Civil War on the Left, Part 61: Identity Politics Dilemmas

This is one of those blogging equivalents to Hannibal Smith on the “A-Team,” who liked to sign off with, “I love it when a plan comes together!” In this case, I get to say, “I love it when a ‘Civil War on the Left’ entry writes itself.”

This, from Robert Kuttner at the left-leaning American Prospect:

Race, Class, and Loyalty. Ayanna Pressley, 44, is a respected African American member of the Boston City Council. A one-time political director for John Kerry, she was the first black woman ever to be elected to the council, in 2010. And she won citywide, in an at-large district.

In January, Pressley, calling for new leadership, surprised many observers by challenging incumbent progressive U.S. Representative Mike Capuano, a 66-year-old white guy, in the upcoming Democratic primary for Massachusetts’s Seventh District. Capuano is popular and well-entrenched in this majority-white seat.

This week, the Congressional Black Caucus endorsed Capuano over Pressley. Earlier, Representative John Lewis, the civil rights icon, went out of his way to back Capuano, calling him “a fierce advocate for those who have often been forgotten or left behind.”

Capuano has an exemplary record in supporting goals and policies important to African Americans. He is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, as are most members of the Black Caucus.

But what’s the right principle here? Blacks and women have a long way to go in achieving proportional political representation. Shouldn’t blacks in positions of power be extending a hand to other blacks?

On the other hand, loyalty is a very big deal in politics. Should the Black Caucus abandon a loyal ally in order to promote a young black woman in what was always a long-shot campaign?

As much as I admire Pressley, I’m with the Black Caucus. Race matters a lot but it’s not the only factor that matters. That said, the Democratic political establishment could be doing a lot more to promote black and women candidates in open contests, or in challenges to incumbents a lot less progressive than Capuano. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

And my original contribution to this story.

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