As the June gloom of no-Lakers-in-the-title games resumes from last year, we of sturdy heart don’t cry in our beer when there are other sports to cheer. Hockey? Hey, not really, but just for tonight, OK? A first-time Stanley Cup victory for the Kings in Los Angeles? They even have the Raiders’ old silver and black and the Raiders’ bravado! Yeah, yeah, yeah! Another big-time victory party in L.A. in 2012. Well, all right!
These are the times we need more cheers. We’ll cry with you later, Lakers.
Meanwhile, L.A. voters have gotten their first look at the modified open primary system approved in 2010. Congresswoman Waters, the perennially popular and very effective member of the House of Representatives for the 35th District, has won enough votes in the newly redistricted 43rd, which includes portions of Torrance and a larger Latino population, and is one of the top two candidates for the position on the November ballot. The other is Bob Flores, also a Democrat.
The same has happened for the new-generation leadership of Congresswoman Karen Bass, who has been rapidly making a name for herself and her district on Capitol Hill. You know, the 33rd District, the one formerly represented by Diane Watson and earlier by Julian Dixon, great statespeople all. But wait, hmmm, no, that district has now become the 37th. You know, this is too much musical chair-playing for most of us. We’ll just focus on the candidates.
Laura Richardson, who was in real electoral trouble before June 5, is most likely in serious straits. She and Janice Hahn will be in a continuing slugfest in the newly created 44th.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Jackie Lacey, the big vote-getter in the race for L.A. County district attorney with about 32 percent of the vote, will be competing against Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson, who garnered about 24 percent.
All and all–and like last year we still have another at-large election issue on the ballot, the one in Compton this time–one can stay busy observing the on-going political auto crash games, and even get an app for it. But for me, the real issue is the exact one I mentioned last year around this same time that still has not been properly addressed: the lack of a sustainable, logical process of succession for Blacks in California government.
I said then that there are approximately 4,500 elected officials in California, including the 11 constitutional officers and the 55 U.S. congressional representatives. Of that number, there are at least 288 identifiable Black elected officials in the state, from Humboldt to San Diego, and Hercules to beyond Yucaipa. That’s 6.2 percent for elected Black leadership, for a population estimated to be no more than 7.2 percent of the state population.
On paper, that doesn’t look so bad, considering what it was and what it could have been in the opposite direction. The basic problem still is that those 288 have a high probability of an abrupt, precipitous zoom downward. The primary reason: The California Black community and its current Black leadership have not yet taken the political lesson seriously enough that what worked in the past has only slim chances of continuing for the Black electorate in the immediate future. This is a 21st-century political environment and African Americans cannot merely rest on techniques that are based on a 20th-century format.
“Presently, there are three basic ways California Black elected leadership is chosen. First, a few folks still wake up in the morning, after dreaming dynamically in a Motel 6 or its equivalent, thinking they can be an instant heart surgeon or an elected politician, whichever pans out the quickest.
Second, candidates, particularly female candidates, according to a recent dissertation, are asked to run and serve. Lastly, certain candidates are chosen by incumbents to run, i.e., anointed as successors. U.S. Congresswoman Diane Watson of the 33rd just did that with former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass. She chose very well, but that was a lucky bet. Most are not. Guessing is not a successful long-term strategy in politics.
The first way of getting successful Black leadership is already rare and infrequent, and won’t die.
People are still going to have delusions of grandeur and bouts of convincing themselves they heard “The Call.” There were several in this last election cycle that fit that profile, and they rightfully bit the dust of political ignominiousness. The second way still works and will continue to, in limited degrees, and it is not a big problem. The third way is currently the most frequently used approach in California, and is most in need of repair.
In the most recent and near distant past, a better technique has been used. This is not just the California Legislative Black Caucus getting behind Black political candidates and others of color, as it has done well, but infrequently. Here, we are talking about forming and utilizing a cadre of political candidates and already-elected folk to participate in a sustained mentoring process that advises, introduces and orients vis-a-vis the process and procedures of getting the public’s business done effectively and efficiently. Just getting elected does not mean one immediately knows how to write legislation, get it passed and signed into law. Term limits aren’t kind or beneficial to political neophytes who otherwise may have impressive talent and potential, but have gone at the game alone.
In other words, there needs to be a series of political colloquia or workshops for would-be candidates, candidates-to-be and Black elected officials–a political pipeline if you will–for bringing in new visions and perspectives as the established incumbents term out or move on (to other offices or into retirement). This is more than a one- or two-day election orientation, as is currently done. What’s needed, and what used to happen, is a full-blown hands-on initiation and networking, complete with training in political ethics and political productivity, so the Black public gets what it deserves: Capable, stay-out-of-jail public leaders who bring or direct decent political benefits back to the community. This mentoring process would also help each candidate become a better, more polished political player as he/she moves up the ladder.
There were excellent Black candidates in the June 5 races. California will continue to produce a raft of such eligibles. The issue is how do we help those who are good candidates become great public servants? African Americans in this state, like virtually all constituents in the state, need better governance, not just good candidates. LBC (Legislative Black Caucus), can I see some real progress on this issue by June, 2013, please?
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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