Philly Blunt

Freelance writer. Editor and web-video producer. Former Atlantic City Press and Philadelphia Weekly staff writer, City Paper managing editor/columnist and Dougherty for Senate campaign manager. Comments welcome here or emailed to brianhickey9 [at] hotmail. Now on: Facebook (Brian Hickey, in Philly) Twitter at Flickr at Be sure to check out Hickey on Divorce Court:

15 August 2008

Nutter and the Times Magazine

So yeah, everybody who trawls the papers, magazines and blogs for any sort of Philly-centric connection to a national/international story has already noted that Philadelphia Mayor/Wonderful Fancy-Bar Companion Michael Nutter played a major role in the Sunday NYT Magazine piece headlined, "Is Obama the End of Black Politics?"
In short, the theory is this: Nutter's decision not to back Barack is the true testament to the civil-rights eras heroes in that their struggle enabled him to support whom he wanted, for whatever reason he wanted. I'm down with that angle. But to get sidetracked on Nutter alone overshadows some very interesting nuggets from a fantastic Matt Bai story examining the rift between the older and younger generations of black politicians. Five of those nuggets appear after the photo of U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (SC), U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, U.S. Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama and Nutter.

1) Above his couch hangs a black-and-white photograph of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in Charleston, with the boyish [U.S. Rep. James] Clyburn [of South Carolina] and a group of other men standing behind him onstage. When I visited Clyburn recently, he told me that the photo was taken in 1967, nine months before King’s assassination, when rumors of violence were swirling, and somewhere on the side of the room a photographer’s floodlight had just come crashing down unexpectedly. At the moment the photo was taken, everyone pictured has reflexively jerked their heads in the direction of the sound, with the notable exception of King himself, who remains in profile, staring straight ahead at his audience. Clyburn prizes that photo. It tells the story, he says, of a man who knew his fate but who, quite literally, refused to flinch.

2) “I don’t want in any way to seem critical of the generation of leadership who fought so I could be sitting here,” [38-year-old Obama pollster Cornell] Belcher told me ... “Barack Obama is the sum of their struggle. He’s the sum of their tears, their fights, their marching, their pain. This opportunity is the sum of that.
“But it’s like watching something that you’ve been working on all your life sort of come together right before your eyes, and you can’t see it,” Belcher said. “It’s like you’ve been building the Great Wall of China, and you finally put that last stone in. And you can’t see it. You just can’t see the enormity of it.”

3) But more interesting, perhaps, was the public reaction of Jesse Jackson Jr., the reverend’s 43-year-old son, who is a congressman from Illinois and the national co-chairman of Obama’s campaign. The younger Jackson released a blistering statement in which he said he was “deeply outraged and disappointed” by the man he referred to, a little icily, as “Reverend Jackson.” Invoking his father’s most famous words, Jesse Jr. concluded, “He should keep hope alive and any personal attacks and insults to himself.” ...
This newly emerging class of black politicians, however, men (and a few women) closer in age to Obama and Jesse Jr., seek a broader political brief. Comfortable inside the establishment, bred at universities rather than seminaries, they are just as likely to see themselves as ambassadors to the black community as they are to see themselves as spokesmen for it, which often means extolling middle-class values in urban neighborhoods, as Obama did on Father’s Day. Their ambitions range well beyond safely black seats.

4) “So Obama’s the first one out there on the ice,” [Newark, NJ Mayor Corey] Booker told me. “This campaign is giving other African-Americans like myself the courage to be themselves.”

5) A lot of black incumbents who supported Clinton now find themselves trying to explain how they ended up so disconnected from their constituents, and many are preparing for their strongest primary challenges in years.


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