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In one provocative piece gracing Washington City Paper’s politics issuethis week, writer Jonetta Rose Barras reveals something interesting about a District of Columbia in transition: If Mayor Adrian Fenty loses the upcoming primary election she deduces, it’ll be because of “1985 syndrome,” a condition that apparently makes black people crave old-school politics. She writes:
“Fenty isn’t in trouble because of any failure to produce tangible results. Rather, his numbers have declined because some residents believe their mayor should be the parent of wayward children, an employment placement agent, a union organizer, a border guard preventing the advance of white suburbanites, and a community pastor, laying on hands under revival tents.“
In other words, the 1985ers, as Barras calls them, want Fenty to be less of a manager and more of a community leader, less Barack Obama and more Al Sharpton.
The premise is brilliantly argued and has the vexatious quality of a brutal truth. All the same, I’d like to dissent a bit. It’s worth pointing out that not all African-Americans rooting for Fenty’s opponent, Vincent Gray, are 1985ers. Some of them are 2010ers.
Informed by values that see accountability and transparency as central to good governance in chocolate city, the 2010ers realize Fenty was the jerk everyone needed on things like school reform, but also just the jerk no one needed when it came to maintaining an open administration. FOIA requests were neglected, contracts quietly glad-handed, and requests for dialogue ignored.
Unlike the 1985ers, the 2010ers could care less about Fenty “laying on hands under revival tents.” They just want a mayor who won’t shut them out.