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Cao's stunning win shows maturity of Second District

One would have thought that Anh “Joseph” Cao had as good a chance as anyone to turn the majority-black Louisiana Second Congressional District into a Republican seat, at least for two years. He has a rag-to-riches background, faced an indicted incumbent the evidence concerning which was particularly toxic, and had the good fortune for the election to occur in the optimal electoral environment that would attract disproportionately his supporters compared to those of his opponent’s, Democrat incumbent Rep. Bill Jefferson.

But early voting totals seemed to dispel the notion of an upset, combined with the insistence by a large portion of the district’s black voters that comprise 62 percent of the total electorate that when it comes to voting, the absolute necessary condition for any candidate to be eligible to receive a vote is that he is black. For Cao to have any chance of winning, he had to draw disproportionately from Republicans, mainly whites. Early voting indicators showed that wasn’t going to happen. As these results tipped off an overall low turnout, this would have helped Cao only if whites had disproportionately shown up then (signaling the same was likely to occur on Saturday). Instead, the ratio of white-black-other-race turnout was pretty close to the district’s overall ratio.

And yet, Cao pulled off the biggest upset of the 2008 election campaign. I’ll need more time to scan the precincts to give a definitive answer, but two things seemed obvious. First, turnout for the election was just 70 percent of the Democrat/independent-only primary total on Nov. 4 – now about 50,000 Republicans would get a say and looked to ahev turned out disproportionately. Second, while some of the super-black-majority precincts in Orleans (95 percent-plus black registration) had decent turnouts of 20 percent, other turnouts were microscopic – heavily Jefferson, but less than 5 percent. Even a 10 percent turnout in these might have been enough to win Jefferson the election.

Just a couple of days ago, rhetoric such as this was emanating from Jefferson supporters:

“They're trying to disenfranchise us, trying to convince us that it's a wasted vote to go on Saturday and pull the lever for a man who we know is ours,” said the Rev. Samuel Butler, who organized the news conference [Thursday supporting Jefferson]. He didn't elaborate on how he believes Republicans are trying to accomplish [that].

“This district means a lot to us because it was really created ... for the blacks to have representation,” said the Rev. Zebedee Bridges, a longtime Jefferson ally. “I'm hoping that the people in that district don't sit down and let someone walk in and take our rights away from us. You really can't visualize how much this means to us. This is history.”

Such ignorance reflects poorly on the leadership, if any, that these ministers demonstrate. Butler needs to explain how the election of Cao would “disenfranchise” him, blacks, or anybody else. How would the election of Cao in any way show compromising of the right to vote? Bridges desperately needs a history lesson: the district was designed to have black interests represented, not blacks – demonstrated by the fact that the longest-serving holders of the district were husband-and-wife white politicians Hale and Lindy Boggs. And he needs to explain the obviously racist sentiment that somehow failure to elect a black to the office would “take our rights away from us.” Does he mean whites like the Boggs in office did that? Or in Tennessee, does he imply that white Democrat Rep. Steve Cohen discriminates against black constituents in his majority-black district?

One would have thought America was past this with the election of multi-racial president-elect Barack Obama. These people may not be, but the voters of the Second District showed they were.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All one has to do is go on Cao's web site and see the photos of the people whom he represent - All white. If it is not true, then Mr. Cao needs to build bridges in the same manner as President-elect Obama.