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White Identity Politics Working in Atlanta
<!-- Start of Article --> In the wake of the November 3 elections, conventional commentators haven't been able to stop themselves urging the GOP toward the fatal "Moderation Mirage". Neither can they give up the myth that Obama has transcended race: "Amid all the parsing of ideological and partisan trends in last night's races, it seems worth noting (as I started to, in a sleepy way, early this morning) another: In big city mayor's races, voters chose candidates not like them. African-American Atlanta gave a plurality to a King-quoting white woman… In any case, a data point for the Obama era." [Another loser: Identity politics?, by Ben Smith, Politico, November 4, 2009] Bunk. Contra Smith, the race in Atlanta, which will be decided by a December 1 run-off between a white and black candidate, is just another example of Peter Brimelow's notorious adage that "Demography is destiny in American politics". Recent mayoral politics in majority African American cities can be summed up in one simple phrase: "Once you go black you never go back." As whites fled the cities to avoid urban crime and bad schools, blacks became majorities in many major cities and then dominated their politics. Blacks vote on racial lines, and once they get power in a city, they will not let go. After the first black mayor got elected in Atlanta, Detroit, Memphis, The District of Columbia, New Orleans, and Birmingham, every subsequent mayor has been African American. As it happens, the last few weeks have been tough for black mayors. On October 14th and October 22, The IRS put a lien on Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums's two homes for 239,000 dollars in unpaid taxes. On October 28, a jury convicted then Birmingham mayor Larry Langford on 60 counts of conspiracy, bribery, fraud, money laundering, and filing false tax returns. The next day, a federal grand jury convened to decide whether to indict former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton on ethics charges. And on November 9, Monday, Baltimore Mayor Shelia Dixon went on trial for embezzlement. But while black mayors' legal and ethical woes are nothing new, the biggest blow against them came on November 3 in Atlanta. Voters gave white candidate Mary Norwood a 46% plurality over black candidates Kassim Reed and Lisa Borders, who received 36% and 14% respectively. Norwood will face Reed in the December 1 runoff. In 1973, Atlantans elected Maynard Jackson who became the first African American mayor of a large Southern City. He was followed by Andrew Young, himself, Bill Campbell, and Shirley Franklin—all African Americans. But Norwood is in a good position to end this run. But while what Politico's Smith calls "African American Atlanta" gave Norwood the plurality of votes, African Americans in Atlanta did not. No exit polls were taken, but a Survey USA poll taken prior to the race, which correctly gave Norwood 46% of the vote, also showed her receiving 70% of the white vote, but only 31% of the black vote. The Atlanta Journal Constitution broke down the vote by precinct. Among its findings:
- "Norwood won more than 58 percent of her vote from three predominantly white council districts — on the north and northeast sides of the city."
- "Reed won 57 percent of his votes from five predominantly black council districts — on the east, west and south sides."
- "Some voters crossed over racial lines. Norwood did better in predominantly black council districts than Reed did in white council districts. She won 23 percent of the votes cast in black council districts, beating Borders' 15.5 percent there."
- "Reed won 14.5 percent of the vote in predominantly white council districts, compared to Borders' 12.3 percent."
- "Turnout in white areas was about 10 points higher than in the black areas, but turnout everywhere was low (only about 30 percent)." [Voting along racial lines in mayor's race, by Cameron McWhirter and John Perry, November 6, 2009]