This past week 1st District Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ) announced his desire to run against incumbent NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg. Several people have contacted Dr. Mahdi Ibn-Ziyad about whether the Democratic Party of South Jersey, especially the George Norcross led machine in Camden County will endorse and officially support his 4 month old candidacy for Andrew's seat now that Andrews has to leave his congressional post to run for the Senate. Below is Ibn-Ziyad’s response to one such inquiry.
In the past few days I have had several people express sentiments similar to yours. The concerns are appreciated and give one pause to reflect and consider whether this is really an opening for official Democratic Party recognition or, on the other hand, a renewed opportunity to deepen and replenish the means of struggle in my progressive campaign. To see the events of the past few days as opening in the Democratic Party is okay but fraught with problems based on the nature of the party, its philosophical allegiance to the notion of majoritarian democracy and its human organization.
All things considered, I think South Jersey Democratic Party boss George Norcross and all his cronies would die a miserable death before they would even hint at a wink or nod my way. They along with the most of the local media are playing the invisible man game with me and my candidacy. They know I am there but to date I remain off the stage of serious merit or comment. I don't think South Jersey Democratic Party realists, money men, power brokers, party stalwarts and other subordinate party leaders who have been in waiting for promotion would countenance anything outside of the general party line and "the way things are normally done in these cases".
Realistically I am almost certain that the party will not do anything to recognize or invite my official presence as an acceptable candidate to replace Rob Andrews in Congress. How could it? Much of what I am about is anathema to the viability of the party as it is now and how it perceives its self in the world. The party is not so much swayed by progressive ideas of principle and merit as it is the accumulation, function and distribution of political (and economic) rewards and punishments in the form of favors owed, cronyism, public money contracting, loyalty, positioning in a well-defined pecking order and the old guard, back room type politics.
Moreover, not only am I an outsider, I am a black progressive in a South Jersey Democratic Party political environment that is still ill prepared to deal with black political empowerment on any mass and effective scale. Unlike the run of the mill black political types that are safely installed in their party roles from mayors, a freeholder, a state senator to selected committee men and women, I am not a fawning elitist who hopes to curry favor with the powers that be. I am not seeking favors, a contract, or a new career as somebody's well dressed, articulate and affluent flunky. Further, I am not awed or cowed by big money or big power.
Majoritarian elitist and exclusionary, rather than inclusionary, minoritarian and proportionately decided democracy rules the day in first District politics. The majority of those motivated to exercise the franchise to vote in the 1st District (whether Democrat, Green, independent or Republican), will usually vote along traditional racial and ethnic lines; especially if the political parties subtly (or openly) push an exclusionary agenda that barely ever deals with racial or ethnic issues in any forward looking, out front manner. To not mention or barely mention local area race and ethnic divisions and the need to heal those fissures, by means of agreed upon methods of reconciliation, is the usual way that the politics of avoidance works.
A recent case in point was the 2/5/2008 NJ primary election which Obama lost to Clinton. None of the South Jersey power brokers favored Obama, thus all the party faithful who owed their jobs and livelihood as party hacks to Norcross fell in line. Black politicians who are puppets of Norcross, without the merest of whimpers, also fell in line across the board. That this same crowd, minus Rob Andrews as of yet, are now backing Obama is a sad tale about old guard race, and power politics in the South Jersey Democratic Party.
We'll have to wait and see, but just possibly Obama's big speech on race will provide some conversational space for this all but taboo issue to surface and distinguish itself as separate from economic class and status issues with which there is a subtle tendency for the casual observer to confuse because many racially oppressed
In sum, I fear conventional Democratic Party thinking would rather to keep my candidacy in the ethereal realm where it's not a problem or obstacle to conventionality. Out of sight, out of mind.
Be that as it may my progressive push, on the other hand, has a renewed opportunity to deepen and replenish the means of struggle in order to get my message of principled change out and acted upon. What I need now is for people wanting a progressive agenda to rush out and get on board my campaign jitney. Let the Democratic Party big wigs worry about who to select for Rob's place. Let the backroom smoke fill them with whatever.
Meanwhile, I need volunteers to hit the streets today if we are to make the best of this new