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I didn't think it possible, but I have definitely become more cynical, especially when it relates to local politics. Add to that, I have begun to develop a few of my own conspiracy theories as it relates to said politics and the role we willingly or unwillingly play in the demise of Black political leadership and power in Los Angeles.
Having watched how Los Angeles' Black political, religious, and community leaders mobilized like never before to get every Black person over the age of 17 1/2 with a heartbeat to register to vote in last year's presidential election, I cram to understand the lack of enthusiasm from the same group of people for the upcoming city election.
While what happens in Washington is important, chances are that what happens every week at City Hall, has a much more of an immediate impact on your way of life.
And even though this is true and our elected officials know it to be, there has been no Obama style campaign to continue what was started last year and keep voters, both new and returning, engaged and get them back out to the polls. Now why is that?
I think a bit more embarrassing is the fact that in parts of Los Angeles (La Brea Ave. just south of Washington Blvd.) , we're still promoting last year's General Election on billboards seen by hundreds of thousands likely registered voters. Normally this would be a good thing, except that it's not 2008 and unfortunately, the deadline to register to vote in the March 3 City of Los Angeles primary, is February 17...2009.
Speaking of which, even more boggling to me is the recent campaign for the re-election of our current mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Coincidentally, I happened to run into our Mayor's "Black community campaign kick off" this past Sunday on Crenshaw near Exposition Blvd. just as West Angelus Church of God in Christ was letting out-two days before the deadline to register to vote for him on March 3. Now I'm no rocket scientist but if the
Mayor was really all that invested in getting our vote, wouldn't he have kicked off his campaign a lot sooner?
Now I don't always agree with how politics are played out here in Los Angeles, but I try to approach all situations with common sense.
It's already been established that the Mayor has no formidable competition on the March 3 ballot. Like I said, I don't always agree with the situation, but I'm just keeping it real. So with that said, what's the use in wasting money on campaign headquarters and lawn signs to re-elect a Mayor who could get caught tomorrow in another sex scandal with a reporter only to have the odds increase in his favor for re-election? This is after all Los Angeles. Stranger things have happened. For the record, I am making no distinction between donor contributions verses taxpayer dollars, it's all wasted money in my book.
Maybe I expect too much from candidates like the Mayor and others who are essentially in races against themselves to not take me for an idiot. Maybe it's all a part of a political conspiracy. One that is predicated on keeping some of us away from our local polling stations come March 3 because should we become engaged it'd take more than a trip down mega church row on a Sunday to get our vote.
One of my political mentors, His Excelleny Mervyn M. Dymally, told me once that all politics is local. He was referring to comments made by Thomas "Tip" O'Neill-former Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress-who was explaining how the problems and concerns cities around the country affect the actions of their representatives and senators in Washington.
All I know is that the sense of urgency around registering voters and electing President Barack Obama has all but deteriorated and in it's place is a very loud silence on the part of our local elected officials and community leaders regarding elections that are just as-if not more important to our way of life in Los Angeles.
We don't have the luxury of showing up at the polls every four years or when a Black man is running for president. We never did, and it's exactly that attitude that paved the way for the current crisis in our educational system, political musical chairs that sees our elected officials moving from one office to the next, and our community forever being reactive instead of proactive where it concerns us the most-Main Street.
In order to make sure that the change that President Obama campaigned on reaches the least among us, we need to show up at the polls for all elections-local, State, and Federal, irregardless of whether they expect us to or not. Trust me when I tell you, other communities don't have to be reminded when the next elections is or who is on the ballot and it shows.
I am not in the habit of depending on others to tell me when to vote or how to vote, I got that handled. If more of us did, then these type of political mind games wouldn't go by unnoticed by the masses and candidates would be forced to actually show us why they should be elected or re-elected instead of telling us with a lawn sign or the timely visit to our side of town just prior to Election Day. I'm just saying...you can vote however you like, what's important is that you vote.
Jasmyne Cannick is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop culture, race, class, sexuality, and politics as it relates to the African-American community. Her work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, and Ebony Magazine. A regular contributor to NPR's 'News and Notes,' she was chosen as one Essence Magazine's 25 Women Shaping the World. She can be reached at www.jasmynecannick.com.