In American politics, many object to power flowing through blood rather than through the ballot. A “dynasty” is a sequence of rulers considered members of the same family. Among Blacks, some prominent families regard politics as business operations.
Blacks elected immediately after the civil rights era, entered office as mayors, members of the City Council or members of U.S. House of Representatives from majority-Black areas. Younger Black politicians are now seeking to win political posts of governor or senator in which they would represent much larger and diverse groups of voters. In theory, having a parent already in politics provides political base younger politicians can use to reach wider multi-racial constituencies.
Several scions of Black political families that came to high political office by virtue of birthright are on the decline. New York Gov. David Paterson, whose father Basil is a powerful figure in Harlem politics, left his appointed office in disgrace.
Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Malik Kilpatrick is now a resident in the Federal Correctional Institution at Milan, Mich. A former Michigan state representative, Kilpatrick, was recently found guilty on 24 of 30 federal corruption charges. In 1996, Kilpatrick was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives after his mother vacated the seat to campaign for Congress. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick represented Detroit in the Michigan State House from 1979 to 1996 and served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1996 to 2010.
Jesse L. Jackson , Sr. has a family that has benefited from his impact on politics. The son who was first elected to Congress in 1995 now faces a prison sentence ranging from 46 to 57 months. Jesse Jackson Jr., was convicted for spending approximately $750,000 in campaign money on items ranging from a Rolex watch to Michael Jackson memorabilia. The extended Jackson clan includes Jonathan and Yusef. Jonathan Jackson is a business professor and entrepreneur. He owns a Cricket Wireless franchise operation, and is a partner with Yusef, in a Chicago-based Anheuser-Busch distributorship – River North Sales and Service, LLC.
In Memphis, the Ford name became legend as Whites moved from the city to the suburbs. By 1974, the percentage of Black voters had increased enough for three sons of a local funeral director to win an unprecedented electoral victory: John was elected to the state Senate, Emmett was elected to the state House, and Harold became the first African American from Tennessee elected to the U.S. Congress in the 20th Century. In 1996 when Harold, Sr., decided not to seek a 12th term in Congress, Harold, Jr., easily won the race, taking office at age 26. “Junior” was only 30 years old in 2000 when he gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. He ran for the U.S. Senate seat but lost. Scandal and corruption followed the Fords ascent in politics.
William Lacy Clay, Sr., was elected to the House of Representatives in 1968. In 2000, Clay, Sr., retired from the seat after 32 years and Clay Jr., known as Lacy Clay, became the U.S. Rep. for Missouri’s 1st Congressional District.
Carrie P. Meek was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1978 and to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992. Kendrick Brett Meek lost the U.S. House seat that his mother had handed him in his 2010 bid for the Florida Senate. Kendrick was the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 17th congressional district from 2003 to 2011, after having served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1995 to 1998.
Representative Donald M. Payne, from New Jersey, died of cancer in March 2012 after serving in the House for 23 years. He was 77. His son, Donald M. Payne, Jr., was elected to Congress in November 2012. Brother, and uncle, William D. Payne served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1998-2008.
Black voters have to discern if there’s a disconnect between the agenda of Black political leadership and their constituent communities. Will Black voters ever shun political dynasties revolving among husbands and wives, brothers, sisters and children in the guise of serving the public?
William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.