Chapter Overview

1.  Meet the New Class: Theorizing Young Black Leadership in a “Post-Racial” Era by Andra Gillespie

Recent events have focused our attention on emergent, young, black politicians.  Parlance holds that these politicians are more racially moderate than their predecessors and more prone to transcend race, but little academic research has been done to substantiate these suppositions.  Moreover, the success of Barack Obama has focused our attention on one particular type of young, black politician.   Are all black politicians alike?  Do any observed differences translate to differences in campaign strategy and policy framings?  Does the diversity among young, black politicians signal greater unanimity or further debate about the normative direction of the “black political agenda.” In this chapter, Andra Gillespie provides a helpful theoretical overview to leadership studies in African American politics, updates it for the post-civil rights generation, and underscores the idea that these young, black politicians embody the diversity and competitive discourse that have always been a feature of black political discourse.   [Contact the author]

Part I:  Creating Opportunity:  How Young Black Politicians Break Into the Political Scene

2. Racial Authenticity and Redistricting: A Comparison of Artur Davis’ 2000 and 2002 Congressional Campaigns

In 2000, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Artur Davis challenged four-term incumbent Congressman Earl Hilliard for the Democratic nomination in Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District.  By all accounts, Davis’ quest for political office was quixotic at best.  He had never held political office, and he was challenging one of the most powerful black politicians in the state.  The results of the race seemed to bear out the long-shot nature of this challenge:  Hilliard beat Davis by a two-to-one margin in the 2000 primary.

In the face of such defeat, some opponents would have recoiled in embarrassment, never to challenge the incumbent again.  Davis, however, regrouped and resumed his challenge in 2002.  This time, though, he beat Hilliard and went on to win the general election in November 2002.  How was Davis able to turn a stunning defeat into a solid victory?  Did he change his campaign strategy?  Cultivate a new image?  Tone down his crossover appeal with non-Black voters?  In this chapter, Andra Gillespie and Emma Tolbert examine Artur Davis’ political transformation from loser to victor.  Using in-depth interviews, redistricting data and internal polling data, they find that while Davis did not change his political style between 2000 and 2002, he did make some key strategic changes that enabled him to better position himself against Hilliard.  More important, though, Davis benefited from a decennial redistricting effort—endorsed by Earl Hilliard himself—that introduced new voters into the district who had no loyalties to Earl Hilliard and who were more receptive to Artur Davis’ message.  [Contact the authors]

  3.  Losing and Winning: Cory Booker’s Ascent to Newark’s Mayoralty by Andra Gillespie

In 2002, Cory Booker, a one-term city councilman, Yale-trained lawyer and former Rhodes Scholar, challenged four-term incumbent Mayor Sharpe James for the mayoralty in Newark, New Jersey.  The matchup between James, the seasoned and flamboyant incumbent, and Booker, the telegenic newcomer with famous friends drew national attention and became New Jersey’s most expensive municipal election to date.

Racial issues figured prominently in this contest, despite the fact that both James and Booker are black.  James successfully made the 2002 mayoral election a referendum on whether Booker was authentically Black enough to lead a majority-minority city.  James’ strategy appeared to work, as he narrowly won the election by posting decisive victories in the city’s Black wards.

For his part, Booker vowed to fight again for the mayoral seat in 2006.  But how would he do that in the face of the attacks on his racial authenticity?  Some scholars and analysts suggest that Booker should have racialized himself for the second mayoral contest.  Could he do that?  Did he do that?  What were the implications of Booker’s choices on the eventual outcome of the 2006 mayoral election?  [Contact the author]

Part II:  Inheritance and Governance:  What Political Scions Do Once They Get Elected

4.  Like Father, Like Son? Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Tenure As A US Congressman by Randolph Burnside and Antonio Rodriguez

If Jesse Jackson Jr. enjoys the benefits of his name, he has also had to endure the challenges of bearing that name.  As the son of a famous and controversial American civil rights leader, Jackson parlayed his family’s prominence in Chicago to win a special election to Congress in 1995.  As one of the first Blacks of the post-civil rights generation to win election to a federal office, Jackson Jr. was in the unique position to be able to use his youthful perspective and the values he learned at home to help set a national policy agenda for Blacks and non-Blacks alike.  However, as someone who literally grew up in shadow of the Civil Rights Movement, he might also be able to reframe old civil rights issues and articulate them for the modern era, earning the respect of his forebears in both the activist and legislative communities.

How has Jackson used his position to advance such a policy agenda?  Has he developed a political persona and a policy agenda similar to his technocratic, politically moderate, heavily credentialed Black peers?  Or, is he his father with the power of the legislative vote?  In this chapter, Randolph Burnside and Antonio Rodriguez scrutinize Jackson’s legislative agenda.  They contend that Jackson’s bill sponsorship record demonstrates the precarious balance he tries to maintain between aligning with the pragmatism his generation and the overt racial activism of his father’s generation.  [Contact the authors]


5.  Hype, Hip Hop and Heartbreak: The Rise and Fall of Kwame Kilpatrick by Athena King, Todd Shaw and Lester Spence

One of the reasons young Black political candidates have been so attractive in recent years is because of their success in projecting a racially moderate, reformist image.  Younger Black politicians are often presented as the antidote to more controversial, racially strident figures of the Civil Rights Movement and to African American political leaders who fell into ethical trouble.  Somehow, these politicians convince voters and journalists that they are above race-baiting and beyond reproach.

Unfortunately, this generation of Black leadership is not immune from scandal.  In 2008, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick resigned his position after pleading guilty to perjury in an attempt to conceal an affair with his former chief of staff.  How did this happen?  Kilpatrick had been one of the nation’s youngest mayors when he was elected in 2001—after an illustrious career in the Michigan House of Representatives.  He had been heralded by the Democratic Leadership Council as one of its “Rising Stars.”  Kilpatrick, “the Hip Hop Mayor,” had been the shining example of melding pro-business political savvy and keen street smarts.  What happened?

Athena King, ,Todd Shaw and Lester Spence trace the rise and fall of Kwame Kilpatrick.  In the chapter, they examine Kilpatrick’s attempt to marry a hip hop sensibility to pragmatic politics.  The union could have been politically electrifying, but without accountability, Kilpatrick lost control and eventually lost his career.  [Contact the authors]

Part III:  The Rise of Barack Obama:  Its Implications for Black Politics

6.  The Burden of Jekyll and Hyde: Barack Obama, Racial Identity, and Black Political Behavior by Lorrie Frasure

Today, we popularly know Barack Obama as the man who shattered racial barriers on his way to the White House.  However, less than a decade before his historic 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama was a little known Illinois State Senator who got his hat handed to him by a Black incumbent in a congressional primary.

In 2000, Barack Obama challenged Bobby Rush for the Democratic nomination in Illinois’ First Congressional District.  In that race, Obama charged that his opponent could have done more to help the district and proposed great technocratic ideas to demonstrate his higher legislative acumen.  The Black voters in Chicago’s South Side were not convinced, though.  Satisfied with Rush’s leadership in Congress, they delivered him the nomination by a two-to-one margin.

Just four years later, though, the same set of voters would rally around Barack Obama as he sought the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate.  How could such a thing happen?  What factors explain a shift in Black public opinion and subsequently overwhelming turnout favoring Barack Obama?  In this chapter, Lorrie Frasure provides a closer examination of the complex and idiosyncratic nature of Black electoral politics. Frasure uses Obama’s early political campaigns as a lens through which to examine Black constituent attitudes and political behavior in an era of post-civil rights Black political leadership.  Her analysis suggests that shifts in Black electoral support for Obama are much more complex than factors related to racial identity alone. Frasure also examines the role of political information and candidate electability on Black political behavior. Finally, she examines how these factors continued to shape Obama’s relationship to the Black electorate during his 2008 presidential election campaign.  [Contact the author]

7.  Leadership, Legitimacy and Public Perceptions Of Barack Obama by Charlton McIlwain

Voter assessments of candidate leadership have long played a role in American presidential elections.  This may have historically disadvantaged blacks who sought America’s highest political office.  In other work, Charlton McIlwain (2008) found that perceptions of leadership had a negative correlation with support for Jesse Jackson in his 1988 primary bid.  In this chapter, McIlwain revisits the topic of leadership to determine how perception of leadership factored into voter preferences in the 2008 Democratic primary.

McIlwain finds that the two top Democratic contenders (Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton) brought different, sometimes indirectly racialized leadership skills to the table.  It was up to the voters to decide which model of leadership they preferred in their president.  Given the failures of previous black presidential candidates to make any headway, one would have expected Barack Obama to have trouble convincing voters that his brand of leadership was best.  So, how did Barack Obama end up winning the nomination?  The answer, McIlwain argues, is change.  [Contact the author].

Part IV:  New Perspectives on Deracialization


8.  Between Generations: Deval Patrick’s Election As Massachusetts’ First Black Governor by Angela K. Lewis

A generation ago, scholars began to debate the merits of black candidates using race-neutral, or deracialized, campaign strategies.  One of the more prominent concerns (borne out in contests in the early 1990s) was that as hard as some black candidates might try to deflect attention away from race, their opponents could leverage residual racism and successfully use racial attacks against their transcendent opponents.  Deval Patrick could have easily suffered the same fate. When he ran for Governor of Massachusetts in 2006, Patrick was the victim of subtle racial attacks that were intended to erode support for him in the White community. However, unlike his predecessors, Patrick emerged triumphant.  Why?   In this chapter, Angela Lewis finds that subtle racial attacks could not compensate for the unpopularity of Patrick’s opponent.  Moreover, Patrick benefitted from surrogates openly decrying the negative, racially charged attack ads. [Contact the author]



9. The Declining Significance of Race: Adrian Fenty and the Smooth Electoral Transition by Rachel Yon

In the District of Columbia, race has long played a role in the campaigns and administrations of public officials, particularly mayors. This was clearly seen in the campaigns and/or administrations of Mayors Marion Barry, Sharon Pratt Dixon Kelly, and Anthony Williams, who either appealed to racial solidarity or were accused of racial distancing.  However, when Adrian Fenty ran to succeed Anthony Williams in 2006, race was hardly an issue in the all-important primary campaign.  How could race apparently not matter in a city steeped in Black Nationalism, and how can it not be used against a candidate such a Fenty, a biracial Black man with a tremendous crossover appeal?

In this chapter, Rachel Yon explores a number of possible contributing factors as to why race never became an issue in his campaign.  Those factors include Fenty’s nativity to the District, his opponent’s own racial moderation and a history of successful deracialized politics in the city.  [Contact the author]


10.  Situational Deracialization, Harold Ford, and the 2006 U.S. Senate Race In Tennessee by Sekou Franklin

The 2006 Senate race in Tennessee pitting Harold Ford Jr. against Bob Corker was one of the most intriguing contests of the 2006 mid-term election cycle.  The race garnered a tremendous amount of national media attention and underscored the fact that, if elected, Ford would increase the Democratic Party’s chances of winning the Senate.  A victory by Ford would also make him the South’s first Black senator since Reconstruction.  Despite Ford’s defeat – he lost by only 50,000 votes – he demonstrated a unique ability to connect with voters across racial lines.

Sekou Franklin examines Ford’s electoral and governance strategies during the senate campaign and ten years in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Collectively, he refers to these strategies as “situational deracialization” because it describes how some Black candidates and elected officials strategically use deracialized frames or methods that are malleable and appeal, quite effectively, to a broad array of voters.  It further describes how Black candidates embrace race-neutral positions on purportedly racially divisive or controversial issues to curry favor among White moderates and conservatives, yet still use specially targeted, race-specific cues that appeal to Black voters in insulated, homogenous (Black) districts.  Finally, situational deracialization helps explain why Black candidates may distance themselves from associative preferences or policy positions (i.e. pro-immigration postures, judicious crime measures, privacy rights, economic justice) that are perceived by Whites to have the greatest support or sympathy among Blacks.  [Contact the author]


11.  The ‘Steele Problem’ and the New Republican Battle for Black Votes: Legacy, Loyalty, and Lexicon in Maryland’s 2006 Senate Contest

Because African Americans are overwhelmingly Democratic, it is easy to overlook the role that Black Republicans play in modern, post-civil rights Black politics.  One could easily assume that Black Republicans are the best deracialized candidates because they cannot depend on Black votes to get elected or that they struggle to earn credibility among Black constituents.  The reality is more nuanced.  Black Republicans do not automatically shed their racial identity when they run under the GOP banner, nor do they always ignore Black, Democratic constituents.  In this chapter, Tyson King-Meadows problematizes the notion of the deracialized Black Republican candidate.  In his case study of Michael Steele’s 2006 senate campaign, we see that Steele deliberately reached out to Black voters, who may have felt ignored by the Maryland Democratic Party.  Moreover, he still received less than average white support in Republican strongholds which should have supported him as a fellow partisan.  King-Meadows’s case study demonstrates that race, partisanship and candidate preferences are more complex than meets the eye.  [Contact the author]

Part V:  Intersectionality and African American Politics in the 21st Century

12.  Race, Religion and Post-9/11 America: The Election Of Keith Ellison by Andra Gillespie and Amber Perez

In 2006, Minnesota State Representative Keith Ellison made history.  Not only did he become Minnesota’s first Black Congressman, he also became the United States’ first Muslim member of Congress.  The latter distinction was particularly notable because it took place five years after September 11 and the beginning of the War on Jihadist Terror.

The Ellison election presents a perfect case study of the role of intersectionality in elections and governance.  Did his campaign face challenges because of his race, his religion or both?  Does Congressman Ellison’s race and religion give him a different policy perspective from his non-Black, non-Muslim colleagues?

In this chapter, Andra Gillespie and Amber Perez discuss these issues.  Using content analysis of media coverage, they find that most public discussions of Ellison’s candidacy and first term of office focused on his religious identity, not his racial identity.  Ironically, the focus on Ellison’s religion allowed him the freedom to advocate on behalf of all racial minorities without giving the appearance of racial exclusivity. [Contact the authors]


13.  Young, Gifted, Black and Female: Why Aren’t There More Yvette Clarkes In Congress? by Katrina Gamble

The first Post-Civil Rights Generation Black politician to win office at the large city or federal level was Cleo Fields, who won election to Congress from Louisiana in 1992.  He was soon followed by Jesse Jackson Jr. in 1995 and Harold Ford Jr. in 1996.  A young woman would not join these rarefied ranks until 2006, when Yvette Clarke won her bid to replace Brooklyn Congressman Major Owens in Congress.  Why did it take nearly a decade and a half for a young woman to be elected as a big city mayor, member of Congress, or governor?  In this chapter, Katrina Gamble examines the factors that have delayed young women from entering the elected leadership pipeline, and she probes deeper to determine the extent to which race interacts with gender to create additional barriers for young, black, female political aspirants.  [Contact the author]

14.  Conclusion: Where Do We Go From Here? by Andra Gillespie

This volume raises a number of interesting questions about the state of African American politics as a discipline and the trajectory of traditional civil rights issues as a policy agenda.  Given the data presented in this volume, what are the new avenues for research?  What questions should students be asking and gathering data to answer?  This chapter synthesizes the questions raised throughout the book and asks important questions to help set the agenda for future research.  [Contact the author]







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