By Goliath J. Davis, III, Ph.D.
The Democratic Party is known as the party with the ‘Big Tent’—a place where all are welcomed regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation or sexual orientation. I have been a registered democrat for all of my political life and was appalled when I read Kruger’s article in the Tampa Bay Times on the morning of May 1.
Acting on my disbelief, I immediately phoned Rev. Emanuel Sykes, the subject of the article, to assess its accuracy. Assured by Rev. Sykes the article was accurate from his perspective, I hurriedly phoned Pinellas Democratic Chairman Mark Hanisee for his perspective. I left voicemail messages for Mr. Hanisee throughout the day and as late as 9:25 p.m., but as of this writing, I have yet to hear from Chair Hanisee. I thought it only fair to get his perspective as well.
As others in the community read the story, my phone began to ring. One by one, individuals I collaborate with and advise on political issues expressed their disbelief and anger. I immediately followed these conversations with phone calls to democratic officials at the State level and indicated an apology to Rev. Sykes and the African-American community is in order.
Make no mistake about it. While Rev. Sykes may not be an ideal candidate for the position given his lack of political experience and vast amounts of money, who is Mark Hanisee to threaten and direct him in a manner analogous to “Massa” speaking with one of his slaves. After all, this is America—the cradle of democracy. If I recall, Alex Sink’s political experience was limited and she also did not initially live in the district. She moved to run and at no time to my knowledge did the party admonish her.
Hanisee’s behavior did not demonstrate a great deal of political acumen or as some whom I spoke with indicated “good common sense.” Hopefully, he will atone for his transgression and come forth with the appropriate apologies. After all, some are expressing a great deal of dissatisfaction with the extent to which the Democratic Party appears to take the African- American vote for granted.
While, many of the individuals I spoke with indicated they have great difficulty voting for Republican candidates given the current status of what appears to be republican disdain for people of color and the economically disadvantaged, there is a growing sentiment towards staying at home. We know all too well from the lessons learned during the Bush-Gore election that every vote counts.
Chair Hanisee’s behavior could very well adversely impact upcoming elections. Why treat a prominent African-American minster with a very large loyal congregation in such a disrespectful manner? Doesn’t it make more sense to seek every opportunity possible to energize the base? After all, aren’t we the party with the big tent, or could it be the tent is shrinking?