Some progressive bloggers recognize it. Others do not.
The leaders of the Alabama Democratic Party do not.
Joe Turnham, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party wrote a piece that was published in the Birmingham News on Sunday's Viewpoints page. His purpose was not to acknowledge that the Democratic Party has a problem, or that racism contributed to a poor decision by the state Democratic Executive Committee; rather it was to blame the Birmingham News for "inciting racism within our party from your writings" and "writing racially charged editorials."
I can not say for sure that the following words were printed in the Birmingham News, but I know for a fact that they were spoken by Joe M. Reed at the meeting of the SDEC that nominated Elisabeth French over the "runner up" in the primary, Nikki Still, and I wrote about my disbelief.
"I'm from the brass knuckles wing of the Democratic Party, the 3 guys that
visit you after 12 o'clock at night wing of the Democratic Party."
He followed this intimidation with instruction to vote for "a family member...a sister."
The following words were also heard at the meeting.
"This is not a race issue. This seat was won by a black person because
a majority of people in Jefferson County chose a black person over a white
That was representative Alvin Holmes that joined Joe M. Reed in putting forth the "racially charged" words; not the writers for the Birmingham News.
This is not a media problem, Mr. Turnham. You sound an awful lot like a Republican in making those charges.
The group of committee members cannot be judged as individuals who voted for Still or French for whatever reason they may have had. Turnham defends the committee members, and yes, they did do what was required of them by party and state rules. But as a body, they allowed "racially charged" words to influence them, or to intimidate them (brass knuckles) into voting a certain way.
Would the leaders of the committee allow men in white sheets and pointed hats to make a presentation or to nominate a candidate? Certainly not.
Would they allow the same individuals to appear before the committee without their uniforms and use anti-black rhetoric and 1960's style intimidation to promote a white candidate. Hopefully not.
But either due to political correctness carried too far, or naivety, or fear of losing their own grip on power, they allowed blatant racism to be expressed during the meeting, and the tactic worked.
Judge U. W. Clemon, retired federal judge for the northern district of Alabama, also had a letter in Sunday's Birmingham News. He recognized the racism, in part because he experienced the same thing in 1973 that Nikki Still experienced here. Clemon had run for a seat on the Birmingham City Council. It was an at-large election for three City Council seats, and Clemon placed fourth. One of the three whites who finished ahead of him died before his investiture, and both conventional wisdom and the black community thought (or insisted) that Clemon be named as the replacement.
"Instead, the largely white local unit of the Democratic Party chose one of
its own, one who had not run for the office. Only hypocrisy would permit me
to denounce the 1973 decision while silently acquiescing in the recent Democratic Executive Committee decision."
Clemon says the decision in racist, that the decision is unfair (based on Still's qualifying to run, her campaigning, and her place in the election), and that it is politically unsound (referring to the probability that the decision will result in fewer Democratic successes in the November election).
There have been calls for Elisabeth French to reject the nomination. Whether she does or not will go a long way in revealing how she feels about the issues raised by Judge Clemon and others.
There have also been calls for Nikki Still supporters to ramp up a write-in campaign, but Still herself so far is not enthused about it. However, letter after letter in the paper and voter after voter in person tell me that write-in is exactly what they are going to do. Many feel like a vote for French is a vote for the race based system that has infected the Democratic Party.
So we will write in our vote for Nikki Still.
Some progressives have demonstrated their unwillingness to address the problem as found on Progressive Electorate. (Emphasis mine)
Left in Alabama has video from yesterday's SDEC Meeting in which
Elisabeth French was appointed to replace Kenya Marshall on the Democratic
ballot. A number of folks I've talked to are disappointed that the nomination
did not go to Nikki Still - the 2nd place finish in the July 13th Runoff. I'm
confident Liz French will competent just as I thought Nikki Still would. The issue we should all agree on is the need to rid our State of the parasite called partisan Judicial elections.
Rather than looking inward to solve their own problem, they say focus on the unrelated but also important problem of partisan judicial elections.
What the Alabama Democratic Party should do is form a committee of SDEC members and outside people (such as Judge Clemon, James Laster, and me) to get to the meat of the issue and find out exactly why such attitudes still exist, how prevalent they are in the committee, and develop recommendations to overcome the problem. Just because these people are members of an elite group does not mean they are too good for some personal development, sensitivity training and common sense instruction. To do otherwise just means that the attitudes of the 1960's are alive and well in 2010, and will continue to control the party.
Many of the old folks won't mind if the party does not evolve, but the young voters that the party desperately needs (especially in Jefferson County) will not want to be a part of a "movement" that refuses to budge.