Ron Dellums, recently elected mayor of Oakland, Calif., is feeling pretty darned good about the recent congressional elections. And there's no reason he shouldn't.
The mayor-elect is the former Rep. Ronald V. Dellums of a liberal/leftist swatch of a congressional district that comprises parts of Oakland and Berkeley. Dellums was first elected to Congress in 1970 and stayed there 27 years.
Earlier this week, Dellums spoke to members of the Trotter Group at their annual gathering, which was held this year on the campus of Stanford University. (The group is named for black journalist William Monroe Trotter, who in the early 20th century dared to scold President Wilson - in the White House, no less - for his pro-segregation policies.)
Dellums was rakishly handsome when he first went to Congress and, at 71, is still so today. The black Afro hairstyle he once sported has now been changed to a gray one; the black mustache has given way to a gray-and-white beard. During his address to the Trotter Group, Dellums seemed like a tall, lean, grandfatherly type, an old-school left-of-center Democrat quite pleased that Republicans got bounced from majorities in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.
"This election's an incredible repudiation of arrogance and incompetence," Dellums intoned. "This election was about [how] you can't just give one group of people this amount of power unchecked."
Don't you just love it when Democrats talk this way?
Dellums didn't really mean "one group of people," of course. He meant "Republicans." As in "you can't just give Republicans this amount of power unchecked."
From 1977 through 1981, there was a Democratic president in the White House and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Ditto for the years 1993-1995. Anyone recall Dellums talking about "you can't just give one group of people this amount of power unchecked" then?
Then there's the not-so-minor matter of how the recent elections went on at the state and local levels. Dellums didn't complain about Democrats controlling state legislatures and governors' mansions - as happened here with the defeat of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. - or cities like Baltimore where the mayor, state's attorney, comptroller, City Council president, all members of the City Council and all our state legislators are Democrats. Some Marylanders - sadly not enough - might figure the phrases "arrogance and incompetence" and "group of people with unchecked power" perfectly describes Democrats in Baltimore and the state.
I'll forgive Dellums if he doesn't come to Baltimore and chide his fellow Democrats for "arrogance and incompetence" and caution them about an "unchecked use of power." He'll have his hands full running Oakland. And I did elicit from him a promise that he'll remind Democrats across the nation that arrogance and incompetence aren't acceptable when they do it, either.
"I'm going to do that by example and [by] being substantive," Dellums said.
We shall see whether that example includes naming some Republicans or (heck, I'm not totally partisan or greedy) some Green Party or Libertarian Party members to key posts in Oakland. Dellums might keep his word, but I found his take on the role Hurricane Katrina played in the election somewhat troubling.
"There was another issue why people went to the polls to express themselves, and that was Katrina. This election was about Katrina," Dellums said, "all of the pain of urban life. Every city in America is a potential Katrina."
Again, Dellums was talking in fluent Democratspeak. What he meant was the election was about the Bush administration's poor response to Katrina. I'm glad I wasn't waiting for Dellums to mention that all levels of government - federal, state and local - failed Gulf Coast residents after Hurricane Katrina and that Democrats and Republicans share the blame, because he never said it.
He couldn't. Democrats failed poor black New Orleans residents as completely and utterly as the Bush administration did. And the Dems did it long before Katrina hit.
What was worse: the lack of a federal response to victims of Hurricane Katrina or New Orleans Democrats leaving poor black folks in New Orleans to the tender mercies of the Ivory "B Stupid" Harrises of the city?
Harris is a New Orleans thug who is accused of killing poor black folks in New Orleans when the Dems were running it. Harris and other murder suspects would be routinely cut loose to kill again. Time magazine did a story about that earlier this year.
I guess Dellums missed it.
What Dellums didn't miss was the race for the U.S. Senate here in Maryland between now Sen.-elect Benjamin Cardin and departing Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.
"Maryland's was a significant election, in my humble opinion," Dellums said. "Black folks said to Steele, 'You're a good brother, but electing you is adding to the numbers that are hurting me.'"
Dellums said that Steele is "a nice guy" and "an intelligent person," but black voters said "I'm voting over here."
I talked to a black woman in Baltimore on Election Day who said pretty much the same thing. Dellums is a very easily understood man, one smart enough to answer this question:
With Democrats running places like Oakland and Detroit and Baltimore and Newark, N.J. for years, which party is really hurting black people?