Despite Wishful Thinking, No "Post-Racial Politics" In Atlanta Mayoral Race
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[Previously by Ellison Lodge: White Identity Politics Working in Atlanta]

After a recount, Kassim Reed edged out Mary Norwood by 714 votes in Atlanta's Mayoral run-off election held December 1. Norwood is asking for another recount and her supporters are complaining about voter irregularities—something not uncommon in black-run cities—but it's a safe bet that Reed will represent the "city too busy to hate" for another four years.

On November 3, Norwood, who is white, had won a strong plurality with 46% of the vote in a three way race against black candidates Reed and Lisa Borders who received 36% and 14% respectively. Both Borders' and Reed's support came almost exclusively from African Americans. The obvious implication after the first round of voting: For Reed to win the run-off, almost all of Borders' black voters would need to switch to his camp.

Borders endorsed Reed, who did duly win the vast majority of the black vote. That was enough to beat out Norwood

Norwood ran as well about as a white candidate could in Atlanta. She won almost all the white vote, while still managing to win over a significant number of blacks. With blacks leaving the city while whites and immigrants moved in, it looked like she could pull it off. But when the dust settled, Atlanta is still 54% black and 35% white, and that is not enough to elect a white mayor.

Amazingly, a number of "conservatives" saw the election as the vindication of "post-racial" politics. In a rambling column, Atlanta Reaching Toward Post-Racial Politics on in, Newt Gingrich's daughter Jackie Gingrich Cushman tries to demonstrate that "This race has been about more than race."

Her evidence: Ralph Long, a "handsome and African-American state rep" endorsed Norwood, though she qualified that he was "one of the few elected officials to endorse" her. Long told Cushman that he received "a lot of negative and nasty stuff ... but also a lot of respect and beautiful e-mails from across the city of Atlanta." Cushman did not report the race of those who sent "negative and nasty stuff" and who sent the "beautiful e-mails," but I can take a guess.

She also pointed out that Norwood's crowd on election night "was diverse in terms of race, sexual orientation and political affiliations."

But with whites only a third of Atlanta's population, Norwood's crowd needed to be diverse in order for Norwood to have a shot. That a small number of blacks are willing to support a white candidate does not make an election "post-racial."

What about Reed's crowd? According to Cushman,

"Reed, in a dark suit, white shirt and shiny silver tie, [at least in DC, the only people who wear shiny silver ties are black lobbyists] appeared on stage at the hotel's ballroom. Signaling No. 1 with his hand, Reed claimed victory to a large, primarily African-American, crowd."

Also belying Gingrich's claim that this election was "post-racial" is her interview with a white Norwood supporter,

"Phil Newman, a white Norwood poll-watcher, took time off work to watch two precincts in Atlanta's largely black south side…

"A van adorned with Reed banners pulled within 150 feet of the polling station, in violation of the law, he said. When Newman asked the van to move, a Reed campaign poll-watcher threatened Newman, saying, I'm going to get you — I'm going to kick your ass.'

"Newman 'no longer felt safe at the poll,' noting that one resident had told him that 'the police won't come here.' Newman said he thought a Norwood victory would change that. He stayed until the polls closed." [Atlanta Reaching Toward Post-Racial Politics, by Jackie Gingrich Cushman,, December 3, 2009]

A similarly titled Op-Ed, Michael A. DeVine's "Post-racial politics in America advance after Atlanta mayoral run-off" [Atlanta Law & Politics Examiner, December 4, 2009] made even absurd claims of the "post-racial" nature of the election. According to DeVine, Norwood "lost white GOP votes to Reed" because she distanced herself from her past Republican in the non-partisan election.

I'm sure some whites stayed home because of that, but the idea that they'd be vote for the black left-wing candidate who campaigns with Ludacris is absurd. Moreover, whites who actually live in the city of Atlanta tend to be pretty liberal, so it's likely that Norwood would have lost many of those votes if she had not downplayed her Republican image (which she did only after race-baiting mailers were sent by the state Democratic Party stating "Norwood's campaign is financed by the same Republican money men who funded John McCain's hate-filled campaign against Barack Obama").

Now that the election is over, DeVine believes that race will have nothing to do with how Atlantans perceive Reed's job performance.

"The job of governing Atlanta that Kasim Reed inherits, will be colored black only in the sense that he will be judged on whether he can keep the balanced budget inherited from Shirley Franklin, in the black, and for that he will need green, especially from the State of Georgia and whether he can stop the 'black flight' to the suburbs, not because they are black voters, but because of the lost green revenue."

What planet is he living on? Black citizens standing by completely inept and corrupt black mayors in majority black cities is a fact of life in American politics. The only way to remove the Kwame Kilpatricks and Marion Barrys from office is by sending them to jail.

The fact that Atlanta is becoming gentrified means that black politicians there will be held to a slightly higher standard—but that is not the result of "post racial politics."

DeVine claims that "Most post-racial Americans are conservatives and Republicans that have moved on, especially in the South," and concludes, "leave the racial obsessions to the left, drive-by media, and Democrats, like Maureen Dowd."

If white conservatives keep pretending to be "post racial" while Democrats and minorities impose their anti-white agenda, they'll never achieve a win.

As I said in my previous column on the Atlanta race, a white candidate and certainly a Republican candidate would have absolutely no chance of getting elected to mayor were it not for the non-partisan, multi-candidate system. DeVine can bemoan Norwood distancing herself from the GOP all he wants, but that was an electoral necessity driven by racial demographics of Atlanta.

Atlanta might be getting a little whiter. But as the white share of the population in America as a whole shrinks, there may very well come a time when a white man, much less a Republican, cannot be elected president.

Ellison Lodge (email him) works on Capitol Hill.

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