White people love Derrick Smith!



The Tenth district has spoken: Derrick Smith for reelection!
It was another rough election night for me last Tuesday. Yes, yes, President Obama won reelection, largely, I'm sure, thanks to my endorsement, which made all the difference in western Ohio.

On the local front, however, I took my usual pounding, as almost all the candidates I voted for or endorsed got clobbered.

So it goes.

The most egregious case was state rep Derrick Smith, about whom I wrote not one or two but three separate stories pleading with the electorate to vote for Lance Tyson, his hastily recruited third-party rival.

My reasons being that Smith had 1) been caught on tape taking a $7,000 bribe, 2) been expelled from his state rep seat by his colleagues in the General Assembly, and 3) not returned my call. Even though he said he would in "two minutes."

Hey, all politics is local, as Tip O'Neill once said.

Well, the enlightened voters of the tenth legislative district, whose boundaries zig and zag around the west side, responded with a collective middle finger, sending Smith back to the statehouse with a resounding 62.7 percent of their vote.

On election eve at Tyson headquarters, it was hard to tell who was more despondent: me or Maze Jackson, Tyson's campaign manager.

I haven't been repudiated this overtly since 2007, when I urged all of you not to vote for Mayor Daley. And 60-something percent of you did anyway. After which he turned right around and sold the $10 billion parking meter system for $1 billion. As always, Chicago, the joke's on you.

In the aftermath of Smith's triumph, people have been trying to cheer me up, telling me . . .

"You shouldn't take these things so personally. People don't pay attention to the nitty-gritty details. They might know that some Derrick Smith somewhere was arrested for taking a bribe. But they didn't realize it's the Derrick Smith on their ballot. Probably didn't even look at his name, just voted for the Democratic Party affiliation . . ."

I guess that's why you have to beat people over the head again and again until you make an indentation in their collective subconscious.

Of course, there's also the possibility that the voters of the Tenth District knew exactly what they were doing and intentionally reelected Smith, bribery charges and all.

This is the so-called Vanessa Williams theory, first advanced in these very pages by the aforementioned Mr. Maze Jackson. It says that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And so black voters in the Tenth rushed to embrace Smith on the grounds that he must have been doing something right if the feds were prosecuting him.

Here's the problem with that theory. The Tenth District is not 100 percent black. White people live there too. They make up roughly 30 percent of the electorate. And guess what? Smith won the white vote—big!

It turns out that Smith's a crossover candidate. Smith did better among white voters in his election than President Obama did in his—and he didn't even have to bail out the auto industry.

Obama got roughly 40 percent of the white vote. Smith got about 56 percent, winning 57.8 percent in the First Ward, 56.6 percent in the 32nd, and 53.7 percent in the 43rd.

For an answer, I turned to 32nd Ward alderman Scott Waguespack, who was as surprised by the results as I was.

Is it possible that white people—having spent election eve watching Cleopatra Jones—woke up on Election Day and said: I want to stick it to the man?

"No, no way," said Waguespack. "I think people saw Democrat and said go for it."

Actually, I'm starting to find the outcome oddly reassuring. To paraphrase President Obama, there are no black Chicagoans or white Chicagoans. Just a whole bunch of not-very-bright Chicagoans, happily wandering through life.

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