‘Plantation politics’

‘PLANTATION POLITICS’…. I can appreciate Rep. Bobby Rush’s (D-Ill.) desire to see an African American fill Illinois’ vacancy in the Senate. In fact, I think he’s right that it’s a genuine national embarrassment that in the 111th Congress, if Barack Obama’s replacement is not black, there will be no African-American senators in the chamber.

But the arguments Rush is making publicly are increasingly misguided.

Last week, Rush told a national television audience that Senate Democrats’ reluctance to honor Rob Blagojevich’s selection is comparable to “standing in the doorway of school children” in Little Rock in 1957. Rush went on to compare the Democratic leadership to George Wallace and Bull Connors.

Yesterday, at a send-off for Roland Burris at a Chicago church, Rush took his argument to the next level.

Representative Bobby L. Rush, an Illinois Democrat who attended the event, described the standoff over Mr. Burris in racial terms, portraying the Senate as “the last bastion of racial plantation politics in America.”

Rush added, “We are just faced with a hard-headed room of people in the Senate who want to keep an African American out of the Senate.”

This is more than a little insulting. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has tried to block the Burris appointment, and Jesse White is black. Barack Obama supports the effort to block Burris, and he’s black. Do they want to “keep an African American out of the Senate”? More importantly, there’s no evidence at all that Senate Democrats are motivated by anything other than a desire to stop an allegedly corrupt governor from filling a Senate vacancy he was recently caught trying to sell.

Indeed, Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, and the rest of the leadership have been consistent — within 48 hours of Blagojevich’s arrest, Senate Democrats told the governor not to fill the vacancy. The prospective appointee’s race was irrelevant. Rush, however, has been selective in his outrage — he was fine with the leadership’s threat against Blagojevich, right up until he approved of Blagojevich’s choice.

For what it’s worth, Reid was asked on “Meet the Press” yesterday if there’s any chance Burris might be seated. “I’m a trial lawyer,” Reid said. “There’s always room to negotiate.”

It’s possible that if Burris were to agree not to seek a full term in 2010, Reid would at least consider a deal. Jason Zengerle noted, “Six days ago, I would have thought such an outcome was unlikely. But now, after Blago completely outmaneuvered Reid (leaking the contents of their phone conversations was sinisterly brilliant), I can see it happening.”

So can I.