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What`s the Matter with the South Side of Chicago?
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March 10, 2009, 06:59 PM
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I recently read James Fulford`s post on "What`s the Matter with Harlem?". I`ve never lived in Harlem, and I`ve only known a few people from Harlem-mostly fellow students at U of Chicago. However, I spent 5 years living in Side of Chicago neighborhoods- Hyde Park(2 years), Woodlawn(3 years). I`ve known quite a few people from that area pretty well who had nothing to do with the ivory tower at U of Chicago, so I feel competent to comment here.

I can say from personal experience: a lot of urban African-Americans are strongly of the opinion many of their political leaders are full of excrement and utterly corrupt. However, we have to be realistic about what it takes to run a successful congressional race. It isn`t just a matter of name recognition or street cred. Any successful congressional campaign takes money-a LOT of money.

There really isn`t that much in the way of institutions that are really run by and for the African American community. Most "Black" groups are really rather dependent on various special interest groups in the larger society for funding and support—and the range of options any black politician has in that area are traditionally pretty narrow.

Many white politicians that have tried to reach out to the black community have gotten burnt pretty badly. Richard Nixon tried to operate a campaign on the South Side. After a long search, his operatives found someone who really could and did pass out Nixon campaign literature. However, the end result here was that Richard Nixon has his picture taken with a major figure in the Blackstone Rangers Street gang —something the Democrats in Chicago found rather amusing and used to their advantage.

Similarly, there have been Black leaders like homeless advocate Ted Hayes who seriously reached out to the Republican leadership-and got snubbed rather nastily. Hayes ran against Maxine Waters with essentially no money-and still got 13% of the vote in a heavily black SoCal district. His platform was largely in line with the standard GOP platform except that he is strongly against illegal immigration and supportive of a stronger social safety net for African Americans than most Republicans.

Part of essential problem here is that most Republican intellectuals are in strong denial just how strong the trick up effect from the Reagan Bush years was-and a failure to take advantage of the Clinton administration catering to somewhat different wealthy interests. The only major Republican figure I have seen that has put anything serious on the table that could be credibly presented in the African American community might be Charles Murray`s income and medical care support proposal. However, even that program is flawed because it doesn`t address the fact that recent increases in wealth have overwhelmingly been concentrated among American families with net worth in the top 1% (over $5 Million per family) and the relationship of recent increases in the value of assets to a national debt that exploded since 1980. The Murray program also simply would be utterly unworkable until the US improves its selection of immigrants a great deal compared to recent decades-and implements incentives to insure immigration of talented foreigners don`t simply displace Americans.

What mainstream US political leadership has offered African Americans since the end of the civil rights era is largely a chance for a few of them to enter the middle class—often via programs like Affirmative Action—at the cost of a lot of black men winding up either on the streets or involved in the justice system and with the tacit understanding that African American leadership wouldn`t effectively threaten the wealthy in America like Martin Luther King did by supporting universal income support along the lines that Huey Long did.

If Paleo-conservatives want to credibly appeal to African Americans, they have to have a program that is fairly simple and will clearly, as a package benefit African Americans. I suspect that part of that will mean revisiting the policies of universal income support that Martin Luther King supporting right before he died. On the part of African American politicians: it will mean renouncing programs like Affirmative Action that have too often been transfers from middle income and wealth holding Americans and directly attacking the most very wealthy interests that have grown rapidly since the end of the civil rights era.

When I look Ted Hayes: a big part of the problem with his rhetoric is that he was simply too accommodating to the Republican leadership in areas like foreign policy in hope of getting support that never materialized. Part of the lesson of that campaign is that the national Republican can`t do anything to someone that runs under the Republican label in a district with no Republican presence except withhold money from them. Part of the problem on the South Side is that more enterprising souls haven`t realized that they can use the Republican party apparatus to advocate policies that are so abhorrent to the Republican leadership that the GOP leadership will come up with enough money for someone to run a credible campaign simply to get that type of activity stopped. I think Hayes did the right thing in appealing to the GOP base on issues like immigration-but the wealthy interests behind the GOP were never going to support him once he attacked mass immigration and Hayes was simply too restrained towards them.