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Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014

Sheriff Clarke’s a Danger to the Community

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Much has been said about how stunning Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke’s Democratic primary victory was and how it sets him up to run for any public office he wants. So I almost hesitate to mention that that notion is not only completely wrong, but totally absurd.

But then so much about Clarke and the way the media cover him has always been absurd.

Until just a couple of weeks before the election, most people assumed Clarke would win the Democratic primary even though he’s not a Democrat. He’s developed a successful, totally dishonest formula to accomplish that.

Only the last-minute spending of nearly $600,000 in advertising against Clarke gave many in the community hope that Milwaukee Police Lt. Chris Moews, a real lawman and real Democrat, would be able to overcome Clarke’s fraudulent and dangerous Wyatt Earp image.

But when Clarke held a news conference to insult everyone opposing him and brag that the people had spoken, he neglected to mention just how few people actually did go to the ballot box, even with a much higher voter turnout this year.

There’s a reason why Clarke always runs in the Democratic primary even though he’s not a Democrat.

Why doesn’t a far right-wing Republican, appointed by a Republican governor, cheered frantically at Republican fundraisers, who campaigns for Republican candidates run in the Republican primary? 

It’s because Clarke knows he would have a much harder time beating a Democratic candidate in a general election, when far more people vote.

Even with Republicans, right-wing radio and gun-crazed fringe groups increasing Republican turnout (in a Democratic primary!) by 400% in many suburbs, primary turnouts are still so low that Clarke won what amounts to re-election with a meager 59,000 votes.

But how could Democrats allow someone to win their primary who ridicules Democratic principles and embraces extreme Republican tea party policies?

Well, there are still some right-wing Democrats around, sad to say. But Clarke’s real formula is to attract votes from two sources. One group is suburban Republicans easily manipulated by right-wing talk radio.

But another substantial source of support for Clarke, who revels in the special attention he gets from racist Republicans for denouncing other African Americans, ironically, is from the black community.

A longtime black legislator once told me why it was so difficult to vote African Americans out of office even if they turned out to be dishonest or ineffective or right-wing Republicans like Clarke.

She said so few African Americans reach prominent public positions as a result of the widespread racism in our society that the black community is reluctant to take such jobs away from any African Americans able to achieve them.

That’s also what makes Clarke’s inflammatory public statements as well as his cartoon cowboy posturing not just silly, but truly dangerous.


A Deadly Attitude Toward Guns

Clarke really could be a role model for young blacks in our community. But think about what he has chosen to become instead.

Start with the whole phony Wild West image. The ridiculous gunslinger gear, the swaggering narcissism, the tough talk and, above all, what Clarke talks tough about: the promotion of guns in our community.

He doesn’t just talk about owning guns. He actually encourages citizens to be ready to use their guns to take the life of another human being, which he describes as no big deal, sort of like taking out the garbage.

Clarke, a law enforcement officer, ran commercials telling citizens to get training to kill people with guns themselves instead of cowardly calling 911, which wouldn’t do any good anyway, he said.

Clarke said on radio that if anyone broke into his house the only reason he would ever call the police would be to tell them to remove the dead, bleeding body from his carpet. Just another day in the life of a cool, well-armed gunfighter.

No responsible political leader would encourage the use of more guns to take lives in a city where children are already dying in the crossfire and large numbers of black teenagers never reach their 20s.

The deadly attitude that destroys the lives of so many young black men is exactly the same macho, swaggering attitude Clarke displays every day: I’ve got a gun and nobody better mess with me. Killing somebody is no big deal.

In a bizarre attack accusing County Executive Chris Abele of “penis envy,” Clarke crudely boasted his gun was bigger than Abele’s.

The truth is shooting somebody else is a very big deal and there is nothing manly about threatening people with guns. Using a gun has never improved anybody on either end of it.

Police have told me any officer who has ever shot and killed another human being—Clarke hasn’t—was never the same again.

Clarke’s fraudulent image and violent, destructive ideas may fool enough people to win low-turnout elections, but that doesn’t make him fit for public office.