Friday, July 17, 2009

Regarding Marion Barry

Last week, a buddy of mine called me, and he was rather apoplectic about the latest details in the saga that is DC pol Marion Barry. He couldn't understand how Barry's political ward could re-elect him considering all of the problems surrounding him, and he wanted to know what I thought about Barry (especially in light of his recent arrest for stalking his ex-girlfriend, charges which I believe have been dropped).

Barry was once a real reformist politician (he began on the DC School board, then City Council, and in 1979 became mayor) with a solid vision of what Washington, DC could be, and he started off quite strong.

By 2009, Barry had become merely a shadow of his past self. Who can forget the video of Barry smoking crack with that woman who was not his wife? Who can forget that Barry served time for those aforementioned drug offenses? Who can forget that as soon as he was done serving time that he was elected back to the City Council? Who can forget that Barry, to the shock of the nation, was re-elected mayor? Who can forget that Barry evaded his taxes, at least twice? And yet, Barry was re-elected as a member of the City Council, with solid support from the people of his ward once again.

Ward 8 is perhaps the most challenged and the least wealthy ward in the city. Maybe the people of Ward 8 see a little of themselves, or their loved ones, in Barry. Barry seems to have been embraced by his constituents both for his past political successes and his attempts at redemption following his personal failings.

What I see is a man who should have abandoned politics after serving time. The level of shame and ridicule that was brought to DC with his political resurrection was incredible. The reputation of the city is marred, yet he remains.

I don't think I will ever truly understand why Barry continues to garner support from the folks of Ward 8. Maybe it's just old fashioned politics and political patronage. Yet change is coming in the form of new residents. How long will Barry's reign last once the demographics of his ward reach the tipping point in favor of the newcomers?


Anonymous said...

Marion Barry is just one more in a long line of self-serving media pigs.

"Media pig" is a description befitting many politicians.

Regarding Marion Barry, he is a media pig of the variety who who cloaks himself in the altruistic banner of equal rights, but whose actions articulate he is strictly out for personal enrichment and personal pleasure.

We can only speculate what his next scandal will involve.

hscfree said...

And with Barry, we know there will be a "next scandal."

Anonymous said...

"newcomers"?? If you mean middle-class white people, why don't u just come out and say it.

hscfree said...

@Anon 2: Actually, though I could have written it, most of my personal friends, newcomers, who have moved to Ward 8 are actually black, gay and str8. But there are definitely more whites and latinos heading that way too.

femmenoire said...

Marion Barry-bashing is understandble. The Washington Post does it all the time. But, in his defense, he really did do some good things for D.C. (in his better days). And he represents a population that needs a strong advocate, and apparently his supporters have not found anyone else (yet) that can take Marion's place.

Since Marion's last term as Mayor, the city has not had a strong affordable housing policy. While I think Anthony Williams believed in affordable housing, he didn't do much to promote it. I believe Adrian Fenty doesn't believe in affordable housing or simply doesn't understand or have the experience to figure out how to ensure that city remains a diverse and vibrant place for all to live. Nowadays, you don't even know what the Department of Housing and Community Development does.

That being said, I agree that it is probably time for Marion to retire. His health is poor, and his judgement is not much better. He would serve his constituents well by developing and mentoring a successor that can represent Ward 8 with dignity and with pride.

Anonymous said...

I think Barry actually represents his constituents quite well. He is exactly what they want, and therefore what they deserve.

Aside from the legal arguments against DC voting rights (which are quite solid) his continued influence is a political argument against DC voting rights.