One friend had expressed that she was going to vote for Mr. Shallal. An Iraqi-American as mayor of the District of Columbia would provide an unique symbolic reconciliation more than a decade into the nation's so-called war on terror. However, while I am fond of him in many ways, I worry about a person with an artists' temperament running our city. As a native northeast Pennsylvanian like CM Evans, I have an irrational fondness for him. But, by the way, CM Evans: you are not fooling anyone with that humble beginnings story. Having a family business in Nanticoke, PA at that time meant that his family was better off than most others in that economically depressed region. I largely disagree with his pro-business policies, but there is something comforting and honest about old school politicians; it is easier to figure out their game. I have greater tolerance for limousine liberals and conservatives than sanctimonious, pseudo-progressives.
The group, some of whom had been supportive of Mayor Gray in the past, all shared concerns over the appearance of impropriety related to the shadow campaign in the last mayoral election. Everyone agreed that there was a certain hubris by not sufficiently addressing the allegations. Electoral corruption is different than other types of corruption. East of the River, feelings are mixed. I think most residents will still vote for Mayor Gray because they have a sense that in the midst of all the changes in the city, he understands. His policies may not help long time residents more than those of other politicians, but he does not disparage native Washingtonians. Indeed, that this is the level of expectation in the city is troubling.
Respect is important on this side of city and there are both subtle and overt ways in which District residents (and others outside of the city) unfairly criticize native Washingtonians. I believe strongly in self-government. Advocates of DC voting rights believe in direct self-government. In the context of newly independent nations or Israel, in addition to the complicated political features of direct self-government, we are able to understand the drive for a broader sense of self-government, including its deep emotional and psychological importance. But in American cities, the notion of black self-government is not granted the same level of salience and respect. And worse, commentators often rely on subtle racism--infantilization or myths of neutrality in economic forces--to criticize the political order or explain demographic changes in American cities. To be clear, this is not about a superficial representation of blackness, it is not about maintaining generational political dynasties, and it is not even about insiders versus outsiders (let's not forget that CM Barry is not a native Washingtonian). It is about a deep understanding that minority leadership and self-government should require no justification. Some residents value it as ineffable and that should be okay. Many candidates running for office in the District of Columbia, residents, and those in the media fail to see that.
© 2014 East Bank DC.