As the grandson of the late Indiana congresswoman Julia Carson and the favorite of the Indianapolis political machine she so carefully cultivated in her lifetime, Andre Carson should be a shoo-in to take over her open congressional seat.
The fact that the district is a Democrat stronghold, along with the backing he has gotten from such prominent leaders as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senator (and fellow scion) Evan Bayh, should ease his path to power.
But as the seat comes up for a special election next month, Carson petit-fils is struggling to defeat his Republican opponent, Jon Elrod, who made a splash two years ago by ousting a Democrat from the state house from a seat that both he and his brother had held for 30 years.
At the same time, Carson junior faces challenges from three heavy hitters within his own party in the congressional primary in May. If he can clear both of those hurdles, he will still have to take on Elrod again in the general election in November.
He is also is dogged by suspicions about his ties to the Islamic community, especially after Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan essentially endorsed the younger Carson during a eulogy at his grandmother's funeral two months ago. Carson the younger distances himself from Farrakhan by claiming that his grandmother invited him. Said Carson in a recent interview about his faith: "I am multifaceted."
Biddle takes on the corrupt political culture in Center Township that has taken its toll on the city's African-American community and the old-style black political machine it represents. He has particularly harsh words about both older and younger Carson politicos. Biddle writes:
The younger Carson could manage to keep the seat in the family. But his struggles show the difficulty of sustaining old-style black political machines, many of which were built during the Civil Rights era on race-baiting, appeals to black pride, and the doling out of welfare benefits.
As younger generations of blacks realize the extent of the damage to their communities wrought by this archaic form of leadership, even heirs apparent will strain to articulate reasons for continuing the status quo . . .
Carson fils is a onetime rapper, former state excise police officer and flunky in the state's homeland security agency. He snagged his only political office -- a seat on Indianapolis' city-county council -- after one of his grandmother's proteges resigned when it was revealed that he didn't live in the district. Although physically imposing, the soft-spoken youngster lacks his grandmother's authoritativeness . . .
The corrupt antics of the elder Carson's allies -- especially then-council president Monroe Gray -- along with rising crime and a 65-percent increase in the city's county-option income tax, finally brought voter anger to a boil.
Those scandals and grievances reminded voters of the reality that quality of life hardly improved under Carson's grandmother. The city's largest school district, Indianapolis Public Schools, admitted that four in ten students who made up its original class of 2007 dropped out, while another 13 percent will likely follow. The city's job base, once far more robust than its Rust Belt rivals', has barely grown this decade.
Blacks, including the 25 percent who live in poverty, were especially hard hit as seven years of skyrocketing felonies -- including a near-record 153 reported homicides in 2006 -- devastated their neighborhoods. This decline, along with the corruption of her allies and her own dirty politicking, colors the very legacy of the elder Carson on which her grandson is running. His own brief record resembles a typical black Democrat precinct captain rather than a change-agent, which essentially makes him a creature of the very culture voters are rejecting.
While Biddle is critical of Carson, he speaks approvingly of his GOP opponent. "So a challenger like Elrod, a socially moderate Republican who is known for attending closely to his constituents, would seem more attractive than the younger Carson, who, like his grandmother, represents more of the same," he writes.
It's too bad a voice like Biddle's no longer exists at the Star. He was driven out of town by the corrupt Carson political machine because he spoke the truth about them from the perspective of an educated, informed and independent voice within the African-American community. His departure has left a real vacuum in local news media coverage on these matters, leaving Amos Brown alone to practice the tired and worn out race-baiting in which he engages every election in this city to galvanize black voters to fall in line with the corrupt Carson political machine.
Hat tip to the numerous Advance Indiana readers who e-mailed a link to Biddle's article today.