Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

GOP candidate gains ground in ... Ferguson, Missouri?

Well, this is ... unexpected. From the Washington Post :

"FERGUSON, Mo. -- Darren Seals experienced waves of disbelief and anger after Michael Brown's death, but two months later, he has found a way to channel his emotions: Focus on changing an elected leadership that seems deaf to the concerns of African American residents like him.

"So on Nov. 4, the 27-year-old assembly-line worker and hip-hop musician from a deeply Democratic community plans to take bold action. He says he will vote for a white Republican.

"'Just because they've got the D next to their name, that don't mean nothing,' said Seals, who lives a few blocks from where a police officer shot Brown. 'The world is watching us right now. It's time to send a message of our power.'"

If you didn't notice it the first time, go back and read that dateline: Ferguson, Missouri.

And lest you think Seals is a lone voice:

"Earlier this month, a coalition of some 20 African American Democratic leaders called a news conference to endorse the GOP candidate (for St. Louis county executive), state Rep. Rick Stream. Armed with voter registration forms, activists like Seals have been roaming black neighborhoods urging people to vote for anyone but the Democrat.

"The plan is not only to beat back a local candidate they view as particularly unfriendly to black residents, but also to present a show of force to Democratic leaders all the way up to Sen. Claire McCaskill and Gov. Jay Nixon. By switching their allegiance in this election, these African Americans hope to demonstrate that their votes should not be taken for granted."

St. Louis County, like many urban parts of America, has been dominated by Democrats for years; the Post's story says a Republican has not been elected county executive there in a quarter-century. And although Missouri is a swing state in federal contests, it has had Democratic governors for all but four years since 1993 , with two more years to go in the term of the current governor, Democrat Jay Nixon. Democrats will have held the Missouri governor's mansion for 20 out of 24 years by the time Nixon's term ends.

So why should the people of Ferguson, understandably frustrated by the way the authorities handled the aftermath of Brown's shooting, vote to keep these officials? "Just because they've got the D next to their name," as Seals put it?

As I have written before , Republicans have done far too little to encourage black voters to choose them instead of the Democrats. But at some point, black voters also have to ask themselves this question: Have Democrats done much better by them over the past few decades? And if not, what's more likely to bring changes: continuing to let one party monopolize their votes, or putting their votes up for grabs?

Lest you think this is a wholly partisan plea, the same thing could be said for groups that tend to vote for Republicans, from evangelical Christians to small business owners, without seeing the changes the GOP perennially promises them.

Of course, the "other" party in each of these cases also has to make clear that its doors are open. The smartest thing the Republican candidate in St. Louis County said to the black voters suddenly considering him, per the Post's story, was "I have to come up here and hear about what you all care about."

None of this is to suggest any of these voting blocs will suddenly swing solidly toward the party they've long opposed. But simply making their votes more competitive at the margins would be squarely in their own self-interest. It might also help break up some of the permanent partisan gridlock so many people decry ... right up to the time they vote for their usual party.

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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.