By David Mark Greaves
Women’s History Month is ending and Hillary Clinton is currently leading in the Democratic delegate, and were she to win the nomination, history-making in itself, she may well consider having Senator Elizabeth Warren as her running mate. It would bring the Sanders forces on board and she need not worry about “balancing” the ticket with a guy, she could instead go with the strongest person available and double down on a history-making ticket.
For more political history-making, you need go no further than Assemblywoman Annette Robinson stepping away from a political career that spanned thirty-nine years. In doing so, she passed the torch to a fellow member of the VIDA political club, fulfilling the club mission of placing their people in
elective office. However as the emergence of Donald J. Trump has demonstrated, this is a double-edged power.
On the one side you get a person who has a vested in the community, is known locally and who knows the rules and the political playing field. On the other side, there is the risk of becoming out of touch with everyday voters, making decision based on what’s best for club members, losing connections to the base, and therefore opening the door for a demagogue like Trump or a proven community activist like Al Vann in 1974.
“I made my reputation because of the other things that I did, other than what I got paid for,” the then Assemblyman told Our Time Press in a 2001 interview. “I didn’t get paid to organize the African American Teacher’s Association. I didn’t get paid to be involved in negotiating for Medgar Evers
College and bringing that into the community. I didn’t get paid for serving on the board of Bed-Stuy antipoverty organizations, or Bed-Stuy Restoration Corporation.” And it was based on his unpaid activism and reputation in the Black consciousness movement that he was essentially drafted to run against entrenched leadership and won. “I did not come into politics because I wanted to be an Assemblyman. I was involved in trying to make a difference in the community. …I didn’t just sit back and look at people and say I want to be an elected official. I was doing things in the community, that’s my criteria.”
And based on that criteria, any potential challenger has to have a local following, support, and be able to deliver a message of local empowerment, asking, “Is the community better off now than it was ten years ago?” They’ll be running from behind, but as the Bernie Sanders and the first Al Vann
campaigns have shown, establishment endorsements mean a lot to those showing up at the announcements and rallies, but not so much to constituents with their backs against the wall, a bleak future ahead, and who are looking for leadership that they believe is on their side and ready to fight for them.