When People Believe Their Own Press

Booker, Davis, and Ford

The media declared them "new" black leaders--and has certain expectations of them.

There's a piece at Buzzfeed that groups the above troika--Cory, Artur, and Harold, respectively--into the "Joshua generation" and notes that they were "born too late to participate in the Civil Rights movement, and late enough to benefit from it with blue chip educations and direct paths to power. They were free of the urban machines that had defined black politics in America, and ready for a different and more hopeful sort of politics of race."

The real lesson about these guys is that they have all reflected the media's wish for and infatuation with a "different" kind of black man. They all have Ivy League credentials as undergraduates or graduates. They first hit the scene--and timing, as they say, is everything--had grown sick and tired of old-line pols like David Dinkins who came up through the black clubhouses and so forth. So this narrative was created: These are the new African American leaders who aren't hung up on the old racial mau-mau stuff, etc.

There is some truth to this. Inside each of them, and others like them who are lesser-known, there probably exists some internal reflex against being too predictable, being too like the generation that preceded them. That of course can be admirable, but it can be carried to extremes.

Davis is really the most extreme case. He voted against Obama's health-care bill, apparently lost in some delusion that the people of Alabama might actually elect him their governor. He lost. Not the general election. The primary. By just a little bit. Like, 62 to 38 percent. He could have become a birther and performed a song-and-dance tribute to George Wallace, and maybe he'd have brought it to single-digits. And remember, that's among Democrats. This seems to have left Davis feeling pretty bitter about Democrats. But does he think he'd have somehow done better among Republicans?

Ford kind of almost won a Senate seat, but he was race-baited at the end ("Harold, call me!" said a cute blone in a last-minute ad, as she winked at the camera). He just seems these days like he's interested in making a lot of money, and good for him, but he's not actually a spokesman for anything anymore, except that he's useful to the right in situations like the current one, and he seems happy to oblige.

Booker, as I wrote yesterday, is likely preparing for his own Senate run, when he'll be going to private-equity people for donations. He used his appearance on Rachel Maddow last night to mount a pretty full retreat, so he may yet be able to show his face at the convention.

These are different men, but I suspect they have in common that they bought into their early press, and they know what it is that gets them press: deviating from the expected black-liberal party line. And so that's what they do. And, of course, they may all just be jealous of Obama, who won the big derby before they did.