Saturday, September 02, 2006

Race Matters -- This one's for the locals: We've got an election coming up here in a couple of weeks. Actually, it's just a primary vote, but around these parts, that's the real game. These days, a Republican in Montgomery County has a snowball's chance in Hades of being elected. We voted the last one out four years ago, when long-serving, last of the G.O.P. House moderates, Rep. Connie Morella's close friends in the G.O.P. allowed her district to be re-mapped to virtually ensure her defeat.

So, as I was saying: we've got an election coming up in these parts. The U.S. Senate race in Maryland is interesting. There are two strong Democratic candidates, Long-time Rep. Ben Cardin and former Rep. and NAACP chair Kweisi Mfume are running. Less notable challengers are Josh Rales, who seems to fancy himself as another Ned Lamont, a successful businessman, rich and opposed to the war (actually, Rales seems a far more likable candidate than Lamont, but he doesn't have Joe Lieberman to kick around), and Alan Lichtman, who seems more interested in being nominated by the Lunatic Fringe. Too bad they don't have their own party, unless you count the Greens or the Libertarians.

There's a terrific billboard nearby with Lichtman and Hillary Clinton's faces and names. Not that Sen. Clinton is endorsing Lichtman's candidacy -- apparently, though, some organization is endorsing both, and Lichtman's campaign is shameless enough to exploit the coincidence. Lichtman has little qualifications, except that he's a college professor, and he seems to think that testifying as an expert witness in voting rights cases puts him on the front lines. Lichtman also has little support in the polls, and so he was excluded from public TV/radio debate between Mfume and Cardin the other night. So, Lichtman and his wife got arrested instead as they protested his exclusion.

Why is it that the police can arrest him and not even issue a citation to my crazy upstairs neighbor? (I'll have more on my crazy upstairs neighbor -- hopefully, have that written and posted by the end of the holiday weekend -- some lunacy to look forward to on the Fisch Fry). At least one other minor candidate has been arrested, for raping and imprisoning his mail-order Eastern European bride.

I haven't figured out who to vote for between Cardin and Mfume. Mostly, they are Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Cardin voted against the war, which definitely gets him props for prescience and some political courage. Mfume voted against the first Gulf War, which earns him a big Bronx 'cheer' for stupidity and lack of vision. On the other hand, Cardin has this milquetoast hasn't really done anything in Congress image. Mfume is an impressive speaker, for the most part. He did have one curious line during his closing statement in the debate this week, though. Mfume said his campaign was about "believeing that we can go from where we are to places we have never been, again." I was really taken by that bit of rhetoric, wondering if it's possible to to go to "places we have never been, again." There seems to be a logical disjunction there, but maybe it's just me. If we've never been to these places, is it possible to go to such places, AGAIN?

So, prior to the debate, I was leaning to Cardin, who has the reputation of being a talented, smart legislator, and has the policy wonk image. On the issues, I'm probably more in line with Cardin, as Mfume is positioning himself on the far left of the party. Still, after the debate, I'm leaning towards Mfume. He sounded a little nervous, but I think he's the more commanding speaker. In the U.S. Senate, that counts.

While Mfume did a nice job of condemning all kinds of bigotry, including black racism, Mfume did play the race card in the debate, and I am troubled by that. I have more to say about this aspect of the race, but I'm going to save it for Part II: The Big Elephant in the Room.

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