Qualifying is over, news articles are out and phone calls are coming in. “You registered as what?!?” “That is a very bold move!” “I’m still your friend.” “Sorry, but I can’t support you.” I have heard many things over the past couple days. Each comment is different from the last.
Why did I qualify as a Republican in a non-partisan election? The answer is simple: Sometimes you have to take a stand.
In the run-up to the qualifying, I was given many messages that essentially embodied a continued lack of support of my by the Democratic party that I served very faithfully for so long. “The party rules dictate this,” said one person. “By default we have to support the incumbent,” said another. And finally, my personal favorite: “It doesn’t matter that nothing has been accomplished. We have to follow protocol.”
While the Democrats were busy incentivizing failure, no one took the time to notice that I had begun to change the nature of my questions.
I wondered, “If blacks gained the vote under Republicans, why is being Democrat so closely identified with being African-American? How did this change occur? Who was responsible?”
Those of you who read this paper habitually will remember in my last column that I mentioned that as a U.S. Senator for Massachusetts John F. Kennedy voted against the 1957 Civil Rights Act. (Someone with a Ph.D. recently said to me, “Only the southern Democratic party was racist.)
In all fairness to Massachusetts, it was a Texan, one Lyndon Baines Johnson, who remarked, “I’ll have these niggers voting Democratic for the next 100 years.” This quote is associated with the implementation of what was then known as “The Great Society” and is now known as “The Welfare State”.
Astonishingly, many black people continue to trade their votes for food stamps, even in an age where many of us no longer qualify for food stamps.
In a word, we aren’t getting anything
Condoleeza Rice, when speaking of why she joined the second Bush administration mentioned a phrase by George W. (who actually learned it from Michael Gerson). He referred to “the soft bigotry of low expectations”.
Much like white lies, soft bigotries are often overlooked.
Such bigotry is what I encountered within the Rockdale Democratic Party. When people noticed that I had a penchant for hard work, more work suddenly came my way. My life, which has always been dedicated to community service, became a public commodity. I didn’t mind because I truly believed that a better world could be achieved through ‘shoulder-to-the-wheel-effort’.
But it wasn’t achieved. Nothing was achieved.
I found my accomplishments appropriated by those without expertise. My time was monopolized by people who refused to return my favors. My intellect was taken for granted and oftentimes willfully ignored. The only thing that was accomplished was a profound sense of disaffection on my part.
I decided to stand for something and run for office as a Democrat in 2014.
I lost, but captured 33% of the vote in the Democratic primary. My opponent ran unopposed in the general election.
During this time I was painted as something extraordinary: a Republican in Democrat clothing. If my talent and virtue had been ignored before, now my entrepreneurialism, quasi-traditional values and sense of civic duty meant that I was really a “Red”. In this case, being “red” was much scarier than communism. It meant that I was a Republican; the scourge of the earth and the lowest of the low.
But even the dogs must eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.
Quietly, secretly, groups of so-called white racists reached out to lend their support. Republican groups told me that I should have been one of them. In a place that I had been told that I could never be accepted, someone wanted my effort. They wanted to recognize and appreciate me.
To a large extent, I have always walked alone, many times literally. I have been called many things which I will not repeat. I learned to live in my own head and to guard my heart. I forced myself to be brave. Nothing, however would prepare me to run as a black Democrat 2014. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Fast-forward to the week of September 12th.
Janice Van Ness, my current competitor, alarmed me by telling me that she was going to run for the same seat that I wanted.
I felt hurt and betrayed. Then I remembered something she said. “I didn’t want to accept the referral to your donor after I decided to run,” she had remarked in an off-hand manner.
The comment meant nothing to her, but everything to me. Janice is competent, intelligent and competitive. She builds institutions. She plays to win.
But when push came to shove she refused to be underhanded, granting me dignity, respect–dare I say ‘love’? When did I ever receive that from a competitor in my same party when running as a Democrat?
Never. In fact, each day had been worse than the one before it in the last race.
Georgia politics are rife with corruption and many people feel as though there is no hope left for them to be represented. In fact, in 2014 one Democratic political operator told me, “These races are NOT about the voters, Diane. Don’t be so naive.”
I may be new to politics, but I do know one thing: CHANGE WILL NOT COME IF THINGS CONTINUE TO GO ALONG THE WAY THEY HAVE. Something’s gotta give.
So why am I running as a Republican during a non-partisan election in a blue district? For the same reason that people have been calling me near-continuously: WE HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BY DOING SOMETHING DRASTICALLY DIFFERENT.
In fact, we have everything to gain. Let’s try something new.