People in power hardly ever give it up gracefully, and Dr. Joe Reed is no exception. Reed, Associate Executive Secretary of the AEA and head of the Alabama Democratic Conference, has wielded great political power in his lifetime, but in recent years he's been on the losing side more and more often.
Dr. Reed backed incumbent Earl Hilliard against Artur Davis in the AL-07 Democratic primary back in 2002. Davis won convincingly in a runoff. Reed tried to get Rep. Patricia Todd's 2006 primary win overturned, largely because she was a white Democrat in a majority black district. Reed also famously backed Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in 2008 and it's almost certain he will support Ron Sparks over Artur Davis in the Democratic gubernatorial primary next spring. He also expressed surprise that James Fields (also black) could win in overwhelmingly white Cullman County. I'm beginning to wonder if Reed subconsciously believes black politicians can't or shouldn't win outside minority districts.
Dr. Reed certainly won't be going quietly into the twilight years of his political relevancy either. Jesse Jackson had his turn at Davis over the HR 3962 vote a couple of weeks ago, saying “You can't vote against health care and call yourself a black man.” He quickly backed off that statement, but Jackson's retreat hasn't deterred Reed who takes a considerably less coherent swing at Davis in a column entitled Alabama congressman attacks the poor in the Alabama School Journal.
Jennifer Foster's piece was the first one I saw on Dr. Reed's “Bubba and Cooter, Big Man and June Bug” remarks. She's putting forth some right wing arguments about health reform, but it's worth a read in spite of that. I have no idea what Reed was trying to say with that particular characterization — whether it was a thinly disguised appeal to class, race, or both — but the use of those stereotypes calls to mind an Alabama that existed years ago, one that doesn't necessarily exist today.
Artur Davis' response to Dr. Reed's remarks appears below the fold, side by side with an excerpt from Reed's ASJ column. Emphasis is mine, in both cases. You tell me which shows more class.
Congressman Artur Davis:
Dr. Joe Reed:
|Joe Reed and I have a policy-based difference over whether HR 3962 is the best way to mend our country’s inequitable and costly healthcare system. Unlike Dr. Reed, I believe we can do better than an approach that could cause numerous Alabama employers to reduce their payroll or walk away from offering coverage to their employees.
We have a much more profound difference over race and leadership. Reed believes that a public official’s race matters more than his capacity for independent judgment. He believes that a black American who holds elected office must follow a certain path or be inauthentic. Dr. Reed also believes in a shameless double standard: when his candidate for Governor, Ron Sparks, denounced the House health care bill in August and refused to say whether he would even enforce a public option as Governor as recently as October, Reed’s response was not outrage but silence.
On all of this, Joe Reed is wrong. Just as he was wrong to fight to overturn the results of a legislative race in 2006 because the winner was white, and in Reed’s opinion, the wrong color for her district; just as he was wrong to stand on the floor of the Democratic convention in Denver to oppose Barack Obama even though the race was over and Hillary Clinton had graciously conceded. Just as he was wrong to urge black Alabamians to reject Barack Obama during the 2008 primary on the flimsy ground that they should appreciate America was not ready for a black President.
I said on the night I won my congressional seat in 2002 that I would not determine my viewpoints and obligations based on race. I also vigorously reject the insinuation that there is a uniquely “black” way of understanding an issue, and I strongly suspect that most Alabamians will as well.
Joe Reed’s forty-two year career of public service contains much good. But his injection of race into a serious debate over public policy should offend black and white Alabamians alike, and I hope Ron Sparks will join me in denouncing such a divisive approach.
|In Alabama, all seven congressmen, four Republicans and three Democrats opposed the Obama health care plan. No explanation, no justification can be given to make us believe that they had a good reason to do so.
They should hang their heads in shame. If the voters treated them like they treated the voters, they would all be defeated next year. I don’t know how they can fix their mouths, wag their tongues, and stare voters like June Bug, Big Man, Bubba, and Cooter in the face and ask them to vote for them. When you look back at their records for the most part, they mirror the Republican agenda.
Artur Davis is now running for governor. His Congressional district is blacker than any Congressional district in the state and poorer than any Congressional district in the state, yet he was the only black congressman in the nation to oppose Obama’s health care plan. Every other member in the Congressional Black Caucus voted for it.
But, because he is now running for governor he is looking out for himself and not the people. There is a message in that. That message is, if he got to be governor, what kind of governor would he be?
I say now what I have said many years ago. Politics is a noble profession and there is nothing wrong with politics, but my problem is with politricks.
The Democratic congressman and all other congressmen are playing politricks with the people of Alabama and they expect those same people to vote to have them re-elected.