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November 2, 2006

Steele v. Cardin: Who's the Champ?

Derek Shackelford

Maryland voters will select a new senator during this mid-term election. This contest has some interesting twists and turns.

It is possible that Maryland will elect its first African American U.S. senator in the state's history. Michael Steele currently serves as Maryland's lieutenant governor and is seeking the seat being vacated by long serving Paul Sarbanes. He is running as a Republican.

On the other side is Congressman Ben Cardin who has been labeled a career politician for his service as a delegate in our General Assembly and as a U.S. Representative. Mr. Cardin is running as the Democrat.

One of the twists is the issue of race. It is certainly true that the issues of our time should be the primary focus, but the subject of race looms large in the background in this contest. The truth of the matter is that the winner in this contest could depend on how much of the African American vote Republican Steele garners.

It should be noted that both parties have been guilty of playing the race card when it comes to attracting African American voters. The Democratic Party has consistently taken the African American voter for granted. African Americans have voted overwhelmingly Democrat for years, only to be taken for granted until the next election cycle when the pattern is repeated.

The Republican Party has - over the years - attempted to reach out. Their efforts can be measured with a flimsy olive branch. Proponents of the GOP will say that they boast the first African American lieutenant governor in the state's history and an African American senatorial candidate.

Can the Democrats say that?

After the primary election, the Democrats were taken to task by many within the party for the defeat of Kweisi Mfume, a Cardin opponent, and Stuart Simms, a candidate for Maryland attorney general. Many Democrats questioned the loyalty of the party.

These two U. S. Senate candidates are rather difficult for the African American voter, not because of the quality but because of the choices.

Both men are intelligent and have had success in their respective careers. The remaining choice is the platforms on which they stand. Representative Cardin is part of a party that neglects the African American voter by not following through with its mandates. Lieutenant Governor Steele is part of a party that neglects the African American voter with policy. The more things change, the more some things stay the same.

As the mid term election cycle draws to a close, the national campaigns have become rather contentious, to say the least. The mud slinging, the name calling, and the finger pointing does not make people want to vote; but it does make people want to stay home from the polls.

The behavior of candidates on both sides has been rather juvenile and the campaign ads have been pathetic. There is no longer a discussion of the larger issues that affect our nation, but rather a focus on personal attacks.

Both the Democratic and the Republican Party are obsessed with power. Neither can claim to be free from corruption; both have had their share of scandals. When the obsession of power becomes the objective, public service becomes an afterthought. As Lord Acton said: "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

* * * * * * * * * *

Last week President George W. Bush held a press conference to discuss the ongoing War in Iraq. The question that has been asked most recently has been what is the plan? The Bush administration has strayed from "staying the course" and is now adjusting its tactics.

Staying the course in Iraq has been replaced by possible timetables with benchmarks that can be measured. The American people have shown dissatisfaction recently with the number of deaths of service men and women.

The initial reason for the invasion was to remove weapons of mass destruction from Iraq.

The next reason was to remove Saddam Hussein from power because he was a threat to the world.

The next reason was to spread democracy.

The next reason was to prevent Hussein from providing a safe haven for terrorists.

Now the reason is to have the Iraqi government provide security for its citizens.

My grandmother told me that when you start with a lie; you have to tell another lie to cover up for the one that you told before. This is politics, so it is not called a lie; it is called adjusting tactics.

The world has become a more dangerous place. What we need now more than ever is to vote our hopes and not our fears. What we don't know, life will teach us. The question that remains is what are we learning?

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