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Maggie is going to endorse Lovely.
It will happen sometime today. The Republican county executive is going to throw her support behind the Democratic mayoral candidate.
Not in the race against Alex White.
But in the race against Tom Richards.
Contrary to what they say on the news and in the paper, this race is not between the Democrat and the Green, it’s between the Democrat and the incumbent. And everybody understands that, probably nobody better than the people who are running Lovely’s campaign.
And in that race, Maggie Brooks is going to back Lovely Warren.
Because she’s a woman.
That was Maggie’s decision yesterday.
After years of working with Tom Richards, after agreeing with other Republican leaders that Tom Richards was the better candidate and better for the future of the city, Maggie is going with Lovely.
That is surprising to Maggie’s political circle because it had largely been agreed that she would publicly announce her support for Tom Richards. Folks in the Republican Party admire Richards and believe he would be good for the city, but fear that if the party leadership backed him it would hurt his prospects in the largely Democratic city. So instead of the party standing up for him, Maggie was going to.
But yesterday she said that she’d changed her mind. She was going with Lovely – because Lovely is a female.
It is an endorsement based on gender.
And that’s not speculation or insinuation, that’s the explanation that came out of Maggie’s office yesterday afternoon. Because she was the first female county executive and because Lovely would be the first female mayor and because Maggie wanted to help make that happen, Maggie is throwing her support to Lovely.
Because gender trumps.
At least it does for Maggie Brooks.
In the context of this election, that is stunning. It is staggering. Of all the factors, of all the criteria, of all the history and all that is at stake, the deciding factor was gender. An accident of birth, the randomness of conception. It all comes down to a chromosome.
Maggie’s decision is fitting for a race that is very much about group identification. In significant ways, people are going to vote in this election on the basis of who looks like them.
The core of Lovely Warren’s support is in the African-American community of the west side. Much of that support is based on the fact that she is African-American. Her repeated usage of “we” and “us” and “our” to reference black issues highlights the importance of racial identification in her campaign – as do the “OUR mayor” signs she has put up in black neighborhoods.
In large part, Lovely Warren’s support comes not from who she is, but what color she is.
On the other hand, race is probably also a significant factor in the candidacy of Tom Richards. Many white and Latino people are uncomfortable with what they see as the black emphasis of Lovely Warren’s campaign. They don’t believe they are opposed to a black candidate – they elected Bill Johnson three times and have in the past two elections overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama – but there is more black racial edge in the Warren candidacy than they are comfortable with, and that will influence their vote.
The two sides probably don’t see or share those perceptions. The perceptions may or may not be rational. Each side may see the other’s view as racist, or at least racially biased. But the perceptions exist, and they will be felt at the ballot box.
And now comes probably the most momentous endorsement of the campaign, and it is also based on group identification.
Maggie is not endorsing Lovely because she believes she is the better qualified of the two candidates. She is endorsing her because she is a woman, because she and Lovely are in the same group.
Some would call that chauvinistic or sexist, or some other descriptor of gender bias. Because what it means is that Maggie Brooks is rejecting Tom Richards on the basis of his gender. He was doomed to lose that endorsement the day he was born. It is an act of gender discrimination.
In an election whose winning margin may come about as the result of racial discrimination.
I’m not saying any of this is good or bad, I’m just identifying it and saying we should be honest about it. Certainly, the right to vote includes the right to vote based on whatever criteria you choose. If you want to vote for someone because he has the same skin color or heritage or religion as you, that’s your right. And that’s how Americans have voted from the earliest days of the Republic. That’s why Irish candidates put a shamrock on their lawn signs and black candidates put their picture on their lawn signs. Common wisdom in Monroe County is that if you want to be elected judge it really helps to have an Italian surname.
It’s the way it is.
So if folks want to vote or endorse based on group identification, that’s their right.
But it’s not our best nature.
And we should strive for better.
Because Martin Luther King was right. We should be judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin.
And so should our candidates.
Voting on the basis of group identification is essentially a selfish thing. It is a type of tribalism. It is an example of the group divisions which have riven societies across Asia, Europe and Africa with often catastrophic consequences. It is a balkanization of America and a threat to the social unity that the melting pot used to be known for.
Someday it may destroy our society.
On Tuesday it will pick a mayor.