Tuesday, November 22, 2005

How Strong a Rainbow?

From one angle, the Black/Asian/Latino vote in the recent Boston election was nearly inconsequential. Together, the voters of color, as analysts and some activists are wont to call them, managed to elect just one of their own as a new City Councilor, Sam Yoon.

From another viewpoint, that B/A/L bloc was extraordinary this time, more than in many decades. To wit:

  • Virtually all office seekers sought their votes, with visits, speeches and promises.
  • Black voters in Roxbury and Dorchester gave Tom Menino his landslide, something he and future mayoral hopefuls will not forget next time and the time after that.

The Team Unity co-campaigns seem more powerful than Mel King’s Rainbow Coalition of two decades ago; it now must deliver to the traditionally poor communities it represents.

Last week’s Bay State Banner ran both an analysis of the voting patterns and a preview of the New Majority Coalition, as the B/A/L winners are sometimes known. The phrase, of course, alludes to the B/A/L population being a majority over white-identified residents. Other recaps and projections are appearing, but these two cover many of the key issues.

No one is surprised that Irish-Americans and Italian-Americans vote for people who look like them and have their names. Similarly, Latinos were strong for number two Councilor winner Felix Arroyo.

However, this has added power in Boston, where racial and cultural separation is still the norm. West Roxbury could well be named White Roxbury. That neighborhood and South Boston voted strongly for the likes of Michael Flaherty. They also have high population, many of whom vote. As the Banner put it:

Thus, the white enclaves still rule the city. While no at-large candidate can prevail in a Boston election without at least a small percentage of the West Roxbury vote, candidates like Flaherty and Stephen Murphy, who consistently finish at or near the bottom of the list in black and Latino votes can still finish at the top of the citywide vote.
This go-round, many formerly indifferent or resigned voters in Dorchester, Chinatown and Roxbury slipped the old tally sheet into the machine. That is precisely what heartens the B/A/L communities.

Wisely, Menino rejected the traditional machine-politics ploy of trying to get only identified supporters to the polls. His folk pitched a get-out-the-vote effort for everyone. This turned out well indeed for Da Mare. The previously inert folks, excited by Arroyo, Yoon and a few others, voted, and very heavily for Menino.

As pretty much pinkish-white myself, I feel I can note that the 13-member Council as well as the mayor is still damned pale. The not-too-subtle pressure on Team Unity Councilors Arroyo, Yoon, Chuck Turner and Charles Yancey is to produce the stated goals for their electorate.

Before the election, the Team agreed on goals including:

  • Revised affordable housing guidelines
  • Stronger jobs-for-teens programs and cash for them
  • Reforming CORI laws that keep ex-cons from getting jobs
  • And more BPS parent-outreach coordinators

They are going to have to deal with the pale guys. Except for Yoon, the Team has relationships with them. So, let’s watch for progressive deals.

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