Yesterday, Mayor W.W. Herenton filed his petition to run for, what could be, his fifth term in office. He held a press conference downtown outside the Shelby County Election Commission. Video of the event can be viewed here. (Two notes: 1. The audio quality is very distorted, 2. Do I need to show the Fox 13 camera ops where the mic/line switch is and do they not have headphones? WTF!)
After the press conference, the Mayor launched into a tirade against the “bigoted white media”. This comment seemed largely directed at the Commercial Appeal for only highlighting the problems facing the city.
The Mayor is right about one thing, in the 16 years of his administration a lot of things in Memphis have improved. There are few who have lived here for the majority of this time that can argue that point. The bigger issue now is not the entirety of his tenure, but the last 4 years. Most people can look at the entirety of their lives and can easily point out the good things, but life is not electoral politics. Elected officials are not always judged on the entirety of their service, but their effectiveness in the recent past. In the 3+ years that I have lived in Memphis, I have observed a city with no rudder, spinning out of control. Ultimately, the buck stops with the Mayor.
Near the end of his prepared comments the Mayor said that he would not allow anyone to “divide our community”. One must question if by community he means the entire city, or a segment of the city, because the comments that followed, along with the afore mention tirade, are nothing if not divisive. Using language that can only be described as “race baiting” the Mayor lashed out at the white community for trying to “plot against him”. The Mayor doth protest too much, methinks. If the white community is solely represented by the likes of Richard Fields, then let me agree. However, just as the Mayor does not solely represent the black community, the white community is not solely represented by the likes of the “so called snakes”. Blaming an entire segment of the population for the acts of the few is not only disingenuous, but patently racist.
The Mayor seems to be suffering from “Hammer/Nail” syndrome. This condition is simple, and goes as follows, “If your only solution is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”. The Mayor’s problem right now is getting elected in the face of lower approval ratings and a potentially strong field. The solution has become blame the “others” who are plotting against “us”. It seems ironic that the Mayor, who in one sentence lists all the civil rights challenges that the black community has overcome, would turn right around and use language similar to those who, in the civil rights era, sought to maintain the status quo.
If the Mayor truly wants to demonstrate his leadership ability, then I would suggest that he drop the race baiting rhetoric, and start talking honestly and, more importantly, coherently, about the future of this city and solutions to the problems that we face. Playing the victim may play to parts of his base, but ultimately, it serves no one…but the Mayor.