Monday, October 08, 2012

Making Race an Issue

The Star-Tribune today reported on the election contest in my new district with the headline Fifth District rival makes race an issue. The incumbent is Rep. Keith Ellison (D), an African-American and the first Muslim elected to Congress. His opponent, Chris Fields, is also Black and is trying to argue that Ellison has failed his Black constituents (the 5th district is the most diverse in Minnesota, encompassing much of Minneapolis, ranging from urban professionals to impoverished slums).

Now, there is a large sense in which this is futile -- the 5th District is one of the most liberal in the country, and nobody thinks Fields has a prayer of unseating Ellison. But I don't object to Fields effort in theory. This, of course, is how politics works -- one tries to win by seeking to persuade key constituencies that your policies are better than your opponent's. There is nothing I find intrinsically objectionable about politicians seeking to appeal to Black voters, compared to the status quo amongst Republicans wherein it seems they think there is something illegitimate in a politician being liked by racial minorities.

To be sure, it hardly seems like Fields is making a particularly sophisticated appeal to Black voters (at least, the Strib doesn't give any examples of what his argument is other than a generic "he doesn't care about you"). If Republicans are going to appeal to Blacks, they'll have to do better than run Black candidates and make bare assertions that they care. It takes real legwork. But the ambition, itself, is a positive sign.

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