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Class Conflict in Washington

Not long ago, Vinceng Gray defeated the incumbent mayor of Washington, DC, Adrian Fenty, and became the presumptive next mayor.  As a result, Michelle Rhee is leaving her job as schools chancellor.  Washington has notoriously bad, yet expensive public schools. Rhee was trying to improve the schools and was willing to knock heads and to fire people to do it. 

In the election, the black communities were central to Gray's victory.  Why?  As the Washington Post noted, firing public employees hits the black middle class:

As mayor, Fenty retained his overwhelming popularity among white voters, as a breakdown of last Tuesday's vote demonstrates. But he lost the support of vast numbers of black voters who derided him for ignoring their communities and slashing government jobs. Many of those jobs were held by African Americans, who since the advent of D.C. home rule have used city employment as a stepping stone to the middle class. . . .

Although blacks and whites recognize the importance of the public schools as a vehicle for educating their children, blacks also see the school system as a primary employer, providing jobs to thousands of teachers, school bus drivers, administrators and secretaries. When Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee laid off hundreds of teachers, many blacks saw something more than a simple purge of poorly performing educators. They saw an assault on economic opportunity.

To put it more bluntly, the leadership of the black community is heavily invested in working for the government.  Statistically, if memory serves, the percentage of blacks who work for the taxpayers is higher than that of any other ethnic or racial group in the U.S.  In short, it might be the case that the interest of the black middle class conflicts with the interest of the rest of the black community.  The idea of ending tenure for civil servants and teachers threatens a very strong, entrnched interest in the black community, even if opening up the job market is, in fact, in the real, long-term interest of the community as a whole.

Perhaps the rise of black tea party candidates represents a move to change that, reducing the dependency of the black community on the government, and breaking the perceived uniformity of interest in the community.

Categories > Politics

Discussions - 5 Comments

Indeed I dispared when I saw the results of the primary. I live in Loudoun County, which is in Virginia just northwest of the city.

The election of Gray means a return to the old-style of political patronage government of the Marion Barry era. It's a throwback to the racialist politics that I had hoped were gone.

There were two problems with Michelle Rhee; she tried to reform the school system as against the wishes of the teachers unions, and she had the wrong skin color.

The unions, in particular the teachers unions were strongly behind Gray, another reason for his victory.

Fenty was efficient but was perceived as arrogant and stand-offish. By the time he realized his mistake it was too late.

The people of DC will suffer, but they have chosen their own fate.

This is what I've been trying to tell Pete -- black folks are "in the tank" for big government. Good governance or the Constitution are secondary to 1) employment, and 2) entitlement. Decades of the drumbeat of grievance and utter dependence on the Federal government for employment and social welfare benefits have ruined this segment of the population. Perhaps they are redeemable a some (distant) future date; today, best to move on and "woo" groups who have more in common with workaday Americans.

Redwald, I'm not sure that the experience of political/racial polarization of Washington D.C. matches up with the experiences of say Boston or New York City when it comes to changing rules for teacher hiring.

There are of course many working-class and middle-class African Americans who do not work for the government. In any case, I think (I'm relying on studies that go back to the 90s and can't find much on the web ) that between two-fifths, one-third and one quarter of teachers (I would guess it is about one-third) vote Republican. Which is alot better than Republicans do among African Americans.

Have no enough cash to buy a house? Worry no more, just because that's real to take the mortgage loans to solve such problems. Hence get a college loan to buy everything you require.

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