Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Teflon Remains

Joseph Robinette Biden very likely will pick a black woman to be his running mate. If he doesn't, he's not likely to tap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, anyway. Nonetheless, the fear that he will do so should be placed in the proper context.  Politico reports

Anticipation has been growing for weeks that Joe Biden will make history by choosing the first Black woman as a running mate on a major party’s presidential ticket.

But after news broke over the weekend that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a white woman, had flown to meet with Biden to discuss the vice presidency, frustration and disappointment boiled over among Black female Democrats — including some in her own state....

As Biden prepares to announce his choice this week, Black women activists and operatives have launched an eleventh-hour campaign to pressure him. In a pair of open letters Monday and last week, they made the case that he needs strong African American turnout in swing states like Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to win.

Aside from anger that Whitmer allegedly has been getting better press than the black women being considered

In the wake of the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests and Biden’s repeated stumbles over race, many activists thought a Black woman was a lock to be his running mate until the Whitmer news broke, said Latosha Brown, a co-founder of the group Black Voters Matter.

Brown said she was flummoxed by the late consideration of Whitmer because a Black woman would do a better job turning out African American voters, even in Michigan.

Though much of the criticism of the Michigan governor comes from women of her home state

Angela Rye, the former general counsel for the Congressional Black Caucus and a prominent advocate for Black women, said the agitation is building.

“I’m at a fever pitch, a boiling point over this,” Rye said.

Rye cited a Sunday editorial by Pugh in the online publication Black Star News that laid out two major criticisms of Whitmer, concerning water policy in Flint and education policy affecting Detroit.

First, Pugh and others say, Whitmer under-delivered on promises to clean up the lead-poisoned water of the majority-Black city of Flint. And Whitmer initially fought a lawsuit that was especially important to Black people in Detroit “seeking a basic right to literacy, classrooms with books and teachers and school buildings with no heat in winter or air conditioning in summer,” Pugh wrote.

The defense of the governor by her spokesman, that water quality is "well within federal testing requirements," that  “bottled water is available and is currently being provided to city residents by Nestle.” and that Flint itself is responsible for pipe replacement, raises as many questions as it answers.

Nonetheless, the full-court press applied by women eager for a black vice-presidential nominee is simply precious.  The education secretary, Arne Duncan, in President Barack Obam'sa administration saw inadequate education in urban areas primarily as an opportunity to fire unionized teachers, many of them black, while maximizing profit for private companies.

President Obama did not take a particularly active role himself in education policy which, given his inclination, probably served urban school districts well. However, it's hard to forget that the nation's first black president visitedFlint in May of 2016 and urged his audience

to have faith in their resilience and not to use the poisoned water as an excuse not to expect great things from them."That attitude is just as corrosive to democracy as that stuff that put lead in your water," he said. "It's not enough to fix the water. We need to fix the culture of neglect."

Obama's visit to the eastern Michigan city of 100,000 people came three months after he declared a state of emergency to help the city deal with the fallout from a drinking water crisis. In addition to the poisoning from corroding lead pipes, the switch to under-treated water from the Flint River in 2014 is suspected in the deaths of 10 people from Legionnaires' disease.

But Obama reassured Flint residents that the water is safe now — as long as it's properly filtered.

"I really did need a glass of water. This is not a stunt," he said as he asked for water during a bout of coughing. "If you’re using a filter, if you’re installing it, then Flint water at this point is drinkable."

Obama didn't assign any specific blame for the water crisis, which has already led to the indictments of three water officials. Obama said only that "some very poor decisions were made."

Of course "Obama didn't assign any specific blame for the water crisis," just as in 2020 he's unable to utter the name "Trump." Additionally

“I don’t want anybody to start thinking that somehow all the kids in Flint are going to have problems for the rest of their lives, because that’s not true,” he said to applause. “That is not true. And I don’t want that stigma to be established in the minds of kids.”

Obama understandably didn't want anybody to think that. It would have at least slightly complicated his re-election effort and put a crimp in the primary objective of his presidency, establishing and maintaining a positive legacy.

But it was true that some of the children will have problems forever because of the water. That bothered far too people when it was Barack Obama who was doing the reassuring.

Responding to the President's trip, Michael Moore remarked

He is just trying to reassure people that everything's OK. To drink from a glass of Flint water when a number of experts are still saying this water's not safe? It's still going through the same corroded lead pipes? It was such a disappointing thing to see.

Your clip you just showed ... he hopes that Flint can get back to where it was. Where was that? You mean before the water crisis two years ago, after we'd lost 75,000 General Motors jobs? Back to then? Or are we talking about back to 20-30 years ago? I mean, Flint is a city that's really been destroyed.

Gretchen Whitmer would not be Joe Biden's best choice. She can't pull off a stunt like President Obama did. And unlike Barack Obama, she'll never be a failed President with the privilege of  the undying loyalty and admiration of Democrats across the country.


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