Special to the Jackson Free Press…Breaking News…Dose of Reality? Got word late today that all of the mayoral candidates meeting this afternoon to consider offers from competing reality shows, and are feverishly negotiating to strike a deal by end of day. All have agreed that winner of show will decide ...
Campaigns at their heart are moments in time. The successful campaign will seize on a feeling in the air, the candidate and his or her supporters will walk the streets and gather intelligence on what’s being discussed in the barbershops and beauty shops and salons and supermarkets and churches. Then, having figured out what the people think is important, and what they think needs to be changed or improved or eliminated, the campaign will take that grass roots intelligence and fashion it into a rationale for their candidate, will create a memorable campaign slogan and set of reasonable and somewhat bland priorities packaged into a 4- or 5- or 6-point plan. (4 seems to be the number this year in the mayoral race). And to most people, that will be the “campaign” that they see.
I came to Jackson in 2007, and thus my introduction to the politics of the city was the spectacular flameout and slow death spiral that was the last half and ignominious end of the Melton administration. As I was absent during the years of his very public ascent and eventual election, it was difficult if not impossible for me to comprehend how this community could see in such a flawed man the capacity to lead. Jackson seemed like some sort of Bizarro world, a city called Noskcaj, where everything was inverted or backwards.
In any professional political campaign, ones that raise money, hire campaign staff and build a grass roots operation, there is a meeting that usually happens at the beginning of the campaign, before the candidate has even announced his or her candidacy, which is critical to the success of the campaign. The candidate, the campaign manager and sometimes one or two advisers will sit down in a room, close the door, and then someone in the room, usually the campaign manager, will ask the candidate a difficult but necessary question. “Is there anything we don’t know about you that could have an impact on the campaign?” Or if they are really direct they might just say “tell me about every skeleton you have in your closet. And don’t leave anything out. I want to know if you cheated on your second grade penmanship exam!”
This primary election has been fascinating on many levels. In my last post I argued that the election hinged on two universal political rules: 1) Challengers must convince the electorate to fire the incumbent in order to have a chance at success, and 2) Incumbents wear out their welcome over ...
Since the somewhat surprising victory of Councilman Chokwe Lumumba in the Jackson mayoral runoff, and his subsequent victory in the general election, I’ve been thinking about what his ascension to the mayor’s office will mean for Jackson and eventually, for the state itself. As the new mayor’s inaugural events begin to take place in the next week, perhaps it is time, as we approach the 50-year anniversary of so many of the momentous events of the civil rights era, to both contemplate and attempt to calibrate just how far we’ve come.
What will the election of new Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba mean for our somewhat besieged city and the communities that surround it? (anyone who lives in the Jackson metro area and who doesn’t believe that as Jackson goes so goes the metro area is being both short-sighted and provincial). How will he choose to govern the city, and how will his lifetime of civil rights activism and his career as a defense lawyer influence his decision making and term as mayor?
Whatever the result of the election, and I think we will all be up late tonight, my observation is that regardless of who wins, Jackson will be setting a new course, much different from the one Mayor Johnson had charted during his terms. The old center has not held, and the voters have already expressed their eagerness to forge a new one. The tectonic plates, having ground against each other for these many years, are shifting, and by tomorrow morning we shall read in the results which one is ascendant and which is descendant.
This mayoral race has always been about whether or not the voters want to fire Mayor Johnson. My assessment has always been that while they are contemplating doing so, they first want to see what and who their alternatives are. Voters are essentially conservative by nature (not necessarily by politics), and the incumbent they know will often be preferable to an exciting or intriguing but ultimately unproven replacement ( See Mayor Melton). Usually, things have to be pretty bad for voters to make that decision to fire the incumbent. Statistically, at the federal level congressional incumbents get reelected at a 90% rate, and nationally the municipal rate is near 80%. As a study of incumbency in municipal elections in the United States puts it: “It is virtually always better to be an incumbent than a challenger in American elections.”
I've been to most of the debates during this mayoral election season, and to be perfectly honest, they have not shed a great deal of light on the candidates and their positions. Here's the question I think most voters would say needs to be asked of each candidate.
As for the debate, with all due respect to the candidates, it had the feel of a spring training baseball game, the established veterans just looking to getting in shape for opening day, the long-shots looking to do something spectacular to stand out so that they don’t get cut, and the high draft choices doing just enough, trying to gauge where they stood in the race to make the final cut.
And perhaps that’s the whole point of the event, to look like one thing while actually being something close to the exact opposite of the thing. It’s a contrivance, as real and unscripted as a reality show, with much the same intent: to appear to be something it is not while selling a message or product.