First Kinston, Next Trenton

President Obama’s Attorney General must have little regard for the mostly black voters of Kinston, North Carolina.

Kinston is a quiet little city of 23,000 between Raleigh and the coast. I know many folks from Kinston (I’m a native North Carolinian) and have found them to have above average intelligence.

This wasn’t the same conclusion to which Attorney General Eric Holder arrived.

Kinston recently voted to adopt a non-partisan election process for its city council and mayoral elections, similar to Trenton’s. The theory is that this type of system prevents any one party from dominating elections.

Apparently the democratic process wasn’t good enough for Mr. Holder. According to him, black voters are being discriminated against because they need to be given clues in the voting booth about which candidates are black and therefore whom they should vote for. As a remedy, Holder ordered that candidates carry labels as to their party affiliation. In this way black voters will be able to recognize Democrats and thereby candidates who are most likely to be black. Never mind the positions each candidate take on the issues.

No matter that Democrats almost always are elected in Kinston, Obama’s man still thought it important to overrule the voters.

I know, it sounds crazy, insulting and more than a little racist, but I’m not making this up. The Washington Times broke the story earlier this week.

Kinston’s small and a bit out of the way, so I’m not too surprised this hasn’t blown up into a national incident quite yet.

However, Trenton must certainly have the same problem. All it would take is one discrimination complaint from a Trentonian to completely upset our political apple-cart. Unlike Kinston, we’re in two major media markets. Look out.

This is one of those situations though where the ends might justify the means. Holder acted with contempt and disregard for the citizens he proposed to help. I suppose we have 3 more years of this type of patronizing attitude to which to look forward.

Yet it remains true, and certainly so in Trenton, that non-partisan elections are failing us. We have only to examine our results. We’re a failing city with no plan to recover.

There is nothing non-partisan about our elected municipal leaders, most of who are heavily involved and at least indirectly supported by their party machines. Non-partisanship is a mirage in Trenton.

Furthermore, our elections bring us fractured viewpoints that fail to allow loyal opposition to develop. For instance, there are 7 candidates vying for the South Ward council seat and I defy any voter to explain differences in their philosophies towards government and especially economic policy. In fact, most of the candidates don’t have a well-formed philosophy. Say what you will about Democrats and Republicans, but in general they have different and definable attitudes about government. Democrats are for big government and Republicans aren’t, unless it involves telling you what to do in the bedroom.

If the national or state Republican parties had a great new urban platform that had turned around other cities (think Jersey City) it would be barred from actively bringing those ideas to Trenton through its backing of a candidate. No matter how committed a Democrat you are, not ever having real competition in our elections must sound sad.

Even if a third party wanted to rise up in Trenton, let’s call them “fiscally conservative social liberals” or “Urban Pragmatists”, they would be banned from organizing and supporting a candidate. A new party with new ideas would be shut out of the political fray just like the two major parties.

Perhaps Attorney General Holder had this in mind, but I doubt it. I can reach no other conclusion than he simply wanted to stack the political deck in Kinston.

So perhaps he did those fine folks an accidental favor. Maybe he could repeat in Trenton.

We’ve had our share of lawsuits and ballot initiatives that have challenged the political status quo (Pay to Play, Residency and now the Water Works sale). I suggest that challenging our political system through a discrimination complaint has the potential to dwarf the impact of any of those previous efforts.

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