Yes, it appears to be the end of a political dynasty that once was a machine that greatly mattered in Detroit. Never in recent history has Detroit seen this kind of upset, one that is also a political lesson that shows the consequences buried in political scandals.
Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, who has held the position for 14 years and is Michigan’s only member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee in Washington, was subdued Tuesday night in a bitter upset that guaranteed State Sen. Hansen Clarke’s journey to Congress.
Despite the backing of powerful organizations, institutions and a large campaign war chest, Kilpatrick was unable to defeat Clarke, a particularly strong challenger in the 13th Congressional District, the most watched race.
Clarke says his victory is not about politics. It is, on the contrary, representative of putting power back into the hands of the people.
In fact, during his victory speech, he led a large and enthusiastic group of his supporters in chanting “Power to the people!” — a slogan that harkened back to the 1960s and 1970s, years of political and social upheaval.
Truth be told, Kilpatrick lost for the most part because of the scandals of her son, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. It was hard to believe that voters would judge her only on her record, and not the actions of her son in an age where political guilt by association is an effective tool. We are not saying that what the voters did was right in that respect, but it is not surprising.
Yet it is important to note that voters spoke and that decision ought to be respected. They have made it clear that they want change, and that business as usual won’t do.
Already some are debating if Detroit’s clout in Washington will increase or decrease with Congressman Clarke. That remains to be seen, even though the state will lose its seat in the House Appropriations Committee.
There is no doubt that Clarke has critically important work to do. A junior lawmaker in Washington will face tremendous challenges, coupled with the rituals in Congress, before he takes his congressional seat. It will be an uphill battle.
But the era that President Barack Obama introduced in Washington is one that is predicated on effective and bold representation, and something new and different for a new and different era.
Clarke has an opportunity to connect with the Obama administration to bring home the bacon to the Metro Detroit area. His district, like the rest of Detroit, needs all the help it can get. He must build on the commendable work of Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick and ensure that his constituency comes first, before any kind of special interests, as he has repeatedly promised.
Michigan is in a crucial state and cannot afford lawmakers who have no clue regarding what can and must be done at this juncture.
It is also time out for self-serving politicians.
We wish Sen. Hansen Clarke well and offer the kind of support we hope all of Metro Detroit and beyond will extend. It may border on being a cliché, but we are all in this together.
A decision has been made. It’s time to move forward.