The race for Chicago's next mayor took a heated step this week when Bill Clinton arrived in town to support Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff to President Barack Obama. Clinton's arrival was met with standard support by Chicago Democrats, but some in the African American community are disappointed that our nation's "first black president" didn't endorse the black candidate, Carol Moseley Braun. While Clinton has relied heavily on black support to win elections in the past, he has chosen to go in another direction in the Chicago mayoral race.
Former mayoral candidate US. Rep Danny Davis (D-Ill) has criticized the Clinton visit, making it clear that by supporting Emanuel in this race, he risks jeopardizing his relationship with the African American community. Moseley Braun has the support of the majority of the African American community in Chicago. She and Davis, along with others, got together recently with Rev. Jesse Jackson to decide on a consensus black candidate for mayor.
Clinton spoke for 20 minutes at Emanuel's $250,000 closed-door fundraiser. He talked about how Emanuel has had the courage to make tough decisions. Other candidates held press conferences right before Clinton's arrival to take attention away from the fundraiser. Moseley Braun described Clinton as "an outsider coming to town to support another outsider." But even she relied on Hillary Clinton to campaign for her in Chicago when she ran for Senate re-election in 1998. She was also appointed a U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand by Bill Clinton.
By abandoning steadfast loyalty from the black community to show support for Emanuel, Clinton reminds all of us that he typically cheers for the team that's winning. Also, the broader liberal Democratic agenda almost always trumps the black agenda, whether we are talking about Clinton's support for Emanuel or the Obama administration's continued reluctance to specifically address horrific levels of black unemployment. Although black America can be very loyal to chosen political leaders, we can still end up at the back of the bus when it's time for those leaders to serve us. Those who once considered Clinton to be "the first black president" must now confront the reality that his support of African Americans is a matter of convenience, and that his willingness to make political sacrifices on behalf of African Americans is limited. The same is true for nearly any figurehead of the Democratic Party.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce's commentary delivered to your e-mail, please click here.