Saturday, February 23, 2008

Revisiting the political "T word"

By Rick Morris

In a recent column, I passionately took up for one of our Dignitaries, Burrell Jackson, when he put out a press release detailing controversial aspects of his race for Republican state central committeeman in the Cleveland area. I owed him no less because of the work he has put in helping to build The FDH Lounge brand through our webcasts in our first year of operations. Now, it may cause him a bit of discomfort (I hope not), but I’m going to address the topic for what I hope will be one last time here on the blog. I don’t wish to make his life any harder, but I do think I’m entitled to make my points in an extended, coherent manner so that they cannot be dismissed as just angry ranting. Again, all points here are my own and I hope nobody asks him to justify anything I’ve written because he’s not responsible for any of it.

Now, we’re a relatively new brand and I’m not an egotistical person (that assertion may have caused a lot of spit-takes, but it’s true!), so I was not presumptuous enough to assume that my column would cause anyone at Cuyahoga County Republican HQ to take notice. I am pleased to note that I was wrong about that; call it the power of Google Blog search or call it what you will, somehow, the rumblings from that column made their way all through the corridors of the local party establishment and folks are unhappy. So, since I have their attention, I’m going to expound once more before I let this go.

The word “tokenism” was used by me on behalf of my friend. It is a loaded term, as I know very well because I choose my words carefully. So I want to clarify that even though it was used in an angry manner, there is an underlying serious point that should be taken to heart.

I’ll start by addressing the comment section of that column. In it, a statement was posted from the Jim Trakas congressional campaign taking up for David Gunning and pointing out that even though Mr. Gunning contributed to Democrat Joe Cimperman, he also gave a maximum donation to the Trakas campaign. While my view of Mr. Gunning’s activities differs from that of Jim Trakas because of my admittedly biased perch as a Jackson supporter, I think the statement was well-advised on his part. Jim Trakas is a good guy and more relevant to this matter, a smart guy, and he’s going to stick up for those who financially support him. He understands the manner of reciprocity and two-way relationships and that capacity for recognition would serve him well as a congressman.

And it’s reciprocity that’s at the core of my initial critique. The Jackson press release mentions that he was recruited to run for county clerk of courts this year. Due to space considerations, it does not also mention that he was recruited to run for state senate in 2006. On neither occasion did he find himself awakening one day to say, “Hey, guess what? I think I’ll spend my own time and money running for public office and wave the Republican flag which has been unpopular in the black community in recent decades!” It didn’t happen like that. He heeded the call of those who saw in him a vital building block for the construction of a GOP that was viable in the minority community and he gave of himself willingly toward that end. And once in these races, he’s been pretty much on his own.

Such a pattern is nothing new. I should note that many, many moons ago as a then-idealistic very young activist that I ended up volunteering for a black GOP candidate who was running in a fairly significant race (I’ll note that it was late in the Bob Hughes era but I’ll not provide a year because I don’t want to mention the candidate, who has not asked to become a part of this controversy). He, too, ended up on his own in that race notwithstanding the fact that he was a viable potential building block for East Side Republicanism. So the moral of the story is that the names change but the story remains the same.

I understand the notion of limited finances and of having to prioritize where dollars and organizational support goes. This, too, is not a new story for this party and I suspect for Republican organizations in urban areas all over the country. But the two circumstances are in many ways connected and the dream of constructing an actual two-party system in the minority community will never be realized until money and commitment match rhetoric – and charismatic, accomplished leaders like Burrell Jackson need to be the foundation for such an endeavor.

Words must match deeds. If Burrell is a vital piece of a grand plan going forward, then he must be supported even if his first few campaigns are longshots. The bottom-line obsession with ONLY putting cash into possible or likely winners does nothing for the long haul and frustrates those who allowed themselves to believe things were changing. To the inevitable counterpoint that he is responsible for his own campaign: of course he is, but his contacts and Rolodex are nothing compared to the resources available to the organization as a whole!

If this party organization, and others like it, wish to avoid the “T word,” then they must step up and truly support those who are showing what amounts to real bravery by embracing the role of Republican advocate in the black community.

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