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Total "creative class" FAIL in DC Fenty debacle

[Welcome, Naked Capitalism readers! For those who came in late, a taste for PBR ("Pabst Blue Ribbon") is one of the cultural markers of the "creative class."[1]--lambert]

I guess you can tell it's cloudy outside, since I'm posting on gloomy stuff like the Deepwater Horizon's fractured geology, CEO thievery -- sorry for the redundancy -- and Elizabeth Warren's danger/opportunity. But somewhere the sun is shining, and there are kittens 'n' stuff, so I'm going to post on a topic that fills me with glee:

How that same "creative class" that leveraged truly vile misogyny and false charges of racism to foist The Big O on us in 2008, denied single payer any oxygen in 2009, and have generally swanned around proclaiming their "savvy" while at the same time servicing whatever D faction will fund them by laundering their memes, got their total comeuppance in DC's mayoral election. Look, even Pravda gets this. Courtland Milloy:

D.C. election didn't just unseat abrasive Mayor Fenty. It was a populist revolt
In a stunning repudiation of divisive, autocratic leadership, District residents Tuesday toppled the city's ruling troika: Mayor Adrian Fenty, Attorney General Peter Nickles and Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. All busted up. The trio's contempt for everyday people was handed back to them in spades at the polls.

Payback is a . . . well, you know what they say. ...

But Fenty was a cruel mayor. He inflicted deep hurts, not little boo-boos that you kiss and blow to heaven and make feel okay overnight.

Air out those wounds.

Having taken office promising to cradle the most vulnerable residents, Fenty set out almost immediately shooting the wounded. Closing homeless shelters. Forgetting about job-training programs. Firing city workers with the wave of a callous hand -- black female heads of households more often than not.

Fenty boasted of being a hard-charging, can-do mayor. But he couldn't find time to meet with 98-year-old Dorothy Height and 82-year-old Maya Angelou. Respect for elders -- that's too old school for Fenty. Dis the sistas [Are you listening, Jon?] -- his supporters will understand.

Watch them at the chic new eateries, Fenty's hip newly arrived "creative class" [Glad to see this term mainstreamed at last. And in such a pleasant context] firing up their "social media" networks whenever he's under attack: Why should the mayor have to stop his work just to meet with some old biddies, they tweet. Who cares if the mayor is arrogant as long as he gets the job done?

Myopic little twits.

Well, that's a little harsh. They're certainly not myopic where their own interests are concerned, now are they? Of course, if you're black, or working class, or poor, stand back. (Just like in the 2008 primaries, quelle surprise, where the "creative class" helped split the party, and threw everybody who actually needs government to work -- as opposed to merely providing a stream of rents -- under the same bus they're still under today). Stand back! We've got condos to build! You're getting in the way of "progress"!

T.R. Donohugh in The Faster Times has an excellent summing up:

So how could [Fenty] lose? The spin is all over the map. The Washington Post tried to pin it on missteps on the campaign trail. Politico, with an assist from Time Magazine’s thoroughly washed up Joe Klein, blamed it on the dreaded teachers unions. And America’s bright, young, shining class of D.C. pundits offered up their own explanations.

Here’s Ezra Klein on Wednesday morning,

If you were looking to disprove the view that campaigns are primarily about how well the economy is doing and whether objective conditions are getting better or worse, you couldn’t do much better than Adrian Fenty’s loss last night. The Post’s amazing tick-tock of his terrible campaign makes a pretty good case that campaigns — or at least some minimal interest in what the voters are thinking — matter for reelection. [Translation: Hire some savvy "creative class" types, and run a better campaign!] Though as someone who trends towards structuralist explanations, I’d also like to see [Have you considered looking, Ezra?] some analysis of how demographics and racial tensions shaped the outcome. Despite the two major candidates both being African American, there was a whole lot of race in this campaign [But class? No way!].

And here is an excerpt from The Atlantic’s own Marie Antoinette Megan McArdle, in a post which overflows with sneering condescension (but that Klein dubbed “a good take” on the race),

DC has been “The Chocolate City” for a long time.  Anything that persists long enough comes to seem natural, even as if it’s a right; it’s not surprising that so many people resent the gentrification that they feel powerless to stop.  And when you are powerless in the face of a force that is making your life worse, it seems as if the last straw is feeling [Ah yes. It's always about feelings, isn't it? And never about justice] like the guy you voted for doesn’t care about your concerns–doesn’t think that your people are important enough to have to listen to.

And for good measure here the Center for American Progress’ Matt Yglesias, prior to the election, pointed to poll numbers to prove that Fenty wasn’t actually “the yuppie candidate.” His data was so flawed that he was eventually forced to add the following to his post later, ” It should be said, this poll doesn’t have a huge sample so the margin of error on these internals is probably giant.” Tuesday’s election results confirm that the margin of error was, actually, giant.

So what is missing from all of this analysis? One simple number that, had any of these pundits bothered to look, showed that Fenty was in deep, deep trouble - 34.5%. That is he the unemployment rate for African-Americans in Washington D.C., a rate that is more than double the national average for African-Americans.

And to hammer the point home:

Why spend this much time on a single municipal election and pointing out the failings of D.C.’s yuppie pundit corp? Because if these people are so deeply misguided about what happens in their own city how in the hell can they possibly know what’s happening in this country?

Answer: They can't. That's why blogs that everybody hates and nobody reads need to discredit them at every opportunity.

Their prejudice towards the experience of well-to-do white people completely blinded them to the plight of D.C.’s African-American and working class voters, to the extent that even after Fenty was resoundingly defeated none of them could bring themselves to mention the word “unemployment” (to his credit Klein did double back and mention that maybe the economy might have had something to do with it). Sure they noticed their seemed to be some hostility to gentrification and that, despite two African-American candidates, there seemed to be some racial discord playing out in the election. But they chalked those conditions up to vague feelings of a certain class of resident feeling left behind and powerless.

Well, despite Megan’s protestations to the contrary, it turns out that those feeling left behind by Fenty are not actually powerless, as they just went to the ballot box and kicked the Mayor right out of office. And who wouldn’t feel left behind and angry when your Mayor is seemingly focused on moving you right out of the neighborhood your family has lived in for decades so that some 20-something, Ivy League educated, think tank employee can move in?


Ya know, it's almost like Fenty == Obama. Eh? And if there were any Ds worthy of the name left in our legacy party system, they'd be working right now to take advantage of the opportunities that the "creative class" debacle in DC makes so visible. But n-o-o-o-o-o-o.

Look! Over there! Sarah Palin!

NOTE [1] This post on the "creative class," by career "progressive" Chris Bowers, is essential reading. It marks the point where the Ds fractured, and defined their base to exclude working people, elders, and the poor. "Obama has all the markers of a creative class background, from his community organizing, to his Unitarianism, to being an academic, to living in Hyde Park to shopping at Whole Foods and drinking PBR." Follow-up here.

NOTE Nice photos from WaPo. Oh, and there are plenty of Correntians in the "DMV" area -- correct me if I'm wrong (although I was sent these links by residents).

UPDATE Adam Link at OL: "Oh, and that many voters feel he paid too much attention to upper and middle-class wards. " Insightful! (34.5% unemployment?! That's horrific!)

UPDATE Big picture from the always intriguing Global Guerillas:

Here are some interesting charts that show that there is a huge and growing group of people (nearly 50% of all unemployed have been so for 27 weeks or more) that have become structurally unemployable. This group will continue to grow and increasingly seek group/tribal affiliations that offer alternative forms of advancement/protection.

Why? Simply, the global market system the US fostered/defended to defeat Communism, took on a life of its own in the late 70's. It's now massive, insanely complex, blindingly fast, and completely out of control. Worse, it's easily corrupted by cancers (a financial oligarchy) that operate without constraint inside its core platform. All attempts at mitigation of this disease are intellectually rebuffed by an economic theocracy out of touch with reality (reminiscent of the divine right of kings). Its rise is the reason incomes in the West haven't increased in over three decades (!). Its dominance and increasing turbulence is the reason we are in D2, the second global depression.

Yep. And the "creative class," as we have seen above, plays a key role in preventing mitigation. That's why they're so shocked by Fenty's loss; they literally cannot see the suffering that's all around them; have, in fact, been hired to prevent others from seeing. And as members in good standing in Versailles they will, of course, double down: Everybody who is wrong will be funded, feted, and promoted, and everybody who is right will be kicked and then shunned.

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Submitted by jawbone on

As Shadow Government Statistics points out, our actual unemployment rate nationally is most likely more than double the usual measurement used by the government and MCM (Mainstream Corporate Media), standing just under 10% for the Feds and closer to 23 or 24% for Shadow Gov't Stats.

Now, if that applies to local and sub-group measurements, OMG! 34.5% might be massively higher. Too high?

BTW, Shadow Stats now has front-paged an inflation figures chart, which I need to understand better before forming an opinion. But it does support my feeling that inflation is higher than is being stated (but has been for a long time, as the way inflation was measured was changed back in 1990).

What I'm seeing in my local grocery stores is that certain things, especially wheat based and dairy based items, have increased. Now, I compare sale pricing. Here, in a lower price points grocery pricing area for example, sour cream has gone up 30-50% on sale prices.

mass's picture
Submitted by mass on

and 1 of 4 african american votes. Gray won 3 of 4 african american votes, and 1 of 4 white votes. I think the split reflects class more than race. I do think, however, though the election was certainly not the fault of the teachers union, it was a referendum on Obama's education policy served up by those the policy is supposed to be so wonderful for.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

from a family of same. not surprised, DC folk are pretty fucking aware of which clown is being foisted on them and aren't afraid to say so. this isn't new, and yes: fenty was a Little Obama the CC decided to test run.

fenty was also a dog. just sayin. some wimmin don't like that in a pol they have to stomach up close and personal. playing house negro for the white folks? hasn't gone over well in DC for a long time.

and krist, am i the only one who had to take a minute to re-orient after reading "chocolate city?" do people even still say that, like it's valid? good lard.

Submitted by lambert on

Somebody told me we got L.A.

But somehow, I don't think that was the reference implied...

Submitted by Hugh on

The Democrats keep running these dreadful corporatist candidates, but then that reflects their agenda. Voters hate them but Democrats just come back with even worse and more corporatist types.

I'm not from the area but I saw one report on Rhee. I don't know what it is about educational departments and educational administration but it seems to attract ideologues and those with a totalitarian bent. She was clearly not a leader but a control freak. Her primary impact was making teachers hate their jobs.

My own philosophy of education is, get out of the way and let teachers teach. All this Arne Duncan and NCLB crap just gets in the way. The schools I went to were bad to mediocre. Some of my teachers were mailing it in. Some were atrocious. But there were others who made a difference. I think no matter how you structure an educational system it will always be that way. So why add on meaningless stress to teachers? The only reason I can come up with is that it allows administrators and pols to point to reams of stats and metrics, and thereby duck the issues of underfunding and under emphasizing education in our country and society.

Submitted by lambert on

... and on Rhee in particular, check the Howler.

I guess I would put the whole thing in the frame of disinvesting from America. The preferred policy outcome is a privatized system with cheaper teachers and dumber students, profit creamed off, with the added ideological benefit of erasing any notion of a public purpose and accelerating the decay of public infrastructure. And the mandated tests mean mandated testing materials, and that means rents for those who develop that sort of intellectual property. Which Bush spawn was it who cashed in on NCLB immediately? That sort of thing. Ditto the charter schools. I would think it's a lot like the incarceration system, which has the same sort of benefits, except it's targeted at kids, not blacks.

coyotecreek's picture
Submitted by coyotecreek on

A simple solution to a really important problem.

You hit the nail right on the head when you conclude:

"Ya know, it's almost like Fenty == Obama. Eh? And if there were any Ds worthy of the name left in our legacy party system, they'd be working right now to take advantage of the opportunities that the "creative class" debacle in DC makes so visible. But n-o-o-o-o-o-o."

No legacy parties. No Tea Baggers. NONE OF THE ABOVE.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

A post District primary election evaluation

The real election losers were Ms. Katharine Weymouth, publisher of The Washington Post; Ms. Jo-Ann Armao, editorial writer for The Washington Post; and Ms. Jonetta Rose Barras, columnist with The Washington Examiner; other national newspaper editorial boards, and reporters too numerous to name. Also losers were the national public education reformer elites who believed they know best over District parents and community activists.

I just couldn't resist dropping in.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Even though I live in the DC area, I must admit to a lack of detailed awareness of what goes on in the city of DC as opposed to the Federal Government itself. I've been more aware of Rhee's activities than Fenty's.

From the beginning, I distrusted the BS Rhee was handing out. She seemed to me to be too much the Big Four Management consulting type with a top-down business process engineering orientation. Pretty soon after her hiring, it became pretty clear she was an autocratic manager who would try for success by managing to false indicators and kicking people, including teachers around.

Since then, I haven't been surprised by anything that's happened, and Fenty's defeat is also no surprise Let's hope it's permanent and he doesn't get resurrected on the R ticket.

I don't know about Fenty = Obama, though I've had a similar thought,, of course, and they're certainly similar when it comes to throwing people under the bus and in their arrogance related to their supposed intellectual capability.

Btw, Obama should avoid fund raisers. He seems to have a tendency to say embarrassing things at them and reveal his inner self, which ain't very pretty to say the least -- creative class to the core.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

I've never understood why WaPo is "Pravda" and NYT is "Izvestia." Since WaPo is is DC, it seems to fit "Izvestia" better, while the NYT should be "Pravda" since the latter was (is still?) the Party newspaper.

Submitted by lambert on

In the beginning, when I [lambert blushes modestly] was starting to propagate this, "Pravda on the Potomac" and "Izvestia on the Hudson" sounded best. In addition, "P" in "P"ost and "P"ravda was a mnemonic. In addition, Pravda ("Truth") was the organ of the Party, of which the elite in the Village/Versailles seems the closest equivalent. Izvestia's mnemonic ("I" is close to "H" in "Hudson") also works, and when your're banging out the posts, keeping one's snark straight counts. Finally, "izvestia" means news or reports, which seems closer to the what the Times at least would like to believe that it does, than what WaPo does, which is to print the party line, no matter what. No doubt there are reasons to go the other way, but that's why I did what I did.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

Journalists over valued opinions of individuals new to the District who blog from their bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, tweet from their mobile phones, over "old guard" District residents who attend community meetings and have face to face conversations. The views of bloggers and twitters should not be given greater value any more than long standing neighborhood groups and civic associations should be ignored and discounted as irrelevant.

the creative class insulation that surrounds professional Villagers. who know little about even their own communities.