by Senator Barbara Mikulski (She stymied charges by E.J. Pipkin that she didn’t help veterans).

Cardin also knew Steele wanted to limit his exposure to tough questions. Hence, the congressman went on the offensive early to debate. Following the primary, Steele and Cardin had only agreed to debate on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Despite wanting to control when and where to debate Cardin, Steele was unfortunately not in charge of the process. In the process, Cardin made a calculation he could handle any setting as long as Steele showed up. Steele consistently wanted Kevin Zeese, the Green Party candidate, included in debates. Yet, Zeese never polled above 10%. Steele knew Zeese would attack the presumptive frontrunner, Cardin. Cardin, to his credit, always knew it wasn’t about Zeese; it was about Steele.

Lining up Democrats in the state was another key element for the congressman. Cardin, also the former Speaker of the House of Delegates, had helped numerous political careers in the state and literally called in every chip. This enabled him to get in front of friendly audiences in parts of the state that had been trending Republican.

Playing to his base in Baltimore County was a plus, but Cardin also out-worked his opponents in reaching out to voters. I received no less than 7 emails a week detailing various groups Cardin would appear before and take questions. Some were his natural constituency, others weren’t. He wasn’t afraid to wade into groups that aren’t his likely constituency. It included the Howard County Muslim Council, African-American churches in Baltimore and Prince Georges County, and college students at Morgan and Bowie State Universities.

Further, the congressman effectively used his media buys. He blanketed both the Washington and Baltimore markets with TV buys - ramping up buys during the last weekend of the campaign. His radio buys were shrewd. He didn’t shy away from making buys on right-leaning Baltimore Radio Station WBAL. He also targeted African-American voters in the Washington market by making buys on WKYS, WMMJ, WOL, WYCB, WPGC, WYCB, and WHUR. Many of those ads were delivered by Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey.

Cardin was also the beneficiary of Steele and Republican missteps. Let’s start with the National Black Republican Association radio ad suggesting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican. What a blunder! You couldn’t make this stuff up. Steele repudiated the ad, but the damage had been done. Another misstep was a guide for Maryland GOP poll watchers. The guide talked about challenging voters at the polls. This was seen as suppressing the vote, especially Black and Latino voters. The preverbal nail in the coffin was a last minute voter’s guide put out by Democrats for Ehrlich (Gov. Robert Ehrlich). Black voters are much smarter than people give them credit and they rejected the flier.

Interestingly, the item that may have put Cardin over the top was the constant arrival of top Democratic leaders and supporters including Senator Barrack Obama (Obama made two visits), former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, Senator John Kerry (prior to his gaffe in California), former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, and actor Michael J. Fox. The Fox visit came on the heels of Rush Limbaugh’s criticism of Fox’s suffering from Parkinson Disease. It made national press and crystallized the differences between Cardin and Steele. It’s a playbook that will long be remembered in Maryland politics.

The following is an excerpt from “A Cold Day In Hell.”