Monday, September 29, 2008

Dianne's Folk Still Polarizing

I figured soon-to-be-ex-Sen. Dianne Wilkerson wouldn't get blowback from voters in general and Latino ones in particular until she sought her next office. Instead, it looks like her campaign people are so tone deaf that they want it right now.

Following a long series of racially and ethnically divisive and insulting comments from her campaign, including Wilkerson herself, they continue to pile it on. Apparently, their strategy is to get black voters in Second Suffolk rabid about returning her to their seat.

It's fine to talk about district diversity, to court the Latino vote, and to crow about winning predominately Latino precincts. But to Wilkerson's campaign, when it comes to the election, no Latino and certainly not one specific Latina need apply.

The great irony was from the mouth of Wilkerson's campaign manager, Boyce Slayman, as reported in PolitickerMA.
"You know, because of the dynamics that have been introduced because Ms. Diaz-Chang has an exotic name and two different ethnic groups," Slayman said, mistakenly flipping Chang-Diaz's last name. "There has been some exploitation of that by some zealous supporters. Race is not the issue for us we wanted to make the issues experience."
Pair this up with METCO Executive Director Jean McGuire's colorist views, as quoted by the Dorchester Reporter. "This is the first time in a long time we will not have a senator who is a person of color," she said, echoing the odd refrain of Wilkerson. "There are white Hispanics and black Hispanics. She is not a person of color."

That's quite the opposite of what primary winner Sonia Chang-Díaz and other Latino voters say and live. Throughout the campaign, she has identified herself as a woman of color, including her Costa Rican father as more background. As she put it, "I believe that it is dishonest of Sen. Wilkerson and her campaign to suggest that they have to choose between having a person of color in the State House and having strong ethical leadership in the State House...Let me say very clearly I'm very proud of my Latina heritage."

You'd think that Wilkerson wouldn't let her ego obscure that she'd need votes beyond those black voters who still want to return her to office. Intentional slaps at Latinos who are not dark enough to suit her and her supporters isn't going to play very well.

Throughout the campaign, Wilkerson has repeated that Chang-Díaz is not representative of the core, of the base of the district. Those have been code words for saying, "She's not one of us. She's not black." That's some pretty offensive campaigning, more in line with 1950s Deep South than 21st Century Massachusetts.

Returning an amoral, failed politician to office yet again because she is of the same race as a large voting block of the district is not good government or even good sense. Defining on the fly what of color means to discredit another candidate is also not good politics. It's virtually impossible that Second Suffolk's Latino community will accept being told what skin tone they have to have to be acceptable for public office.

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