Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Making John Wiley Price Stronger

Well, that was stupid. Commissioner Mike Cantrell's resolution calling for a suspension of fellow Commissioner John Wiley Price failed to even make it to a vote. Cantrell - the only Republican on the Dallas County Commissioners Court - failed to get a second on the motion. Of course, the hardcore Dallas County GOP partisans will claim that it was a worthwhile pursuit because it shows that Democrats don't care about ethics. Some would even go as far as claiming that, by not supporting the resolution, it shows that Democrats are a corrupt lot. Pure nonsense. If anything, this entire non event only made John Wiley Price stronger.

Last month Price and three of his associates were indicted for accepting $950,000 in bribes in exchange for Price supporting the bids of companies vying for county contracts. All four defendants have pleaded "not guilty". The trial was originally scheduled to begin next month but - after two delays - it is now scheduled to begin in January 2016.

As soon as the indictment hit the news, Dallas County Republicans demanded that Price step down. Yes, the party that claims to be the champion of the rule of law forgot about the bedrock legal principle of innocent until proven guilty. But why let principles get in the way when one has the chance to strike at a political nemesis?! Besides, local GOP leaders know that they need to throw political punches here and there to make their activists happy even if it doesn't achieve anything.

The irony of all ironies is that just a couple of weeks later Rick Perry was also indicted. No calls for Perry to step down coming from Republicans. Some of the same voices that loudly claimed that Price was too compromised to carry on with his Commissioner duties, in response to Perry's legal troubles they took to Twitter with #IstandwithRickPerry. Isn't partisanship wonderful?!

The political savvy response to Price's indictment would have been to simply state that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Perhaps add that Mr. Price doesn't need any advice from Republicans as to whether he should stay on or take a leave of absence. And, it is up to his constituents to determine whether they feel  he is able to effectively represent them. Had this been the GOP response, instead of wasting time pushing for a resignation that was never going to happen, it would have deprived Price of the source of his political strength; that is, the perception that he is fighting white hatred of blacks. As Rev. Gerald Britt, Jr. wrote:
"Whites need to understand that you cannot shame us into turning on him. As a matter of fact, your hatred of him endears him to us all the more. For those of us who know him, we understand that in a real sense, a John Wiley Price is a creation of the white man’s hatred of black people — and if not his hatred, his timorous acceptance of the status quo. Without either, no John Wiley Price can exist."

Let's face it. The Republican Party will not win the black vote in Dallas County anytime soon. The party doesn't even have much of a chance of making any inroads. If you can't win or make any gains in the black vote, the only smart option left is to not to antagonize it. Demanding a resignation that was never going to happen, pushing a resolution that was never going to get any votes, only made it more likely that Price's supporters will show up at the polls this November. And for what? To make Republican activists happy? Activists that will vote for the GOP no matter what. The Dallas GOP leadership needs to learn to pick its battles wisely.