Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I wish I could be Governor of Mississippi

I remember when I first started in Mississippi politics, I was out there campaigning for a seat on the Jackson City Council, and when I met with people to solicit contributions, they would say to me as they wrote out their checks, "You would make a great state legislator someday." I guess people of faith spoke that into existence.



Later, as I started making a name for myself at the State Capitol, people then started introducing me as "the first Black Governor of the State of Mississippi." I thought that was flattering. However, after running two statewide campaigns and fast approaching my 45 year on this earth, 26 of them in the Magnolia State, I believe all that will be is a compliment.



I would love to have the opportunity to run and serve as governor of this state. There are so many things that need to be done. Our education system needs to be thoroughly addressed, infrastructure improvements need to be spear-headed and our overall quality of life must be upgraded from a mode of survival to a mindset of thriving.



Having done the best I could through the legislative process, I saw that there were certain limitations that could be overcome if I had a bully pulpit like the office of the Governor to push an agenda of progress from.



Alas, I have come to the realistic conclusion that I may not have that opportunity, especially in 2011. I guess that is why this is on my mind since the election is only a couple of years away and the candidates are already positioning themselves. Bill Luckett, a Clarksdale attorney and co-owner with Morgan Freeman of the Ground Zero Blues Club, is seriously exploring a run along with Attorney General Jim Hood on the Democratic side. The media has pretty much anointed Lt. Governor Phil Bryant as the Republican nominee and the next governor, but there are rumblings about a GOP primary with Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and /or State Treasurer Tate Reeves in the mix.



Needless to say that I am not overly enthused about the choices out there, but it is what it is. Forces beyond my control have shaped this race and decreased my options. I know that it is impossible for me to pursue something that I would love to do. Well, let me rephrase that: I know that it is impossible to win a position I would love to hold. I could run, and then be labeled "the Black Shawn O'Hara" and as some already said nastily before , "a perennial candidate". I would hate to tarnish my reputation in that way.



Some would argue because of my human frailties, my reputation is tarnished already, but those folks would not support me if there was scientific evidence that I was the "Second Coming." Dismissing those negative energies, I have to objectively assess that my chances of winning such an important office, and thus creating a historical moment of major proportions, are basically non-existent.



It was frustrating to see the end result of two campaigns in which I fought so hard to win, while at the same time during a three-year period, losing the position which I poured my heart and soul into. I am honored that nearly 450,000 Mississippians thought that I should have been their United States Senator. The votes I received made my campaign the most successful waged by an African-American from this state for a statewide position. However, in the final analysis, it was another defeat.



In watching the way the votes came in, it will be hard to see a scenario in which I could pull such a goal off. I believe there will be an African-American governor in Mississippi someday and I will be so proud when that moment comes. But that is in the future, as a new generation of Mississippians reach adulthood.



I have ruled myself out of politics at the moment because of what I have endured in the last three years. I learned the hard way about the backstabbing in the Black community that would destroy any chance for me to achieve anything else in Mississippi politics. I could then just re-write that same sentence and insert "Democratic party" where "Black community" is. This is not reflective of those entire demographics as a whole, but really on the current "leaders, movers and shakers" of those entities.



Again, it is what it is. But it is not just the lack of a strong support system in the political process that has deterred me from pursuing anything in the future. Personal finances are a hindrance, as I am not a wealthy man. I work a real job which is satisfying, but has low compensation. When you make it from pay check to pay check, running for public office is a luxury. I have done that dance too many times to subject myself and the ones I love through that again.



But yet there is something else that concerns me. It is a mindset that has to be overcome.
My father and I talked at our recent family reunion and he asked me what was I going do next politically. I told him I am trying to suppress those thoughts. He laughed and said that if I wanted to be a legislator again, I could probably win, but he could not see me winning a statewide race. That would be a natural observation of a Black man from out of state that left Mississippi when he was young and vowed never to live there again. But considering what I have observed during my time in Mississippi, I understand where he is coming from. For example, I recently heard a statement from a prominent actor who said, "Nobody helped me when I was on food stamps and Medicaid." The troubling thing is that there are too many people in this state that would say "Damn right!" instead of "WTF?", at least enough to sway an election.




People voted for folks that threw them a crumb at them financially instead of improving their lives legislatively. It was devastating to hear people say that they were entitled to a handout more than the tools to pull themselves out. While we have to have compassion to help those in need, that does not mean that we cripple them with charity or pimp them in their times of desperation. It does not matter if you are a TANF recipient, the mayor of a city or a CEO of a corporation, it is not cool to be pimped out by a politician.



The political process is suppose to be about service. Render help to those who need it, protect society from all enemies, including itself, support an economic system that provides opportunities for wealth attainment and establish order so we all can co-exist peacefully. It would be good to see that philosophy for public service emerge again and when it does, maybe then my wish will come true and I could be Governor of the State of Mississippi. But for now it is just a wish, not a quixotic quest to journey on this time.