Conyers at Career’s End?
Time may be running out on John Conyers, one of the most venerable members of Congress. He’s a veteran leader of both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He has served more than forty-seven years in the House of Representatives, and, in the past, has never really faced serious challengers. But this year, the Detroit-based Congressman is facing perhaps his most difficult political race as a result of redistricting, strong contenders, an untimely scandal, and the inevitability of aging. Collectively, they may accomplish what has been a rare occurrence in the modern history of black Congressmembers: defeat while in office.
He was touched by scandal when his wife, Monica, was sentenced to thirty-seven months in prison in March 2010 for taking bribes while a member of the Detroit City Council. Although he was innocent of any involvement in the affair, his reputation took a hit nonetheless.
More threatening to his political future than that incident is the newly drawn Congressional district that now houses Conyers. Republican governors and legislatures across the country have created new districts that have pitted Democratic colleagues against each other or moved members to unfamiliar and potentially hostile areas.
Conyers’s newly drawn district remains heavily Democratic but is only 52 percent of its former self. In addition, it is split 63 percent-to-37 percent between Detroit and the suburbs that are overwhelmingly white and more conservative. This new political configuration could favor one of his four opponents, who include two popular members of the state legislature: state senator Glenn Anderson and state senator Bert Johnson. It is also possible that if the black vote splits among the black candidates one of the two white candidates, either Anderson or local official John Goci, could squeak through.
For some of his challengers, Conyers is seen as politically outdated in this “post-black” or “new black politics” milieu.
To lose Conyers would be a tremendous blow for working people and communities across the nation.
For black politics, this race may have as much import as Obama’s reelection bid.
This is a short excerpt from Clarence Lusane's article on John Conyers in the August issue of The Progressive. To read the article in its entirety, and to get the whole issue (which includes an essay by Wendell Berry and an interview with Cenk Uygur), simply subscribe today at 75% off the newsstand price. It's like getting 9 issues of this monthly magazine FREE.
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