The shrinking tent

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?

2 Replies to “The shrinking tent”

  1. Vic says:

    While I agree with most of what you said, I think there is way too much emphasis on political affiliations rather
    than actual deliverables to our community. While we tout racism and a lack of diversity as virtues limited to the Republican party, we often fail to hold democrats accountable for expecting, demanding and cajoling black voters to toe the party line come election season. Talking down to people throughout the African diaspora is almost a right of passage baring no safe harbor ranging from President Obama being told “he lies” to Rev. Sykes being commanded to stand-down and stay-put.

    Yes Rev. Emanuel Sykes is perhaps not best postured for life in the political arena, however–I can assert that the democratic party has not offered and we have not asked why they do not recruit, posture, bolster and enhance by way of training, and financial support –multiple options as black up-and-coming candidates. If not, Rev. Sykes, we should have 10 more in the hopper. So here’s the prime opportunity to change the future through adopting successful examples of how other communities would handle this situation. Should Chair Hanisee decide it not important to respond to your inquiry, you have a voice to let us “all” know. At that point, publish it once again, that he has not responded in appropriate time to our community and we will then, push for his removal from his post, or begin generating momentum to actually not participate in upcoming elections, hence re-enforcing what it means to ignore and marginalize the black community. It’s very important to react in this manner given the national discussion centered on Donald Sterling. I suppose in certain circles, it’s being stated that this voicemail was also a private conversation and shouldn’t have been exposed.

  2. Bob Donavon says:

    Hi Go! I was very surprised to learn you have been a democrat all of your “political” life, and now you are upset because the local party is not acting like the “big tent” party they claim to be.

    So why did you support Rick Baker, and then Bill Foster? This is a good question as your involvement is only local politics. When the people/party come up with their candidate, then YOU did not cooperate.

    Mr. Davis, you have a Ph.D, yet you are not aware of your own hypocrisy? STUNNING!

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