by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
Bill Thompson, the Black candidate for mayor of New York City who endorses stop-and-frisk and has reactionary Republicans collecting money for his campaign, is betting that Black people are chumps. “The powerful lobbyists and their clients are making sure that Bloombergism will continue without Bloomberg” – with a Black face. Haven’t we seen that movie before?
Freedom Rider: Et tu Bill Thompson?
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
“Not surprisingly, the old guard of misleaders including former mayor David Dinkins and Congressman Charles Rangel, have endorsed Thompson.”
Former New York City Comptroller William Thompson could be running as the incumbent mayor of New York City. In 2009 he came within a few percentage points of defeating Michael Bloomberg and his multi-million dollar war chest. Thompson would have been New York’s second black mayor, but he narrowly missed the cut after being hypnotized by Bloomberg’s well orchestrated plan to create a sense of inevitability. Thompson might have pulled off a huge political upset, but instead conducted a timid campaign and paid the price.
Thompson is now running for mayor again in a crowded field of candidates who are all current or former office holders, yet none has emerged as a clear favorite. Consequently he has a better than even chance of winning the Democratic primary. Yet this possibility of electoral success turns out to be a very bad scenario for black New Yorkers.
Thompson lagged behind his competitors in fund raising until very recently when former Republican senator and now powerful lobbyist Alphonse D’Amato emerged as his mentor and lead check bundler, accounting for $125,000 in contributions. D’Amato is now a king maker in New York state, and his rationale for supporting Thompson doesn’t bode well for black people.
D’Amato is quite clear about why he has chosen Thompson. He knows that he has a good chance of winning and is satisfied that he is someone “who doesn’t frighten business,” adding that “They don’t have fear of Bill Thompson, that he’s going to do some radical proposal that’s going to hurt their business,” Thompson is equally attached to D’Amato, declaring that he is “proud to have his support.”
“Former Republican senator and now powerful lobbyist Alphonse D’Amato emerged as his mentor and lead check bundler.”
There you have it. The billionaire mayor will finally be gone, but no one gets the job without bowing and scraping to the big money people. Working people in New York city have faced a loss of jobs, housing gentrification, charter school privatization and perhaps worst of all an ever expanding police state epitomized by Bloomberg’s stop and frisk policies. The powerful lobbyists and their clients are making sure that Bloombergism will continue without Bloomberg.
The mutual admiration society with D’Amato was the first bad omen, but Thompson himself confirms that black voters have even bigger reasons for unease. It turns out that the black candidate doesn’t really have a problem with the infamous stop and frisk program. He has said publicly that it isn’t so bad after all, and that criticism of it is an “over reaction.” More than 700,000 people have been stopped and searched by the police for the flimsiest of reasons. People are arrested for putting their feet on the subway, or for not having any identification. Young people are ordered to empty their pockets and are then arrested if they are in possession of marijuana. More than half of those victimized, 55%, are black, while 30% are Latino.
Thompson’s reasons for minimizing the stop and frisk horror isn’t very mysterious. White New Yorkers happen to be quite satisfied with stop and frisk and Thompson can’t be elected mayor unless he gets more of their votes than he did in 2009. He and his check bundlers hope that telling white people what they want to hear will be the key to victory in November. Thompson has made a political calculation, but he should have every expectation that all voters are making their own calculations too.
Are black people who have been given summonses for loitering at their own homes, who have been stopped dozens of times, or who have spent hours or days in jail without having committed a crime supposed to just forget their experiences and vote for Thompson? Thompson may think so but that is no reason for anyone else to be similarly deluded.
“White New Yorkers happen to be quite satisfied with stop and frisk.”
He is betting that the prospect of his presence in the mayor’s office will be such a treasured goal that nothing else will matter. The desire to see a black face in a high place can be quite dangerous. It is the quest for black politics which should be all important, and not necessarily the quest to see black politicians in office.
The candidate who gets black votes in the Democratic primary should be the one who stops the charter school onslaught against public education, who creates and protects jobs for working people and who stops the encroachment of gentrification which displaces entire communities. Stop and frisk is closely linked to gentrification. It is the tool used to remind those who didn’t get the memo that their time in New York City is up, and they ought to leave town before sundown.
It is heartening to see that some public officials and candidates are not taken in by this cynical deal and have spoken out against it. Not surprisingly, the old guard of misleaders including former mayor David Dinkins and Congressman Charles Rangel, have endorsed Thompson, stop and frisk, and its architect, police commissioner Ray Kelly.
It is all too sad to be believed. While the president of the United States gets away with behavior that black people would have never accepted from anyone else, the pernicious political model is spreading around the country. One Obama is bad enough, the model of talking over the heads of black people to speak directly to white people need not be replicated by anyone else.
Candidates have a right to make appeals to any group of voters that they like, but voters have the right to make their own choices, including the right to support so-called third party candidates or to sit out elections and work towards a better day. If any candidate decides that the votes of one group are more important, then people in other groups should feel free to spurn their advances. Not voting for a person who violates one’s principles is itself principled. Doing otherwise amounts to little more than acting like a chump. Bill Thompson and other politicians spend their time and efforts hoping for just that. They should be disobliged of this idea as strongly as possible. There shouldn’t be any chump voters in New York City in 2013.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.