From Edward Brooke to Barack Obama: African American Political Success, 1966-2008

From Edward Brooke to Barack Obama: African American Political Success, 1966-2008

From Edward Brooke to Barack Obama: African American Political Success, 1966-2008

From Edward Brooke to Barack Obama: African American Political Success, 1966-2008

Synopsis

In 2008, American history was forever changed with the election of Barack Obama, the United States' first African American president. However, Obama was far from the first African American to run for a public office or to face the complexities of race in a political campaign. For over a century, offices ranging from city mayor to state senator have been filled by African Americans, making race a factor in many elections. In From Edward Brooke to Barack Obama, Dennis S. Nordin navigates the history of biracial elections by examining the experiences of a variety of African American politicians from across the country, revealing how voters, both black and white, respond to the issue of race in an election.

The idea to compare the African American political experience across several levels of office first occurred to Nordin as he was researching Arthur W. Mitchell's 1934 congressional campaign. The question of white voter support was of particular significance, as was whether the continuation of that support depended upon his avoiding minority issues in office. To begin answering these questions and others, Nordin compares the experiences of eleven African American politicians. Taken from across the country to ensure a wide sample and accurate depiction of the subject, the case studies examined include Tom Bradley, mayor of Los Angeles; David Dinkins, mayor of New York; Freeman Bosley Jr., mayor of St. Louis; Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts; Senator Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois; Governor L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia; and Representative J. C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma, among others. As Nordin analyzes these individuals and their contribution to the whole, he concludes that biracial elections in the United States have yet to progress beyond race.

From Edward Brooke to Barack Obama investigates the implications of race in politics, a highly relevant topic in today's American society. It offers readers a chronological overview of the progress made over the last several decades as well as shows where there is room for growth in the political arena. By taking a pertinent topic for the era and placing it in the context of history, Nordin successfully chronicles the roles of race and race relations in American politics.

Excerpt

African American officeholders dependent upon either white leadership or votes face a threshold of how much tolerance Caucasians would have regarding race. When minority politicians cross the imaginary line by showing too much interest in what whites will tend to interpret as pandering to African American causes and interests, a loss of white support results in most cases. in other words, a threshold for minority matters exists, and crossing it has consequences. a parameter of this in action occurred in Chicago after the election to and during the four terms in the House of Representatives of Arthur Wergs Mitchell. For him in this particular case, a nomination to run in 1934 had come from Pat Nash and Ed Kelly’s Democratic Machine, and the black congressman’s four consecutive election victories had resulted from pliancy by the minority candidate. in his first victory, it was overwhelming white support and just enough African American votes that resulted in the unseating of a three-term Republican incumbent and civil rights activist, Oscar DePriest. Mitchell then held onto the House seat by once again, defeating the former congressman in 1936, and by winning in 1938 and 1940 over two other black foes. Opportunities had come to Mitchell because of Chicago’s Democratic bosses’ anger and frustrations with the way DePriest had conducted himself in Congress. To their judgment and to the First District’s white working-class electorate generally, the Republican incumbent had fussed altogether too much about racial discrimination and in the process had upset Franklin D. Roosevelt by agitating and voting against New Deal legislation. While in Congress, in contrast to the record of the black Republican, Mitchell managed for the better part of his tenure to retain favor with white voters and Windy City power brokers; he retained their support by proclaiming often and demonstrating that his only interests were service to his constituents and to the president. in fulfilling these commitments to his immediate base of constituents as the only African American in Congress, Mitchell disavowed any role as “the Negro representative” on Capitol Hill. He continued to serve with conspicuous and pliant dependence and allegiance to the Machine for his first three terms in the House; in his fourth term, however, he defiantly dared to cross . . .

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