Friday, August 13, 2021

Do Not Ignore The King

India Walton can do us all, if not herself, a favor.

On June 22, 2021 Walton defeated incumbent Byron Brown in the Democratic primary for mayor of Buffalo, seemingly ending Brown's bid for a fifth term. The Intercept's Akela Lacy then wrote of the union organizer and activist

As the Democratic nominee in a heavily Democratic city without a Republican contender, Walton will all but definitely win Buffalo’s general mayoral election in November. A former member and representative for 1199 SEIU (the union that endorsed her opponent), and backed by the Democratic Socialists of America, the Working Families Party, and the Buffalo Teachers Federation, Walton will be the first mayor in the U.S. identifying as a socialist in more than half a century.

However, a few days later, Brown announced that he would mount a write-in challenge in the heavily Democratic, mid-sized Rust Belt city. And now

If the Buffalo mayoral election was held today, a majority of likely voters say they would vote for incumbent mayor Byron Brown over Democratic nominee India Walton, according to an exclusive WIVB/Emerson College poll.

Brown has a 10-point lead in the poll, with 50.2 percent of respondents supporting the mayor in his quest for a fifth term versus 40.1 percent who said they’d vote for Walton. 7.9 percent of respondents said they were unsure and 1.9 percent said they supported someone else.

Asked whether their opinion of the two candidates is favorable or unfavorable, opinions of Walton were mixed while Brown was viewed very favorably. Moreover, a plurality expressed an unfavorable view of socialism, responding to a question that may as well have been planted by Brown, who has claimed residents "have said to me that they do not want a radical socialist occupying the mayor's office in Buffalo."

For balance, the pollsters might have asked whether they have a favorable or unfavorable impression of the real estate industry- reportedly backing the incumbent- or of the rights of renters, given that Walton, according to Lacy, has "focused on strengthening tenants' rights." 

Alas, there was no such question which would have provided needed balance. But Walton has the advantage not only of being the only candidate on the ballot, but also of being the Democratic nominee.

The challenger must maximize that advantage.  She can do so by requesting the endorsement of arguably the second most important Democrat in the nation and most influential Democrat-President Biden included- electorally.

A few days after the elections, in which Democrats underperformed, House Majority Whip James Clyburn denounced the slogan "defund the police," remarking

We saw the same thing happening here. We can’t pick up these things just because it makes a good headline. It sometimes destroys headway.

As an example, Clyburn cited the defeat of South Carolina US Senate hopeful Jaime Harrison, who ended up beaten comprehensively by the incumbent Republican Lindsey Graham in a race many had hoped he would win after he turned a longshot campaign into a real contest.

“Jaime Harrison started to plateau when ‘defund the police’ showed up with a caption on TV, ran across his head,” Clyburn said in a separate Sunday appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press.

“That stuff hurt Jaime. And that’s why I spoke out against it a long time ago. I’ve always said that these headlines can kill a political effort.”

These headlines can kill a political effort.  It appears that Clyburn is deeply concerned with the strength of the Democratic Party and getting Democrats elected. And he is no ordinary Democrat, nor an ordinary African-American Democrat. He is a kingmaker, as Bernie Sanders, and more recently Nina Turner, have found out.

So let's put the South Carolinian to the test. The Democratic Party nominee for mayor of a major American city, albeit one in decline the last several decades, is in danger of losing a race no Democrat should lose. India Walton should contact Jim Clyburn and ask- plead, if necessary- for his help.

Clyburn has made it clear that he is no socialist and has little patience for the most outspokenly progressive members of his caucus. He is aligned with the moneyed interests which dominate the establishment wing and still holds most of the power in the Party. But he has immense influence among Democratic voters and politicians, particularly in the African-American community. He also is a Democrat- or so he fervently maintains- and his support might make the difference for the candidate Democratic primary voters opted for in a free and fair primary.

 Clyburn is likely to decline, as India Walton probably realizes. But we don't know that, and neither does Walton. For the good of her Party and herself, she should give him a chance to call her bluff.

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