Democrat John Barnes, a member of the Ohio state legislature, has pulled back the curtain on the racial politics that pervade his party. Barnes, who is African-American, alleges in a lawsuit against the Ohio Democratic Party and its outgoing chairman Chris Redfern that he faced discrimination, retaliation, and defamation at the hands of his own party for refusing to join the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus and for raising the issue of racism by Democrats.
I don’t know whether the conduct Barnes alleges is legally actionable, but it certainly is revealing. As Paula Bolyard at PJ Media reports, Barnes describes a “plantation-style management of black public officials” by Ohio Democrats. Consider, for example, the reaction to Barnes’ decision not to join the Black Caucus.
Barnes made this decision because he feared it would harm his reputation to “associate with an organization whose moral compass he found to be troubling.” Members of the caucus have been convicted of felony and misdemeanor offenses in recent years.
Moreover, Barnes had the audacity to “want to be treated as an individual rather than as a member of a presumed monolithic block of votes based upon his skin color.” To make matters worse, he cooperated with Governor Kasich on the Medicaid expansion.
The Democrats didn’t take it well. According to Barnes, he was passed over for committee leadership positions in retaliation.
In addition, the party backed Barnes’ primary opponent. That’s an unusual step, but within the party’s rights. However, Barnes alleges that, in trying to defeat him, the party lied about his record, falsely claiming that he voted with Kasich more than 75 percent of the time, cut funding for schools, blocked Medicaid for the poor, and disenfranchised voters.
Barnes nonetheless managed to win his primary, and he was reelected to the House. Meanwhile, party chairman Redfern was defeated by his Republican challenger last week. In fact, the election saw a record-breaking number of Republicans elected to the Ohio legislature. Poetic justice is sweet.
Barnes also alleges that the Democrats’ racial politics extend to outright corruption. He says that state Rep. Sandra Williams demanded that Rep. Armond Budish contribute $200,000 to the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus in exchange for the group’s support of his election as minority House leader.
After Burdish was elected, Barnes says he was told by Democratic leadership that he would not be permitted to communicate with Budish about committee assignments, as white Democratic legislators are permitted to do. Instead, he was told he would have to communicate only through the leader of the Legislative Black Caucus.
If true, this means that the Democrats imposed second-class status on African-American legislators. As Barnes puts it, “African American members have to go through [one] door and the white members go through another door and they expect you to stay in a box of despair. . .where your voice is minimized in the process.” He adds:
I understand what the focus is, that you want to have people together so you can manage them like they’re on a plantation. That’s just unacceptable. It’s insulting to my intelligence. It’s insulting to the people who honor me with the opportunity of serving a community and serving in the Ohio House of Representatives. You can’t have a process where you tell people, ‘You’re black, you go over here.’ It’s almost telling me I have to go in the back door of a restaurant.
These are strong words, but they won’t come as a surprise to those who have been paying attention.