January 8, 2009

Burris Appointment Proves America Ain't Post-Racial Yet

I never heard of Roland Burris before last week. Truth to tell, I didn't know how to spell Blagojevich until last month. Both of them worked hand-in-glove with Sen. Harry Reid to shove the concept of a post-racial America into the background.

Many villagers have told me that this entire issue had nothing to do with racial politics. I beg to differ. Just review the facts. Sen. Harry Reid was one of 50 Democratic senators who signed this letter in mid-December:

Dear Governor Blagojevich:

We write to insist that you step down as Governor of Illinois and under no circumstance make an appointment to fill the vacant Illinois Senate seat. In light of your arrest yesterday on alleged federal corruption charges related to that Senate seat, any appointment by you would raise serious questions.

It is within the authority of the Illinois legislature to remove your power to make this appointment by providing for a special election. But a decision by you to resign or to step aside under Article V of the Illinois Constitution would be the most expeditious way for a new Senator to be chosen and seated in a manner that would earn the confidence of the people of Illinois and all Americans. We consider it imperative that a new senator be seated as soon as possible so that Illinois is fully represented in the Senate as the important work of the 111th Congress moves forward.

Please understand that should you decide to ignore the request of the Senate Democratic Caucus and make an appointment we would be forced to exercise our Constitutional authority under Article I, Section 5, to determine whether such a person should be seated.

We do not prejudge the outcome of the criminal charges against you or question your constitutional right to contest those charges. But for the good of the Senate and our nation, we implore you refrain from making an appointment to the Senate.
Fast forward three weeks ... Roland Burris arrives on the steps on the Senate. They send some flunkies to turn him away. Burris goes outside in the rain and pleads his case to the cameras. Burris never uses the race card. He simply states the truth. He is the duly-appointed junior senator from Illinois and he's sure that things will work out in the end.

Harry Reid and his crew hate the visuals. All-white Senate has a party inside the Capitol Building ... swearing ins .... voting on majority leader ... family gatherings ... photos ... smiles ... laughter. While outside, standing in the rain, is a 70-year old Black man who was denied entry.

The next day Sen. Reid trips all over himself talking about how race wasn't an issue. After all, Mr. Burris is a "nice man" with "two degrees". All that was missing was a mention of how 'clean' and 'articulate' Burris was when he came into the office.

If Roland Burris was a WHITE man ... this would be a non-issue. The US Senate would not seat him. They would abide by their December 10th letter. But, Roland Burris is a BLACK man. Sen. Harry Reid and his 49 white comrades don't like the idea of being the ones blocking the door for his legal entry into history.

Race still plays a powerful role in American life and politics. Villagers ... we are not in a post-racial world yet! That's my view. What say u?


MacDaddy said...

I say you are right. The gov picked Burris precisely because he is known as a politician with a good reputation AND because he is a black man. By picking Burris, he said, "See, I'm not a bad guy. I picked Burris, a guy with a good reputation and a black man!"

By picking Burris, he deliberately dirtied the waters to give it to the dems like Harry Reid, making them look like fools. They took the bait; and now they are looking like powerful white men keeping a brotha out of the senate. Meanwhile, the media is not focused on him but the selection of Burris. Brilliant!

Villager said...

MacDaddy - No question that Blago played the Democratic party in a brilliant political move. Of course, the Democratic party is going to roll all over Blago with the Illinois impeachment effort. However, Burris nomination will end up being approved.

Burris needs to prove his skeptics wrong by working 24/7 for the people of Illinois over the next two years.

Mitch said...

After reading your post, I'm having to think really hard. I wrote a post saying that this entire Burris incident had nothing to do with race, totally disputing the comments of the Illinois congressman who went on CNN saying anyone who turned Burris down was racist.

Now that they're saying they might seat him after all, one can think of it as a race thing because it's still the easiest position to take. One could say that they're taking him in because, as a commentator on CNN was saying Tuesday, Burris looked like a sympathetic character, a 71-year old man being "carried" by others in the rain to an event he knew he wasn't invited to, yet felt was his right to be at. And even still, it could be seen by the Senate that they might not end up having the authority to keep him away, and with the inauguration literally around the corner, may not want this distraction interfering with the big party of seeing Obama being sworn into office.

Frankly, it all stinks, and in my heart of hearts, I wish Burris had done what I consider to be the right thing and turned it down.

Villager said...

Mitch - I feel ya! You were not alone in seeing this issue as strictly political and strictly *UNRELATED* to race relations. Rep. Bobby Rush yelled, 'Race', in the initial press conference ... he was impolite about the way he did it ... but, in the end it appears that he nailed it on the head. The ALL-WHITE senators simply can't handle being seen as 'racist'. Listen to Durden and Reid in their press conference after they met with Burris. They were sweating 'race' in virtually every comment. They even described Jesse White as "an African American" rather than as "a Secretary of State".

I don't begrudge Burris accepting the appointment. He has been in public service for 20 years. If the Yankees offered a minor leaguer a short at 'the show' ... the minor leaguer would accept even if the reasons for getting the offer were controversial. Everyone wants to play in the major leagues. Being a US Senator is te major leagues for politicians like Burris.

I just hope that he EARNS the appointment in the 700 days of his time in office (2009-2010).

Danny said...

Brilliant! You are correct. The gov,Burris and all the horsemen's men, orchestrated this act and low and behold it worked! Burris will be appointed and the gov will do his best to stay in power. I'm sure he has something else up his selve.

Burris appears like a good choice, so let the games begin!

Villager said...

Danny - I see that the Illinois supreme court decided that they didn't need to force Jesse White's signature. I wonder if he will get pressure to sign the certification now?

SjP said...

See, this is what makes Illinois politics so good to watch from the sidelines. The Burris selection has so many nuances that is is hard to put your finger on just one. But, rest assured that the race nuance is definetely at play here.

Reid and the other 50 tried to test their strength to see if they had any. But they quickly found out that the US Senate can't tell a sitting governor what to do or what not to do. NO STRENGTH THERE! Then Reid starts acting all big and bad by saying that Burris won't be seated. On what legal ground? Because you're ticked at the governor? I think not!

The only strength the Reid has here is based on whether or not Burris is qualified/unqualified. And since there is not one person in the entire USofA saying that Burris is not qualified to be Senator, he's got to be seated. But, then you got Reid testing his strength again by saying that because the Illinois SoS didn't sign the certification that Burris can't be seated. NO STRENGTH THERE because there is NOT ONE LAW in the US or Illinois that says that the SoS must sign the certification for a senator to be seated. Its a Senate rule and like any rule there can certainly be exceptions.

And like you say Villager, that image of an elder Black statesman being denied entry into the Halls of Congress because his "papers weren't in order" is an unmitigating reminder of not so distant times in the history of this country.

Yes, race is still playing a role and the ugly beauty of this is how predictable it is - and how Blago used it to take the focus off of him while flipping the bird at Harry Reid. All I can say, is that you got to respect what and how he did it. Like I said, Illinois politics at its best.

Villager said...

Sojourner - Illinois politics is definitely 'hardball'. And the wreckage of politicians in jail or disgraced litters Illinois political history...