My Mamma used to say, “Son, some things are just beyond understanding. They simply do not make sense. So don’t try to make them make sense.” I experienced such a “something” this week.
The Alabama New South Coalition (New South) Membership and Endorsement Convention was set for the following weekend. Some of its leaders decided to hold a press conference to inform the public. That was understandable.
Robert Avery as president and I as president emeritus spoke at the press conference. We said that New South would be endorsing candidates in all statewide and some district races at the convention. We highlighted the governor’s race because it had a number of interesting issues: potential making of history; racial challenges; national implications; broad state impact; high media profile, etc. The press conference, however, brought a response that was beyond understanding.
In spite of media efforts to the contrary, we did not express any personal preferences for gubernatorial or other candidates. We emphasized that we would support the New South endorsements regardless of what they were. We did not indicate who might win the New South endorsement because that would taint the endorsement process and we honestly did not know. Statewide candidates are screened by the entire New South body and New South members are independent spirits. We did say that Congressman Artur Davis’ vote against President Obama’s health care reform package had made the endorsement more competitive. I thought that the press conference was understandable. However, it evoked a response that was beyond understanding.
The press conference was scheduled for 9:45 that Wednesday morning. In mid-afternoon, an Associated Press reporter sent for me. He said something to the effect that “Congressman Artur Davis has declined to be screened by Alabama New South, ADC, and the Jefferson County Citizens Coalition.” I was surprised. I read the press release. I was shocked! It did not just indicate a refusal to be screened for endorsement but attacked all three organizations with a key leader by name in each: Dr. Richard Arrington, former mayor of Birmingham and a key founder of the Jefferson County Citizens Coalition; Dr. Joe Reed, a key founder and chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC); and me, Hank Sanders, a key founder and president emeritus of the Alabama New South Coalition. The three most powerful black political organizations in Alabama were being attacked by a black candidate for Governor. The response was beyond understanding. It just did not make sense.
The response did not make sense because Davis vigorously sought the New South endorsement for himself in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008. He had been strongly seeking the endorsement in 2010. I know this for a fact because he talked directly with me on various occasions. He did not receive the endorsement in 2000 or for the Democratic Primary in 2002. He did receive it for the general election in 2002 and for both the primaries and general elections of 2004, 2006, and 2008. He vigorously sought the New South endorsement for President Barack Obama in 2008. But now he was saying that he refused to be screened for an endorsement he had eagerly sought on eleven different occasions. And he went further to attack these organizations. Some things are just beyond understanding.
The response did not make sense because Davis had already damaged his standing in the African American community by repeatedly voting against President Obama’s Health Care Reform Package in spite of the fact that his district was in desperate need of the health care reform legislation. He was the only African American Congressperson out of approximately 43 to vote against it. Furthermore, the district he represents needs the benefits provided by this package more than any other congressional district in the United States. Some things are just beyond understanding.
The response did not make sense because Congressman Davis continues to seek endorsements from predominately white organizations while refusing to be screened by predominately black organizations. Some things are just beyond understanding.
The response did not make sense because African Americans make up nearly 50 percent of the vote in the Democratic Primary. In addition, in the general election, he will need the very people he is shunning if by some chance he wins the Democratic Primary. Some things are just beyond understanding.
On Saturday, the Alabama New South Coalition met at its convention as planned. It resoundingly endorsed Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Alabama. There was just one vote against the endorsement motion. Sometimes our response to things beyond understanding is very understandable.
EPILOGUE – I know my Mamma was right: some things are just beyond understanding. But we just cannot help trying to understand in spite of her admonition. When something does not make sense, we try to make it make sense.
About the author: Hank Sanders is a long-time contributor to the Capital City Free Press and represents the people of the 23rd Senate District in the Alabama Legislature.