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Alston’s gambit

by YES! Staff

When it came out in Allen Johnson’s Thinking Out Loud blog at the News & Record that Greensboro City council members Nancy Vaughan and Marikay Abuzuiater felt “threatened” by former Guilford County Commission Chair Skip Alston during his group’s bid to take over plans for a community co-op grocery store in District 2, the most surprising thing was that people were surprised at all.

This is the game we play every two years, when we go through the motions of selecting a new council. The most important developments in this election — in any election — go on away from the public eye.

The vehicle for Altson’s leverage, councilmembers said, was the Simkins PAC, the influential east Greensboro PAC that has ushered the political careers of many black — and white — Greensboro politicians. And with a tough election coming up, it’s not too hard to figure out who felt they needed Alston’s support to win.

And it’s true: The PAC, over which Alston, a voting member, wields considerable influence, still plays a vital role in choosing candidates that can be counted on to a least give lip service to the perennially underserved precincts in the east.

But the PAC’s authority cannot last forever.

THE MOST IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENTS IN THIS ELECTION — IN ANY ELECTION — GO ON AWAY FROM THE PUBLIC EYE

Historical and demographic data suggest that racial-identity politics are on the wane.

And it’s true: The PAC, over which Alston, a voting member, wields considerable influence, still plays a vital role in choosing candidates that can be counted on to a least give lip service to the perennially underserved precincts in the east.

But the PAC’s authority cannot last forever.

Historical and demographic data suggest that racial-identity politics are on the wane.

Young people reaching voting age — particularly those of color — don’t adhere to the politics that defined their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Part of this is racial ambiguity — many of them wouldn’t even know what box to check to classify their ethnicity on the Census.

Consider the case of Derwin Montgomery over in Winston- Salem. Two years ago he shook the world — or, at least, east Winston-Salem — when he unseated incumbent Joycelyn Johnson, who had held the East Ward sat since 1993. He did it by leveraging his status as a student at Winston-Salem State University, enticing his fellow Rams to participate in one-stop and early voting. He beat Johnson, who was entrenched in the politics of the city, before the polls opened on primary day. His voters had little regard for Johnson’s place in the scheme of things, her decades of on-the-job performance. And to be fair, many of them probably didn’t know all that much about Montgomery’s platform either.

But they knew Montgomery, and they trusted him to be their voice at the table. That, at its heart, is what an election is supposed to be all about. At least on the surface.

In Greensboro, it seems that the self-interests of individual members of the PAC get in the way of the larger interests of the African-American community.

While bloc voting can and should remain a tool for African- Americans to gain access to the system, many institutions like the Simkins PAC have lost credibility over the years, due in no small part to actions like to one Vaughan and Abuzuaiter accuse Alston of taking.

YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration .

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