By Lauren Mayer, on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 8:30 AM ET
Feminism is a complicated, messy topic, and if you ask 3 women about it, you’re likely to get 4 different answers. Some women don’t want to define themselves as feminist because it sounds anti-male, others disagree about how much sexism and discrimination exists, and you can always count on folks like Rush Limbaugh to disparage ‘feminazis’ as freeloading sluts who want Uncle Sugar to provide unlimited birth control and abortion on demand. And it’s a tricky issue around my house – my 17-year-old son feels like girls get all the breaks because he’s experienced classic educational bias against boys (everything from early school environments being more conducive to how girls learn, to a cliche-but-real male-hating gym teacher who informed them during the square dance unit that ‘the girls had her permission to slap the boys around if they messed up, because everyone knows boys can’t dance’). My 20-year-old started dancing at age 4, and he was teased mercilessly about it (until high school, when his classmates saw how cute the girls were in dance class, not to mention the revealing dancewear).
So I know there are ways in which it’s harder to be male. But I still believe women have not completely caught up – as the old expression goes, like ballroom dancers, we’re doing everything guys do, but backward and in high heels. (Note to my husband – that expression started as a cartoon about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and then was popularized by former Texas Governor Ann Richards. It did NOT originate as a line for Angel in Rent. But I digress . . . ) And as far as whether or not to use the dreaded ‘f’ word, I love the way writer Caitlin Moran summed it up in her book, How To Be A Woman: “Here is a quick way of working out if you’re a feminist. Do you have a vagina? And do you want to be in charge of it? If you said ‘yes’ to both, then congratulations, you’re a feminist.”
Sure, we’ve come a long way, baby (and we no longer need ‘our own cigarette’ using that phrase . . . please tell me SOMEONE else remembers those hideous ads for Virginia Slims!) But we still have a long way to go, whether it’s the pay gap or minor cost differences at dry cleaners. And many male politicians seem to want to go backwards, whether it’s Todd Akin-type idiocy about pregnancy, Mike Huckabee explaining “Men like to hunt and fish together, and women like to go to the restroom together,” or the Texas legislature permitting concealed firearms in sessions but banning tampons and sanitary pads for fear of them being thrown in protest against an abortion ban (yes, that really happened).
So here’s a musical reminder to these misogynist guys that outdated attitudes towards women just might affect how we vote.
Today’s post is courtesy of speech and communication specialist, Marjorie Feinstein-Whittaker, of The Whittaker Group. I was introduced to Marjorie by a client and have been thoroughly impressed by the progress she’s made with his communication skills throughout the course of my work with him.
Many of us spend a significant amount of work time in meetings ranging from routine staff and management meetings, to client presentations, and more. Unfortunately, these frequent opportunities for education, collaboration, and communication are often perceived as boring, unproductive, and even contentious. One of the most important things you can do to make your participation in meetings positive is to be a good listener. By offering your full and focused attention, and conveying respectful and socially appropriate behaviors, you can build and maintain healthy long-term business relationships. This is easier said than done. Many of us have both verbal and non-verbal habits that can sabotage our best efforts. However, if you identify and address some of these behaviors, you can learn how to exude confidence, competence and poise.
If you typically:
1. Interrupt others – If you have an enthusiastic, perhaps impulsive personality, it may be difficult not to blurt out comments at inopportune times. Take a slow, deep breath, or silently count to three before you speak. If you inadvertently interrupt someone, acknowledge it by apologizing, and encouraging the speaker to go on. For example, “I am sorry for interrupting. Please finish what you were saying.” If you need to interrupt a speaker to get a meeting back on track, or give another participant time to reply, raise your hand slightly (to chest level), and acknowledge the speaker by name. “James, I’m sorry to have to cut you off, but I promised I would leave 10 minutes for Q and A.”
2. Have a trash-mouth –
If you are a person who litters their speech with expletives to get attention or express extremes of emotions, you are negatively affecting your professionalism and credibility. It is best to refrain from inappropriate or potentially offensive remarks. Work on expanding your vocabulary so you can explicitly and appropriately convey your thoughts and emotions. Instead of saying, “It was a damn good meeting,” try something like, “The meeting exceeded all of our expectations.” Learn how to choose your words carefully. Rehearse alternative ways of expressing your feelings and ideas in a more professional manner. If your colleagues include nonnative English speakers, be careful not to use unfamiliar figurative expressions, slang or colloquialisms which may be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Also avoid jargon or acronyms that might be unfamiliar to some members of the group.
3. See the glass as half-empty –
If you are the nay-sayer in the group, think of ways to re-frame what you say with a more positive spin. Instead of remarking, “That is never going to work,” or “That is a ridiculous proposal,” try something like, “This project is going to be challenging. Perhaps if we delegate the responsibilities, we can meet the deadline.”
4. Have “monkey-brain” –
If you sit in meetings and your mind jumps from one thing to another as if you were swinging from tree to tree by your tail in the jungle, you need to learn how to focus. Of course there are a myriad of external distractors, such as people walking past your office, interesting things outside the window, office chatter, and buzzing smart phones. There are also internal thoughts that may range from a growling stomach to how you feel about your co-worker on a given day. Learn how to be in the moment. Look at the person who is speaking, and really listen with your eyes, body and mind. Offer to take the minutes. This task will ensure that you are really engaged and listening mindfully.
5. Ramble, mumble, or speak too softly or rapidly –
Sometimes it is difficult to get to the point, especially if you are asked a question that you didn’t anticipate. Instead of answering immediately, take a breath, and organize your thoughts silently. Create a mini outline in your mind so you can stay on topic and avoid rambling. A convenient acronym to help you achieve this is T-I-E-S. T= re-state or paraphrase the question or topic I= introduce your main idea E= cite 2-3 supporting facts or examples S=summarize
Make sure you speak at a reasonable pace (not too fast or slow), and at an adequate volume (not too soft or loud). Finish the ends of your words, and don’t let your voice trail off at the ends of words. Try to minimize stereotypical and meaningless remarks such as, “Do you hear what I am saying,” and empty fillers such as “you know,” “It was like,” “uh,” etc. Pause silently, and speak when you have something worthwhile to say. Make sure you speak with varied pitch and intonation, and avoid a monotone (boring) delivery.
6. Send the wrong message without saying a word –
It is extremely important to be aware of what kinds of non-verbal messages you are sending through eye contact, gestures, and body language. For example, bouncing your leg, drumming your fingers, or rolling your eyes could convey impatience or frustration. Closing your eyes/pinching the bridge of your nose, looking away and yawning could convey boredom, and raising your eyebrows, covering your mouth with your hands could convey disbelief. Much of what we say isn’t spoken at all. Try to maintain appropriate eye contact with speakers, lean forward with your body, and nod to convey interest and attentiveness.
Of course, you cannot control what other colleagues or clients say or do in meetings, but you can control your reactions. You will find that being a good listener who is in the moment will have benefits that go beyond the Boardroom.
Marjorie Feinstein-Whittaker is owner and principal consultant at The Whittaker Group in Boston and is co-founder of ESL RULES. Her companies provide assessment and consultation services to both native and nonnative English speakers in a variety of fields. She develops and delivers specialized foreign and regional accent modification programs and customized workplace communication programs for those seeking to improve the clarity and effectiveness of their speech and communication. Marjorie works with clients from all over the world, both in person and via distance learning. Her training programs have been featured on The Today Show and many local media outlets.
By John Y. Brown III, on Tue Apr 8, 2014 at 12:00 PM ET
If you are an adult and think you are a victim in life, you are sadly correct.
You are a victim of your own need to be a victim.
I am not saying we are not sometimes victimized. We most certainly are. People get raped, maimed, murdered, and harmed physically and emtionally in inmumerable and unthinkable ways. But those instances of being victimized are situational and do not permanently define us.
Unless, of course, we decide it is preferable to be defined as a victim than to get on with our life.
There are many enticing advantages to being a victim. When we are in that role we get pity, attention, compassion, concern, are the center of attention, less is expected of us and we expect less of ourseleves.
Not a bad deal.
If you don’t mind spending your life “on the sidelines,” so to speak. We are like an injured athlete that sits with the team during the games but never gets to play and we are always pointing to our injury to explain why.
We nurture and promote how we have been harmed until it really does define us.
It is as though we place a sign around our neck for all to see that says, “Wounded. Don’t expect much of me.”
But on our back is another sign that only others can see that says, “Because I choose to be a victim. And don’t expect much of myself.”
And the sign on our back doesn’t come off until we take off the sign that proclaims we are a victim –that we put on ourselves.
By Jonathan Miller, on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 2:00 PM ET
Is Mitch McConnell the real-life version of Bulworth? Here’s an excerpt from my piece from yesterday’s The Daily Beast:
Mitch McConnell has thereby found himself in an unprecedented situation — the master politician is running an embarrassment of a campaign. And there is little that is tougher to survive politically than become a laughingstock, particularly with 24/7 cable news and social media replaying your humiliations on a virtual endless loop.
Veteran Kentucky political observers are shaking their heads at McConnell’s sudden loss of political mastery. Some blame his lack of traction on the high level of difficulty of running his traditionally scorched earth strategy against a young female opponent — early sexualized GOP attacks on Grimes as an “empty dress” and an “Obama girl” backfired and perhaps have led to a heightened defensiveness from the McConnell camp and a more desperate effort to reach outside of their comfort zone into, yikes, positive advocacy.
Others blame the campaign leadership, specifically campaign manager Jesse Benton, a Ron and Rand Paul confidante and family member. The manager’s hiring was seen as a bold strategic move by McConnell to blunt Tea Party primary opposition; but after a recording emerged of Benton claiming that he was “holding my nose” while he worked for the establishment icon — and then after McConnell’s refusal to fire or even discipline Benton for his insubordination — it appeared that the powerful Senate leader was being held captive by insurgent forces that lack the professionalism and experience to run a top-tier Senate campaign . And perhaps some of the campaign’s mistakes over the past month might be attributed to a manager whose head and heart aren’t really in the race.
But my theory involves none of the above. I believe that Mitch McConnell is having a Bulworth moment. Just like the suicidally disillusioned title character of the 1990s Warren Beatty feature, Kentucky’s senior senator has simply had enough of Washington. Why, after all, would anyone want to return to the polarization, the hyper-partisanship, the paralysis that has engulfed the nation’s capital? And with some sense of responsibility for helping create that status quo, I believe McConnell now desires to leave on his own terms — smirking on camera, sticking it to the liberal media, and poking the eye of absurd traditions such as our undeserved ardor for a bunch of teenagers running up and down a hardwood floor.
The political season is in full swing, and it is not uncommon to see candidates/potential candidates, consultants and supporters at public events and in the media floating trial balloons and testing the political waters. And while many gravitate toward one candidate and/or party, most would agree certain candidates on both sides of the isle seem to have more appeal than others and are clearly gaining more traction. That appeal and political movement may have more to do with “Emotional Intelligence” than any other factor.
From a life, business and political perspective, Emotional Intelligence is changing our concept of “being smart.” Emotional Intelligence (EI)-how we handle ourselves and our relationships-coupled with IQ, determine life, career and political success. Most have witnessed someone with extremely high IQ coupled with low EI crash and burn. In the business world way too many CEO’s are hired on their expertise and fired on their personality. Politically, way too many candidates are recruited because of their resume and defeated at the ballot box because they never really connected with voters.
Simply put, a candidate’s emotions are contagious, resonating energy and enthusiasm, all playing a crucial role in the success of a political organization. Volunteers, campaign staff and voters get excited, want to get involved, will work the long hours and most importantly, support the EI candidate and recruit others to do the same. Similarly, in business, we follow leaders with whom we connect. In fact, a recent Gallup Poll cited the number one reason for employee engagement was a personal relationship with one’s immediate supervisor, a supervisor with high EI that recognizes this important link between relationship and performance.
In short, our view of human intelligence tends to be narrowly focused, and often ignores a crucial range of abilities that matter immensely in terms of how well we do in politics, business and in our personal life. Emotional Intelligence might be a key factor and help explain when people of high IQ flounder and those of modest IQ coupled with high EI do surprisingly well. The following are key factors in determining our Emotional Intelligence:
Emotional self-awareness: understanding one’s own emotions and recognizing their impact; using “gut sense” to guide decisions
Accurate self-assessment: knowing one’s strengths and limitations
Self-confidence: A sound sense of one’s self-worth and capabilities
Emotional self-control: Keeping disruptive emotions and impulses under control
Transparency: Displaying honesty and integrity; trustworthiness
Adaptability: Flexibility in adapting to changing situations or overcoming obstacles
Achievement: The drive to improve performance to meet inner standards of excellence
Initiative: Readiness to act and seize opportunities
Optimism: Seeing the upside in events
Empathy: Sensing other’s emotions, understanding their perspective, and taking interest in their concerns
Organizational awareness: Reading the currents, recognizing/managing cliques, understanding decision networks, and an awareness of the politics at the organizational level
Service: Recognizing and meeting the needs of others
By John Y. Brown III, on Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 12:00 PM ET
Whenever I hear someone say, “It is what it is,” I am going to respond, “That’s certainly true. But let’s not forget that it’s also not what it’s not.”
And then pause before adding, “Or is it? Know what I mean?” as I nod knowingly.
I think this will catch on and be the perfect confident rejoinder to the “Is = Is” breakthrough formulation devised just several years ago that no one is yet sure what exactly it means but we all sense it is something profoundly insightful that we can all agree on.
A number of years ago a very wise friend of mine had this wry explanation about someone else we worked with who gave us fits but who somehow always seemed indispensable to management.
“His worth comes from being able to extricate our team out of crises that he manufactures.”
I laughed loud and hard at how right on the money my friend was with his observation.
And I swore I would never work again with anyone like the person he so fittingly described.
But sadly, I have discovered, there are more than just that one.
Well, to be more precise, Kentucky’s incumbent Attorney General and I used to occupy the same crowded political space: two young, big-city, over-educated, well-connected, center-left, aspiring pols, each trying to elbow out the other for the chance to grasp the political brass ring that was the opportunity to be anointed the next great hope for Bluegrass State Democrats.
Our journeys finally came into direct conflict when, in 2007, all of our political mentors withdrew their names from the gubernatorial hat, compelling Jack and I to engage in a hyper-awkward, Elaine Benes-ian dance to explore teaming up as a ticket…which ended, of course, when both of us insisted on leading. I ultimately plunged into the seven-person governor-wannabe scrum from which I never emerged, while Conway found open daylight running and easily winning the state’s top law enforcement position.
In the intervening years, as I have found a permanent seat on the sidelines as a recovering politician, I’ve watched Jack’s career with consistently wistful cognizance that “but for the grace of God go I.” During his 2010 bid for the U.S. Senate — a race that had our paths been reversed, I undoubtedly would have run…and lost — I saw Jack pilloried in much the same way I had been skewered for my own policy-wonkish, retail-politics-averse approach to campaigning. And when his ultimate undoing came at his own hands — the ill-advised decision to run the now infamous “Aqua Buddha” ad that challenged Rand Paul’s faith, I could see myself succumbing to the same pressures, within the oxygen- and rationality-deprived political bubble, to employ a desperate, risky strategy in order to stop an “dangerous” opponent with a diametrically-opposite ideological worldview.
When Conway later admitted his mistake — arguing that the ad was “the only time in my political career I’ve gone against my gut,” I recalled my greatest gut-check regret. In the 2007 race for Governor, I was questioned by a newspaper’s editorial board about how I voted in the 2004 statewide referendum over what I felt was a pernicious constitutional amendment that would not only ban gay marriage, but anything that looked like it, such as civil unions. Privately, I’d supported marriage equality — strongly — ever since Andrew Sullivan introduced much of the country to the possibility in his historic 1989 essay in The New Republic. But while I had openly supported anti-discrimination laws, and was especially proud to have been the first gubernatorial candidate ever to pursue, secure and embrace the endorsement of gay rights organizations, marriage equality was a third rail that I was still too timid to touch — the amendment, after all, had passed statewide overwhelmingly just three years earlier, with 74% support.
So I did what I had done my entire political career on the issue: I lied to the editorial board. And I didn’t come out of the political closet until I had formally renounced politics a few years later.
Today, my former political doppelgänger faced a similar challenge on this very same issue. When federal District Judge John Hayburn’s recently ruled that the Commonwealth must recognize lawful same-sex marriages from other states, Conway was confronted with the decision on whether to appeal the decision — on behalf of the voters who had so overwhelmingly voted for the ban a decade ago.
For some of Conway’s Attorney General colleagues in blue states who encountered similar circumstances, this may have not been a difficult decision. But here, in an inner notch of the Bible Belt, marriage equality is still quite an unpopular position. A few brave Democrats had stepped out months earlier — including, most prominently, Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson, and State Auditor Adam Edelen – but general election voters, who Conway will likely appeal to in a 2015 gubernatorial run, still oppose the practice by a 55 to 35 percent margin in a recent independent poll. (And today, a GOP candidate who had donated. $20,000 to support the constitutional anti-gay effort in 2004 just announced his entry into the 2015 governor’s race as the standard bearer for social conservatives.)
Worse yet for Conway, his client, the popular Democratic Governor Steve Beshear — who won statewide liberal plaudits for vetoing an Arizona-like anti-gay, “religious freedom” bill in 2013, and national progressive celebration for successfully implementing Obamacare in the state — wanted to pursue the appeal.
So Conway chose the route he had abandoned in his U.S. Senate race: He went with his gut. In announcing his decision to refuse to pursue an appeal, the Attorney General stated that ”in the end, this issue is really larger than any single person and it’s about placing people above politics…I can only say that I am doing what I think is right…I had to make a decision that I could be proud of – for me now, and my daughters’ judgment in the future.”
Conway’s decision will not have a significant practical effect: Governor Beshear announced a few minutes after Conway’s press conference that he would hire outside counsel to pursue the appeal. But for a populace desperately seeking politicians who are authentic, who lead from their heart, even at great political risk, Conway’s choice may instill a small ray of hope that even in this most cynical of times, conviction can sometimes trump politics.
And for this recovering politician, who has forsaken the arena for many of the same reasons that so many Americans hate politics — as well as for the chance, finally, to live a life when I can always be true to my most passionate beliefs — it’s great comfort to see my former political frenemy take the kind of brave, selfless action that I would have loved to put on my political resume.
When California Congressman Ami Bera met New York Rep. Christopher Gibson at a dinner last April, they began a conversation about how the two of them — a physician and a retired Army colonel, a Democrat and a Republican — might work together in Congress to advance the country’s interests.
It didn’t take them long to come up with an idea.
While the two men held different career perspectives, they shared a deep concern about health care for our military’s men and women. They knew that there were serious problems, particularly with the muddled and inefficient health-records system in which active duty service members received care through the Department of Defense and veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The doctor and retired officer understood that with little coordination between the two mammoth agencies, service members often encountered frustrating bureaucratic delays in accessing benefits and health care as they returned to civilian life. And they agonized that this was a terrible way to repay those who’ve served our country.
Both Rep. Bera and Rep. Gibson are members of No Labels, a fast-growing movement of citizens and political leaders who are dedicated to the politics of problem solving and consensus building. As members of No Labels’ Congressional Problem Solvers, a group of nearly 100 lawmakers from both parties and both houses, they were committed to working together to find a better way to take care of our service men and women and returning vets. And they did.
Out of their conversation that night came the 21st Century Health Care for Heroes Act, a bill to construct a streamlined and easily accessible electronic health-records system for military service members and veterans.
The bill became part of a legislative package, Make Government Work!, that the No Labels Problem Solvers unveiled last summer with sponsors on both sides of the aisle.
So clearly beneficial was the No Labels bipartisan, common-sense bill that key language from it was incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in December. The language set out standards for the creation of an authoritative health-data system that will, for the first time, merge the electronic health records of the Department of Defense with the Department of Veterans Affairs—thereby, as Rep. Bera stated, “saving money, making the transition to civilian life easier for vets, and helping address the VA backlog.”
If all goes according to plan, patients will be able to download their own medical records and, in time, share them via a secure, remote storage system with their healthcare providers.
As Rep. Bera noted after the original bill was introduced, “Creating an efficient and responsive health care program for service members and veterans isn’t just a Democratic or Republican priority, it’s important to all members of Congress regardless of party, and it’s something we can achieve if we just listen to one another and work together.”
The adoption of this measure is proof that listening to one another and working together really can make a difference and lead to results. This is just one example of what No Labels and the Problem Solvers group can do and continue to strive towards.
The group has just embarked on a three-year campaign to develop a national strategic agenda, a shared vision for this country built around goals and concrete actions that reasonable people of differing political persuasions can agree upon and rally around.
The group is working with members of Congress — people like Congressmen Bera and Gibson and more than 75 others who’ve said they support the concept of a national strategic agenda — as well as other political leaders and some of the nation’s leading voices in business and economics to develop a set of objectives and policy options. No Labels hopes its national strategic agenda — a new sort of governing process based on shared goals — will emerge as a major part of the political discussion in the next presidential campaign.
The process won’t be easy—nobody ever said democracy would be. But the continued progress of our nation and the well-being of citizens depend on our earnest efforts and more constructive, good-faith conversations between Democrats and Republicans.
The paralysis of Atlanta—and its rising-star mayor, Democrat Kasim Reed—during the first of two recent storms highlighted more than just a possible managerial deficiency. The fact that Reed had spent the morning of the storm receiving an award from Republican Governor Nathan Deal—as well as Reed’s post-storm refusal to blame the flummoxed governor—suggests something broader: a durable alliance between the Obama 2012 pit-bull surrogate and his conservative Republican governor. Such an alliance is less rare than one might imagine. In an age when people lament partisan polarization, one area of stubborn bipartisan cooperation endures: the seemingly counter-intuitive pacts between black Democratic mayors and conservative Republican governors.
National political observers detected a similar relationship a thousand miles to the north in 2012, when then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker tied himself in knots to pretend he was considering a challenge to Governor Chris Christie. Most New Jersey political insiders understood this to be a necessary feint—one that a playful parody film featuring the two men seemed to confirm. After Senator Frank Lautenberg died, Christie repaid Booker—and did himself a favor—by spending $25 million in state funds on a special election for Senate just three weeks before his own November election. It wasn’t enough to simply not run against each other; Christie ensured that he and Booker would not be turning out their own supporters (who would be unlikely to split tickets) in the same election.
Given that black Americans voted for national Democratic candidates at a 90-plus-percent clip in 2008 and 2012, why would leaders from Democrats’ most loyal faction tacitly support conservative Republican governors? What exactly does each side have to gain from these political non-aggression pacts—and are they durable or likely to collapse?
From the white governor’s side, there are several things to gain:
Direct short-term electoral benefits: By dividing urban black mayors from their party, a Republican governor can do slightly better in cities for his reelection campaign, either by winning a premium of black voters above the roughly 10 percent a generic Republican can expect, or by minimizing black turnout (not through underhanded Ed Rollins or Allen Raymond sort of way, but by dampening the enthusiasm of black community leaders who are often critical to urban voter-mobilization efforts).
Indirect short-term electoral benefits: By wrapping themselves in black political clothing, these white Republican governors are pulling a sort of reverse Sister Souljah: They are using black mayors as a vehicle to show white suburban women that they are not the scary, borderline-racist kind of Republican who howls about birth certificates, Kenya, and food-stamp presidents.
Long-term electoral benefits: For more a decade—and with special urgency since Election Day 2012—we’ve heard about the Republican Party’s acute need to diversify its electoral base. The instant elevation of Marco Rubio into a likely presidential candidate —before he was even sworn in!—and a similar phenomenon with Dr. Ben Carson are proof of the party’s desperate quest for a candidate with appeal to minorities in a rapidly evolving nation. Of course, white Republican presidential aspirants won’t cede this niche to minority candidates; indeed, one of George W. Bush’s key selling points as he positioned himself for the 2000 Republican nomination was that he had received 49 percent of the Latino vote in his 1998 re-election. (It later emerged that this figure was inflated and the actual number was 40 percent).
Chris Christie’s concerted efforts to win Latino and black votes (of which he won 51 percent and 21 percent, respectively, compared to Romney’s 27 percent and 6 percent) in 2013 suggest a similar thrust, albeit one that is likely obsolete now. Clearly, ambitious governors like Christie and Kasich use Democratic mayoral support—generally, the kind of tacit, “sitting-on-their-hands” support that accompanies tepid endorsements that mayors like Booker, Coleman, and Reed offer Democratic gubernatorial candidates—to burnish their electoral resumes for future national candidacies.
Possible entrée into the Obama White House: Republican governors who may face future primaries aren’t always keen to be too closely associated with President Obama (Christie’s infamous post-Hurricane Sandy embrace notwithstanding). Forging close ties with mayors who acted as top Obama surrogates and can get calls to the White House quickly returned can come in handy for those whose public rhetoric may preclude close relationships with the Obama Administration.
Of course, benefits also accrue to the black mayor in these détentes. Here are a few:
Direct economic benefits: This might include support for major projects (both public subsidies and assistance in lining up private-development financing), as well as political backing for initiatives that require state support. These create jobs and bolster the tax base in cities like Newark and Cleveland that have suffered steep declines. More broadly, Republican governors give mayors someone who can lean on legislative leaders on matters that aren’t too ideologically charged but can help the mayor’s city—often a leading state economic engine.
Support for urban school-reform efforts: This may come in the form of political support (urging legislators or executive branch appointees), economic backing (money for performance pay bonuses or charter-school start-up, for instance), or a hybrid of both (Christie’s alliance with Booker to attract—and spend—Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to the state-controlled Newark public schools).
Long-term political benefits: Ambitious black mayors hoping to be the next Obama—or at least the next Deval Patrick—can take advantage of their relationships with Republican governors to provide a veneer of moderation. The goal is to avoid the fate of candidates like former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, who are seen as being too liberal for a statewide race (an impression driven in part by their color, political-science research has suggested), even if they’re not particularly liberal.
Fundraising: Governors can quietly introduce the mayors to their donors, and/or provide a sort of “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” with traditional Republican business donors, giving big-city mayors access to contributors who would not otherwise be inclined to support them.
But what are the costs for each side? The answer is, not many. Republican governors have little to lose by propping up big-city Democratic mayors; Republicans have almost no chance of ever competing for office in these areas. Though extra attention to urban areas could potentially have a slight demobilizing effect on rural conservatives, the effect is probably negligible.
Black mayors also have little to lose. Though their constituents have been pressed into action around election time, local black political elites have historically been excluded from state and national party strategy, instead being belatedly pressed into action around time. And of course, white statewide aspirants have been engaged in mini-Sister Souljah acts around the country for years, distancing themselves from the party’s urban base and focusing electoral appeals on white suburban and exurban swing voters. Consequently, some black Democrats feel scant party allegiance, making it easier to cozy up to Republican governors.
The biggest risk is that their Republican allies might lose. As mayors, they’ll be forced to travel to the state capital and supplicate to Democratic governors who can likely glean from a precinct analysis of urban election returns whether a mayor really worked to turn out voters in his home wards—and could probably ascertain a decided lack of enthusiasm from any number of actions or non-actions during election season.
Of course, these mayors wouldn’t be cozying up to the governors if they thought the Democratic candidate was likely to win. Politicians’ self-preservation instincts are as powerful as those of coyotes, who will without hesitation chew off a trapped limb in order to escape a bear trap.
Given the federal investigation swirling around Chris Christie, Cory Booker may already be detaching himself from his old ally. Likewise, given how widely panned Deal’s storm management performance was as we head into election season, Kasim Reed might want to consider gnawing off his own leg caught in the trap named Nathan Deal.