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by Jasmyne A. Cannick

Jesse's Nod Won't Help Obama

(PNS) -- There's more at stake on Nov. 4 than the election of a new President. Many black politicians know it and some are downright scared of it. Depending on the outcome of America's upcoming presidential election, many old-school career lawmakers could be benched permanently, paving the way for a younger generation of leaders to come out of the shadows of their political elders.

I'm speaking of those 20-, 30-, and 40-somethings that have patiently waited on the sidelines for "their turn." It's those of us who followed the rules handed to us by our elders, and went to college and came back home anxious to serve our communities, only to be told that we had to wait because it wasn't our time yet. The time never seems to be ripe, unless an incumbent dies unexpectedly or seeks higher office, leaving an open seat. And even then if someone more popular, and with better connections and deeper pockets, is vying for the same seat, we still have to wait.

This reality became painfully clear to me on Super Tuesday in Leimert Park, when I sat with my Congressional Representative, Diane Watson, in an open forum on California's primary election that turned into a discussion about her support for Senator Hillary Clinton.

"Hillary is the now...the future is Obama," she said. "He's going to lead all the youth and by that time when we're gone, you know, he and others in his same age bracket, those much younger, they will take over, and they then will be part of the ingredients, so this country can live up to its promises."

Diane Watson has been emphatic in her support of Clinton, and she's not alone. She is joined by Rep. Maxine Waters and freshman Rep. Laura Richardson -- in spite of the fact that voters in each of their districts have supported Obama.

When Watson was asked by a participant of the group why she wasn't "rolling with us," her constituents, she replied, albeit jokingly, "Why should I be rolling with you? You know how old I am."

Well, I have 177,273 reasons why Watson and her colleagues in the House should be rolling with their constituents. That's the total number of Democratic voters in Watson, Waters, and Richardson's districts that supported Obama as their candidate of choice over Clinton on Super Tuesday.

I asked Rep. Watson how she could justify not supporting Obama, one of her own colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, and she said that she doesn't represent just blacks, and that her district includes voters of many different races and socioeconomic backgrounds. I agree. I am one of her poorer constituents reppin' West Adams -- a world apart from her Hollywood Hills constituents. Nonetheless, 65.1 percent of her Democratic constituents chose Obama over Clinton.

At the risk of never working in politics again as a press secretary, I'm going to step out on my own and say that I believe that the support of our Congressional Black Caucus members for Hillary Clinton has less to do with their zealous support for Clinton and more to do with job security, in particular, their job security.

More than just hope to millions of voters around the country, Obama represents change. A change of the old guard that continues to play political musical chairs. The latest play was the retirement of Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke, where only two candidates were deemed acceptable replacements -- Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks and State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas. This in a city ripe with young leadership.

As a 30 year-old black lesbian woman, an Obama administration represents for me the real chance for new life and new voices in our political arena, which has been on lockdown at the hands of the same group of politicians all my life. It means that emerging young leaders might actually have an opportunity to get out there and institute real change in an administration that doesn't owe the next four years in favors to the old guard.

Black political leadership suffers from what I like to refer to as the "death grip" syndrome. That is, they get into an office and they stay in it until they die. It's very similar to the current civil rights movement which has seen the same two faces plastered across television sets around the country on every single black issue for the past several decades.

Which is not to say that these leaders haven't done some good while in office. But while they're telling us that we need change, oftentimes they're the very ones standing in the way of that change. Nowhere is that more apparent than with the race between Clinton and Obama, and their refusal to follow the lead of their constituents.

Nov. 4 comes down to whether or not we go into the next four years with more of the same, or we flip the script and change the game. But change never comes without a whole lot of kicking and screaming. The old guard knows that unless Senator Hillary Clinton is elected, their days are numbered. 1, 2, 3, 4...

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. A regular contributor to NPR's News and Notes, she was chosen as one Essence Magazine's 25 Women Shaping the World

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Albion Monitor   February 25, 2008   (

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