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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

In Iowa, history and hope from Obama; in Indy, election confusion and disrespect

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While Sen. Barack Obama’s Iowa win wasn’t the first time an African-American won a presidential primary (Rev. Jesse Jackson won 14 primaries in two campaigns, three in 1984 and 11 in 1988) his Iowa victory and his standing after New Hampshire Tuesday is the major story of this developing presidential campaign.

Obama’s Iowa victory speech didn’t contain the usual rhetoric; instead he evoked words in a way I haven’t heard since King, Kennedy, Reagan. When I played Obama’s entire Iowa speech on our WTLC-AM (1310) “Afternoons with Amos,” listeners responded, with emotion, openly moved by Obama’s words.

Barack Obama’s Jan. 3 Des Moines speech could, some day, be as significant as any in American history. Especially the passages about hope.

Sen. Obama’s words:

“Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it.

“Hope is what I saw in the eyes of the young woman in Cedar Rapids who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can’t afford health care for a sister who’s ill; a young woman who still believes that this country will give her the chance to live out her dreams.

“Hope is what I heard in the voice of the New Hampshire woman who told me that she hasn’t been able to breathe since her nephew left for Iraq; who still goes to bed each night praying for his safe return.

“Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire; what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation; what led young women and young men to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through Selma and Montgomery for freedom’s cause.

“Hope is what led me here today — with a father from Kenya; a mother from Kansas; and a story that could only happen in the United States of America. Hope is the bedrock of this nation; the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us; by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is; who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.

“That is what we started here in Iowa, and that is the message we can now carry to New Hampshire and beyond; the same message we had when we were up and when we were down; the one that can change this country brick by brick, block by block, calloused hand by calloused hand — that together, ordinary people can do extraordinary things; because we are not a collection of red states and blue states, we are the United States of America; and at this moment, in this election, we are ready to believe again.”

Powerful words, from a potential president.

What I’m hearing in the streets

Saturday’s caucus to select a Democratic candidate in the special election to succeed Julia Carson has involved candidates who’ve been active and visible in Indianapolis’ African-American community. With one glaring exception — a political unknown named Randall Pollard.

Randall Pollard is an African-American attorney at Ice Miller, one of Indy’s top corporate law firms and he’s running for Congress. But, his method of announcing his candidacy is puzzling.

In a district nearly a third Black, Pollard oddly refused to inform Black media of his candidacy, preferring white media and one of the city’s notorious Black-hating-Black Web sites to spread his campaign’s message.

Pollard is a cipher to our African-American community. According to his Ice Miller biography, Pollard’s been here roughly a decade, first as an Eli Lilly tax attorney then at Ice Miller.

But what should concern our community is Pollard’s four-year tenure on Indiana’s State Board of Education, which sets the educational policy for all students in Indiana. But Pollard’s voice was silent; never speaking or communicating to our Black community about his role on an institution shaping policies that impact African-American students daily.

Why has Pollard come out of the shadows to run for Congress? Who’s pulling the strings? In my view, Randall Pollard’s past disregard for our Black community disqualifies him from even thinking about completing Julia Carson’s term.

I’m deeply worried that we could have another election train wreck on special election day March 11th. Why? Because it’ll be the first election held under Indianapolis/Marion County’s new precinct system.

I agree that there were too many precincts in older city neighborhoods and too many overly large precincts in the townships. But the new precinct plan cobbled together by Democrats and Republicans and approved, in one of his last acts, by former Mayor Bart Peterson wasn’t designed with voters in mind.

Since the number of precincts was being cut, it made sense to eliminate the cut precinct’s designation. Instead, the numbskulls that created this plan renumbered every precinct. That’s outrageous.

Their action will confuse voters, precinct committeepersons and campaign workers. And, because many precinct committeepersons are elected officials whose terms don’t expire until 2010, there is extreme confusion of the status of those elected committeepersons. Especially those elected from precincts that now don’t exist.

Then, how will registered voters be notified of these changes? I hear most polling places won’t change. But that means some will. The decision on polling places rests in the hands of the new Mayor Greg Ballard. And his administration’s slow start means that polling place changes might not be made in time for the March 11 special election.

Does County Clerk Beth White have the cash to notify every registered voter? Will the political parties, who created this potential confusion, spend some of their campaign cash educating voters of precinct renumbering and polling place changes? How quickly will the city/county’s voter information Web site be updated with the precinct changes? How fast will Secretary of State’s Todd Rokita’s voter information Web site be changed to reflect the changes?

County Clerk White already has one botched election on her record. These voter unfriendly changes in the city/county’s precincts, coupled with inertia in the mayor’s office, could mean March 11 could be another unmitigated election disaster.

County Clerk White and Mayor Ballard need to get it together and explain the changes to voters quick.

See ‘ya next week.

Amos Brown’s opinions are not necessarily those of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper. You can contact him at (317) 221-0915 or by e-mail at ACBROWN@AOL.COM.

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