Wednesday, September 28, 2005

While I was out, Pt. 1. Who is DeAndre Forney?

Ah, the internet. The blogosphere. Now that I'm back on, my hands have stopped shaking, the talking lizards have gone away and I can taste food again.

Meanwhile, a few stories I desperately wanted to blog during the downtime will not be denied.

The BJ ran a facinating, slightly disturbing story Saturday about DeAnre Forney, a young upstart who challenged longtime councilwoman Renee Greene in the primary. He lost by a whisker, as it turns out, but put together a hell of a campaign.

The Saturday story, which is as much a profile of Forney as an election update, details his smart, efficient and nearly effective ground campaign. Given the current disparity between the Republicans and Democrats at the grassroots, we would do well to learn the lessons of his run. For a primer in ground organizing you could do much worse. Read it.

I have no beef with someone taking on an a sitting D, even an institution like Renee Greene. Competition is good for the party and demonstrating new tactics can only make everyone smarter and stronger.

But I did say the story was slightly disturbing. Two items shouted out at me. The first comes from Forney's political biography. He was born in Akron, then moved to Tennessee where he grew up. He came back to care for his teenage sister (his mother has . . . issues).

In Tennessee he ran for county commissioner as a Republican and lost badly to the Republican incumbent in the primary. According to the story, after he moved here "[h]e . . . became active in Akron politics, realizing that his beliefs aligned more closely with the Democrats than the Republicans."

Does this make sense? He thought Tennessee Republicans were OK but found Ohio Republicans unacceptable? Bill Frist is reasonable but George Voinovich is a rightwing wacko? Huh? NEO Republicans look a lot more like Tennesse Democrats than like Tennessee Republicans. So is this a true political conversion? The BJ doesn't discuss his political philosophy (this is the BJ after all), but this party switch looks an awful lot like bending to the prevailing political wins.

Disturbing point number two. Late in the story we learn that

Forney got slimed too.

A letter from the ``Citizens to expose fraudulent Forney'' sent to Ward 4 residents a few days after the primary accused Forney of being an opportunist with a ``parasitic personality'' and took shots at his mother and 15-year-old sister.

This smells funny. "Citizens to expose fradulent Forney" is a name guaranteed to hit the SwiftBoat button on any Democrat. Potshotting someone's mother and teenage sister is nearly guaranteed to provoke a backlash. In my experience, the African American community takes a particularly dim view of attacking someone through his family.

So I have to ask if something Rovian is at work here. The letter connects the most salient criticism of Forney -- the appearance of opportunism -- with lame cheapshots. Anyone who wants to take him on, now and in the future, will have to contend with that link. I'd bet a year's salary (chuckle) that in the next campaign his reply to charges of opportunism will start something like "My opponents have tried to attack me and my family like this before . . ." Don't forget that the very real allegations about Bush's National Guard service were staked in the heart when the 60 Minutes memos turned out to be fake.

The one point against Forney or an ally being behind this is the timing. Coming after the primary, the letter wouldn't produce a backlash that actually affected the election. On the other hand, the letter wouldn't backfire, but would create that link.

I have no additional information about all this, but I do not like how it looks.

I probably would not find this slightly disturbing if I had not recently read facinating and extremely disturbing New Republic piece about the kidney-punching, eye-gouging fight club that is the campaign for president of the College Republicans. The story reads like a morality play in reverse. Bad people emerge victorious and the virtuous are punished. Karl Rove and Lee Atwater cut their teeth there. And tactics like the letter sent in this campaign are all part of the game.

We need to be aware of the tactics that Republicans use. The people who emerge from that Hobbesian jungle are not good people who happen to have different ideas, they are bad people in single-minded pursuit of power. On the other hand, we need not adopt such tactics.

Meanwhile, DeAndre Forney is an up-and-comer to watch. Carefully.


Anonymous said...

Do you know who sent out the letter about Forney, or ideals? Could have been family or some close to him? I would like to know were one can find that letter, if you know? What happen to the other guy that ran in that race Harris, were's he at? Great blog I just found it???? I heard this guymight be releated to Councilman Mike Williams on Akron City Council? Mike appointed Renee to the Ward 4 seat when he left in 1997. They are supposed to be friends however, he was helping forney seems odd?